This book is manipulative. On the front it was laden with all these quotes from these famous authors touting how it is pretty much a masterpiece. Then...moreThis book is manipulative. On the front it was laden with all these quotes from these famous authors touting how it is pretty much a masterpiece. Then as I read on, I realized all these people had been quoted by David Shields. Hmm...that's not super shady or anything.
That's the thing about this book. It's TACKY. Like full-on TACKY.
I felt tricked by the text because it was only about halfway through did I realize that they were quotes and not written by David Shields himself. He compiled a bunch of quotes, wrote a few short paragraphs, lumped them together, and called it his manifesto. Only when I accidentally stumbled across the appendix in the back, which, by the way, he hadn't wanted to have but his lawyer insisted, did I figure this out. His work is not very transparent and misleading and it's manipulative and it thinks it's so damn clever, but it's not. It's a text obsessed with itself and it's self congratulatory and frankly it's very off-putting.
Another reason why I think this is manipulative is that he makes you feel bad for not liking the book. If he offends you, he claims that he is being successful at new, innovative art. I think his work strikes me as a bit lazy. He just compiled a bunch of quotes and tried to pass it off as his own. And he claims that the lyrical essay is the new form to watch, but he doesn't really do that in his book. He doesn't have a cohesive statement. He doesn't really develop a thesis. It's not a really magical essay with all these twists and turns. It's lumpy and chunky.
And manifestoes just suck. They are shrill and loud and obnoxious and unimaginative and ungenerous and close minded and one sided and FLAT and unsophisticated, really.
This is another reason why I felt duped by the book: some of the quotes are awesome. I would say a good third are great, great quotes. So it's almost worth having around just to have access to the quotes. And I, for the most part, must have a similar aesthetic to Shields. I like the books he likes, and I feel really drawn to fiction/nonfiction that sort of bleeds over boundaries and isn't afraid to do so. I like Geoff Dyer, WG Sebald. I respect Proust for what he did to literature. But it's not as if that form of writing is superior to all other forms. Or that one can dismiss Jonathan Franzen. I think people's opinions of books can be so subjective. I don't entirely trust myself as a book critic. I know that it depends on the given day, what's going on in my life, what mood I am in, what I feel like reading, those are all factors that influence how I feel about a certain text. So, to dismiss Jonathan Franzen or another form of fiction and to create a hierarchy seems to me not really the point of literature. The point of literature is to have many different forms, many different kinds, many different styles all co-existing together.
But Shields as a writer strikes me as very naval gazing, very self absorbed and very self congratulatory and obsessed with being famous, being a great literary author, and I think that's really not the point of writing, of why someone should become an author.
I will add, though, that I feel frustrations with the categorical limitations of fiction and nonfiction (choose one or the other), and I think raising that issue is exciting and interesting. And I like how the book has that space to explore that, but I think his approach was polarizing and not entirely helpful to the discussion. It just made me angry, and I think I lean more towards his side of things. Unfortunate. (less)
such a great book. well written but also a lot of fun to read. my boyfriend read it on a plane ride home. was a great commu...moreread it, read it, read it!
such a great book. well written but also a lot of fun to read. my boyfriend read it on a plane ride home. was a great commute book, but i also learned a hell of a lot about north korea in a way that was not dry.
the style of interspersing different people's narratives kept it fresh and kept me turning the pages. the amazon reviews for this book are pretty amazing, and it's totally deserved. (less)