New book review: “Reality Hunger: A Manifesto” by David Shields

(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.

(Need more Shields? I was fortunate to also review his last book, “The Thing About Life is That One Day You’ll Be Dead.” Click here. And his website is 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.

One thought on “New book review: “Reality Hunger: A Manifesto” by David Shields

  1. Hi Kimberly,

    Good review. Personally, I strongly disagreed with much of RH, and also what he thinks about other art (I think Rothko is a sham), but at the same time he made it all interesting, and he produced a lot of new thought that forces the reader to focus on the problems of contemporary lit. I agree with him about the fact traditional fiction is losing its importance in today’s culture, and some of his reasons why, but I think there are plenty of satisfying and eclectic novels out there, and that writers should keep writing them.

    Here’s my recent interview of Shields (linked from the Rumpus) where we debate Reality Hunger:



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