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LATFOB: 'Reality Hunger' author David Shields

April 8, 2010 | 10:00 am

Realityhunger David Shields' book "Reality Hunger: A Manifesto" is made up of more than 600 short chapters, many only a paragraph long, that make the case that old literary forms are no longer relevant. He advocates for collage, for reality over spin, for new ways of understanding memoir and nonfiction. Practicing what he preaches, he's borrowed many of his chapters from other sources. He'll be at the L.A. Times Festival of Books on April 24 at 11 a.m. on the panel "Rebooting Culture: Narrative and Information in the New Age." He answered Carolyn Kellogg's questions via e-mail.

Carolyn Kellogg: Your book, "Reality Hunger," which asks questions about commonly held ideas about fiction and narrative, is in part a work of collage. Is there any section in particular that has gotten the most attention as you've been on book tour?

David Shields: On book tour, I’ve talked about the book rather than read from it. It’s been a great pleasure to engage with people about the book. Some are excited; others are adversarial. Good. It’s a manifesto. it’s meant to generate discussion. The aspect of the book that seems to get most people riled up is my argument that from the beginning of time creativity is plagiarism (eg, two-thirds of Shakespeare’s "Henry VI" is cobbled together from various sources).

CK: What's the one question about "Reality Hunger" that you wish someone would ask that you haven't yet heard?

DS: I wish someone would ask me what the relationship is between my argument about dissolving genre and my argument about overturning copyright. 

CK: What are you currently reading?

DS: I’m the co-author of a forthcoming book about J.D. Salinger; I’m mainly rereading that.

CK: What are you looking forward to at the festival?

DS: I have a very fond memory of walking along a red-brick path on the UCLA campus; I want to do that again.

CK: What do you hope to see or do in L.A. apart from the Festival of Books?

DS: See my brother Joseph.

-- Carolyn Kellogg