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Reality Hunger: A Manifesto Hardcover – 25 Feb 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Hamish Hamilton (25 Feb. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 024114499X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241144992
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 2.5 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 840,722 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

I've just finished reading Reality Hunger and I'm lit up by it - astonished, intoxicated, ecstatic, overwhelmed (Jonathan Lethem )

A rare and very peculiar thing: a wake-up call that is a pleasure to hear and respond to. A daring combination of montage and essay, it's crammed full of good things (Geoff Dyer )

One of the most provocative books I've ever read (Charles D'ambrosio )

Exciting, incendiary (Dazed & Confused )

Smart, stimulating, provocative, entertaining (Guardian )

Highly persuasive. I can't stop recommending it (The Times )

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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Format: Paperback
'Reality Hunger', as its subtitle suggests, is a polemic in which David Shields attempts to define and promote a new, hybrid literary aesthetic. This aesthetic has three principle characteristics. It is inclined to ignore any historical distinctions drawn between fiction and non-fiction. It eschews the traditional engines of plot and character in favour of a concern with ideas; and its preferred formal method is collage, in the light of which it refuses to respect creative 'ownership' of texts and raises plagiarism - redefined variously as 'appropriation', 'repurposing' or 'remixing' - to the status of a duty. The book is itself an example of this aesthetic, being frankly a compendium of unattributed quotations interwoven with the author' musings on their common themes. (Attributions are provided, at the insistence of his publishers' lawyers, in an appendix that the author exhorts the reader not to read.)

It has to be said that there is nothing particularly new in any of this except the absence of shame. Shields seems caught between a frank admission that he is merely justifying and recommending his own chosen methods - which he seems to have arrived at from inability to write or find satisfying fiction of a more conventional type - and a more serious analysis of the genuine formal aesthetic problems that confront the serious writer of contemporary fiction in an age in which competing renditions of a supposedly unmediated 'reality' may seem to have rendered mere fictional 'realism' an irrelevance and a bore. In practice, this seems to amount to the substitution of reality television, long-form journalism and the personal memoir - however untrustworthy - for the plain artifices of literary fiction.
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Format: Hardcover
Prior to its release, Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, by David Shields, created a quiet storm among writers and readers. The book has garnered high praise from high-profile writers like JM Coetzee, Geoff Dyer, Jonathan Lethem and Lydia Davis. The quote from American writer Ben Marcus: `Reality Hunger is thoughtful, provocative, and querulous, and I hope it helps to start a much-needed conversation.'

For those of you who have been paying attention, it already has.

Reality Hunger is made up of some 582 aphorisms, mini-essays, provocative statements and quotations--most of them from sources other than Shields himself. Using both his own words and the words of others, he takes on the nature of art, pits fiction against non-fiction, essay against story and imagination against invention. The book asks enormous questions like, `What's next for literature?' While some will applaud, many will take issue with Shields' conclusions. Among them: the death throes of the novel, and a call for the end of copyright as we know it. In collage fashion, mixing and juxtaposing his own thoughts with quotations, Shields sketches a world where the non-narrative real has overtaken, even subsumed, the narrative story in our collective imagination:

"Conventional fiction teaches the reader that life is a coherent, fathomable whole that concludes in neatly wrapped up revelation. Life, though--standing on a street corner, channel surfing, trying to navigate the web or a declining relationship, hearing that a close friend died last night--flies at us in bright splinters."

The internet--a digital medium with the potential to display a multiplicity of artistic and pedestrian experience in our very laps, both drives and reflects this trend.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I heard the author talking about this book on a radio programme. The concept is an interesting one, and he has some cogent things to say about the blurred borders between fiction and non-fiction. But what he's done in Reality Hunger is stitch together a whole sequence of quotations from a wide range of sources, literary and non-literary, interspersed with some statements of his own, some gnomic, some banal. Worth a look, though.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm not particularly adept at writing. I won't pretend to be. I'm a fine artist (painter) and tend to go guttural, with minimal editing when it comes to language. That is to say, in short, that for me writing is a stretch, and writing on writing is downright uncomfortable. But I feel obligated to Mr. Shields, and thus(ly) attempt a disquieting review of an important cultural artifact.

David Shields might not be adept at writing either - that's a big part of why I really like him. His attitude seems to be, "find the right tool to do the job, don't just do everything with a hammer." You're thinking, "how does carpentry come into play with Reality Hunger?" I claim: a) Reality Hunger is about everything, including carpentry and less importantly b) Shields has found a way to make writing relevant by any means possible... and to survive as a writer today it seems you've got to be willing to exchange hammer for laser, sword for raygun, pen for plastic at any moment.
What I like about Reality Hunger is that it simultaneously manages to make love to two separate beasts simultaneously - namely the past and future. In some strange way, Reality Hunger manages to lovingly caress Proust, Kafka and Woolf's thighs with one hand while fondling James Frey, the Wu-Tang Clan and Family Matters' tits with the other. You're thinking, "impossible," but it's true. There are a number of avenues by which to approach Reality Hunger, and I will begin with the most superficial: relevance.
Reality Hunger is deeply relevant in that it attempts to, and I found mostly succeeds at bridging gaps between otherwise isolated cultural flotsam through at least the last century of modern thought.
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