Eight years ago, David Shields explored the line between fiction and nonfiction and the role of each in his book “Reality Hunger.”
Still currently ranked as a bestseller on Amazon, the book is one of 20 he has authored. Shields will read from his work Wednesday in Moscow.
“The conventional novel no longer in any way captures what it feels like to be alive now — elaborate descriptions of place, setting, lengthy dialogue, glacial pace, Freudian characterization, unity of organization; none of this captures what it feels like to exist now,” Shields said.
“Reality Hunger” is a self-described manifesto based on Shields’ observation about culture’s increasing disconnection from reality.
“The book urges writers and other artists to create radical new art forms for the 21st century,” Shields said.
The new literary forms he sees people moving towards include the lyric essay, literary collage, “autofiction” (fictionalized autobiography) and essay film. These tend to combine literary forms — poetry, essay, memoir, research writing, for example — using both original work and quotations from others to create a cohesive unit. These new ways of writing also cross boundaries into film and other media.
“Hundreds, even thousands, of writers and other artists are now writing this way, partly as a result, I would argue, of the rippling effect my book has had,” Shields said.
Shields has played with the media boundary himself. This year, James Franco released a film version of his 2015 book “I Think You’re Totally Wrong: A Quarrel.”
These new forms of writing not only reflect current culture, but they are potentially better at serving it.
“We’re surrounded 24/7 by simulation. We crave an axe to break the frozen sea within us. Only art underwritten by reality hunger can even hope to do this,” Shields said.
Shields is visiting as part of the University of Idaho’s Distinguished Visiting Writers series. In addition to the reading, he will discuss the creative writing process at 2:30 p.m. Sept. 14 with Brian Blanchfield, UI assistant professor, in the Shoup Hall Arena Theatre on campus.
“The conventional novel no longer in any way captures what it feels like to be alive now — elaborate descriptions of place, setting, lengthy dialogue, glacial pace, Freudian characterization, unity of organization; none of this captures what it feels like to exist now.”
— Author David Shields
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Reading by David Shields, followed by a Q&A
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday
WHERE: 1912 Center Great Room, 412 E. Third St., Moscow