Book Review: New In Print

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

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."

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Book Reviews
<i>Presidio</i> by Randy Kennedy
Presidio by Randy Kennedy
For his debut novel, Kennedy creates a road story that portrays the harsh West Texas terrain beautifully and fills it with sympathetic characters.

Jay Trachtenberg, Sept. 14, 2018

Hunting the Golden State Killer in <i>I'll Be Gone in the Dark</i>
Hunting the Golden State Killer in I'll Be Gone in the Dark
How Michelle McNamara tracked a killer before her untimely death

Jonelle Seitz, July 20, 2018

More by Wayne Alan Brenner
Two Snacks, Sweet and Savory
Two Snacks, Sweet and Savory
They’re gluten-free and ready to elevate your nomming pleasure

May 6, 2021

Booze To-Go Is Here To Stay, APL’s Cookbook Reopens, Pinthouse Goes Large, Fancy Greek Noms In the Littlefield, and More
Booze To-Go Is Here To Stay, APL’s Cookbook Reopens, Pinthouse Goes Large, Fancy Greek Noms In the Littlefield, and More
All the news that’s fit to get your taste buds quivering

May 5, 2021

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

semiotics, Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, David Shields, The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle