In one of the year’s most audacious nonfiction titles, the author (a novelist, essayist and creative writing professor at the Univ. of Washington) argues that a new age demands the obliteration of traditional categories and values in writing. “The subtitle of David Shields’ Reality Hunger categorizes it as ‘a manifesto,’ which is a little like calling a nuclear bomb ‘a weapon,’ ” said Kirkus. “In a series of numbered paragraphs, Shields explodes all sorts of categorical distinctions—between fiction and nonfiction, originality and plagiarism, memoir and fabrication, reality and perception. It’s a book designed to inspire and to infuriate, and it is sure to do both.” Shields blends his insights with those appropriated from other sources (and not credited until the end). “I didn’t especially care who was making the argument,” says Shields. “But I did come to realize how beautifully the confusion regarding the provenance of each passage embodies the argument that the book is trying to make, namely, that all great works of literature either dissolve a genre or invent one.” Of the book’s impact, he says, “Check back with me in five years. I do receive an awful lot of e-mail from writers and artists working in other fields who say something along the lines of, ‘Thank you for giving me permission to create art that reflects how I actually think, as someone living in 2010 rather than 1910.’ ”
For a list of all the best nonfiction books of 2010, click here.
Reality Hunger: A Manifesto
Knopf / February / 9780307273536 / $24.95
This book was featured in the Kirkus Best of 2010