Acutely aware of our mortal condition,” he writes, “I find books that simply allow us to escape existence a staggering waste of time (literature matters so much to me I can hardly stand it).” If there were such a thing as a quintessentially Shieldsian pronouncement, this may be it, with its odd tonal mixture of the bombastic and the beseeching.
[Shields] can’t open a novel now without seeing its entire superstructure—characters, plot, story, dialogue, the setting of a scene—as an enormous charade. It’s but a reminder of the insufficiency of language itself, of our inability to communicate and say what we really mean. Hence Reality Hunger, which attempted “to put ‘reality’ within quadruple quotation marks.”
But Shields has hardly found a worthy replacement. The endless succession of quotation marks is its own contrivance, a scrim between Shields and the world.
To put it mildly, the reception for this book is not nearly as warm as for Reality Hunger. If you're not in the mood for Shields, there are a couple other readings you should know about:
2. Sherman Alexie is in conversation with G. Willow Wilson at Elliott Bay Book Company tonight. You shouldn't need any introduction to Alexie. Wilson wrote Alif the Unseen, which is a novel that I liked very much when it came out last year. This event looks like great fun.
3. And at the Pine Box tonight, it's time for a celebration of the release of the first issue of the Pacifica Literary Review. Contributing authors Lisa Nicholas-Ristcher, Maggie MK Hess, Sarah Kathyrn Moore, Leena Joshi, Joannie Stangeland, and Jake Uitti will read. If you enjoy literary magazines, you can get in on the ground floor of this one.