PDF (Reality Hunger) By David Shields
The Big Book and a Study Guide of the 12 Steps of AA dNg I threw the bookown and went for a walk to mull it over a little Or maybe I would just put it William Wells Brown: An African American Life down for a feways read something else and come back to it when I was really interested again in the uestions it was posing when the ideas were pulling me back inParaphrasing of course but some of those uestions were What sort of responsibility should a memoirist have to literal facts Can we actually trust our memory enough to state anything we remember as fact How much truth is there in fiction How much fiction The Alien Surrogate do we allow in non fiction If fiction uses lies to tell the truth can memoir be just another literary genre soaked in the author s subjective experience but the truth of that experience used only as a means to illustrate something important If the point of memoir is that important bitoes it actually have to be married to truth at all Just what is being created in creative non fiction Who owns ideas Do we necessarily always need Form and Story and Narrative and the other usual pieces of storytelling Is the space between truth and fiction actually interesting anywayI The Changing Face of African Literature / Les nouveaux visages de la litterature africaine. (Cross/Cultures) don t really have a conclusion on this Like I said earlier the book is a jumping off point and I m still kind of lost in all of the ideas it presented If you re interested in any of those uestions I suggest you check it out it s really uite bizarre and I think you ll enjoy it a lot I ve been meaning to read this for a while but seeing David Shields speak at MLA was the thing that finally pushed me to actually De lautre côté de la machine. Voyage dune scientifique au pays des algorithmes do it This is an amazingly fun book to readebate with Salt and the Alchemical Soul dip in and out of Every few pages contains something goldenI love literature but not because I love stories per se I find nearly all the moves the traditional novel makes unbelievably predictable tired contrived and essentially purposeless I can never remember characters names plotevelopments lines of Sams Teach Yourself Data Structures and Algorithms in 24 Hours dialogueetails of setting It s not clear to me what such narratives are supposedly revealing about the human condition I m rawn to literature instead as a form of thinking consciousness wisdom seeking I like work that s focused not only page by page but line by line on what the writer really cares about as opposed to work that assumes that what the writers cares about will magically creep through the cracks of the narrative which is the way I experience most stories and novels Collage works are nearly always about what they re about which may sound a tad tautological but when I read a book that I really love I m excited because I can feel the writer s excitement that in every paragraph he s manifestly exploring his subjectIs it possible that contemporary literary prizes are a bit like the federal bailout package subsidizing work that is no longer remotely escribing realityAll so good And I think the furor over his Strong at the Broken Places Overcoming the Trauma of Childhood Abuse death of the contemporary novel and homage to plagiarism stuff is a bit misguided Shields s argument is subtle and textured than that and the whole book reads like what it is a manifesto for thinking literature as compared to that Franzen shit Interesting I love uotations I love reality I love unconventional prose styles So I m the target audience for this Last week I posted a pedestrian review of a fairly innocuous book Zadie Smith s Changing My Mind After a slow start the ensuingiscussion turned into a bloody street fight names were called knives were pulled and tragically feelings were hurt Pretty much everyone involved lost their shit including me Good times good timesStill I m in no hurry to go through all that again So South African Young Adult Literature in English, 2000-2014 don t expect me to mount a freshefence of my admittedly obnoxious views on the novel which haven t changed by the way Instead here s what I ve Baby Peter LEGACY OF ABUSE done aping the collage format of Reality Hunger I ve taken some uotes from the book and a few other sources spliced in some comments of my own from old reviews and threads and jumbled them all together in a crunkadelicisplay of literary turntablism For you sticklers out there I ll paste a list of attributions into the comments below Don t hate Masturbate Reality Hunger Shards of Glass - A Little Girls Journey Back into Her World of Physical, Mental and Sexual Abuse dance remix 1Whenever I pick up a contemporary novel I m nagged by a very simple very na ve uestion Whyid this thing get written And usually I suspect the answer would be Um well we re supposed to write novels aren t we WRONG You re supposed to investigate reality Buying Power: A History of Consumer Activism in America dumbass in all of its beautiful and horrible multifariousness and a tidy little Booker bait novel isn t necessarily the best way to go about it2I ve always had a hard time writing fiction It feels likeriving a car in a clown suit You re going somewhere but you re in costume and you re not really fooling anybody You re the guy in costume and everybody s supposed to forget that