Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Novel Is Dead Again: David Shields to Read at Hopkins on 3/23

On Tuesday, March 23, David Shields will be reading from his new book, Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, at Johns Hopkins/Dupont Circle at 7 PM. This is sure to be…well, something completely different.

Here’s some information from the book’s press release:

“This is a book designed to inspire and to infuriate, and it is sure to do both. The subtitle categorizes it as “a manifesto,” which is a little like calling a nuclear bomb “a weapon.” In a series of numbered paragraphs, Shields explodes all sorts of categorical distinctions—between fiction and nonfiction, originality and plagiarism, memoir and fabrication, reality and perception.

“In an era of hip-hop sampling, James Frey, artistic collage and the funhouse mirror of so-called “reality TV,” Shields maintains that so many of the values underpinning cultural conventions are at best anachronisms and at worst lies. And he does so in audacious fashion, taking quotes from myriad sources, removing the quotation marks, attribution and context, leaving the reader to wonder what is original to Shields and what he has appropriated from others.

“Anything that exists in the culture is fair game to assimilate into a new work,” writes Shields (or someone). He later explains his methodology: “Most of the passages in this book are taken from other sources. Nearly every passage I’ve clipped I’ve also revised, at least a little—for the sake of compression, consistency or whim.”

Here’s a thoughtful review of the book on Rumpus, written by Lincoln Michel:

“Because while Shields praises the same qualities I look for in my art, the book is framed by a somewhat incoherent thesis that fiction is dead, narrative is pointless and the premier literary form of the now is the lyric essay (with memoir, it would seem, being a close second). I cannot be the only one to read a supposedly radical manifesto—the book jacket labels detractors as mere defenders of “the status quo”—and be a little disappointed to learn that the novel is dead (again?) and the literature of our bright, hectic future is the lyric essay and memoir. Even the terms “lyric essay” and “memoir” feel dusty sandwiched between discussions of hip-hop and cell phone stories. In short, I read this book with as much disagreement as agreement.”

See for yourself on Tuesday, March 23!
Info and RSVP link here.


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.