Greeted with initial critical interest and later bafflment, David Shields’s Reality Hunger (interview) compiles 618 bits and pieces from other literary works to amass a contention that nonfiction speaks a truth for which fiction is now mute. I buy the argument, though the disjointed tones of the book – tautologically, there couldn’t possibly be a consistent tone – made it a tad hard to follow while reading it for 20 minutes at a time on the subway.

But if one in fact does read the much-discussed, legally-mandated endnoted citations, lo and behold it turns out all the good parts of the book are original works by Shields, or are somebody else’s words goosed up a bit by Shields. As an example:

In the aftermath of the Million Little Pieces outrage, Random House reached a tentative settlement with readers who felt defrauded by Frey. To receive a refund, hoodwinked customers had to mail in a piece of the book: For hardcover owners it was page 163; those with paperback copies were required to actually tear off the front cover and send it in. Also, readers had to sign a sworn statement confirming that they had bought the book with the belief it was a real memoir or, in other words, that they felt bad having accidentally read a novel. [Nº 118]

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2010.07.06 15:32. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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