You are invited to the release of David Shields’ book, Reality Hunger. The book is designed to inspire and to infuriate, and is sure to do both. The book’s subtitle labels it “a manifesto,” but that is a little like calling a nuclear bomb “a weapon.” In a series of numbered paragraphs, Shields explodes categorical distinctions between fiction and nonfiction, originality and plagiarism, memoir and fabrication, reality and perception. In an era of hip-hop sampling, James Frey, artistic collage, and the funhouse mirror of “reality TV,” Shields maintains that many of the values underpinning cultural conventions are at best anachronisms and at worst lies. And he does so in audacious fashion, taking quotes from myriad sources without contextualizing or attributing them, leaving the reader to wonder what is original and what was appropriated.
David Shields’s previous book, The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead, (Knopf, 2008), was a New York Times bestseller. He is the author of eight other books, including Black Planet: Facing Race During an NBA Season, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Remote: Reflections on Life in the Shadow of Celebrity, winner of the PEN/Revson Award; and Dead Languages: A Novel, winner of the PEN Syndicated Fiction Award. His essays and stories have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, Yale Review, Village Voice, Salon, Slate, McSweeney’s, and Utne Reader.