Reality Hunger was released in February of 2010. I think it’s important to date these kinds of things because in this post-modern culture it’s very easy to forget that there was a time before certain objects, certain phenomena.
Reality Hunger is arranged into numbered sections, most, if not all, are not the words of its author, David Shields.
I need say nothing, only exhibit.’
For a still forming Creative Writing student at the University Of Gloucestershire, Reality Hunger was important. It was taught almost immediately as part of a transgressive class by Dr Martin Randall. We were encouraged to buy a copy and read it. Many of us came away confused as to what the appropriate reaction should be.
We would talk about it in the pub or the SU, between lectures or walking home from a party. Sometimes it would come up if we stumbled across each other’s paths in town.
There are two sorts of artist, one not being in the least bit superior to the other. One responds to the history of art so far; the other responds to life itself.’
Our gradual consensus centred around Shields’ idea of ‘brickolage’; of forming text or narrative through others’ work. Sampling with a keyboard and words instead of a set of decks and some old soul records.
Myself and a fellow student formed a writing performance group called The Jolly Autocratic Committee and wrote a twelve-minute long performance piece constructed out of found language. I’ll share it with you at some point in the future.
As a preamble to their performances, traditional storytellers in Majorca would say, “It was and it was not so”.’
At the front of things, however, my writing almost totally dried up for six months. Reality Hunger hit me hard enough to shatter what I thought I should be doing as a writer. I had to rebuild.
It is probably the most important book I own. It was devastating and inspiring. It still is.
While we tend to conceive the operations of the mind as unified and transparent, they’re actually chaotic and opaque. There’s no invisible boss in the brain, no central meaner , no unitary self in command of our activities and utterances. There’s no internal spectator of a Cartesian theater in our heads to applaud the march of consciousness across its stage’
If you have your own Reality Hunger story to tell, let me know in the comments.
Main Vlog below.