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Towards Day 3: "Reality Hunger"

Anne Dalke's picture

David Shields, Reading....

I. last week we focused on "facts" and "fictions,"
and decided (??) that
fictions are dependent on facts (experience),
while facts are constructions ("fictions": selected, shaped, ordered )

as per Zander, "the factual is not secure or unequivocal"
taking that as shared assumption, where to go from here?? from the "factual/fictional" to our hunger for the REAL

II. first...reporting in from the wedding: whew!

(from the program: "our wedding incorporates both Quaker and Hindu traditons...We believe that these religions are constantly changing and respond to the world around them...With this belief in mind, we created a ceremony that attempts to create an expression of our combined beliefs.")

III. getting to know one another, continued:

"If you were hit by a truck and you were lying out in that gutter dying, and you had time to sing one song, one song people would remember before you're dirt, one song that would let God know what you felt about your time here on earth, one song that would sum you up...would you sing...something real...?" ("Walk the Line," qted. in Reality Hunger, #158)

What song would you sing??

III. coursekeeping

Serendip posting: who's not on yet and what's the trouble? (more need to discuss this experience?)

sign up as class notetaker

for Thursday,
finish Reality Hunger: A Manifesto

next week, you need to have a writing conference w/ me
(to prepare for your first paper, due that Friday)

other questions, afterthoughts
re: last week's discussions: Hampl, Zander, Kakutani, etc??

Fred Tomaselli, "Head"

III. Hungering for Reality, and starting w/ the FORM:

"Collage, the art of reassembling fragments of preexisting images in such a way as to form a new image, was the most important innovation in the art of the twentieth century" (#44).

"Collage's parts always seem to be competing for a place in some unfinished scene" (#316).

who among you uses collage? why, how, where, when?

what are the principles of making it? of perceiving it? of using it?
what changes when it is made textual rather than visual?
(could it take other forms? musical mash-ups?)

<HTML Giant>: I read an argument for the synthesizing of creative disciplines. Nonfiction and fiction, say, ingesting one another—two snakes swallowing one another whole, beginning at one another’s tail....The collage ...[is] an attempt by a writer to reaffirm his right to beg, borrow, steal, recontextualize, revitalize, re-imagine, plunder, tear up, rebuild, restore, reuse, recycle, and fuck with the familiar...

Some Blind Alleys: Collage, of course, changes the nature of statement. Suddenly, nothing is proclaimed with certainty. Everything is proposed. Collage destroys absolute authority along with the pretence of originality.

Fred Tomaselli, "Expecting to Fly"

how to talk about a collage, without breaking it up into parts? (or is that the point: that you can, without destroying the unity of the whole?)

FatCatRex: I have to admit, it is difficult to process a book written in this way. I'm not used to it; it's not a comfortable, digestible medium--even if we are re-using and re-appropriating ideas as such...

rachelr: I was able to dig, sift, clean, and attempt to organize a lot of really good information and thoughts that made me think a lot about reality, faction, fiction, writings in the eye of the readers, and more. But it was far too lengthy and repetitive.

kgould: I think he takes an uncanny approach in saying something very new by using things that have been said before. Who owns reality? Who owns the words? So you put them together in such a way as to form a coherent sentence ...  Language is rehashed and reused and recombined and quoted and copied over and over...

mkarol: ... Spongebob inside his own brain going through dozens of file cabinets, trying to locate whatever "file"/memory it was that was lost. I think that's the way most of us grew up imagining our memories and banks of knowledge, but Reality Hunger contests the idea.

platano: So, this hunger that we have for reality is due, according to Shields, to the fact that “we experience hardly any" .... This got me thinking about the classification that teenagers have been assigning to each other for the past few years. Teenagers have taken on the responsibility of evaluating whether or not another person is “real.” Someone who is “real” is authentic in what they feel or think, or in the way they interact with others. Often times, the person who is not “real,” ends up being the person who you’ve had a disagreement with, or who holds a different view point on life. As we are hypocritical creatures, we often accuse other of being “fake” for things that we ourselves do. Therefore, if we chose to classify people in this way, none of us are “real,” and those of us that insist we are, are the fakest yet.

Aya: I do think that Shields has tried to lock a flood inside a bureau. He has tried to contain and express the stretching and pulsing textual anxiety that has come into our modern age (e-books, Kindle, Copyright?). To me what Reality Hunger proves most poignantly is that writers in the modern world must move past their own fear, or fascination with it to the realities, the details underneath .... there's possibility, in this form, of altering anthologies. of opening up the intertextual. 


