Category Archives: failure

All or nothing

Dalrymple writes:

Every way of earning a living that is of service to others is honourable.

We have been infected, he says,

with the idea that only the highest achievement—either in academic status, monetary reward, or public fame—is worthy of respect, and all else counts as failure. From that premise it follows that there is no point in making a vast effort only to be a quiet, respectable, useful, God-fearing failure.

He points out that

it is the absence of this impatient, immature, all-or-nothing attitude to ambition that accounts for the success of Asian immigrants.

Sleeping with the boss’s wife

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 07.39.09Dalrymple enjoys Patrick McGrath’s Dr Haggard’s Disease (1993), set in the 1930s, which, he says, is

a depiction of loss and failure, so much more interesting than that of unbroken success, and more frequently encountered.

In the novel, a professionally incompetent registrar at a London teaching hospital has an affair with the chief pathologist’s wife. When the cuckold finds out,

he strikes him across the face at the head of the hospital stairs, down which he falls and breaks his hip.

He remains in traction for three months. A nail is inserted into his femur, after which he is sacked. The adulteress abandons him.

He has lost everything, and knows that he will never recover. Nothing remains to him but general practice in a dispiriting seaside town on the south coast, where the old go to die.

He becomes a morphine addict.