David Shields


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It’s fair to say David Shields is a provocateur. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Shields sat down for this On the Fly in November 2010, the year his book Reality Hunger: A Manifesto was published. Shields was in Iowa City for the Bedell Nonfiction Now Conference.

Talking about the book, which was named one of the best books of the year by more than thirty publications, Shield says, “It’s a call to arms for writers and other artists to obliterate the distinctions between fiction and nonfiction, overturn the laws regarding appropriation, and to create new forms for the 21st century.” Reality Hunger makes the case that the “best works of literature obliterate genre.”

For Shields, who acknowledges that “I tend to be willing to say almost anything on the page,” a writer is “somebody who lives, for good or ill, lives through language. That’s just the substance through which he or she sees the world.”

Shields is the Milliman Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at the University of Washington. His book Black Planet was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, while Remote won the PEN/Revson Award and Dead Languages collected the PEN Syndicated Fiction Award.September 2014 saw the release of I Think You’re Totally Wrong: A Quarrel by Shields and Caleb Powell. Shields and Powell collaborated with James Franco to create a film version of the book.