Thursday, September 09, 2010

David Shields, Reality Hunger: A Manifesto
Knopf, 2010.

A lot of artists and writers are going to be very grateful for this book. Not because they need to be told what they are doing. They know what they are doing. Nonetheless, David Shields has done an excellent service in writing this book, and writers may wish to buy a small stack to keep beside the door so that, instead of having to explain themselves and their work for the umpteenth time, they can simply say, "David Shields will explain it all to you. Go buy yourself a coffee. Have a lovely read. I have work to do."

Meanwhile it is reassuring -- for all of us working with collage, with fragments, with memoir, all of us making mincemeat of genre -- it is good to know that we are part of a wave, a trend -- and that this is where a lot of the most interesting work is being done. I predict several hundred people are going to be saved from going out of their minds by this book.

I am grateful for the attention Shields gives to some of my favorite writers -- Eduardo Galeano, Richard Brautigan, David Markson, Lydia Davis -- but the greatest benefit I got was a whole new reading list, writers I'd never heard of before, despite a life of fairly obsessive reading -- Richard Stern, Renata Adler, Sven Lindqvist, Cyril Connolly.

Artists and writers will want to read this. And they'll want other people to read it. So they can get some work done.

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