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Reality Hunger: A Manifesto

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  1,957 Ratings  ·  351 Reviews
With this landmark book, David Shields fast-forwards the discussion of the central artistic issues of our time. Who owns ideas? How clear is the distinction between fiction and nonfiction? Has the velocity of digital culture rendered traditional modes obsolete? Exploring these and related questions, Shields orchestrates a chorus of voices, past and present, to reframe deba ...more
ebook, 240 pages
Published February 23rd 2010 by Vintage (first published 2010)
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Kevin Kelsey
Posted at Heradas Review

You’ll usually find this in the literary criticism section of a book shop, and having now read it, I can’t exactly argue with that placing, but I can say that it would also be right at home in many other sections: cultural anthropology, sociology, memoir, philosophy, history, poetry, or even general fiction (if I’m feeling particularly objective). It’s a lot of things in one, which means that the book itself fully embodies the crux of its own argument, to get all postmode
Feb 25, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Last week I posted a pedestrian review of a fairly innocuous book, Zadie Smith's Changing My Mind. After a slow start, the ensuing discussion turned into a bloody street fight: names were called, knives were pulled and, tragically, feelings were hurt. Pretty much everyone involved lost their shit, including me. Good times, good times.

Still, I’m in no hurry to go through all that again. So don’t expect me to mount a fresh defence of my admittedly obnoxious views on the novel (which haven’t change
MJ Nicholls

(1) Why not live a little? Mimesis isn’t so bad. (2) Huh. OK, I’ll bite. (3) Shields’ main argument is that the lyric essay is better able to represent reality than narrative fiction, because reality is far more fragmented and less constructed than a linear plot. (4) Whatever Shields might choose to call this, the book is a work of criticism, and Shields is the critic. (5) I sort of enjoyed how the book’s assertions, self-indulgences, and occasional arrogances irritated and annoy
Had Shields published this book anonymously without copyright or charge I might take him more seriously, but really you have to laugh, at least I do.

Even so, there’s some good and important stuff here about the changing nature of the world and information and art, which is why I give the book three stars, and also because I think it’s fun to challenge the irony and hubris in Shields’s argument. He gets the scenario mostly right, but his manifesto is too dogmatic to accommodate its own artistic
Jen Julian
This is an example of the kind of overtly self-congratulatory deconstructionist bunk that really irritates me about post-modernist writers. Shields comes across as very pompous, insincere, and out of touch, making many broad assumptions about what the reading public "wants" and what writers "should do." As a very intelligent Amazon reviewer noted, this is mostly a book about "the kind of writing Shields likes," namely lyric essays and books that deconstruct the wall between author and subject ma ...more
Chad Post
Jan 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've been meaning to read this for a while, but seeing David Shields speak at MLA was the thing that finally pushed me to actually do it. This is an amazingly fun book to read, debate with, dip in and out of . . . Every few pages contains something golden:

"I love literature, but not because I love stories per se. I find nearly all the moves the traditional novel makes unbelievably predictable, tired, contrived, and essentially purposeless. I can never remember characters' names, plot development
At the beginning this book was amazing, though then as now I was unconvinced that the novel is dead. Somewhere along the way I got bored and pissed off, not so much with this book as with what people on here were saying about its subject matter. I almost gave up at w, but forged on to z. Didn't see that there was anything more to say.

I note that The Master was nominated for a Man Booker.

I don't really understand what's so threatenin
Kressel Housman
I've become much more of a non-fiction reader in these past two years, and apparently, I'm part of a larger trend. Whether it's creative non-fiction/memoir or reality TV, true stories are "in." So when I heard a radio interview in which a West Coast creative writing professor declared the novel "dead," saying the only thing worth reading is how a real human being solves the problems of being a real human being, I was so curious that not only did I put his book on my "to read" list, I tried to se ...more
Jan 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Finally, a writer from inside my own head. A writer getting into why I like to read; a writer who attempts to explain the power that words on a page can have over each of us, the how and why literature is important, why writers are so powerful. And if Shields is a love-or-hate-him kind of writer (which is exactly how I've heard him described), I'm in the "love" category.

