More of a literary adventure than an actual autobiography, David Shields's Enough About You: Adventures in Autobiography
presents a collection of loosely organized, self-reflective essays, ranging from such disparate topics as the author's past, dreams, and heroes to his thoughts on basketball, Jewish culture, and Bill Murray. Uniting the book is Shields's examination of autobiography, his interest in the way we identify ourselves, and the most effective ways of investigating and communicating our identity.
Shields writes with convincing intelligence and fluidity on the book's more academic topics, such as the effectiveness of Nabokov's structure by memory association in Speak, Memory and Renata Adler's use of collage in Speedboat. Yet when he emulates such works with random glimpses into his own past and character, he doesn't provide enough personal detail to make effective use of these techniques. He's a bit too preoccupied with theory to offer a satisfying self-portrait. Ultimately, Shields seems distracted by the need to cover all his critical bases and make a postmodern statement, consequently distracting and distancing the reader from establishing much of a connection with the author. He writes in the book's prologue that he "wants to cut to the absolute bone" of "his own damned, doomed character," yet admits in the epilogue to having falsified much of its personal information. It's unfortunate that he doesn't let his academic guard down more often, because what personal insight he does provide (accurate or otherwise) is very entertaining. He recognizes the absurd self-absorption inherent in memoir, and that goes a long way in a book about the subject. An interesting if flawed experiment, Enough About You should nonetheless appeal to memoir enthusiasts looking for perceptive and humorous views on our own perpetual self-fascination. --Ross Doll
From Publishers Weekly
Although its subtitle promises a bold and exotic journey through introspection, this somewhat rambling, definitely disorganized work could more appropriately be called "Musings in Partial Autobiography." Novelist and nonfiction writer Shields (Heroes; Black Planet; etc.) delivers a combination of invention and confession, telling his life story in snippets and half-remembered moments. He travels from one subject to another, skimming the surface of his life like an indifferent water bug. Some essays are steeped in standard autobiographical technique, as when he gains insight from memories of being a jerk at his high school newspaper's office, while others use a kind of free association, allowing Shields to discuss his favorite books without revealing too much of his feelings. In the introduction, he states that he wants to explore his own doomed character; he wants to cut to the absolute bone: "Everything else seems like so much gimmickry." But despite his sharp, excellent writing, there isn't a glimpse of bone here; there's barely even blood drawn. Shields succeeds in examining autobiography itself as a genre, sizing it up with an almost scholarly perspective, but in terms of his own life, he presents few details and then implies that even those may be fabricated or poorly remembered. Those who have come to appreciate Shields's fine writing will enjoy his thoughts on Bill Murray, Nabokov and Adam Sandler, but those seeking true adventure in autobiography should travel elsewhere.
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