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In Praise of Failure by Costica Bradatan

Paul J. D’Ambrosio looks at the sorts of successes to which failure can lead.

Scholars are under pressure to write books for general audiences: so-called ‘trade books’. These are books that not only can be read by non-academics, but that people would actually want to read. It’s a hard sell – in every sense.

Many who write such books court popularity by appealing to a sort of authenticity-based ‘celebrate who you are’. Not that scholars should not be in the business of self-help – indeed, it might just be one of the humanities’ most important functions – but kitsch stories about ‘My experience with my Grandma one summer’, clichés like ‘How I learned to appreciate small things’, and anodyne tips like ‘It’s really up to you what you want to take from such-and-such philosophy’ do not really challenge readers.