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Reality Hunger: A Manifesto

Shields hereby kicks the dead horse of literary fiction in its rigor-mortis'd ass

Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., March 26, 2010

New In Print

Reality Hunger: A Manifesto

by David Shields
Knopf, 240 pp., $24.95

1) The novel is deader than God once was, and there's no rebirth in sight. Just in case, though, take this stake and mallet with you to the library. 2) "Shields," says my friend Sylvia, "wants everybody's dirty laundry hung on lines of literature for everyone to see. Wrinkles, stains, and – ugh – skid marks and all." She shakes her head. "Me, I like a little more Maytag action, you know?" 3) You have confused the true and the real. 4) The author of Reality Hunger, whose previous work for Knopf was the genre-defying The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead, hereby kicks the dead horse of literary fiction in its rigor-mortis'd ass, the spikes on the end of his rugose jackboots made of mash-up and sampling, appropriation and aggressive mimicry, gambits ganked from the novelties of rap and DJ culture, 4chan, recombinant DNA, The Daily Show. 5) You might think that Sylvia didn't actually shake her head at that point, that it was fabricated to impart an emphatic rhythm to her speech. You'd be wrong: She shook her head, and she shook it right then, and I've got the video to prove it. 6) Destroy his fib or sophistry in vain; the creature's at his dirty work again. 7) "Shields," says Sylvia, "doesn't care if what you write about yourself or your friends actually happened, only that you say it actually happened. He doesn't want the usual fictions but insists that much of the writing in memoirs can be – almost helplessly – made up. But that's what he likes." She. Shakes. Her. Head. "He doesn't want to have his cake and eat it too. He wants to eat his cake and have that cake be a fucking hot dog at the same time." 8) Shields has a point. He gives a damn. He's trying to make a difference. He's using the best of his formidable talents to do that. 9) Bigmouth strikes again. 10) "Now I know," says Sylvia, "how Joan of Arc felt."

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