Finding balance in the second half of life

Still Hungry

In Fulfillment on December 4, 2010 at 5:14 pm

I wasn’t planning on reading Reality Hunger: A Manifesto until I heard the author, David Shields, talk about the origin of his controversial compilation of quotes, paraphrases, and personal musings on the future of fiction.

Speaking to an embarrassingly small audience here in Holland, Michigan, Shields, who has written a number of novels himself, explained that he started collecting the material that became Reality Hunger in an attempt to explain to himself and his students how and why fiction has become something he no longer cares to read.

It’s happened to me, too.

After a lifetime of devouring novels, mysteries, story collections — from Jane Austen to John Updike, from Dorothy Sayers to Amanda Cross, from Elizabeth Bowen to Anne Beattie — I find it increasingly difficult to find a piece of fiction that will hold my interest. Sometimes I can’t even make it through The New Yorker’s weekly short story.

In the past month, I have picked up and put down new works by A.S. Byatt, Michael Chabon, Jim Harrison, and Zadie Smith. My reading partner and I have been working for weeks now to make it through Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, mostly because we sprang for the hardcover.

During the same period of time, I zipped through three memoirs, two biographies, several poetry collections, and a volume of essays, as well as books on how the brain works, how dogs think, how people grieve, and what I should be feeding my family.

And, of course, Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, which explains a lot — at least to me.

–Debra Wierenga

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  1. I find this happening to me as well. I even find that I gravitate to documentary movies more than dramas these days! Thanks for this – I think I will pick up this book!

    • Me too! (Have you seen “The Kids Grow Up” yet?) I thought it might be related to getting older until I read Shields’s book. Now that I think of it, though, Shields is around our age. . .

  2. Same here! Fiction is just not that compelling for me anymore, but I love non-fiction.

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