From the story Nick sussed out that I was thinking of with no more information than the collection it was in:
"In the preceding tale, I have tried to narrate the process of failure, the process of defeat... I reflected that a more poetic case than these would be a man who sets himself a goal that is not forbidden other men, but is forbidden to him. I recalled Averroës, who, bounded within the circle of Islam, could never know the meaning of the words comedy and tragedy. I told his story; as I went on, I felt...that the work mocked me, foiled me, thwarted me. I felt that Averroës, trying to imagine what a play is without ever having suspected what a theater is, was no more absurd than I, trying to imagine Averroës yet with no more than a few snatches from Renan, Lane, and Asín Palacios."
The amusing part about being reminded up this story during the YLNT show and then having it identified for me later is that I completely forget the moment of connection--I don't remember what was said, I don't remember what part of the story (it wasn't the one above) my mind linked it to. I only remember jumping up and down on the street in disbelief when Nick picked it out. The process of failure, maybe, but defeat not so much, I like to think. Or if you're going to fail, at least fail amusingly?