Reality Hunger is a manifesto 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 licence, 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.
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Sarah Manguso Reviews Reality Hunger
Sarah Manguso is the author of The Two Kinds of Decay, a memoir, and two books of poetry, Siste Viator and The Captain Lands in Paradise. Read Manguso's guest review of Reality Hunger:
"I doubt very much that I’m the only person who’s finding it more and more difficult to want to read or write novels," David Shields acknowledges in Reality Hunger, then seeks to understand how the conventional literary novel has become as lifeless a form as the mass market bodice-ripper. Shields provides an ars poetica for writers and other artists who, exhausted by the artificiality of our culture, "obsessed by real events because we experience hardly any," are taking larger and larger pieces of the real world and using them in their work. Reality Hunger is made of 600-odd numbered fragments, many of them quotations from other sources, some from Shields’s own books, but none properly sourced--the project being not a treasure hunt or a con but a good-faith presentation of what literature might look like if it caught up to contemporary strategies and devices used in the other arts, and allowed for samples (that is, quotation from art and from the world) to revivify existing forms. Shields challenges the perceived superiority of the imagination and exposes conventional literary pieties as imitation writing, the textual equivalent of artificial flavoring, sleepwalking, and small talk. I can’t name a more necessary or a more thrilling book. --Sarah Manguso
(Photo © Marion Ellinger)About the Author:
David Shields is the author of several previous books, including Dead Languages: A Novel in Stories and, most recently, the 2008 New York Times bestseller The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll be Dead. www.davidshields.
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