and go along with you3I still read the odd novel but I m growing increasingly unwilling to suspend my Nature-Inspired Optimization Algorithms disbelief I find myself thinking Come on man you re just making that shit up4All the technical elements of narrative the systematic use of the past tense and the third person the unconditional adoption of chronologicalevelopment linear plots the impulse of each episode toward a conclusion etc tended to impose the image of a stable coherent continuous uneuivocal entirely Geographies of Learning: Theory and Practice, Activism and Performance decipherable universeTwo hundred years later the whole system is no than a memory it s to that memory to theead system that some seek with all their might to keep the novel fettered5In 1963 Margaret Yourcenar said In our time the novel BWWM (Interracial African American Billionaire Baby Romance Marriage Urban) 50 (Interracial African American Billionaire Baby Romance Marriage Urban) 50: Billionaires Secret Baby 5 (Interracial African American Romance Urban Baby Romance Short Stories) devours all other forms one is almost forced to use it as a medium of expression No Increasingly the novel goes hand in hand with a certain straightjacketing of the material s expressive potential One gets so weary watching writers sensations and thoughts get set into the concrete of fiction that perhaps it s best to avoid the form as a medium of expression6Punk rockied when the first punk said Punk s not ead 7Jazz as jazz jazzy jazz is pretty well finished The interesting stuff is all happening on the fringes of the form where there are elements of jazz and elements of all sorts of other things as well Something similar is happening in prose Although great novels novelly novels are still being written a lot of the most interesting things are happening on the fringes of several forms8At this moment all over the world nice old men are playing slavish imitations of classic Dixieland jazz At this moment all over the world nice old ladies are painting pretty neo Impressionist landscapes and selling them to tourists at the local farmers market And that s swell Have fun with that But let s not pretend they re producing vital art9In the beginning was the Word In the end there is only Clich 10All novels attempt to cut neural routes through the brain to convince us that own this road the true future of the novel lies In healthy times we cut multiple roads allowing for the possibility of a Jean Genet as surely as a Graham Greene These aren t particularly healthy times A breed of lyrical Realism has had the freedom of the highway for some time now with most other exits blocked11Some of the most brilliant reviews I ve read on Goodreads have been genre benders mashing up elements of criticism memoir personal essay satire and whatever else And a lot of these reviews inadeuate term ring truer to me than the novels they re typically supposed to be about Anyone else noticed that12In my experience a good 90% of life is just a bunch of nondescript stuff that won t fit into a slick narrative that isn t even worthy of an anecdote13Story seems to say that everything happens for a reason and I want to say No it Ormus Modern Day Alchemy doesn t14Conventional fiction teaches the reader that life is a coherent fathomable whole that concludes in neatly wrapped up revelation Life standing on a street corner channel surfing trying to navigate the web or aeclining relationship hearing that a close friend The Archaeology of Mothering: An African-American Midwife's Tale died last night flies at us in bright splinters15Io not Lo pienso bien y lo digo mal doubt that there is far in trivialitiesinsects vulgar persons slaveswarfs weedsrejected refuse than I have supposed16If you write a novel you sit and weave a little narrative If you re a romantic writer you write a novel about men and women falling in love give a little narrative here and there etc And it s okay but it
s of noof no is no nobler pursuit than the contemplation of reality 18Walker Evans called his photographic style lyric The Illustrated Anthology of Sorcery, Magic, and Alchemy documentary When an editor tried to remove some flies from a white bedcover in a photo of a farmer Evans indignantlyemanded they be put back in 19We have too many things and not enough forms20Madame Love, Immortal (Alchemy, de Stael said that the contents of the gutter in the Ruee Brac were of interest to her than the beautifully framed landscape paintings in the art galleries21I m not advocating relentless avant gardism for its own sake I Lego DC Super Heroes don t even know what I m advocating I m not smart or presumptuous enough to tell writers what they should beoing or
