Wednesday June 9th, 2010

A Hunger for the Promotion of This Book to End Sometime Before the 22nd Century

I’m still working on an increasingly sprawling review of David Shields’ Reality Hunger, though I’m starting to wonder if it wouldn’t be more interesting to just mention it from time to time on the blog for eternity. The world’s first asymptotic book review.

In any case, Shields is still flogging his latest for all it’s worth, recently interviewed by Michael Silverblatt on Bookworm. (Silverblatt is another story, for another day. It seems that people take him seriously, but I find him exceedingly off-putting and sycophantic. He’s interviewed in the new issue of The Believer.)

Shields appeared on the show with Ander Monson (full show embedded below), whose recent memoir, Vanishing Point: Not a Memoir, fits Shields’ narrow, quirky definition of what’s acceptable to read, and which Shields raved about in the New York Times. Monson comes off a little better in the interview, though at one point he says, “One of the metaphors that I was trying to think about is, ‘In what way is self like a wiki?’” And that’s when I almost pulled the emergency brake.

Monson also says that thinking about his own work is “itself the work,” which is a pretty good definition of work that has limited appeal to me, though I’m not going to write (or rather, plagiarize) a manifesto about my preferences.

I will say this: Shields now has me wondering if all of this is a stunt, and if maybe the final joke will be on me and other detractors. He talks about trying to “redefine nonfiction upward;” recommends “rescu[ing] nonfiction as art away from standard memoir;” talks about Danger Mouse’s Grey Album, which was released six long years ago, as if it’s news; and acknowledges T. S. Eliot’s battles with accusations of plagiarism without betraying any thought that maybe this makes his own book less radical than he thinks it is. OK, OK, the show:

(Via The Casual Optimist)