Mashing Up Text [1] | Reality Hunger

Reality Hunger

[ Mash Up 2 ] [ Mash Up 3 ]

In case you missed it, there has been something of a storm raging in some parts of the world of letters over David Shields’ new book: Reality Hunger. Why? Because in this brave manifesto, he takes on the future of literature by means of ‘some 582 aphorisms, mini-essays, provocative statements and quotations–most of them from sources other than Shields himself.’

The bone of contention? None of the sources are referenced, leaving us the reader to ponder the nature of what is original, what is inspired, what is stolen, what is… art. As my good friend Stacy has written in her excellent review of the book:

The book asks enormous questions like, `What’s next for literature?’ While some will applaud, many will take issue with Shields’ conclusions. Among them: the death throes of the novel, and a call for the end of copyright as we know it. He makes the controversial argument that fiction is on the decline… Reality – elusive, contradictory, and open to interpretation – is more interesting than made-up stories because it requires readers to struggle with the complex idea of what might be true. So what’s next for literature? Shields makes a case for the essay…

What I’ve loved about the book is the tension it forces me to deal with with every line.

107: These are the facts, my friend, and I must have faith in them.

Except we have no idea if this is Shields speaking, or someone else. It’s brilliantly unbalancing, forcing the reader to really read the text, and read again, wondering if they’ve read it somewhere before, pondering its familiarity.

And as ‘people of the Book’, this mashing up of text is precisely the tonic we need in our overly familiar and overly comfortable readings. Just how confident are you on authorship? Just how good is the translation? And just how much do we really mean sola scriptura? I’ll get to that in the next post.


4 responses to “Mashing Up Text [1] | Reality Hunger”

  1. Wish you’d slow down with the book references! I’m finally wrapping up “The World is Flat”, just starting “The Spirit Level” and now must add this to the top of my list.
    Does “Reality Hunger” address the choice to immerse ourselves in reading–at times to the exclusion of “reality”? Or does reading qualify as reality in ways which virtual engagements might not?

  2. I haven’t quite finished it yet, but it is an issue he touches on… And it’s a very interesting point, especially, as I’m moving towards, for those of us who call ourselves people of the Book: is it a reality we are immersing ourselves in when we read, or a virtual space?

  3. “is it a reality we are immersing ourselves in when we read, or a virtual space?”

    You have no idea what you’ve stirred up over here. Existential angst doesn’t hold a candle to this. And I haven’t even started to think about how all this applies to the Good Book. Not only did this inspire me to blog, but it demanded my longest post yet. Fortunately I wore out on writing before my kids asked for dinner.

    I really do appreciate your consistently challenging posts.

  4. Chris Peterson

    How would you define a virtual space as you pose the question here of the nature of our encounter with a text? Because one could argue that all of our experience is somewhat virtual, that even in day-to-day life our presuppositions keep us from perceiving the bare essence of things…