TO DO IT MYSELF BUT Ido it myself But I Christ look around we live in a hugely or to On Being Black and Reformed: A New Perspective on the African-American Christian Experience do it myself But I mean Christ look around we live in a hugely extremelyangerous world full of technological wonders political savagery horrors of all kinds and these guys are trying to capture it all in their careful little Renaissance Emerge Series daguerreotypes22Okay straight up read whatever you want literary fiction TekWar twincest themed erotica whatever turns you on and makes you feel less forsaken in this bitch of a world If some jadedouche like me happens to think the novel is aesthetically Guantanamo and the Abuse of Presidential Power defunct thatoesn t have to hinder your enjoyment Besides I m not out to kill off the novel I just want to reduce its carbon footprint I m arguing for forms not fewer freedom not less Above all kick ass literature in whatever genre or medium That s not so unreasonable is it. Old culture in search of something new and authentic it is the most vital book of the new century. The Challenges of Writing a Collaged TextWhy revisit Reality Hunger The book s central argument is that the From a Whisper to a Shout devices of the novel including plot or narrative character voice and genre are obsolete and that appropriation randomness fragmentation and other strategies of collage can restore a sense of the real In its general form that uestion is still open in contemporary fiction Yet I still find Reality Hunger unconvincing Here I will try to pose two uestions1 What counts as collage in Shields s bookAs Wojciech Dr g has pointed out Shields s principal models were the concept of the lyric essay and collage or mosaic The former is an unevenly theorized form It is associated with John Agata and carries associations of first person or lyric address but for Shields it was apparently mostly a matter of eclecticism heterogeneity and fragmentation The latter collage or mosaic is the subject of Dr g s book In his wordsCollage embodies most aspects of the idea of art advocated in Shields s manifesto including the central proposition of Alt 10 Retrospect Prospect drawing on reality in the form of raw unprocessed material As he explains in the collage section borrowing the words of the poet Charles Simic found objects and ready mades abolish the separation between art and life 340 Their familiarity helps create an immediate identification between the viewer and the work of art 364 Dr g suggests that Shields s main points of reference are D Agata Jonathan Lethem especially his essay The Ecstasy of Influence A Plagiarism 2007 Jonathan Raban and Dave Eggers What Shields has in mind is perhaps clearest in this passageAeliberate unartiness raw material seemingly unprocessed unfiltered uncensored and unprofessional Randomness openness to accident and serendipity spontaneity artistic risk emotional urgency and intensity readerviewer participation an overly literal tone as if a reporter were viewing a strange culture plasticity of form pointillism criticism as autobiography self reflexivity self ethnography anthropological autobiography a blurring to the point of invisibility of any istinction between fiction and nonfiction the lure and blur of the realReality Hunger 3 Dr g Collage in Twenty First Century Literature in English 87It s interesting that Shields likes the word mosaic because it imples the fragments add to form a single continuous image Tesserae would have been nearer the mark What he is aiming at is in irrecuperable state of fragmentation because the operation of fragmentating is itself what will restore reality and expunge the obsolete elements of the novel This kind of collage needs to avoid being a single coherent image a mosaic Parenthetically the identification of fragments appropriation and iscontinuity with the real makes Shields s argument susceptible to James Wood s objection that Shields poses reality in an overly facile way against fiction Writers like Reznikoff and Metcalf might well have agreed with what Wood implies fragmentation and appropriation in their work hardly make the texts real See Wood Keeping It Real The New Yorker 7 March 2010 Benjamin here is the better example but even his work is not intended to produce a heightened effect of reality he might have found that an amusing symptom of a certain bourgeois longing in relation to literature His own project was about assembling a Celtic Plant Magic: A Workbook for Alchemical Sex Rituals dossier to exhibit certain thoughts about culture2 Is Reality Hunger originalWhyoes Lydia Davis think every page abounds with fresh observations In Dr g s count over two thirds of the entries are exact or modified uotations from other writers Shields says his editors told him he had to acknowledge his sources and as a result it s possible to see which entries he wrote himself The original sections make Reading Contemporary African American Literature disappointing reading They tend to be either cliches of literary criticism and history or undeveloped literary theorySection 58 reads in its entirety My medium is prose not the novel Why I wonderoesn t he feel it is necessary to look closely at the word prose here since it is Southern African Literature: An Introduction doing so much work for him Section 140 reads Plot like erected scaffolding is tornown and what stands in its place is the thing itself This is part truism and part surprisingly naive realism Perec for example could be said to have wanted to tear own plot but he wouldn t have said that what remains is the thing itself that almost sounds like George Steiner in Real Presences 1986Section 457 is another example of a one sentence manifesto that oesn t uite get to the end without a twist into ambiguity or obscurity It reads So no masters no masterpieces What I want instead of God the novelist is self portrait in a convex mirror This is over complicated the first part is against the naturalistic novel and the traditional role of the author as in Foucault s or Barthes s critiues but the last clause is an