Quarter After Eight is an annual literary journal devoted to the exploration of experimental writing in all its permutations. We celebrate work that directly challenges the conventions of language, style, voice, or idea in literary form. This blog is a place to engage in conversations about the work we publish, as well as the work that inspires us.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

An Interview with David Shields

Our most recent issue includes an interview with David Shields, whose controversial new book, Reality Hunger, flirts with plagiarism and declares fiction dead. In this passage he rails against faux-naive storytelling and outlines some of his vision for a new, more relevant brand of fiction:
QAE: Your book is, in many ways, a challenge to readers. We are challenged to question fiction and question what we want from literature in general. As a reader, too, you seem to want a new way of expression, a hybridization of forms, and a breakdown of literary illusion. And you’re virtually through with fiction. You declare, “The novel is dead. Long live the anti-novel, built from scraps.” I go to Barthes again, though, who wrote, “Isn’t storytelling always a way of searching for one’s origin?” In your opinion, have storytelling and fiction lost their ability to reveal basic truths about our lives?

DS: I’m not arguing against story. That would be preposterous. I’m arguing instead against faux-naÏve storytelling. It’s now not the anecdote that’s lacking, only its character of certainty, its tranquility, its innocence.

QAE: If you were to re-write Barthes’ sentence, what art form would replace “storytelling” as a way for us to seek out our humanity?

DS: The “essay” in its classical sense: the try, the attempt, the journey, experiment. I’m not sure, though, that the goal is anymore to seek out our humanity or find our origins. That sounds a bit old school to me. Maybe explore and problematize those questions—that interests me.

QAE: My question comes out of the apparent anti-fiction thesis of the book, and out of your idea in section 212: “I want the contingency of life, the unpredictability, the unknowability, the mysteriousness, and these are best captured when the work can bend at will to what it needs: fiction, fantasy, memoir, meditation, confession, reportage.”

DS: Sure. I’m not by any means abandoning fiction; there’s a lot of fiction in Reality Hunger. What I want to do, though, is wed it to a larger thematic matrix. I want fiction to be hostage to idea, not the other way around. Otherwise, I’m bored out of my mind.

Read the entire interview at http://www.quarteraftereight.org/shields.htm.


  1. I kind of get what J.B. is saying. Although I know a few folks connected with this journal ("Simone" is not my real name) I find most forms of written art to be a dead genre. The performing arts tend to be the last frontier of authenticity; they're stripped of the burden of the modern/ironic age and speak most directly to the heart.

  2. Nice interview. David's a really smart guy.