Reality Hunger

Reality Hunger

A Manifesto

Book - 2010
Average Rating:
Rate this:
An open call for new literary and other art forms to match the complexities of the twenty-first century.

Reality TV dominates broadband. YouTube and Facebook dominate the web. In Reality Hunger: A Manifesto , his landmark new book, David Shields (author of the New York Times best seller The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead ) argues that our culture is obsessed with "reality" precisely because we experience hardly any.

Most artistic movements are attempts to figure out a way to smuggle more of what the artist thinks is reality into the work of art. So, too, every artistic movement or moment needs a credo, from Horace's Ars Poetica to Lars von Trier's "Vow of Chastity." Shields has written the ars poetica for a burgeoning group of interrelated but unconnected artists in a variety of forms and media who, living in an unbearably manufactured and artificial world, are striving to stay open to the possibility of randomness, accident, serendipity, spontaneity; actively courting reader/listener/viewer participation, artistic risk, emotional urgency; breaking larger and larger chunks of "reality" into their work; and, above all, seeking to erase any distinction between fiction and nonfiction.

The questions Reality Hunger explores--the bending of form and genre, the lure and blur of the real--play out constantly all around us. Think of the now endless controversy surrounding the provenance and authenticity of the "real": A Million Little Pieces , the Obama "Hope" poster, the sequel to The Catcher in the Rye , Robert Capa's "The Falling Soldier" photograph, the boy who wasn't in the balloon. Reality Hunger is a rigorous and radical attempt to reframe how we think about "truthiness," literary license, quotation, appropriation.

Drawing on myriad sources, Shields takes an audacious stance on issues that are being fought over now and will be fought over far into the future. People will either love or hate this book. Its converts will see it as a rallying cry; its detractors will view it as an occasion for defending the status quo. It is certain to be one of the most controversial and talked-about books of the year.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2010
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780307273536
Characteristics: 219 p. ; 23 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Jun 23, 2016

I always though manifestos were written by guys with scruffy beards living off the grid in a cabin. But this guy not only doesn't have a beard, but no hair! I recently heard of this book from a presentation on postmodernism and I'm told by a professor friend of mine that it's influential and frequently referenced. Presented as 618 short entries (some are a sentence), Shields's ambitious book is an attempt to make sense of writing and art in the 21st century, the meaning of reality and fiction, and "appropriation and plagiarism and what these terms mean." Its strength is that it covers a lot of ground and will provoke the reader. Its weakness is that it offers no real, coherent aesthetic (manifesto is misleading) and is just all over the map. Jonathan Lethem's essay "The Ecstasy of Influence" addresses some of the same themes. I will say that if you're interested in the state of literature in the 21st century, you should read it, despite its flaws and failures. Also, it will make you hungry, so make sure your fridge is stocked. I'd suggest tacos.

Feb 20, 2014

" OUR CULTURE IS OBSESSED with " reality " precisely because we experience hardly any " I know of no one, and I've check with many others, and they too know of nobody, who has input into the moronic actions of Hollywood executives and their creative types? Few people actively watch reality TV - - fewer still wish it to exist! (I can see why the commenter, CatherineSlaton, below enjoys this book, as the commenter is positive on Gladwell, the hack writer hired to do a hatchet job on WikiLeaks/Anonymous, and does truly flimsy and shoddy research on his poorly sourced books. (It is teling that both CNN and CBS News experienced a 50% drop in viewership in 2013! Americans are rejecting fantasy in droves!)

Feb 20, 2014

This is one of my "go to" books. Should my creative forces become muddled with my raison d'etre, I pull this this book from my shelf (I've checked it out so many times I thought it only fair to the author to purchase a copy) and am renewed. Even if I weren't a writer, and you certainly don't need to be, anymore than I would need to be a mathematician to enjoy books on numbers, or an anthropologist/psychologist/sociologist to enjoy any of Malcom Gladwell's books, I would have this book on my shelf. More than likely it would be on my work desk for frequent reference as a PDR would be within reach of, say, a physician. Shields goes to the heart of what writing non-fiction, or perhaps, experiencing life feels like. I would recommend this book to anyone who falls into either the category of writer or non-writer.


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at MARINet

To Top