Synopses & Reviews
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.
"Inspired by the immense vitality of his 90-something father, author Shields (Body Politic: The Great American Sports Machine) looks at the arc of a human life in order to come to terms with mortality. Organized into four stages of life-infancy and childhood, adolescence, adulthood and middle age, old age and death-Shields's short, snappy chapters are crafted from personal anecdotes (many featuring his wife and teenage daughter), literary-philosophical musing and enlightening scientific data, examining a wide range of human concerns relating to 'the beauty and pathos in my body and his body and everybody else's body as well.' Shields also visits historical and contemporary figures, from Sigmund Freud to John Ruskin and Woody Allen, for their thoughts on mortality; says Picasso, 'One starts to get young at the age of sixty, and then it's too late.' Shield's eclectic approach and personal voice makes this extended meditation on living and dying a pleasing and occasionally profound read." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"David Shields has accomplished something here so pure and wide in its implications that I almost think of it as a secular, unsentimental Kahlil Gibran: a textbook for the acceptance of our fate on earth." Jonathan Lethem
"It's a bold writer who dares to tackle head-on the subject of what it means to be human something that David Shields does with an extraordinary mixture of tenderness, humor, and inexhaustible curiosity." Jonathan Raban
"The Thing About Life grabbed me from the start. It's extremely compelling, gorgeous in many places. I loved it. And I wish I had written it." Lauren Slater
"Mr. Shields is a sharp-eyed, self-deprecating, at times hilarious writer." Wall Street Journal
"Enthralling, perplexing, illuminating and discombobulated....[A] fascinating, demanding read." San Francisco Chronicle
"There are paragraphs so finely wrought, so precisely tuned to the narrow-band channels between reader and writer, that the caught breath of inspiration and the sighs of expiration leave us grinning and breathless....This diamond of a book." Boston Globe
"[W]hen Shields sat down to write, he made a wise and generous decision: to convey what he learned in a confident but self-deprecating manner, the way a smart friend might share facts over the dinner table." Seattle Times
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
Mesmerized — at times unnerved— by his ninety-seven-year-old father's nearly superhuman vitality and optimism, David Shields undertakes an investigation of the human physical condition. The result is this exhilarating book: both a personal meditation on mortality and an exploration of flesh-and-blood existence from crib to oblivion — an exploration that paradoxically prompts a renewed and profound appreciation of life.
Shields begins with the facts of birth and childhood, expertly weaving in anecdotal information about himself and his father. As the book proceeds through adolescence, middle age, old age, he juxtaposes biological details with bits of philosophical speculation, cultural history and criticism, and quotations from a wide range of writers and thinkers — from Lucretius to Woody Allen — yielding a magical whole: the universal story of our bodily being, a tender and often hilarious portrait of one family.
A book of extraordinary depth and resonance, The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead will move readers to contemplate the brevity and radiance of their own sojourn on earth and challenge them to rearrange their thinking in unexpected and crucial ways.
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
About the Author
David Shields is the author of eight previous books of fiction and nonfiction, including Black Planet (a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award), Remote (winner of the PEN/Revson Award), and Dead Languages (winner of the PEN Syndicated Fiction Award). A senior editor at Conjunctions, Shields has published essays and stories in the New York Times Magazine, Harper's Magazine, The Yale Review, the Village Voice, Salon, Slate, McSweeney's, and The Believer. He lives with his wife and daughter in Seattle, where he is a professor in the English department at the University of Washington.
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