‘How literature saved my life’ by David Shields


What is it about?
It is a series of short thoughts, personal essays, criticism about books, reading and writing.

Why are we talking about it?
As Books Editors, how could we help reading about reading? Also, Shields is a stunning, acclaimed writer.

Who wrote it?
David Shields is the author of 13 previous books. Reality Hunger was named one of the best books of 2010 by more than 30 different publications. He has also published articles and stories in numerous publications, such as The New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, and Slate.

Who will read it?
People who understand the magical power of reading.

What do the reviewers say?
New York Times: “There are good sentences throughout How Literature Saved My Life, about Mr. Shields’s stuttering and about his manic-depressive father, who went through several bouts of electroshock therapy. (“I’ll never forget his running back and forth in the living room and repeating, ‘I need the juice,’ while my third-grade friends and I tried to play indoor miniature golf.”) But these moments don’t amount to much. Forswearing traditional storytelling, Mr. Shields doesn’t allow himself to dwell on any subject long enough to say much that’s meaningful about it.”
Slate: “In his latest effort, Shields continues the crusade for a “bleeding edge between genres” and against narrative fiction, but less effectively.”
Boston Globe: “Does How Literature Saved My Life live up to Shields’s expectations? In a word: yes. In this wonderful, vastly entertaining book, he weaves together literary criticism, quotations, and his own fragmentary recollections to illustrate, in form and content, how art — real art, the kind that engages and reflects the world around it — has made his life meaningful as both creator and beholder.”
Impress your friends: David Shields graduated from Brown University. He is certainly NOT the only author to do so. Other famous writer grads include Jeffrey Eugenides, Edwidge Danticat, Meg Wolitzer, and Marilynn Robinson, among others.
Opening line: “All criticism is a form of autobiography.”
Typical passage: “Yeats said that we can’t articulate the truth, but we can embody it. I think that’s wrong or at least beside the point. What’s of interest to me is exactly how we try to articulate the truth, and what it says about us, and about ‘truth.’”