How literature might have saved the life of David Shields even if he can’t explain it yet –


I have finally read David Shields. He is one to read in our time – or isn’t he?

How Literature Saved My Life is a collage of thoughts, a collection of things David Shields enjoys reading, watching, and thinking about, assembled loosely by theme, with the overarching message that he loves literature.

I have noted that some critics praise him for

… his uncanny ability to tap into the short attention span of modern culture and turn it into something positive. He doesn’t linger on any subject for more than a few pages—not because it isn’t worth the time, but because he’s so adept at concision that any more elaboration is unnecessary. 

Personally I wonder if he is not choosing the easy way out here, adept at concision – or just not patient enough to stay around to develop his own ideas?

Shields advocate form experimentation, but experimentation in itself is not enough – it has to be well done to be really interesting. To put it short: Shields has to work on his style.

I like the idea of this book – an attempt to say something valuable about the importance of literature – a lot better than the final result. Maybe Mr. Shields should give it another go & try again (preferable in his own words) to explain How literature saved his life???



7 Comments Add yours

  1. pulpfictionme says:

    sounds like a great book! I want to read it now! Great review as well 🙂

  2. Kim says:

    have you read anything else he wrote?

    i find it interesting how his essays, which seems to me THE way to really explore and investigate topics like literature and its importance, i find it interesting how his essays are interesting in its form, and not so much the things he actually writes/investigates.
    (maybe i have not yet read enough blogs/readers’ experiences, but i believe you are not the only reader who feels like the idea is better than the work he produced.)

    (an excerpt of his ‘Reality Hunger’:

    1. Sigrun says:

      Thank you Kim,
      I have not read any of his other books, but plan to, at least I will look up “Reality H…” (thank you for linking!)

      I share many of his preferences (since his book is filled with quotes its easy to see what kind of literature he likes), and enjoy reading the quotes – but, in my opinion, David Shields is neither using literary sources in a very original way, nor is he building up a very interesting composition around them. Therefore this book, as I see it, is better described as a sampling of quotations than an original essay.

  3. litlove says:

    I’ve been trying to decide whether or not to get hold of this, so I am particularly pleased to read your review. I think it highly likely I would agree with you, as interesting form without the content to back it up is inherently unsatisfying. And when the topic in question is why we should read literature, it’s not like there aren’t enough things to say about that! Perhaps I should try some of his other essays instead.

    1. Sigrun says:

      Hi Litlove,
      its a very quick read, and even if my critique is a bit harsh, there are lot of interesting passages in the book too. I would love to here what you think, of this book – or any other essay of his.

  4. I quite agree.
    Thank you Sigrun,

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