For a writer, failure can be as slippery a notion to define as success. Everybody knows about the millionaire authors with seven–digit sales whose low self–esteem causes them to bristle at bad reviews in Denmark. Less visible are the legion of fledgling scribblers who see their stories published in little magazines as placing them on the cusp of eternal fame. Try telling them they are failures and you're likely to wind up with a Biro in your ear.
Paul Auster's delightful autobiography of his early years perfectly captures this confusion about the nature of success. Subtitled ‘A Chronicle of Early Failure’, Hand to Mouth recounts the two decades Auster spent toiling in anonymity before his New York Trilogy rightly established him as one of America's best novelists. And