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Reality Hunger: A Manifestoby David Shields
In Reality Hunger, Shields draws from classic and contemporary sources — artists, writers, philosophers, and more — to present a collage of ideas that is erudite and provocative. It's a book of intentional plagiarism that casts new light on ideas of ownership, appropriation, and reality
"Reality Hunger is a collection of wisdoms and aphorisms, some borrowed/stolen/appropriated from others, some written by Shields himself — which layer one upon the other to shimmer with an insistence on a literature that reflects modern life's many complexities and contradictions. The book presents its arguments in the style of Pascal's Pensees or Montaigne's Essays, and is equally as scintillating — a thrill to many who'll read this book, a poke in the eye to plenty of others." Debra Gwartney, The Oregonian (read the entire Oregonian review)
Synopses & Reviews
An open call for new literary and other art forms to match the complexities of the twenty-first century.
Reality TV dominates broadband. YouTube and Facebook dominate the web. In Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, his landmark new book, David Shields (author of the New York Times best seller The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead) argues that our culture is obsessed with reality precisely because we experience hardly any.
Most artistic movements are attempts to figure out a way to smuggle more of what the artist thinks is reality into the work of art. So, too, every artistic movement or moment needs a credo, from Horace's Ars Poetica to Lars von Trier's Vow of Chastity. Shields has written the ars poetica for a burgeoning group of interrelated but unconnected artists in a variety of forms and media who, living in an unbearably manufactured and artificial world, are striving to stay open to the possibility of randomness, accident, serendipity, spontaneity; actively courting reader/listener/viewer participation, artistic risk, emotional urgency; breaking larger and larger chunks of reality into their work; and, above all, seeking to erase any distinction between fiction and nonfiction.
The questions Reality Hunger explores — the bending of form and genre, the lure and blur of the real — play out constantly all around us. Think of the now endless controversy surrounding the provenance and authenticity of the real: A Million Little Pieces, the Obama Hope poster, the sequel to The Catcher in the Rye, Robert Capa's "The Falling Soldier" photograph, the boy who wasn't in the balloon. Reality Hunger is a rigorous and radical attempt to reframe how we think about truthiness, literary license, quotation, appropriation.
Drawing on myriad sources, Shields takes an audacious stance on issues that are being fought over now and will be fought over far into the future. People will either love or hate this book. Its converts will see it as a rallying cry; its detractors will view it as an occasion for defending the status quo. It is certain to be one of the most controversial and talked-about books of the year.
"Shields's latest reinvents the 'how to' while explaining how the hazy line between truth and lie undermines all forms of modern communication, an understanding that requires accepting the inherent imperfections and idiosyncrasies of a single writer's memory, intent, desire, and point of view. Shields's manifesto reads as a mixture between a diary and lecture-hall notes, each well-thought-out entry (titles include 'mimesis,' 'books for people who find television too slow,' 'blur,' 'hip-hop,' 'in praise of brevity') made up of a series of numbered paragraphs. Incorporated into his consideration of general themes in art are specific pieces of writing and music as well as current events, like the election of Barrack Obama. Shields references a multitude of well-known writers whom he considers definitive (or re-definitive) in literature; one writer that Shields returns to repeatedly is James Frey. Shields considers the Frey debacle, including his guest appearances on Oprah, by way of the imperfect human faculty for memory and communication, finding in Frey's story damning evidence that human beings are doomed to experience life alone. Touching, honest, and dizzyingly introspective, Shields (The Thing About Life is that One Day You'll be Dead) grapples lithely with truth, life, and literature by embracing his unique perspective, and invites each reader to do the same." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Fresh from his acclaimed exploration of mortality in the genre-defying, best-selling The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead, David Shields has produced an open call for new literary and other art forms to match the complexities of the twenty-first century.
Shields's manifesto is an ars poetica for a burgeoning group of interrelated but unconnected artists who, living in an unbearably artificial world, are breaking ever larger chunks of reality into their work. The questions Shields explores — the bending of form and genre, the lure and blur of the real — play out constantly around us, and Reality Hunger is a radical reframing of how we might think about this truthiness: about literary license, quotation, and appropriation in television, film, performance art, rap, and graffiti, in lyric essays, prose poems, and collage novels.
Drawing on myriad sources, Shields takes an audacious stance on issues that are being fought over now and will be fought over far into the future. Converts will see Reality Hunger as a call to arms; detractors will view it as an occasion to defend the status quo. It is certain to be one of the most controversial and talked about books of the season.
About the Author
David Shields is the author of nine previous books, including Black Planet, an NBCC finalist. He lives in Seattle and teaches at the University of Washington.
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