(Published first by The Seattle Times, Feb. 28, 2010)
As I work my way through a review book, I often stop and picture the sort of people who will fall in love with it. By the end I’ve assembled a roomful of imaginary party guests. Sometimes it’s festive; other times I just want them the hell out of my living room.
The folks conjured up by the writings of Seattle author David Shields are always a smart bunch — funny, tolerably neurotic, well-read. We all like sports, love language and are traditionalists who nonetheless enjoy journalism and other nonfiction that reveal the writer’s opinions. I’ve assumed this crowd to be middle-aged, like me.
When I finished his new book, “Reality Hunger: A Manifesto,” the group defied easy literary profiling: That young rapper in deep conversation with an old guy whose life was revolutionized by Allen Ginsberg and the Beats. A gaggle of elbow-patched Proustniks trading insights with novelists who are grafting paragraphs together on their iPhones.
I figure they share Shields’ fascinations: the evolution of literary genre; curiosity (or skepticism) about the canon that sets down boundaries between memoir and fiction; biography and literary nonfiction; poetry and photo captions. This book doesn’t call for reshaping writing conventions; it insists that they’ve always been protean…
Read the rest of my review in The Seattle Times, here.
Note to readers: In the case of paid reviews written for The Seattle Times or any other newspaper, the copy of the review book is provided by the book-page editor. I do not chose the books I review for newspapers; review opportunities are offered to me and I can accept or reject the assignments. Other reviews (unpaid, alas) I write for this blog might result from discovering a book in the library or from a friend’s recommendation. If I know the author personally, I will say so.