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Book Review: David Shields' Enough About You

I read an uncorrected reader's proof from before the book was published in 2002. I don't recall where I got it; surely from some used book store. I even found a couple of typos. I've never read any of Shields' fiction, but I've read a lot of his non-fiction: Fear of a Black Planet, Remote, The Thing About Life is that One Day You'll be Dead. I like his self-reflexive style, his nervous intelligence, and at least what strikes me as honesty and disclosure.

Subtitled "Adventures in Autobiography," this is not your typical memoir; it doesn't trace in chronological order the major events of a life. It is more of an essay, or a meditation, or a reflexion on self-reflexivity. (I guess I can say that, since the spell check doesn't object.) While there are autobiographical episodes (anecdotes about playing and watching sports while growing up, episodes with his family or significant other), at the same time the slim volume engages with literature and pop culture. He reads himself by reading others, or maybe reads others through the prism of himself.

One of the things we know about Shields is that he is - or at least was - a stutterer, and that his stuttering, i.e. his problems with the spoken language, are compensated for by a love for and obsession with written language. To use the commonplace idea: for Shields, language vacillates between being a prison and a paradise.

The chapter I enjoyed most was the long meditation on Bill Murray. Murray is the clever everyman whose angst, if indeed he feels angst, is smothered by a playful, non-mean spirited irony. But as much as Shields admires Murray, he knows that he is not Murray, and that he is incapable of being like Murray. He's more the slightly neurotic type.



June 2019



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