Monday, 15 February 2010

Manifestly Unreal


Having spent last week as a greased manslut in the darkest sleaze pit in Domingo, tending to voles with enormous erogenous zones (some 12x46cm in diameter and larger than marquees), I decided a little light reading might be in order.

I perused the sample literature in the mancubine – a dog-eared Saul Bellow, an illustrated history of perfumery in the 20th century, the Penguin Book of Inappropriate Beards. Although the imagery in More Die of Heartbreak was somewhat appetising and the struggles of perfumers to bottle the essence of man was diverting – no book quelled my nodules.

After vigorous intercourse with a pliant stoat, I found an unproofed edition of David Shields’s Reality Hunger – A Manifesto and delved into this handsomely covered book.

The book is a selection of quotations and excerpts plucked from the last five centuries of thought, divided into twenty-six topics to create a comprehensive overview of realism in contemporary literature. It is fitting that I should read a book about realism in a fictitious set of circumstances and not (as actually happened) in a series of white-walled rooms.

The quotations and excerpts selected range from familiar perennials – the good artist borrows, the great artist steals, and so on – to random snippets from interviews with various writers/artists designed for maximum pretentioso factor. Also included are attacks on James Frey, non sequiturs on narrative approaches, irritating blobs of pompous self-indulgence, and one or two interesting things. These lovingly chosen excerpts have been pasted into a novel to create a constantly self-contradicting textual entity.

The end message being…? How about that reality has been distorted to such an extent, we are no longer able to represent reality in art. How does that grab you? This book is a cri de coeur of sorts, but to whom, I’ve no idea. The American literati? The humble scribe working in dead-end jobs en route to the loot?

As a manifesto it fails, as there is no one coherent line. You can’t have a manifesto instructing people to carry on as they were creating new forms of expression and art. That’s the literary equivalent of looking at something, nodding assent, and making money from it.

Anyway – end verdict. Quite annoying. Like a bunch of talking heads coming together and saying not very much at all. Sorry Davie.

Back to the stoat pleasure I go.

4 comments:

  1. An excellent slam. Thoroughly enjoyable -- apparently more so than the book itself.

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  2. The more I think about it the more annoyed I get. He heardly wrote ANY of this book! Vagabond!

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  3. "vigorous intercourse with a pliant stoat" - lol, you DO have such a way with words, dear writer! As evidenced also by the hilarious comment you left on my blog post yesterday. Cool Blog, dude - I'll be back.

    The Old Silly

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