allusion to John Ashbery s Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror and to the Parmigianino original and those allusions Are Semi Opaue Unnecessarily Metaphorical And Unaccountably semi opaue unnecessarily metaphorical and unaccountably 307 reads also in its entirety There s no longer any such thing as fiction or nonfiction there s only narrative Is there even narrative No graduate student would be allowed to write like this his leading terms in this case narrative are allowed to stand without explanation and his positions are at once polemical and vagueSections 234 to 236 are also original they are unremarkable observations about popular culture Section 236 for example begins What oes it mean to set another person before the camera trying to extract something of his or her soul When are we exploiting When are we caressing Other people have said these things so much exactly at such length so much elouently Section 310 is another original section on popular reality TV It breezes over themes that need to be closely articulated The bachelorette on the brink of true love with one of several men she has known for seven hours the cad who manipulates his beloved on cue two narratives false actualization and authentic shame The success of the genre of reality TV reflects our lust for emotional meaning Does Lydia Davis really admire criticism like thisThere are sections similar to these section 428 for example is a page long contribution on Nabokov which is used to make an unremarkable point about autobiography and its independence from plot Section 456 is also a relatively long passage on how plot isn t a tool intelligence is Section 473 is autobiography it s informative but nearly free of interestSnide literary jokes are also scattered through the sections of the book that Shields wrote Section 458 uotes Nabokov but in the footnote Shields says that in honor of the author s Olympian hauteur he corrected Nabokov s grammar Section 139 begins In the end I missed the *pleasure of a fully imagined work this turns * of a fully imagined work this turns to be a uotation from a review of one of Shields s books Section 145 another original section is a mean spirited listing of a Verboten thematic secular Jews laureates of the real tend to be better at analyzing reality than re creating it Harold Brodkey most of the essays Philip Lopate s introduction to The Art of the Personal Essay Vivian Gornick pretty much everything At the end of this list he tries to patch things up by associating these authors with certifiably important people And of course less recently This book made me angry Shields s manifesto is a numbered collection of 618 thoughts and uotes of varying lengths united by one common principle We no longer have time for anything but reality in our literature the old standbys of plot and character are as useful as the horse and buggy Did you know the novel was ead In its place Shields prefers memoir or rather a reframing of the real That s the way Shields Gem is Mine but Heart is Yours describes Tina Fey s SNL portrayal of Sarah Palin and it s also a usefulescription of the kind of writing that excites him There aren t too many examples provided but broadly stated Shields seems to be looking for a kind of vigorous autobiographical writing that seeks to get some kind of essential truth or insight but where literal truth isn t something anyone is too concerned about Shields isn t that bothered by James Frey the American Africans in Ghana Black Expatriates and the Civil Rights Era The John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture disgraced author of A Million Little Pieces I m not going to bother to find out whether Shields actually wrote the stuff about Frey The comments in the book are presented without attribution or context until a closing appendix which Shields says he was forced to include It seems that Frey s problem wasn t making things up but rather not being vigorous enough inefense of his inventions since the elements of the book Frey fictionalized represented what was true for himThere is no room in Reality Hunger for the social novel experimental fictionor anything other than big fat page turners with those weird portraits of the characters on the inside cover that you find on mass market paperbacks in used bookstores Metaphor symbolism indeed any literary techniue is vaguely prissy here Shields instead calls for a robust engagement with oneself flowery prose and factual accuracy be BWWM (Interracial African American Billionaire Baby Romance Marriage Urban) 16 (Interracial African American Billionaire Baby Romance Marriage Urban) 16: Billionaires Secret Baby (Interracial African American Romance Urban Baby Romance Short Stories) damned What s wrong with all of this reality Shields misunderstands a couple of simple things about readers and writers Readers first If Frank McCourt or Mary Karr is a friend asking to borrow 20 bucks then Frey is a stranger asking you to float him a hundred because his car brokeown and his kid is sick We understand narrative compression and editorial allowances for length and flow instinctively as readers but we have a problem with someone saying they ve been in jail when they haven t Shields finds it elicious that A Million Little Pieces was almost sold as a nove. Synopsis Reality Hunger uestions every assumption we ever made about art the novel journalism poet.