By David Shields
Alfred A. Knopf, $25.95, 207 pages, 2 stars
Fans of Reality Hunger: A Manifesto might appreciate David Shield’s How Literature Saved My Life the way a movie connoisseur enjoys watching the overdubbed commentary as the self-absorbed narrator flows from idle thought to defending decisions made while creating Reality Hunger: A Manifesto and back to another idle thought.
Also, a reader who enjoys reading authors’ journals might enjoy the short musings on political leaders, Greek tragedy, Beethoven’s third symphony, Brown University, being a stutterer, loving language, radio shows, movies, TV shows, love, sex, war, death, melancholia, jealousy, truth, illusion, news events, writing anxieties and literature. At one point, Shields lists 55 books that he “swears on” and writes a short synopsis for each one.
“I wanted literature to assuage human loneliness, but nothing can assuage human loneliness. Literature doesn’t lie about this—which is what makes it essential.”
Collage-narration might be arguably easier to read a snippet here or there; however, in this information-saturated culture, most are as superficial and easily forgotten as the headlines and bylines of a tabloid. Despite the few hidden gems of insight, readers who miss the days when each word and sentence were carefully measured are bound to be disappointed.
Reviewed by Sarah Hutchins