Buggy whips. Butter churns. Typewriters. Are we ready to add novels to that list of obsolete items?
David Shields, an essayist and the author of 14 books, thinks we should.
In his new book, "How Literature Saved My Life," he says the novel is played out. "Forms evolve," he writes. "Forms are there to serve the culture and when they die ... they die for a good reason — or so I have to believe ... the novel having long since gone dark for me."
His website describes his new book as "a paean to the power of language and a confrontation with the knowledge that literature can't, after all, fulfill deeper existential needs."
His anti-novel stance has met with withering criticism. In the Daily Beast, Jacob Silverman said, "After beginning his career as a novelist, the 56-year-old Shields ... has drifted toward loose, essayistic forms that tear down the walls between fact and fiction."
Silverman's verdict: "He has become so convinced of his own beliefs that he seems to have little desire to convince others of them; they have instead ossified into dogma."
Shields, however, is an ardent defender of his position, arguing in an interview with The Rumpus that the "genre is a minimum security prison," and saying: "I'm just trying to write books, you know? ... I really care about literature moving forward. But if you don't agree, that's fine, too. I'm not in charge of anything."
Shields joins The Daily Circuit to discuss his latest work as well as the books that he still turns to for inspiration.
LEARN MORE ABOUT DAVID SHIELDS:
David Shields on "The Colbert Report"
"I'm interested in one person thinking aloud for 174 pages and wrestling with existence and conveying that wrestling to the reader; this seems to me a significant human activity. Entertaining the reader with a page-turning story almost never has that quality for me anymore." (Lumina — Sarah Lawrence College literary journal)
• 'I hadn't yet found the form that released my best intelligence.' — Interview with David Shields
"I've been traveling around the country over the last couple months on planes, and it's striking to me how many people are reading the same disposable texts. How many of these are you going to read? This is called amusing yourself to death. They're all the same book. To me, it's a kind of madness." (The Believer)