Staying Alive: Shields on the Future of Literature

March 2, 2011 § 1 Comment

A provocative and interesting interview with the always provocative and interesting David Shields, over at the Rumpus, on the occasion of the paperback release of his provocative and interesting Reality Hunger:

Rumpus: So I ask…do you think lyric essay and collage face the same danger as the poem? What about literature in general? Will there be a day when the only people reading literary art are those who create it? And how important is this to our future?

Shields: I suppose that is a real concern, isn’t it? This is the elitist idea? I guess I don’t think in those terms. I just am trying to stay alive as a writer and reader and teacher. Almost all fiction writing bores me out of my mind. I’ve found, to my great relief and joy, work that thrills me and that I want to write. Many writers who are 55 are phoning in their SOP by now. I feel proud that I’m still completely confused, completely feeling my way in the dark through this new form, this nonfiction drawer labeled nonsocks. People will always read and write. It will take utterly new forms. And one of the main ways we’ll get there is by embracing new technologies and new modes rather than pretending “literature” consists of replaying the hits of 1908.

Coming Next Week: Brevity Blog’s Mini-Reality-Hunger-Festival

March 19, 2010 § 1 Comment

If we announce it today, we have no choice, right? Rather than shirking from the incredible buzz-bubble that has arisen over David Shields’ provocative

Reality Hunger: A Manifesto,

we are jumping into the deep end, feet first.  Yes, all of next week, this humble blog will be hosting a


which will include a round-up of the good, bad, and confusing reviews of the book, interviews with David Shields, interviews with folks who may or may not be David Shields, stolen text, obituaries for the novel, a look at the art of writing the literary manifesto, our own literary manifesto (Authenticity Food Shortage), a “fast blast from the past” featuring you-know-who in a web-based magazine near and dear to our hearts, and other weird and woolly stuff we’ve yet to appropriate from the Internets.


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  • Participation encouraged.

The Clear Glass Windowpane: Zadie Smith on the Rise of the Essay

November 23, 2009 § Leave a comment

Novelist Zadie Smith ponders why so many fiction writers have embraced the essay in an extended Guardian article.  Smith spends much of her time discussing and digesting David Shields’ forthcoming Reality Hunger: A Manifestomy goodness, that book has buzz  — before reclaiming the sanctity of fiction.  A fascinating read, and worth reading a second time.

Within the confines of an essay or – even better! – an aphorism, you can be the writer you dream of being. No word out of place, no tell-tale weak spots (dialogue, the convincing representation of other people, plot), no absences, no lack. I think it’s the limits of the essay, and of the real, that truly attract fiction writers. In the confined space of an essay you have the possibility of being wise, of making your case, of appearing to see deeply into things – although the thing you’re generally looking into is the self. “Other people”, that mainstay of what Shields calls the “moribund conventional novel”, have a habit of receding to a point of non-existence in the “lyrical essay”.

These are all satisfactions the practice of writing novels is most unlikely to provide for you. Perfect essays abound in this world – almost every one of Joan Didion’s fits the category. Perfect novels, as we all know, are rarer than Halley’s comet. And so, for a writer, composing an essay instead of a novel is like turning from staring into a filthy, unfathomable puddle to looking through a clear glass windowpane. How perfectly it fits the frame! How little draught passes through!

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