Friday April 23rd, 2010

Greil Marcus on Reality Hunger: “I couldn’t read more than half of it.”

I really am still planning to review David Shields’ Reality Hunger, though it will likely be the last review of it to cross the finish line. For now, we know how Greil Marcus feels about the book, from an exchange during this interview:

Pop Matters: I was wondering what you thought of this influx of the memoir in its different forms over the past decade or two, or the blurring of lines between fiction and non-fiction. Have you read David Shields’ Reality Hunger: A Manifesto?

Greil Marcus: Yeah, I thought it was total bullshit. First of all, there’s a long history of people writing books about the death of the novel or the death of fiction and getting attention for doing that. There are a lot of people who would rather be at the funeral than at the birth, and this is one of those cases.

Usually when someone announces the death of the novel, it’s because they’re incapable of writing one and they feel inferior because of that. I tried to read his book, if only because it had so many blurbs on it from people I know or find interesting, and I couldn’t read more than half of it. It wasn’t really writing.

I mean, I’m a great believer in collage writing; I’ve written a couple of pieces that are entirely made up of quotations from other people, and I love the notion that you can absent yourself or that you can speak through other people in that way. You don’t have to add a single word of your own, you can tell a story, you can make an argument, you can dramatize a question.

But I also believe in attribution. (laughs) I think it’s much more fun and more interesting to say who’s speaking and even stress the absence of the author more that way, and it also lets the reader say “Oh, this is interesting, I want to investigate this more.” But in this book, I think it’s more than anything an attempt to get attention, and I don’t think it’s a serious argument at all.