We are taking a break from Luna Digest for the holiday, but I couldn’t help at least mentioning this:

coverissue_9I’ve been stumbling across some great excerpts recently from David Shields‘s upcoming book Reality Hunger: A Manifesto (a book previously mentioned/excerpted already on this blog by Shields himself, “David Shields: Reality Hunger“). For example, yesterday I picked up a copy of the most recent A Public Space at Borders and found a thrilling excerpt about fiction and truthfulness from Reality Hunger. Then, this morning, I received a review copy of PEN America and inside is yet another excerpt from Shields’s book, this time a section about mimesis: “The origin of the novel lies in its pretense of actuality.”

Much intrigued, I popped Shields’s name into Google in the hopes of finding an excerpt for this post and also to get more information in general. I found more than seven other excerpts from the book in magazines—such as this very early one in the March 2006 issue of The Believer:

The world exists. Why recreate it? I want to think about it, try to understand it. What I am is a wisdom junkie, knowing all along that wisdom is, in many ways, junk. I want a literature built entirely out of contemplation and revelation. Who cares about anything else? Not me.

And I must say, the excerpts have worked. I’m hooked. Persuaded. What’s more, the excerpts are not even written by Shields, not directly; they were constructed by him from the world at large. The pieces are co-opted. They are reterritorialized. Shields writes about his process in PEN America:

I’m trying to regain a freedom that writers from Montaigne to Burroughs had but that we have lost. The uncertainty about whose words you are reading is not a bug, but a feature. Who owns the words? Who owns the music and the rest of our culture? We do. All of us. Reality cannot be copyrighted.

I think my former teacher (and Fictionaut board member) Frederick Barthelme got it right in his early blurb for the book:

An exhortation to attend the sublime pleasures of truth and “truth,” and the suspicious and clandestine meetings of fact and “fact.” Why is this man always writing the most interesting books? I think he is not from our country.

Every Tuesday, Travis Kurowski presents Luna Digesta selection of news from the world of literary magazines. Travis is the editor of Luna Park, a magazine founded on the idea that journals are as deserving of critical attention as other artistic works.

  1. Ed Desautels

    I think journalism long ago co-opted the space of linearity and mimesis once occupied the the novel, obsoleting the 19th-century model in much the same way that the camera obsoleted representational art. And like the novel of days gone by, or of Borders banality, journalism lays claim to some sort of analogue to an ostensible reality outside of itself. On the other hand, the truly compelling novels of the past 50-60 years have, as Robbe-Grillet urged, been things whole unto themselves. Most intriguing for me art those that illustrate the keen mind at play in the multiverse, whose authors are unafraid to give full play to the resources of style and language available to them. Good post.

  1. 1 Luna Digest, 12/3 - Fictionaut Blog

    […] last week’s post about excerpts from David Shields’s upcoming book Reality Hunger: A Manifesto in literary […]

Leave a Comment