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.)
Advance Praise for Savage Park
"In this unusually refreshing meditation (which reads like a novel), we are given a tour of the space around and within us. With poetic efficiency Amy Fusselman reveals what makes us savage or not; why secret, wild spaces are essential; and, why playing should be taken seriously. I should add, she frightened me with: It is still illegal to climb a tree in Central Park!"
and#8212;Philippe Petit, High Wire Artist
Advance Praise for Savage Park:
andquot;Amy Fusselman writes with a unique depth of feeling, and Savage Park is a fascinating and daresay essential meditation on childhood, parenthood, and the importance of wild spaces for those wild creatures known as kids.andquot; andmdash; Dave Eggers
andquot;In this unusually refreshing meditation (which reads like a novel), we are given a tour of the space around and within us. With poetic efficiency Amy Fusselman reveals what makes us savage or not; why secret, wild spaces are essential; and, why playing should be taken seriously.andquot;
andmdash;Philippe Petit, High Wire Artist
andldquo;I yield to no one in my admiration for Amy Fusselmanandrsquo;s work. Her new book, Savage Park, further explores with astonishing power, eloquence, precision, and acid humor her obsessive, necessary theme: the gossamer-thin separation between life and death.andrdquo;andmdash;David Shields, author of Reality Hunger
andquot;Savage Park is a deeply felt and brilliant evocation of one of motherhoodand#39;s most pressing concerns: safety. In asking whether we can live fully--or parent successfully--when weand#39;re governed by an unacknowledged fear of death, Fusselman jumps high above the tedious Mommy Wars, elevating crucial questions of parenting to a profound philosophical level. Hereand#39;s hoping more writer-mothers follow her lead.andquot;--Darcey Steinke, author of Sister Golden Hair
andquot;Amy Fusselman helps us see, and feel, what matters most about being alive. This is a daring and artfulandmdash;and exhilaratingandmdash;book. The ideas are bracing; the stories are irresistible; the prose sets a new standard for non-fiction literature.andquot;
andmdash;Joshua Wolf Shenk, author of Powers of Two
andldquo;Fusselmanandrsquo;s mind is a playground in and of itself. [Her] prose has a spare, clean elegance that can carry a knife-like precision.andrdquo;andmdash;San Francisco Chronicle
andldquo;This brief, passionate bookandhellip;.never fails to engage.andrdquo;andmdash;Kate Tuttle, The Boston Globe
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
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.
Part memoir, part manifesto, this exploration of the underside of America's obsession with safety is prompted by the author's visit to a thrillingly alarming adventure playground in Tokyo
Part memoir, part manifesto, this exploration of the underside of Americaand#8217;s obsession with safety is prompted by the authorand#8217;s visit to a thrillingly alarming adventure playground in Tokyo "How fully can the world be explored," asks Amy Fusselman " . . . if you are also trying not to die?"
On a visit to Tokyo with her family, Fusselman stumbles on Hanegi playpark, where children are sawing wood, hammering nails, stringing hammocks to trees, building open fires. When she returns to New York, her conceptions of space, risk, and fear are completely changed. Fusselman invites us along on her tightrope-walking expeditions with Philippe Petit and late night adventures with the Tokyo park-workers, showing that when we deprive ourselves, and our children, of the experience of taking risks in space, we make them less safe, not more so.
Savage Park is a fresh, poetic reconsideration of behaviors in our culture that and#8212; in the guise of protecting us and#8212; make us numb and encourage us to sleepwalk through our lives. We babyproof our homes; plug our ears to our devices while walking through the city. What would happen if we exposed ourselves, if and#8212; like the children at Hanegi park and#8212; we put ourselves in situations that require true vigilance? Readers of Rebecca Solnit and Cheryl Strayed will delight in the revelations in Savage Park.
About the Author
AMY FUSSELMAN is the author of The Pharmacistandrsquo;andrsquo;s Mate and 8. As andldquo;Dr.andrdquo; Fusselman, she writes the andldquo;Family Practiceandrdquo; parenting column for McSweeneyandrsquo;s Internet Tendency. Her work has also appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Ms., Hairpin, and ARTnews.
Table of Contents
and#160;2.and#8194;Above and Belowand#8195;25
and#160;3.and#8194;What There Is to Seeand#8195;44
and#160;9.and#8194;The Structures Trembleand#8195;127
Read exclusive essays by David Shields from 2010