Shetzline received his bachelor of arts from Cornell University in 1956 and his masters in literature from the University of Oregon in 1997. His dissertation was entitled "Quantum Dialogues: The Rhetorics of Religion and the Metaphors of Postmodern Science (English, 2000). He served as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army, in addition to being a ditchdigger and a student at Columbia University. He wrote in "the Cornell school" of writing in the 1960s with Thomas Pynchon and Richard Fariña. This school of writing has been defined through as having three preoccupations (1) socio-political paranoia, (2) concern with environmental degradation, and (3) awareness of popular culture’s unique impact on the American mind. In addition to Pynchon and Fariña, the Cornell School would also include Mary F. Beal, to whom Shetzline was married. The Cornell School could also be said to include, or be influenced by, Vladimir Nabokov and Kurt Vonnegut. It stands in contrast to older literary traditions of that university, such as the literary traditions represented by E.B. White and Hiram Corson.
His first work, DeFord, was published in 1968. DeFord is dedicated to the memory of Fariña. Reviewing DeFord, author Thomas Pynchon wrote, "What makes Shetzline's voice a truly original and important one is the way he uses these interference-patterns to build his novel, combining an amazing talent for seeing and listening with a yarn-spinner's native gift for picking you up, keeping you in the spell of the action, the chase, not letting go of you till you've said, yes, I see; yes, this is how it is." DeFord was a seminal contra use of geography as a metaphor.
Heckletooth 3 followed the next year as DeFord, and was noted as a lead text in the new ecology movement of the 1970s. Of Heckletooth 3, The Whole Earth Catalog wrote, "[t]here are some writers and books that I only hear about from others. William Eastlake is one. So is David Shetzline, notably for his forest fire novel Heckletooth 3. Ken Kesey went on about it to me years ago. And last week Don Carpenter firmly put the book into my hand. Well they’ve got my agreement. My summer logging the Oregon woods tells me that Shetzline has the work right, the fire and the men right. He especially has the language – Oregon laconic. It’s an introspective action-novel about virtue. I mean, about detail."
A short story, "A Country of Painted Freaks" appeared in the Paris Review in 1972. Shetzline also conducted the critically acclaimed memoir interviews of William Appleman Williams in 1976, entitled Typescript: A Boy from Iowa Becomes a Revolutionary.
Shetzline was friends with both Fariña and Pynchon. As Shetzline noted regarding the relationship between Fariña and Pynchon, "I think Tom recognized that Richard had a magic with language, that he was genuinely gifted, and I think Tom recognized that Richard worked with his gifts, he worked consciously to hone them. Tom always hung back. You didn’t find out much about his writing from him, but he was always complaining that he wasn’t getting enough writing done, and that is the tip-off that somebody is absolutely haunted as a writer. Richard knew Tom was as serious about writing as he was. I think Pynchon was also fascinated with Richard’s effect on women, which was powerful. Pynchon developed a capacity to appeal to women who would then sort of go after him." In the foreword to Greening the Lyre, David Gilcrest described Shetzline as "a true artisan of the pen and fly rod, has earned my respect and thanks as an exemplar in all things philosophical and anadromous."
He is currently an organizer of the Wickes Beal Studio, in Oregon.
- Books: Memories of Grandeur, Time (Apr. 12, 1968).
- Review, Deford at http://www.versechorus.com/deford.html, last viewed 06/22/2010.
- Gene Bluestein, "Tangled Vines, a review of Vineland by Thomas Pynchon," The Progressive (54:6)(June 1990) at 42-3; Douglas Cooke, Pursuit of the Real, And Escape from Reality at http://www.richardandmimi.com/beendown.html#return1, last viewed on 06/15/2010.
- "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest" January 30, 1968 New York Post
- "Books: Dispirited Warriors". Time. 1969-08-08. Retrieved 20 May 2010.; William H. Pritchard, 'Review: Fiction Chronicle; DeFord by David Shetzline,' The Hudson Review (21:2)(Summer, 1968), pp. 364-376
- Summary of Richard Fariña's at Cornell at http://www.richardandmimi.com/cornell.html#classmates, last viewed 06/21/2010.
- Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, Jr., Book Endorsements at http://www.themodernword.com/pynchon/pynchon_essays_blurbs.html, last viewed 06/19/2010.
- Paul Pintarich, "A Fan’s Notes: September Song," Oregon Magazine (June 2010)(noting Shetzline’s use of direction as a metaphor).
- Jeremy Garber, Nonfiction Review: 'Gimme Refuge' by Matt Love, Nestucca Spit Press in the News, The Oregonian (May 8, 2010).
- The Whole Earth Catalog (Summer 1975) at 155.
- David Shetzline, "A Country of Painted Freaks," Paris Review (No. 54)(Summer 1972),
- Paul Buhle and Edward Francis Rice-Maximin, William Appleman Williams: The Tragedy of Empire (1995) at 256, 285.
- David Hajdu, Positively 4th Street, The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña and Richard Fariña (2001) at 45
- Id. at 45.
- Acknowledgements, David W. Gilcrest, Greening the lyre: environmental poetics and ethics (200).