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Complete & Utter Failure: A Celebration of Also-Rans, Runners-Up, Never-Weres and Total Flops   book icon  
by Neil Steinberg (1995)

read: 16 June 2004
rating: [+]
category: uncategorized

I have no idea where this book came from. It’s a fun, not-super-heavy reflection on the nature of failure with some careful inspections of some specific failures: all the kids that lose the spelling bee, the guy who also invented the telephone but got his patent in later than Bell, Scott getting to the Pole second, products that bombed and bombed badly. The book waffles between really analyzing some specific failure examples, and discussing failure in a more general sense. The author never fails to come up with an anecdote where he dwells on his own personal failures [the girl that got away, the job he didn’t get] and doesn’t just play them for laughs but actually tries to understand what makes them abject failures instead of just another thing going wrong. He concludes more or less that it’s our raw naked desire for success that paints failure in such a bad light. The more we want it, the more wretched we feel when we didn’t get it, especially when whatever “it” is is also something desired by many other people. Not a terribly challenging read but well-researched and well-intentioned and worth picking up.

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