Unbelievable Nudity: Author David Shields’ Impossible Search for Reality

David Shields started out as a novelist before abandoning this format to create collage-like books and films. In preparation for his workshop in Auckland next weekend, Megan Dunn asked him about his exact profession.

I don’t remember when I fell in love with the novel. Maybe around the same time I realized I couldn’t write one.

American author David Shields is best known for his signature book-length collection, Hunger in reality: a statement, The book was first published in 2010. The book consists mainly of quotes by other authors, arranged in small numbered forms and presented in 26 chapters, one for each letter of the alphabet.

Shields started out as a novelist but wanted to convey a more compelling sense of how life is now. “I perceive in myself the hunger for the irreducible, as well as the complete impossibility of attaining it,” he says.

The reality of hunger He argues that fiction and nonfiction literature are flimsy differences at best. For me – someone who still secretly dreams of writing a novel, but can no longer read one – it is a comfortable reading, a sign that I am not alone in a hole, having lost the plot (although, of course, I am alone in a hole, having lost the plot) .

Shields is the author of more than 20 books. Posted this year last interview. It’s a Q&A, without a. Throughout his 40-year writing career, Shields has been asked, at his discretion, more than 2,000 questions. He removed his responses, then rewrote and rearranged the questions to produce this passive-aggressive converter. “What’s the worst thing a reviewer can do?” Have you ever imagined killing a critic? I laughed, but only because I felt trapped. minus.

Shields’ favorite paintings are Rembrandt’s late self-portraits, “For Her Unbelievable Nudity”. “He looks like this very mortal and very weak and very naked man. And I think this impulse that I recognize in art is what I love most.”

The moment I saw Cut and Paste Workshop (Cut and Paste Workshop) appear at this year’s Auckland Book Festival, I booked my spot.

on the collage

Megan: In the workshop you will discuss the art of collage using Dinty Moore Son of Mr. Green Jeans.

Moore’s article is arranged alphabetically and contains a list of real and imaginary fathers, from Tim Allen in home improvement By actress Laura Chapin, who played a daughter in the 1950s sitcom Father knows bestBut her father abused her.

Why this article?

David: It’s funny because only today Tony Dow died; Play the role of a wali in it Leave it to the beaverAnother American TV show. He also mentions Denti’s article Leave it to the beaver.

I would argue that the book-length collage is a difficult and well-written complex form of the traditional novel.

For me, college has mathematical precision. It’s not just, “Oh, let’s put together hundreds of pages that talk vaguely about someone’s life.” For the collage to work, it must be calibrated very precisely, and the Dinty essay calibrated very carefully.

Mr. Green Jeans’ son is only about 1,500 words long and has five different coats: animals that take care of their young; Parents who abuse their young human beings; pop culture and TV shows that Dinty watched as a child; Dinty grew up with an alcoholic father; In “The Present”, Dente and his wife decide to have a child.

Rather miraculously, all of these layers come together. It’s a very sophisticated business, in a very small space.

If you don’t know what a collage is, I can say, well, here it is, in miniature.

About starvation, actually

Megan: Do you have any idea that your book collection The reality of hunger Who would leave the effect it made?

David: I really didn’t. Twelve years later, I still get emails almost daily, or certainly weekly, from people saying some versions of “I thought I was crazy because I didn’t like the traditional novel. I’m interested in something more dialectical or epigrammatic and semi-collective. Your book has given me permission to explore What interests me.”

Megan: I was touched smoothly The reality of hunger. How did the book come about?

David: I have taught an alumni seminar for many years and will bring hundreds of quotes. And every year, I would take out, organize, rewrite, recombine, and organize these quotes. Then about five or six years after this, one day I looked and realized I had a book staring at me.

And then for a variety of reasons, The reality of hunger Minor controversy because it was misunderstood as “anti-copyright” and “anti-novel”. I don’t think this is the book. I had written three novels and in that time I was trying to write, read and teach traditional and realistic linear fiction. I was bored out of my mind. The reality of hunger It is a book in favor of something exciting.

On Marshawn Lynch: A History

Megan: Now you have also moved to the cinema. Tell me about this editing process.

David: Lynch: History It is a documentary that I made almost entirely from a mixture of found footage. It’s about American football but really, it’s about ex-NFL player Marshawn Lynch, his refusal to speak to the American media and how that’s a powerful tactic and a model for protest and subtle deconstruction. Lynch embodies Camus’ saying: “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so completely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”

My books and films are pretty close: it’s collages, there’s a lot of found footage, it’s anti-linear narrative, there’s a mix of personal, cultural, anthropological, and, I hope, “philosophical.”

Megan: Memes and GIFS look like 21st century evolutions of the collage format. I searched for some Marshawn Lynch memes. Many use his italics for the media: “You know why I’m here.”

David: I think that’s a nice point. Memes and GIFs are in some way the 21st century, the equivalent of aphorisms because a second, two, or three-second clip of someone shrugging in a certain way, or someone expressing disdain or joy, might convey some kind of universal meaning. “

The meme is the pictorial equivalent of the old saying.

Lynch’s movie is 84 minutes long and consists of about 770 clips. Each clip is its own GIF, perhaps.

Postmodernism with a human face

Megan: In a recent conversation with writer Laura Kepnes, I said, “I’m only interested in postmodernism that has a clear human face.”

David: I’m not interested in cheating for the sake of cheating. I really like Simon Gray’s Smoking Diary. At some point, his typewriter keys are glued in, and there is no “H” for half a page. On some level, it’s kind of a postmodern deception. But in the end, narrating almost literally from his deathbed, the book is very self-aware and you could argue overly postmodern. It’s also a deeply humane book, very nervous, candid, honest, and heartbreaking.

After his death, I wrote something in honor of Gray and his widow called me and said that Rembrandt’s late self-portraits were also Simone’s favorite artworks.

In the very last interview

Megan: One of your book engravings is a quote by Gertrude Stein, “Notes are not literature.” However, your work is a strange refutation of that quote.

David: I agree. I ordered this book in such a way that questions are statements. Each chapter is preceded by an inscription. I personally like the data. I love proverbs. I love the joints of things. I love grammatical writing.

Megan: same. cover Richard Diebenkorn [see middle book cover, above] It is a beautiful picture convertible.

David: The book is all about conversion. The interviewer asks endless questions and then the interviewee, a copy of me, doesn’t answer any of the questions.

The book (and the short film based on it) is a memorial to the death of a writer of a certain age who faces his limits as a person, writer, and selfless, and asks midnight questions. The whole point of the book is that I hope the reader will ask similar questions for themselves.

Megan: It is a quick read. There is no fat in the camel.

David: the correct. It is very small. I really wanted that feel of hammered metal. Each sentence is a gunshot: boom, boom, boom, boom. It’s a brutal self-interrogation. So it was so important that the questions come fast and furious.

David Shields: Cut and Paste Workshop, Saturday 27The tenth August, 11-12:30 p.m., Auckland Book Festival

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