He laments the death of the novel and interiority yet much of the book is taken up with celebration of contemporary novels that achieve raw nerve interiority. This could be intentional irony yet it reads more like the sporadic acknowledgement of joy in the world by a person whose depression stands ever ready to knock it down. Yes, there are a million or more vacuous blog posts out there for every substantive work of art but Literature (if we dare to employ that capital “L”) is about the quality, not the quantity. Much that passes for interiority and searing honesty today is merely superficial self-absorption. There are few if any blogs worth re-reading every year to enhance an understanding of the work and its relevance to your own life.
In place of the novel Shields proposes his “collage esthetic” as employed in this book. Is his collage esthetic a victory or a surrender? You have probably already guessed I am about to call it a surrender. There may be some value in writers providing fragments without context to provoke hard working readers into creating contexts of their own. This reader just felt cheated of an author’s hard work to organize his notes into a coherent book-length essay. A Kirkus reviewer said of a recent novel “[a]n enigmatic leading man in a twisted mystery that may need to be read twice—a good thing.” Believe me, it took a lot of work and searing interiority to create a novel that someone recommends reading twice. It took me twenty minutes to knock out this post over which I doubt few will linger.