"I love literature, but not because I love stories per se. I find nearly all the moves the traditional novel makes unbelievabl
Sep 08, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
I avoided reading this for a long time because I couldn't stand this guy in interviews. He sounds glib and uses words like "cognoscenti" to refer to himself. That said, I've enjoyed a quite a few of the books he raves about, most recently Terry Castle's The Professor, so I broke down.
It's basically a lengthier version of Steal Like an Artist and Jonathan Lethem's essay mashup in Harpers a few years back. The novel is over. Jazz is so over--unless it's being edgy, then it's okay. Henry James is a
Sara Mazzoni
Mar 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Saggio sulla differenza tra fiction e non-fiction, pubblicato nel 2010. È un dibattito ancora validissimo, anche se potrebbe suonare vecchio, perché caratterizzava più quegli anni che questi. O meglio: i trend letterari di oggi sono influenzati anche dai frutti di quel dibattito; la non-fiction è più sdoganata rispetto ad allora, Emmanuel Carrère e Karl Ove Knausgård vendono carrettate di libri; una rivista come Prismo ha pubblicato la classifica dei libri migliori del 2016 con una buona metà di ...more
Apr 11, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book made me angry. Shields's "manifesto" is a numbered collection of 618 thoughts and quotes of varying lengths united by one common principle: We no longer have time for anything but "reality" in our literature, the old standbys of plot and character are as useful as the horse and buggy. Did you know the novel was dead? In its place Shields prefers memoir, or rather a "reframing of the real." That's the way Shields describes Tina Fey's SNL portrayal of Sarah Palin, and it's also a useful ...more
LaTanya McQueen
In Which I Respond To David Shields Reality Hunger Through A Series of Personal Manifesto Tweets:
(copy and pasted from Twitter)

Shields—"Why do linked stories often have a stronger thematic pull than novels?” Um, what are you talking about Shields?

Maybe you should have read Olive Kitteridge. Talking about a book without reading it does not make you seem credible.

You say-- "It's my ambition to say in ten sentences what everyone else says in a whole book" WHY COULDN'T YOU HAVE JUST WRITTEN TE
I absolutely refuse to try to rate this. It made me think, a lot. It pissed me off to no end. I really like the kind of writing he's advocating, and I kind of hate the way he goes about advocating it. I also think it's one thing to say that there's a new kind of writing that is emerging which you find really exciting, but another thing altogether to suggest that this new kind of writing should replace all others, or is an evolution of all others. People LIKE narrative. There's a cognitive scienc ...more
Mar 03, 2010 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Huh. Ok, I'll bite.

From Boldtype:
David Shields' Reality Hunger is a glorious mash-up of provocative quotations, theories, anecdotes, and observations, all unattributed and from a variety of corners. James Frey tangos with Alain Robbe-Grillet, who switches partners with Jay-Z, reading ad copy from Curb Your Enthusiasm. Loosening the restrictions on attribution, calling BS on the novel's adherence to tired, old formats, and tsk-tsking the outcry when memoirs prove to be "fake" liberates Shields,
Jan 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
David Shields writes a lot of stupid things in this book, and his tone borders on insufferable for much of it (the parts he wrote anyway), but he also writes a lot of provocative things (maybe I don't need that "but").
Emma Sea
I was really enjoying it, and then around page 110 suddenly I hated it, and every word seemed smug. I'll try again another time
Mar 09, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fdeneme
çok daha çarpıcı bir şey bekliyordum, heyecanla başladım. hüsranla kapattım. David Shields bizi çarpacak darmadağın edecek bir kitap yazmış gibi davranıyor, ama metin bu iddianın altında çatırdayarak kül ve toza dönüyor.

bahsedecek olursak, kitabın temel iddialarından biri romanın, yazar'ın ve telif hakkı kavramının öldüğü yönünde. aslında çok güncel bir meseleye dokunuyor. ama züppelik yapmaktan meselenin kalbine gelemiyor.
This book is extremely thought provoking - though infuriating might be a better term - in it's attempt to explore the relationship between literature and reality, but ultimately fails in understanding what that relationship fully is.

Shields' main argument is that the lyric essay is better able to represent reality than narrative fiction, because reality is far more fragmented and less constructed than a linear plot. The problem is, as other reviewers have pointed out, that reality is not necess
Nov 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I do not intend to be irreverent here, but this book made me want to read fiction. Fiction fiction: novels, short stories.

I choose to believe that what Shields is after is not strictly essay, but rather a new fiction (though in fact it isn't new, it came in with the old), an attendant new (or rather, newly educated) audience (he acknowledges the fact early on, if you're following along in the endnotes-- "39- Robbe-Grillet, For a New Novel, the book that in many ways got me thinking about all of
Mar 16, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The more I think about this book, the less I like it.

That is, when I started it, I thought, Okay I don't agree with everything here, but it's thought-provoking and engaging and he's really doing something interesting. But the deeper I get into the book, the more his arguments bothered me. I came in with a bias anyway-- that is, I had read plenty about this book and expected to disagree with many of his key arguments, and sensed we would have a fundamental disagreement-- but I still think it's po
Frances Chiem
Oct 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, on-writing
I avoided this book when it first came out because of the amount of hype it got and because I was at a point in college when I still intensely believed in the novel as a form. But recently I saw David Shields read in a bar and he was sincere and charming, so I figured I had to give him a chance.

