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The NBA is a place where, without ever acknowledging it white fans and black players enact and quietly explode virtually every racial issue and tension in the culture at large. In "Black Planet" the author/cultural narrator David Shields lays himself open as a representative of American fandom in order to scrutinize how white people think and talk about black heroes, black scapegoats and black masculinity. As a fan among fans, as a voice among other voices, as participant and observer, David Shields places himself in the middle of a complex social ambiguity. As a white fan of a predominately black, sport, he sets out to chronicle a season of the Seattle Supersonics by immersing himself in games, radio shows, the internet, charity events and print media- to explore the ways in which the game is talked about, presented and understood by the player and the fan. Sometimes funny and sometimes painfully on target, Shields reveals a telling commentary on the culture at large through a national obsession.
In Body Politic, David Shields looks at contemporary America and its mythology through the lens of professional and college sports. The result is an unusually insightful and provocative book about an empire in denial. Shields relentlessly examines the way we tell our sports stories (both fictional and nonfictional), considers the kinds of athletes we choose as heroes, and delineates the lessons and values we glean from sports. He explores the intricate and telling relationships between players and coaches, black and white players, immigrant and native players, male and female players, players and broadcasters, players and fans, and players and advertisers. In the process, he shows us the stories we Americans tell ourselves about the kind of people we believe ourselves to be.
Fakes: An Anthology of Pseudo-Interviews, Faux-Lectures, Quasi-Letters, "Found" Texts, and Other Fraudulent Artifactsby David Shields Matthew Vollmer
Contemporary short stories enacting giddy, witty revenge on the documents that define and dominate our lives. In our bureaucratized culture, we're inundated by documents: itineraries, instruction manuals, permit forms, primers, letters of complaint, end-of-year reports, accidentally forwarded email, traffic updates, ad infinitum. David Shields and Matthew Vollmer, both writers and professors, have gathered forty short fictions that they've found to be seriously hilarious and irresistibly teachable (in both writing and literature courses): counterfeit texts that capture the barely suppressed frustration and yearning that percolate just below the surface of most official documents. The innovative stories collected in Fakes--including ones by Ron Carlson (a personal ad), Amy Hempel (a complaint to the parking department), Rick Moody (Works Cited), and Lydia Davis (a letter to a funeral parlor)--trace the increasingly blurry line between fact and fiction and exemplify a crucial form for the twenty-first century.
"Reading How Literature Saved My Life is like getting to listen in on a really great, smart, provocative conversation. The book is not straightforward, it resists any single interpretation, and it seems to me to constitute nothing less than a new form." --Whitney Otto In this wonderfully intelligent, stunningly honest, 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 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 un-lifelike and archaic, he revels in a new kind of art that is based heavily on quotation and 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.
An impassioned, funny, probing, fiercely inconclusive, nearly-to-the-death debate about life and art--beers included.Caleb Powell always wanted to become an artist, but he overcommitted to life (he's a stay-at-home dad to three young girls), whereas his former professor David Shields always wanted to become a human being, but he overcommitted to art (he has five books coming out in the next year and a half). Shields and Powell spend four days together at a cabin in the Cascade Mountains, playing chess, shooting hoops, hiking to lakes and an abandoned mine; they rewatch My Dinner with André and The Trip, relax in a hot tub, and talk about everything they can think of in the name of exploring and debating their central question (life and/or art?): marriage, family, sports, sex, happiness, drugs, death, betrayal--and, of course, writers and writing.The relationship--the balance of power--between Shields and Powell is in constant flux, as two egos try to undermine each other, two personalities overlap and collapse. This book seeks to deconstruct the Q&A format, which has roots as deep as Plato and Socrates and as wide as Laurel and Hardy, Beckett's Didi and Gogo, and Car Talk's Magliozzi brothers. I Think You're Totally Wrong also seeks to confound, as much as possible, the divisions between "reality" and "fiction," between "life" and "art." There are no teachers or students here, no interviewers or interviewees, no masters in the universe--only a chasm of uncertainty, in a dialogue that remains dazzlingly provocative and entertaining from start to finish.James Franco's adaptation of I Think You're Totally Wrong into a film, with Shields and Powell striving mightily to play themselves and Franco in a supporting role, will be released later this year. From the Hardcover edition.
