David Shields

Jonathan Raban may be the city's most esteemed author, and Garth Stein its most commercially successful, but David Shields is arguably its most consistently engaging. He's drawn to the big, discomforting questions, in life and literature, and his latest, Reality Hunger (new in paperback), is in the current "manifesto" genre. (Pollan, Gawande, Lanier—did somebody write a manifesto calling for manifestos?) Celebrating authorship as, unavoidably, an act of pastiche, Shields proudly enacts the idea by constructing his book almost entirely out of quotations from others. (The guy has a true gift for assemblage—the scores of recollected bumper stickers in his last book were awe-inspiring.) While Hunger is polemical, sometimes it's hard to know who the enemy is. Surely everyone at the PMLA conference already believes that truth is constructed and unique authorial voice is a myth. But the fact that Shields has to plead with the reader not to look over his list of sources at the end only proves what we instinctively know—that, even in an age of Retweets and mash-ups, it still matters who said something. MARK D. FEFER

Thu., Nov. 10, 7 p.m., 2011

 
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