Initially, I was suspicious of Shield's assertion that the lyric essay is the answer to the question of where is literature going, and I'm still not totally convinced of it, but it is certain that the nex
Oct 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book I was, at times, ready to take up the banner of Shields's manifesto -- that we, as consumers of "art" or media, are increasingly too restless and too keenly aware of certain contrivances to stomach many of the forms (the novelly novel, for example) that used to hold our interest. I often feel the same way, even though I write fiction. The artifice of fiction can feel...well, artificial. And there's an urgency to certain "reality-based art" that I admire. And yet...I come to bac ...more
Mar 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sac-book-reveiw, 2010
The book is a selection of quotations and excerpts plucked from the last five centuries of thought, divided into twenty-six topics to create a comprehensive overview of realism in contemporary literature. Walter Benjamin's "The Arcades Project" is similarly structured (not that I've read the copy I've owned for almost ten years). What I mean is that much of what, in the book, is written by Shields was not originally written for this project; it's taken directly from his previous books - entire p ...more
A collated series of musings and aphorisms, I think this tome was supposed to be some kind of shot across the bow to the literary establishment. It reminds me of "Thus Spake Zarathustra", but without the depth, the balls, or the vision. It it full of pronouncments that somehow manage to be both wrong-headed and bland. Shields is essentially speaking for the new literary guard here. None of his ideas are that original. They range from the unsubstantiated ("plagiarism is organically connected to c ...more
Jessica Baran
Annoying, know-it-all book that nonetheless makes many important points, especially in this Trump-elect, "post-fact" moment. As Shields published this in 2010, he definitely suffers requisite datedness - spending far too much time on news-topical flash points that are no longer relevant (Oprah, "A Million Little Pieces," etc.). But this impulse toward topicality is what sinks him - he never seems to quite believe his project (against fact, against fiction, around structure) and opts to reside in ...more
Mar 23, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Read in the interest of "responsibly" building a CNF syllabus but: I'll pass. This book rankled me not because of its citationality but because of its refusal to [sic], especially when it comes to all the references to "Man" and "He" as artist. Strong case for [sic]s all over. Can't help thinking about how Shields' position as cis white man enabled this project -- who else would be entitled to inherit all of these ideas to "remix" in this smugly floating way? But also I think it would be more in ...more
Feb 20, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Interesting start. Interesting collaging. And then he "wrote" another 400 entries.

(He makes good points, though, and the pieces he wrote were often my favorite entries. That said: no, I don't think the lyrical essay is the future; yes, we live surrounded by attention span of zeroes; no, I don't think that spells the death of literature.)

[2.5 stars: 3 for such a strong start, 2 for not knowing how to pare down or self-edit or appreciate brevity.]
Joshua Rigsby
This book gets a lot of shade thrown its way. Some of it is justified. Shields can be an asshole. He revels in his assholery at times. There's also a fair amount of oversell on the cover and blurbs. This book is certainly not, as advertised, "A literary battle cry for the creation of a new genre..." etc. This is not the Bible he's written, but it does have some interesting ideas. If nothing else, think of it as a compendium of views on the subject of literature of fiction and unfiction. Because ...more
Jordan Ferguson
“Is it possible that contemporary literary prizes are exactly like the federal bailout package, subsidizing work that is no longer remotely describing reality?”

–David Shields, “Reality Hunger”

Yowch. There’s a lot to yowch about in Shields’ ["The Thing About Life is One Day You'll be Dead"] latest. Reality Hunger calls itself a manifesto on the cover, but if anything it’s a printed mixtape. An argument presented in over 600 numbered snippets, none more than a page or two in length, some Shields w
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readers advisory ...: "novels" that David Shields would like 17 56 Dec 19, 2011 05:05PM  
  • The Best American Essays 2004
  • The Ecstasy of Influence: Nonfictions, Etc.
  • About a Mountain
  • Theory of Prose
  • Ed Emberley's Drawing Book: Make a World
  • The Fourth Genre: Contemporary Writers Of/On Creative Nonfiction
  • Come in Alone
  • Stranger Shores: Essays 1986-1999
  • Yours Ever: People and Their Letters
  • The Best American Essays 2007
  • Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir
  • The Best American Essays 2009
  • Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays
  • Letters
  • The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property
  • I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts: Drive-by Essays on American Dread, American Dreams
  • Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews
  • Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age
David Shields is the author of fourteen books, including Reality Hunger (Knopf, 2010), which was named one of the best books of 2010 by more than thirty publications. GQ called it "the most provocative, brain-rewiring book of 2010"; the New York Times called it "a mind-bending manifesto." His previous book, The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead (Knopf, 2008), was a New York Times bes ...more
More about David Shields...

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“Copies have been dethroned; the economic model built on them is collapsing. In a regime of superabundant free copies, copies are no longer the basis of wealth. Now relationships, links, connections, and sharing are. Value has shifted away from a copy toward the many ways to recall, annotate, personalize, edit, authenticate, display, mark, transfer, and engage a work. Art is a conversation, not a patent office. The citation of sources belongs to the realms of journalism and scholarship, not art. Reality can’t be copyrighted.” 10 likes
“Story seems to say that everything happens for a reason and I want to say, No, it doesn’t.” 7 likes
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