Drop #35: Failure

The concert was the culmination of an extended birthday celebration lasting almost a week. We had eaten out a bunch of times, in burger joints, cafes, and Michelin starred restaurants; had drinks in dives and fancy cocktail bars; seen family, acquaintances and friends (and made many new ones for a night or afternoon); danced, laughed, kissed and made love, and somewhere along the way she had turned thirty-three. Now we were going to see a band she really liked: The Whitest Boy Alive. She deserved it all, totally, and more.

My behavior had been exemplary all week, but of course I couldn’t hack it down the stretch to break the tape with a clean nose. The concert was to be the highlight, and so, was the obvious candidate for a bout of ruination. I could make up a reason but there isn’t one; there never has been. OK, maybe we could find one with months of therapy or shaman’s psychotropic ritual, but as far as I know, that’s just what I do: I ruin things. It’s my dearest and most trusted habit, and I’m damn good at it. So I ruined the concert, which, in retrospect was a great one full of skill and showmanship, by complaining about the loudness, refusing to dance even after everyone left their seats to boogie up front, and sitting down to sulk as the happy crowd closed in around me. Instead of adding to the festivities, and giving her the perfect bookend to a wonderful week, I failed, by ruining things again.

Despite my best efforts, the night wasn’t lost. She wasn’t too upset, and I bounced back quickly as we shared a cab with some new friends, a Scotsman and a Finn, to another show at a smaller venue, which would be about half way done.

I sat next to the Finn and we chatted freely. Finding out I was a writer, he asked me who I like to read. I am never prepared to answer this question and made a mental note, again, to write out a list I can use next time.

‘I like Murakami,’ I said, after a pause, ‘though I’ve only read the one.’


The Wind-up Bird Chronicle,’ I answered. ‘I loved it.’

‘Yes, it’s good, but Murakami is erratic. Others are not as good.’ He spoke very quickly and confidently, always edging towards a smirk that wouldn’t show. He was a thin grasshopper of a man and I kept picturing him squatting on a window ledge, ready to spring away, or perhaps, onto me.


‘For instance,’ he said in his mild Finnish accent, ‘I just finished Kafka on the Shore, and I have to say, I think it was a failure.’

‘A failure?’ I had the book at home and looked forward to reading it.

‘Yes, an absolute failure.’

I appreciated that he didn’t say ‘total, utter failure,’ or ‘complete and total failure,’ sparing me the type of redundancy I have come to expect from second language English speakers (though Scandinavians, in particular, do tend to be remarkably fluent), but he came off smug nevertheless, and I didn’t take him too seriously. I didn’t know how much I’d enjoy Kafka on the Shore, and it probably wouldn’t live up to Wind-up Bird, but I was sure it couldn’t fail that abysmally! Wind-up Bird was an utterly engaging work I’d hardly been able to put down. How could its author miss that badly?

The second concert, The Besnard Lakes, was good too. I didn’t ruin it, probably cause it presented less opportunity for sabotage. Or maybe I’d just got it out my system, done my work for the day. What I’d refused to enjoy at the first show, I allowed myself here, letting the hugeness of the sound fill me up and break me out in shivers.

After the encore, while we milled about drinking beer from plastic cups, I apologized for being a baby earlier and she forgave me.

‘I wish I’d just enjoyed it and let you enjoy it too,’ I said and she assured me she still had.

‘Don’t worry, she said with a smile, ‘I’ve come to expect this type of thing from you by now. I’ve learned to accept your annoying side.’

What terribly sad and damning words!


I read Kafka on the Shore a few weeks later, or most of it I should say. I skimmed a decent chunk and skipped whole pages, even chapters. I did finish it, but only to see if anything about it would be redeeming. Nothing was. I have to agree with the Finn. It was an absolute failure.

By E.M. Vireo


About EM Vireo
flooding the world with fiction

4 Responses to Drop #35: Failure

  1. Anna Sthetic says:

    Drop #35 – so I’ve found you about seven weeks in, right?

    This is going to be a good addition to my mornings, I suspect. 🙂

  2. MCL says:

    Nice one, especially the grasshopper line …. have to check out the Besnard Lakes

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