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Alexandra Juhasz

Alexandra Juhasz

Posted: March 28, 2010 03:39 PM

Reality Hunger: Shields' Formal Run Down

What's Your Reaction:

You could say I "read" David Shield's Reality Hunger yesterday, but as my first nod to the worthy successes (and ballsy failures) of his argument-through-form, I actually skimmed it in less than an hour. As is true of any good manifesto, he clocks or locks a feeling in the air, something already everywhere, familiar but not fully formed (although, of course, snippets from centuries of completely finished arguments about the representation of reality are the over-rife reality condition he considers, and uses, proving the things and its opposite as he is most wont to do).

Not your everyday wordly citizen, I am a reality expert, a Scholar of Fake Documentary and YouTube no less. Not only am I familiar with these ideas, I too, make manifestos about them (with different conclusions and forms, and to lesser mainstream success). It is from this position that I will make four connected points about this noble projects' internal contradictions. (To read my whole argument, which as an argument-about-form-with-form also includes images and YouTube videos, please visit my blog).

SINGLE-MEDIUM MAN: Shields inter-cuts between writings about a variety of media forms (words, photos, movies, songs) as if they are interchangeable, as if there is not some remaining hold-out of medium specificity that might affect his building argument about and in "collage"...(more on Shields' studious under-use of semiotics on my blog).

MAN ALONE: The 617 numbered items that make up this book are the best selects from a compendium of things Shields has read and written. Their reach (large) is still only as great as his library, as well as his mind. Since I'm a documentary professor, I can readily attest (as I have already done for semiotics) that his range within documentary is, well, either laughable or rudimentary (more on missing documentary resources).

Shields should have crowd-sourced this project: the formal innovation that best matches the reach of his manifesto.

MODERNIST MAN: From chapters R-X, Reality Hunger loses its toe-hold in post-modern pre-occupations with the loss of the original, the waning of talent, the unimportance of authorship to bog itself down in a sort of embarrassing and downright modernist (hoax about?) celebration of the personal voice, risk, identity, and artistry of David Shields (see David Shields).

BOOK MAN: Shields is best about books and writing: his is really a manifesto about literary fiction, memoir, autobiography, and essay. Read a book for immersion, surf the web for flow. This book of short quotes should be on the web, speaking where and how the language of the concise, fleeting, quoted, stolen, and reality-pointing speaks best (see any blog, or even YouTube).