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By Cheryl Strayed
Cheryl Strayed is the author of the best-selling memoir Wild. Strayed writes the “Dear Sugar” column on TheRumpus.net. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post Magazine, Vogue, Allure, Self, the Missouri Review, Brain, Child, The Rumpus, the Sun and elsewhere. The winner of a Pushcart Prize as well as fellowships to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, her essays and stories have been published in The Best American Essays, The Best New American Voices, and other anthologies.
Great books are born of grand passions. The best literature is made when authors refuse to rest easy, but instead dig into their obsessions in order to express not just what’s true, but what’s truer still. This greatness is apparent on every page of David Shields’s How Literature Saved My Life, a culturally searching declaration of the power and limitations of literature that’s also a highly idiosyncratic, deeply personal soul search by one super smart man who consumes and considers books as if his life depends on it.
Part memoir, part manifesto, How Literature Saved My Life is as wide-ranging as it is intimate, and much of its power lies in the ambitiousness of Shields’s reach. It’s a book that defies definition. My category for it is simply a strange book that I love. It’s a serenade wrapped inside a cross-examination; an intellectual book that reads like a detective novel. In its pages, one reads about subjects as diverse as Tiger Woods, the theory that someday tiny robots will roam inside our bodies to reverse the damage caused by aging, Renata Adler’s Speedboat, and the private journals of Shields’s unsuspecting college girlfriend.
This is a long way of saying that How Literature Saved My Life is a book with balls. It doesn’t ask for permission to be what it is: an original, opinionated, gentle-hearted, astonishingly intelligent collage of the ideas, reflections, memories, and experiences of a writer so avidly determined to understand what literature means that the reader must know too.
Amazon Best Books of the Month, February 2013: Anyone who gives a hoot about the status and the future of storytelling needs this rangy, brainy, bad-ass book--a book that celebrates books, dissects books, and pays homage to the creators of our stories. Packed with riffs and rants--some hilarious, some brilliant, some flat-out zany--this is caffeinated, mad-genius stuff: sly, manic, thoughtful, and witty. (Shields' three-page self-comparison to George W. Bush--"he likes to watch football and eat pretzels"--is especially fun.) At times, I felt like I was on a madcap tour of an eccentric professor's private basement library, never knowing what was around the next corner. My review copy is littered with underlines and exclamation points and, yes, a handful of WTFs. Part critical analysis, part essay, and part memoir, How Literature Saved My Life offers its liveliest passages when Shields reveals Shields. A stutterer, he developed an early kinship with the written word, since the spoken word came to him with "dehumanizing" difficulty. Which makes one of his final lines all the more potent: "Language is all we have to connect us, and it doesn't, not quite." --Neal ThompsonSee all Editorial Reviews
You always want to read more after you finish a David Shields book, and, really, what higher praise could there be for a writer?Published 1 month ago by David M. Starkey
Sorry, I couldn't get through this book....just not for me. It all seemed kind of pretentious and the author seemed overly self-absorbed.Published 5 months ago by Sue Maple
Stunning. Absolutely beautiful. I think it is a must read for those who love literature.Published 13 months ago by Daniel (The Writer)
Shields says there's no more time in this world for long form fiction. Self reflexive memoir is all that's worth a damn. Concision is paramount . Read morePublished 15 months ago by Joshua Cordasco
David Shield has become one of my favorite authors. For the most part the titles that sustain him (again and again) are not the ones that I return to frequently, but he makes a... Read morePublished 16 months ago by author
I wanted to throw this book out the window but since it is on my Kindle I didnt have the luxury of that option. The author is nauseatingly self absorbed and not even interesting. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Laurie
The best thing about David Shield's book is that it is short. It is pretentious, disconnected and rambling. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Kevin Brianton