What is death and how does it touch upon life? Twenty writers look for answers. Birth is not inevitable. Life certainly isn't. The sole inevitability of existence, the only sure consequence of being alive, is death. In these eloquent and surprising essays, twenty writers face this fact, among them Geoff Dyer, who describes the ghost bikes memorializing those who die in biking accidents; Jonathan Safran Foer, proposing a new way of punctuating dialogue in the face of a family history of heart attacks and decimation by the Holocaust; Mark Doty, whose reflections on the art-porn movie Bijou lead to a meditation on the intersection of sex and death epitomized by the AIDS epidemic; and Joyce Carol Oates, who writes about the loss of her husband and faces her own mortality. Other contributors include Annie Dillard, Diane Ackerman, Peter Straub, and Brenda Hillman.
Life Is Short-Art Is Shorter is not just the first anthology to gather both mini-essays and short-short stories; readers, writers, and teachers will get will get an anthology; a course's worth of writing exercises; a rally for compression, concision, and velocity in an increasingly digital, post-religious age; and a meditation on the brevity of human existence.1. We are mortal beings.2. There is no god.3. We live in a digital culture.4. Art is related to the body and to the culture.5. Art should reflect these things.6. Brevity rules.The book's 40 contributors include Donald Barthelme, Kate Chopin, Lydia Davis, Annie Dillard, Jonathan Safran Foer, Barry Hannah, Amy Hempel, Jamaica Kincaid, Wayne Koestenbaum, Anne Lamott, Daphne Merkin, Rick Moody, Dinty W. Moore, George Orwell, Jayne Anne Phillips, George Saunders, Lauren Slater, James Tate, and Paul Theroux.
With this landmark book, David Shields fast-forwards the discussion of the central artistic issues of our time. Who owns ideas? How clear is the distinction between fiction and nonfiction? Has the velocity of digital culture rendered traditional modes obsolete? Exploring these and related questions, Shields orchestrates a chorus of voices, past and present, to reframe debates about the veracity of memoir and the relevance of the novel. He argues that our culture is obsessed with "reality," precisely because we experience hardly any, and urgently calls for new forms that embody and convey the fractured nature of contemporary experience.From the Trade Paperback edition.
In this truly one-of-a-kind book, the author/narrator--a representative, in extremis, of contemporary American obsession with beauty, celebrity, transmitted image--finds himself suspended, fascinated, in the remoteness of our wall-to-wall mediascape. It is a remoteness that both perplexes and enthralls him. Through dazzling sleight of hand in which the public becomes private and the private becomes public, the entire book-clicking from confession to family-album photograph to family chronicle to sexual fantasy to pseudo-scholarly footnote to reportage to personal essay to stand-up comedy to cultural criticism to literary criticism to film criticism to prose-poem to litany to outtake-becomes both an anatomy of American culture and a searing self-portrait. David Shields reads his own life--reads our life--as if it were an allegory about remoteness and finds persuasive, hilarious, heartbreaking evidence wherever he goes.
Based on eight years of exhaustive research and exclusive interviews with more than 200 people-and published in coordination with the international theatrical release of a major documentary film from the Weinstein Company-The Private War of J.D. Salinger is a global cultural event: the definitive biography of one of the most beloved and mysterious figures of the twentieth century. For more than fifty years, the ever elusive author of The Catcher in the Rye has been the subject of a relentless stream of newspaper and magazine articles as well as several biographies. Yet all of these attempts have been hampered by a fundamental lack of access and by the persistent recycling of inaccurate information. Salinger remains, astonishingly, an enigma. The complex and contradictory human being behind the myth has never been revealed. No longer. In the eight years since The Private War of J.D. Salinger was begun, and especially in the three years since Salinger's death, the authors interviewed on five continents more than 200 people, many of whom had previously refused to go on the record about their relationship with Salinger. This oral biography offers direct eyewitness accounts from Salinger's World War II brothers-in-arms, his family members, his close friends, his lovers, his classmates, his neighbors, his editors, his publishers, his New Yorker colleagues, and people with whom he had relationships that were secret even to his own family. Shields and Salerno illuminate most brightly the last fifty-six years of Salinger's life: a period that, until now, had remained completely dark to biographers. Provided unprecedented access to never-before-published photographs (more than 100 throughout the book), diaries, letters, legal records, and secret documents, readers will feel they have, for the first time, gotten beyond Salinger's meticulously built-up wall. The result is the definitive portrait of one of the most fascinating figures of the twentieth century.
