I'm off to Atlanta in an hour. I'm coughing; I can barely put one word in front of the next. Just the right state of being for a literary festival. Mark, alas, is in the same condition, which must be a first. Since when are two members of a couple ever sick at the same time? Isn't it always the case that one comes down with the runny nose just as the other feels better, ready to celebrate his health back? Well, at least we can commiserate when we're not on.
Here are two brief excerpts from David Shields' forthcoming Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, forthcoming next year from Alfred A. Knopf. David sent me a galley not long ago, but you can read a generous section of the book in Lake Effect. It's brilliant.
from Reality Hunger: A Manifesto :
The lyric essayist seems to enjoy all of the liberties of the fiction writer, with none of a fiction writer's burden of unreality, the nasty fact that none of this really happened--which a fiction writer daily wakes to. One can never say of the lyric essayist's work that "it's just fiction," a vacuous but prevalent dismissal akin to criticizing someone with his own name. "Lyric essay" is a rather ingenious label, since the essayist supposedly starts out with something real, whereas the fiction writer labors under a burden to prove, or create, that reality, and can expect mistrust and doubt from a reader at the outset. In fiction, lyricism can look like evasion, special pleading, pretension. In the essay, it's apparently artistic, a lovely sideshow to The Real that, if you let it, will enhance what you think and know. The implied secret is that one of the smartest ways to write fiction today is to say that you're not, and then to do whatever you very well please. Fiction writers, take note. Some of the best fiction is now being written as nonfiction.
As a work gets more autobiographical, more intimate, more confessional, more embarrassing, it breaks into fragments. Our lives aren't prepackaged along narrative lines and, therefore, by its very nature, reality-based art--underprocessed, underproduced--splinters and explodes.