Shields started out as a novelist, but has since built a career not only writing in the loosely defined ‘creative non-fiction’ genre, but writing about why he switched from made-up stories to (relatively) true ones.
His new book, Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, is an argument to destroy the line between the two. Numbered like a true zealot’s appeal to reason, the book makes it through the history of literature in 40 pages. Arguing that the artifice of fiction can no longer match the strangeness of the contemporary world and acknowledging the faultiness of memoir, Shields scratches out a thesis statement in paragraph 107: ‘What I want to do is take the banality of non-fiction (the literalness of facts, truth, reality), and [instead] make non-fiction a staging area for the investigation of any claim of facts and truth.’
This is what makes Reality Hunger such an invigorating read: it’s a manifesto meant to build rather than tear down. While so many writers fetishise the past, Shields is progressive, wanting to create something more reflective of contemporary times, and agile enough to include the various streams of storytelling already available. His past readers will find themselves on familiar ground, but still, we’re excited to see what Shields has cooking.