Based on eight years of exhaustive research and exclusive interviews with more than 200 people--and published in coordination with the international theatrical release of a major documentary film from the Weinstein Company--Salinger is a global cultural event: the definitive biography of one of the most beloved and mysterious figures of the twentieth century.For more than fifty years, the ever elusive author of The Catcher in the Rye has been the subject of a relentless stream of newspaper and magazine articles as well as several biographies. Yet all of these attempts have been hampered by a fundamental lack of access and by the persistent recycling of inaccurate information. Salinger remains, astonishingly, an enigma. The complex and contradictory human being behind the myth has never been revealed. No longer. In the eight years since Salinger was begun, and especially in the three years since Salinger's death, the authors interviewed on five continents more than 200 people, many of whom had previously refused to go on the record about their relationship with Salinger. This oral biography offers direct eyewitness accounts from Salinger's World War II brothers-in-arms, his family members, his close friends, his lovers, his classmates, his neighbors, his editors, his publishers, his New Yorker colleagues, and people with whom he had relationships that were secret even to his own family. Shields and Salerno illuminate most brightly the last fifty-six years of Salinger's life: a period that, until now, had remained completely dark to biographers. Provided unprecedented access to never-before-published photographs (more than 100 throughout the book), diaries, letters, legal records, and secret documents, readers will feel they have, for the first time, gotten beyond Salinger's meticulously built-up wall. The result is the definitive portrait of one of the most fascinating figures of the twentieth century.
In That Thing You Do With Your Mouth, actress and voice-over artist Samantha Matthews offers-in the form of an extended monologue, prompted and arranged by New York Times bestselling author (and Matthews's cousin once removed) David Shields-a vivid investigation of her startling sexual history. From her abuse at the hands of a family member to her present-day life in Barcelona, where she briefly moonlighted as a dubber of Italian pornography into English, Matthews reveals herself to be a darkly funny, deeply contemporary woman with a keen awareness of how her body has been routinely hijacked, and how she has been "formatted" by her early trauma. Her story is a study of her uneasy relationships with female desire, her tormentors, and her lovers-with whom she seeks out both the infliction and receipt of harm. This book is an attempt, sometimes self-thwarted, to break down barriers: sexual and emotional for Matthews, literary for Shields.For them, the only response to the unspeakable is to speak, to do that thing you do with your mouth, as directly and honestly as possible. Their provocative performance refuses neat resolution or emotional pornography; it will have readers, from literary critics to Jezebel commentators, raving, raging, celebrating, talking.
"David Shields has accomplished something here so pure and wide in its implications that I almost think of it as a secular, unsentimental Kahlil Gibran: a textbook for the acceptance of our fate on earth. " --Jonathan Lethem Mesmerized--at times unnerved--by his ninety-seven-year-old father's nearly superhuman vitality and optimism, David Shields undertakes an investigation of the human physical condition. The result is this exhilarating book: both a personal meditation on mortality and an exploration of flesh-and-blood existence from crib to oblivion--an exploration that paradoxically prompts a renewed and profound appreciation of life. Shields begins with the facts of birth and childhood, expertly weaving in anecdotal information about himself and his father. As the book proceeds through adolescence, middle age, old age, he juxtaposes biological details with bits of philosophical speculation, cultural history and criticism, and quotations from a wide range of writers and thinkers--from Lucretius to Woody Allen--yielding a magical whole: the universal story of our bodily being, a tender and often hilarious portrait of one family. A book of extraordinary depth and resonance,The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Deadwill move readers to contemplate the brevity and radiance of their own sojourn on earth and challenge them to rearrange their thinking in unexpected and crucial ways.
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