The Books Interview: David Shields
I have had a very busy week. A job interview on Tuesday and today and yesterday I was awake at 4:30 to be a chauffer. Lots of things have been capturing my attention but I’ve been too tired to do anything about them. Right now I’m sat at the dining table trying to get a manuscript ready to be torn apart on Saturday. This quote from an interview with David Shields in the New Statesman however should be shared.
You’ve said that the novels you like are those that almost cease to be novels.
Your basic well-made novel by Ian McEwan or Jonathan Franzen just bores me silly. They start with some notion that they’re supposedly exploring – say, freedom, or the idea of overcorrection – to give the work a kind of literary glamour or intellectual prestige. I find that such works pay the merest lip-service to exploring ideas. They are essentially barely disguised 19th-century novels. Take Jonathan Franzen’s work: it’s just old wine in new bottles. They say he’s the Tolstoy of the digital age, but there can only be a Tolstoy of the Tolstoyan age.
In music they’re not endlessly rewriting Beethoven’s Third Symphony; in visual art they aren’t painting portraits of 16th-century royalty. Art moves forward. Art, like science, progresses, and to me it’s bizarre that a lot of acclaimed and popular and respectable books are not advancing the art form.
From my point of view, Reality Hunger called bullshit on our boredom with the novel. I just can’t believe people think that these novels, which are so quaint, are great works of contemporary literature.
It shames me that I haven’t ready Reality Hunger yet. The paperback edition is on my list of books to buy in the near future. There is a remixed version of the site called “Reality Hunger, Remixed” which can be found here.