With this landmark book, David Shields fast-forwards the discussion of the central artistic issues of our time. Who owns ideas? How clear is the distinction between fiction and nonfiction? Has the velocity of digital culture rendered traditional modes obsolete? Exploring these and related questions, Shields orchestrates a chorus of voices, past and present, to reframe debates about the veracity of memoir and the relevance of the novel. He argues that our culture is obsessed with “reality,” precisely because we experience hardly any, and urgently calls for new forms that embody and convey the fractured nature of contemporary experience.
Like any good polemicist, David Shields' ideas are provocative, simple to repeat, and deep in their implications. In Reality Hunger he wastes no time in declaring them: we live amidst a movement of artists "who are breaking larger and larger chunks of 'reality' into their work." These artists pursue a "deliberate unartiness"; theirs is an art that's finely crafted to look "seemingly unprocessed, unfiltered, uncensored, and unprofessional." It's "Zapruder's Super-8 film of the Kennedy assassination," The Eminem Show, the essays of David Foster Wallace, art that's "at once desperate for authenticity and in love with artifice." The reality it offers is one fit for the Internet age: fragmented and frenetic, always questioning the line between fact and fiction, as comfortable with mediation as a second skin, happy to glorify the feeling of reality above reality itself. The ethos of this art is what Shields aims to speak for in Reality Hunger.