Reality Hunger, By David Shields

Divided into 26 categories ("memory", "blur", "collage), this book is an assemblage of 617 verbal shards about the novel, originality and communication in a digitised world. Here's a taste: "Increasingly the novel goes hand in hand with a straitjacketing of the material's expressive potential."

Questioning traditional notions of form, genre and authorship, some of the fragments seem familiar. Who originally said, "The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof shit detector"?

The answer is Hemingway, as we discover from a list of citations included at the insistence of lawyers. Shields says that the reader should rip it out. He's right. The list produces a kind of commonplace book or even a quiz. Still interesting but not what Shields intended.

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