How Literature Saved My Life by David Shields

50%

7 Critic Reviews

...this book can sometimes overflow with literary fervour...
-Financial Times

Synopsis

In this wonderfully intelligent, stunningly honest, and painfully funny book, acclaimed writer David Shields uses himself as a representative for all readers and writers who seek to find salvation in literature.
Blending confessional criticism and anthropological autobiography, Shields explores the power of literature (from Blaise Pascal's Pensées to Maggie Nelson's Bluets, Renata Adler's Speedboat to Proust's A Remembrance of Things Past) to make life survivable, maybe even endurable. Shields evokes his deeply divided personality (his "ridiculous" ambivalence), his character flaws, his woes, his serious despairs. Books are his life raft, but when they come to feel unlifelike and archaic, he revels in a new kind of art that is based heavily on quotation and consciousness and self-consciousness--perfect, since so much of what ails him is acute self-consciousness. And he shares with us a final irony: he wants "literature to assuage human loneliness, but nothing can assuage human loneliness. Literature doesn't lie about this--which is what makes it essential."

A captivating, thought-provoking, utterly original way of thinking about the essential acts of reading and writing.
 

About David Shields

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DAVID SHIELDS is the author of thirteen previous books, including Reality Hunger (named one of the best books of 2010 by more than thirty publications), The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead (New York Times best seller), Black Planet (National Book Critics Circle Award finalist), and Remote (winner of the PEN/Revson Award). He has published essays and stories in dozens of periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine, Harper's,The Village Voice, The Yale Review, Salon, Slate, McSweeney's, and The Believer. His work has been translated into fifteen languages.





















Author Residence: Seattle
 
Published February 5, 2013 by Vintage. 226 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for How Literature Saved My Life
All: 7 | Positive: 3 | Negative: 4

NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Mark O’connell on Feb 08 2013

...Shields manages to thoroughly obscure himself. For all its talk about rawness and directness, “How Literature Saved My Life” comes across as a thwarted exercise in technique and artful self-display.

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NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by John Williams on Feb 03 2013

There are good sentences throughout “How Literature Saved My Life,”...But these moments don’t amount to much...Mr. Shields doesn’t allow himself to dwell on any subject long enough to say much that’s meaningful about it.

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Financial Times

Above average
Reviewed by George Pendle on Apr 05 2013

...this book can sometimes overflow with literary fervour...

Read Full Review of How Literature Saved My Life | See more reviews from Financial Times

NY Journal of Books

Good
Reviewed by A. J. Kirby on Feb 01 2013

How Literature Saved My Life is a book that defies easy definition. It’s like nothing I’ve ever read before.

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Globe and Mail

Below average
Reviewed by Andre Alexis on Feb 01 2013

I must admit...that this is one of the oddest books I’ve read. It felt personal, but personal by accident.

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AV Club

Above average
Reviewed by Kevin McFarland on Apr 01 2013

He never directly addresses the title, but How Literature Saved My Life presents a way forward for literature in new forms.

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National Post arts

Good
Reviewed by Philip Marchand on Feb 22 2013

This is the writing course maxim “Write what you know” maintained with a vengeance. Shields quotes the artist Lucien Freud...Shields the writer couldn’t agree more. This is why, in his world, the novel is being transformed into the personal essay.

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Reader Rating for How Literature Saved My Life
67%

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