I don't normally think of the London freesheet Metro as the place to go to read a decent book review, however I think Ben Felsenburg's dismissal of David Shields Reality Hunger is pretty spot-on here:

Whatever criticisms David Shields will attract for Reality Hunger – and he can expect plenty for a book as divisive as Marmite – no one’s going to accuse him of modesty.

This collection of 617 pensées is subtitled A Manifesto and sets out its stall in grandiose style: ‘Every artistic movement from the beginning of time is an attempt to smuggle more of what the artist thinks is reality into the work of art.’

For some that line will be playfully provocative, for others ridiculous and infuriating; the same goes for all that follows.

Shields draws upon Ezra Pound, Eminem, Proust and Moulin Rouge as if they’re all knocking around one pick’n’mix bag. Wave after wave of quotes and Shields’s wearying pontification work that old saw about the way fiction and non-fiction are blurring into one.

Telly viewers know the concept – it’s called Big Brother. One surprise, though: Reality Hunger might be mistaken for the notebook of a naive undergraduate after a first encounter with Postmodernism 101. Shields is a middle-aged professor.

Readers Comments

  1. Phew, I'm not the only one who thought this then. Of course, there's nothing wrong and indeed something good about an undergraduate's notebook. Patience, good luck and hard work may produce a work of art that wasn't previously on the planet. I suspect the hyperbole surrounding the publication of Reality Hunger (i.e. rather than the book itself) conceals an intolerance of this hope.

  2. "Reality Hunger" is a commonplace book. No more, no less. As such, it contains some lovely quotes about art and life, but the Metro reviewer is dead right to say that, overall, it is wearisome exercise in the banal. Shields, at tedious length, expounds (but doesn't really investigate) his one idea: fiction and non-fiction aren't always easy to distinguish clearly and absolutely. Yes, well done, they aren't!

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