Of the three David Shields books I have, like the wind, swiftly read thus far, this without a doubt is my favorite, though the word "favorite" would not describe how I really feel. It seems to me his work is basically a looped highlight reel featuring David Shields which wouldn't be bad if he were actually somebody like a Gordon Lish or Raymond Carver, or anyone I suppose I would be interested in learning more details, true or false, about their lives. I don't read a writer's work in order to not like it and say something bad about it. I have written extensively in my reviews about how important it is to find a writer interesting, or to like him or her enough to want to learn more about them. In the case of biographies and memoirs there are many writers who never put anything of themselves into their work, and I tend not to like that much, no matter who the subject is. Geoff Dyer is another writer I really do not like personally but find much of what he writes interesting and worth reading. Not unlike many others who have written reviews of this particular book, Enough About You: Adventures in Autobiography, I found repetitions galore as if Shields cut and pasted sections taken from all his nonfiction works. But cutting and pasting stories from old books into new ones does not impress a reader like me unless the writer admits to doing so. The fact that I am reading these different books sort of backwards perhaps isn't fair, as at the time of the writing of this book he hadn't had the extensive opportunities yet to keep repeating himself as he has proven to do in subsequent measures as the years have gone by. In the Bill Murray essay Shields compares himself too favorably with his hero and says"...all of my current aesthetic excitements derive from my boredom with the conventions of fiction and my hope that nonfiction (autobiography, confession, memoir, embarrassment, whatever) can perhaps produce something that is for me truer, more real." I agree with this quote and concur with its importance.
I still want to read David Shields' book "Dead Languages" because it's about stuttering. A lot of writers stutter but I never have heard of a book strictly about stuttering. I learned about David Shields through a manifesto he wrote about writing fiction in a new way.
For the most part, however, this book was like the mental prisons many of us inhabit, echo chambers of disconnected, negative self-thoughts.
2.5 stars i read this book in one sitting -- like in the span of a few hours -- and i'm not sure how i feel about it. And unlike most other books i have read, i liked the middle of this one way more than i did the beginning or the end. Which is why his essay Downward, which weaves in commentary on Black NBA players, feels not only contrived but also a bit racist. The essay Using Myself feels more like a diatribe of defensiveness then something that has been fully digested and understood enough to come to some profound revelation (the goal of any writer revisiting their memories -- or reading their bad reviews).
David Shields is a creative writing professor in Seattle, and I first became aware of him when he was promoting his more recent book, Reality Hunger. I was immediately intrigued by him because here was an actual writing professor who declared that both as a writer and a reader, he was bored by novels, and the only thing that interested him was memoir, which is about how one human being solves the problems of being a human being. As it turned out, Reality Hunger was not just a defense of non-fiction over fiction, but a book in collage form, as opposed to the usual narrative structure of a novel or memoir. The chapter called Remote, which is about Seattles unlikely success, was my second favorite, and Im looking forward to his book of the same title, but thats more about celebrity culture than Seattle.
Likewise, my first experience with David Shields probably should've been Reality Hunger , which is the book of his that brought him to my attention. Enough About You is an odd collection, which I expected (based on what I've read about Reality Hunger), but I did not expect it to be quite as disjointed as its subtitle suggests ("Notes Toward the New Autobiography"--italics mine). So I'm not sure how this chapter, which reads like something out of Premiere magazine, fits into a book about autobiography.
I'm convinced that Shields is on to something in the art we create and its need to leave space for the gaps as evidenced by Shield's favorite idea: "Language is all we have to connect us, and it doesn't, not quite."
His other books include Black Planet: Facing Race During an NBA Season, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Remote: Reflections on Life in the Shadow of Celebrity, winner of the PEN/Revson Award; and Dead Languages: A Novel, winner of the PEN Syndicated Fiction Award.