Reverse-Gentrification of the Literary World

Akashic Books

||| |||

Catalog » Browse by Title: F » The Failure

The Failure


California Book Award–winner Greer presents a hilarious and immaculately written story set in LA, exploring the inevitability of failure.

$15.95 $11.96

Available as an e-book for:

What people are saying…

“James Greer, one of the nimblest and most multilayered American fiction writers, has, with his latest novel The Failure, pulled off a sublime and shivery-smooth literary hat-trick-cum-emotional-gotcha. I defy anyone to come up with an equation to explain how this book’s first impression as a ridiculously clever, funny crime story can gradually disclose a metanovel built from far more encyclopedic scratch only to reveal upon its conclusion a central, overriding thought so heartfelt literally it trembles your lower lip. This is one stunning piece of work.”
Dennis Cooper, author of Ugly Man

“James Greer’s The Failure is such an unqualified success, both in conception and execution, that I have grave doubts he actually wrote it.”
—Steven Soderbergh

“Greer has done it again: a big-city, techno-jargon-filled thrill-ride with slick medium-brow drop references to our (once-shared) mythological hometown. What could be more poignant?”
—Robert Pollard, rock musician

“How do you assess if your life has been a success? For starters, take time and turn it on its head. You’ll first need to find its head. Luckily, James Greer’s novel The Failure will help—it’s a brainy, boisterous, unsettling, and unsettled look at a group of people thrust into the most confounding of existences, complete with petty crime, high science, love, sex, and cars. The narrative winds and darts, gleefully uncooperative. The characters have funny names and sometimes funny existences. Still, you will recognize them. They are us.”
—Ben Greenman, author of Please Step Back


The Failure is a picaresque novel set in Los Angeles about two guys who conceive and badly execute a plan to rob a Korean check-cashing store in order to finance the prototype for an impossibly ridiculous Internet application.

The main character, Guy Forget, is a twenty-something drifter with brains, good looks, and absolutely no ambition except to get rich without having to work. His best friend, Billy, is a professional dog walker who ties the dogs to the rear bumper of his run-down car and drives very slowly. Along the way we meet, among others, Guy’s Midwestern parents, his theoretical-physicist brother, his girlfriend Violet McKnight, and his secret nemesis, Sven Transvoort, who hates Guy with unusual passion for reasons that are not immediately clear.

While the story of The Failure is fairly straightforward, the manner of its telling is anything but; it begins at the end, and proceeds in similarly nonlinear fashion to a conclusion that will surprise either nobody or everybody, depending on who’s been paying attention. Using elements of pop culture, tech jargon, and noirish satire, the book attempts to answer the question not enough people ask themselves on a regular basis: Am I a failure?

Also check out Artificial Light, winner of a California Book Award for Best Debut Novel.

Book Details

  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Published: 3/1/10
  • IBSN: 9781933354972
  • e-IBSN: 9781936070763


JAMES GREER is the author of The Failure, Artificial Light (which won a California Book Award for Best Debut Novel), and the nonfiction book Guided By Voices: A Brief History (Grove), a biography about a band for which he once played bass guitar. He is currently working on a rock musical about Cleopatra starring Catherine Zeta-Jones. He lives in Los Angeles.

More info »