VI. Samizdat Blog: Savage Aesthetics:
Coherence and Ethics Then and Now:

...he says near the end of Reality Hunger, he’s “writing to regain a freedom that writers from Montaigne to Burroughs took for granted.” But this sense of history is excruciatingly limited: Shields certainly seems to take for granted the notion that the past was a time when aesthetics were guided by a sense of coherence....

It’s not the fact that he refuses to genuflect before the altar of intellectual property that bothers me: it’s his worship of another false idol, one which I suppose we could call presentism, or perhaps ... chronological snobbery....

Consider what Shields says in the recent essay "Long Live the Anti-Novel, Built from Scraps": "We live in a post-narrative, post-novel world. Plots are for dead people. Novelly novels exist, of course, and whenever I’m on a plane, it’s all I see everyone reading, but they function for us as nostalgia: when we read traditional novels, we get to pretend that life is still coherent."

...he wanted novelty. Okay. But that’s a pretty shallow rationale.... For Ruskin, there’s an ethical quality to an aesthetic of savage incoherence. In his view, it is the way to honor individuality, and not just that — it is the way to accept the individual in all of his imperfection....Shields’ version of the aesthetic of incoherence isn’t a triumphant break with an impoverished past: it’s a pale echo of an old idea. It's weak tea that thinks it is nitroglycerine.

VII. reading notes
a) overture: all art movements smuggling more reality into art
with deliberate unartiness, randomness, serendipity:
blurring fiction and nonfiction

b) mimesis: writing started as lists
fiction from fingere--to shape
canonical works understood to be true accounts of the world;
Montaigne named new brand of "essai": trial/attempt/experiment
18th c. novel feasted on the unimportant, and subjectivity
modernist purifying of mongrel, Creole tradition
19th c. "paradise lost" of the novel: entirely decipherable universe
(desire to keep novel fettered to memory of that dead system)
governed by 2-D world of fact/fiction: ensure sacred texts as fact
imp't innovation of collage
retreat from the representational into the abstract

c) books for ppl who find tv too slow
reality an embarrassment to one's own meager imagination
shrinking life span of a fact
modernism emptied out narrative; straitjacketing of expressive potential
"maps to anywhere"-> what is a self?
memoirs/memory unreliable: modern novels
connected by secrets, all the same
internet niche distribution: peer-to-peer architecture
independent facts of little value to science: what counts is links, searchability
literature marginalized by more visceral narrative forms: tell story for cell phone?

d) trials by google
art a lie->truth, identity fragile, illness memoir as company-keeping
interest in startling fragment left over from manufacture
all publishing re-telling same stories: heavily derivative journalism
responsibility to move from private interest to disinterested reader
lyric essay best opportunity for rigorous investigation: theater is mind contemplating the world and offers not consoling dream-world, no exit door
memory-->mer-mer, vividly wonder
memoir niche-maket between fact and fiction: reality show
autobiography: writer and reader facing themselves: fall and forgiveness

e) reality
writing fiction: driving a car in a clown suit
most political thing: to render people's lives
comedy: reframing the real
what song would you sing, if you were dying in a gutter?

f) memory
past re-written in the direction of feeling
anything processed by memory is fiction (choosy, chancy, temperamental)
memories predicated on loss: experiences require rescuing
fiction freedom of experience w/out belief; nonfiction asks us to believe
tell story that once was, re-fill place w/ meaning

g) blur
fiction/"nonfiction" utterly useless
genre mingling=moral debility
art all in inch from life
grist factual, pattern, plot fiction
imagination and memory Siamese twins
arrange world in words: alter its nature
strive for authenticity: none real
deception the state of nature
dishonesty of invisible camera
border between documentaries and feature films doesn't exist
strangeness of always facing out
all in flight from reality
unsolvable mystery @ center of identity
no credit for living
projects a way to control emotions

h) now
living in manufactured world, long for the real
get own voice to come out over the "sample choir"

i) the reality-based community
in difficult times, art should be difficult
fiction called to the rescue of real life
we like nonfiction because we live in fictitious times
the reality-based community, vs creating our own reality
hunger for the true makes facts irrelevant

j) hip-hop
art is theft
sampling: creating with found objects
appropriation art: make a point of stealing: change context->connotation
we have the right to quote what pleases us
Facebook, MySpace: crude personal essay machines: little self-advertisements
everyone gets a channel, a bent version of reality
Reality is what imposed on you; realness is what you impose back.
All of culture is an appropriation game.
We legislate after the fact, in a perpetual game of catch-up...
while our new technologies redefine us.

Not the Real Thing

"Would you sing...something real...?"