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This report is taken from PN Review 202, Volume 38 Number 2, November - December 2011.

Rewards of Failure Neil Powell
The cartoonist Mel Calman used to draw, with very few lines, a recurrent character: a melancholic yet resigned fellow, typically to be seen sitting at his desk and thinking (in the bubble caption) some wryly incontrovertible truth. One of these read: 'Being a failure isn't as easy as it looks.' This seems neatly to suggest why unsuccessful people are on the whole more interesting and agreeable than successful ones; for success can come altogether too easily, while failure is usually hard work. Since the 1970s, success and failure have been defined almost exclusively in terms of wealth and possessions, but those of us who grew up a little earlier - children of rationing and shortages - may take a rather different view. We greatly resent having occasionally to spend money on replacing worn-out machines with new ones which seem both unnecessarily complex and mysteriously inferior; we actually like making do. Appalled and slightly baffled by the recent sight of looters making off with boxes of pointless electronic gadgets from shops and warehouses, I found myself reflecting that I've never possessed a freezer or a microwave, a digital or flat-screen television, a mobile phone or an iPod, and I've had my blue-humbug-shaped iMac for a decade now. That, however, is a stripling. My hi-fi system is over forty years old, the Rogers valve amplifier and the Celestion speakers as good as new, although the Garrard turntable's got a bit rusty from living in damp houses: these old things endure, while the twenty-year-old ...


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