David Shields

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For the American ice hockey defenceman, see David Shields (ice hockey)
David Shields
Born (1956-07-22) July 22, 1956 (age 62)
Los Angeles, California
EducationB.A., M.F.A.
Alma materBrown University, University of Iowa
GenreNovel, biography, essay, short story, creative nonfiction

David Shields (born July 22, 1956) is an American author.

Life and work[edit]

David Shields was born in Los Angeles in 1956. He graduated from Brown University in 1978 with a degree in English Literature. In 1980, he received a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) from the University of Iowa.[1]

From 1985 to 1988, he was visiting assistant professor at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York. Shields is Milliman Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at the University of Washington. He is also a member of the faculty in the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers. His work has been translated into twenty languages.[citation needed]

Shields's first novel, Heroes, was published in 1984. In 1989, he published his second novel, Dead Languages, about a boy who stutters so badly that he worships words. His third book, Handbook for Drowning: A Novel in Stories (1992), marked a shift from traditional literary fiction to collage, the blurring of genres.[citation needed] This method continued in Remote: Reflections on Life in the Shadow of Celebrity (1996), Black Planet: Facing Race During an NBA Season (1999), Enough About You: Notes Toward the New Autobiography (2002), and The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead (2008). Shields's next book, Reality Hunger (2010), argued for the obliteration of distinctions between genres, the overturning of laws regarding appropriation, and the creation of new forms.[citation needed] Shields's How Literature Saved My Life was published by Knopf on February 5, 2013. The same year saw the release of Salinger, an oral biography he wrote with Shane Salerno, who wrote and directed the documentary of the same name.

Much of Shields's work is a critique of categories in art and culture, such as the boundary between fiction and nonfiction.[citation needed]. In Reality Hunger, he argues for abandoning the traditional novel form because of its inability to deal with what he views as a fragmented culture.[citation needed]. Shields writes, "I find it very nearly impossible to read a contemporary novel that presents itself unselfconsciously as a novel, since it's not clear to me how such a book could convey what it feels like to be alive right now." He advocates collage forms such as the lyric essay, prose poetry, and the antinovel.[2]

Critical reception[edit]

Remote: Reflections on Life in the Shadow of Celebrity received the PEN/Revson Award. Black Planet: Facing Race During an NBA Season was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and PEN USA Award. It was also named one of 1999's ten best books of non-fiction by Esquire, Newsday, LA Weekly, and Amazon.com. In Newsday, A. O. Scott called it "one of the best books ever written on the subject of sport in America, which is to say a book that is about a great deal more than sport." Reality Hunger was named one of the best books of 2010 by more than thirty publications.[citation needed]

Reality Hunger received a mixed response. In The New York Times Book Review, Luc Sante wrote that the book "urgently and succinctly addresses matters that have been in the air, have relentlessly gathered momentum, and have just been waiting for someone to link them together... [Shields's] book probably heralds what will be the dominant modes in years and decades to come."[3]

In The New Yorker, James Wood criticized the book for being "imprecise", arguing that its favoring "reality" over traditional fiction was "highly problematic." However, he said that Shields' arguments about the "tediousness and terminality of current fictional convention are well-taken."[4]

In a review in The Boston Globe, Eugenia Williamson wrote, "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."[5] In New Statesman, Max Liu found fault with Shields's artistic stance: "Shields' books yearn for meaning but they're as mediated by performance as the culture they criticize. Shields relishes his role as controversialist ('Fine by me') and his weakness is less writing to please admirers than to deflect detractors."[6]

Of the book Salinger, Louis Bayard in The Washington Post called it "the thorny, complicated portrait that its thorny, complicated subject deserves." In The Sunday Times (London), John Walsh wrote, "I predict with the utmost confidence that, after this, the world will not need another Salinger biography." Carl Rollyson disagreed in The Wall Street Journal, writing that "the raw material in 'Salinger' will need to be digested by yet another biographer. . . . We have waited so long to understand J. D. Salinger. We must wait longer."[7]


  • Other People, Knopf, 2017
  • War is Beautiful, powerHouse Books, 2015
  • Life Is Short—Art Is Shorter: An Anthology of Very Brief Prose, written with Elizabeth Cooperman, Hawthorne Books, 2015
  • I Think You're Totally Wrong, written with Caleb Powell, Knopf, 2015
  • Salinger, written with Shane Salerno, Simon & Schuster, 2013
  • How Literature Saved My Life, Knopf, 2013
  • Fakes, edited with Matthew Vollmer, W.W. Norton, 2012
  • The Inevitable: Contemporary Writers Confront Death, edited with Bradford Morrow, W.W. Norton, 2011
  • Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, Knopf, 2010
  • The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead, Knopf, 2008
  • Body Politic: The Great American Sports Machine, Simon & Schuster, 2004
  • Enough About You: Adventures in Autobiography, Simon & Schuster, 2002
  • "Baseball Is Just Baseball": The Understated Ichiro, TNI Books, 2001
  • Black Planet: Facing Race during an NBA Season, Crown, 1999
  • Remote: Reflections on Life in the Shadow of Celebrity, Knopf, 1996
  • Handbook for Drowning: A Novel in Stories, Knopf 1992
  • Dead Languages: A Novel, Knopf 1989
  • Heroes: A Novel, Simon & Schuster, 1984


  • John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship, 2005–2006
  • Finalist, National Book Critics Circle Award, for Black Planet, 2000
  • Finalist, PEN USA Award, for Black Planet, 2000
  • PEN/Revson Award, 1992
  • National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, 1991, 1982


  1. ^ "David Shields | Department of English | University of Washington". english.washington.edu. Retrieved 1 July 2016.
  2. ^ Shields, David (2010). Reality Hunger (1st ed.). New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 9780307273536.
  3. ^ Sante, Luc (14 March 2010). "The Fiction of Memory". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 July 2016.
  4. ^ Wood, James (15 March 2010). "Keeping It Real". The New Yorker. Retrieved 1 July 2016.
  5. ^ Williamson, Eugenia (2 February 2013). "Review of "How Literature Saved My Life" by David Shields - The Boston Globe". Boston Globe. Retrieved 1 July 2016.
  6. ^ Liu, Max (21 March 2013). "Reviewed: How Literature Saved My Life by David Shields". www.newstatesman.com. Retrieved 1 July 2016.
  7. ^ Rollyson, Carl (2 September 2013). "Book Review: 'Salinger' by David Shields and Shane Salerno". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 1 July 2016.

External links[edit]