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Oprah, Frey, self absorption, Oprah, Frey, self absorption- oh yeah, and faction/fiction

rachelr's picture

 While my title for this post may sound highly critical of Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, I did enjoy many of the ideas that David Shields presented. Some of his seemingly "random" bits of information, while I struggled to find a direct correlation to the overriding theme of a book (if there even is one of those- Shields seems to eschew the idea of "traditional" writing so much that it is challenging for me to follow even his set up for the book), really interested me. I found his fact that "In the second century b.c., Terrence said, "There's nothing to say that hasn't been said before" (7) both depressing and though provoking. The way the letter chapters (it really bothered me that I can't see a reason for the letters + the descriptive word(s) under them, nor can I see a connection between them…) and numbered "thoughts" are structured makes it easy for Shields to be grossly frank and abrupt in his paragraphic thoughts. These frank omissions, such as "We all stretch the truth and tell lies by omission. Just getting along with people involves both. Humans are hardwired to deceive" (67), make me stop, look up from the book an say to myself, "Hey- he is totally right." And because he doesn't mince words and is so blatant, that is all I need to do. I can keep reading and merely wonder why most people can't just put the truth out there like that. Shields makes no effort to excuse, explain, or condemn these truths about humanity. He just says them, and I find that remarkably refreshing. 

HOWEVER- I feel like I got the point about the Frey/Oprah scandal, how the question about "well does it really matter that he made bits and pieces of it up?" is a hot topic, etc from the first 3 (okay I will be generous, maybe even 4) paragraphs on the topic. I really didn't need the next 7. I had already gotten it, thanks. I also got that he likes non-fiction/faction and "reality" above fiction by maybe letter C. When, on page 176, Shields tells me for the umpteenth time that "I have a strong reality gene," I had read that basic "truth" in at least every letter, if not numbered paragraph it seemed.

So in summation 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. Had the book been half the length and repeated things half as much I would have found it a much better read and I believe that I would have gained a lot more from the thought provoking parts than I did in reality.


veritatemdilexi's picture

"At the very deepest level, all our secrets are the same." (68)

   I am so happy that racheir brought up the Frey/Oprah scandal.  I think that the scandal around Frey's "A Million Little Pieces" captures what we are searching for in this class: does a story have to be one hundred percent factually accurate to have truth?  I have to agree with David Shields' argument that it if parts of Frey's story are fabricated this fact does not detract from the "truth" of Frey's story.  

  My favorite statement of David Shields in "Reality Hunger: A Manifesto" is, 68 "At the very deepest level, all our secrets are all the same." (Shields 27).  I think that Shields demonstrates in "Reality Hunger" that we are using new social forums, i.e. the internet, to create art that tells the stories of our lives and that revels are "secrets" to each other. As Shields argues, and I am inclined to agree, the fact that so many people are able to tell their stories is "a good thing, even if not everyone's story turns out to be fascinating or well told." (Shields 22).

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