chris ruenI can tell by the sound of your voice that you are famously handsome.

What?

 

Your voice—it sounds famously handsome.

To me it’s just nasal.

 

Fascinating. So, how was your recent sold out event at the New York Public Library with David Byrne?

Great! My head didn’t explode, which was a plus. There will be video of the event online soon. I’ll post it via one of my many online presences-es.

Few books in recent memory have caused as much of a stir as Reality Hunger, the 219-page “manifesto” by David Shields.

It’s a book that defies easy classification.

An argument.  A clarion call.  An affront.  A life story.

An unapologetic assault on the literary status quo.

An essay-memoir-pointillistic-literary-collage-and-exercise-in-appropriation-art, one which argues that a new artistic movement is forming, a movement which prizes as its virtues things like randomness, self-reflexivity, reader/viewer participation, and the total obliteration of the line between fiction and nonfiction.

The book has been greeted as a revelation.  A game-changer.  A thunderous ars poetica.

The book has been greeted as reprehensible.  Tired.  An irresponsible attempt to subvert existing copyright law, all while generating a massive wave of cheap publicity.

Writers in particular have reacted strongly to the book.  Some with venemous anger; others, a fit of nervousness; others still with unbridled enthusiasm.

“To call something a manifesto is a brave step,” writes Luc Sante in the New York Times.  “It signals that you are hoisting a flag and are prepared to go down with the ship.”

Shields—as far as I can tell—is still afloat, and he was kind enough to speak with me recently about his life, his work, and his assessment of the cultural moment.

As we saw from an earlier post about whether and how artists should be paid, the place where art and finance meet (assuming such a place exists) is a site of contention, frustration, and not a little cynicism. If there exists a way to make money at all, it exists in protecting and managing access to the work (assuming there’s a demand, which is a whole separate issue). One of the ways to do this is via copyright.

But copyright is a complex and contentious issue too. And perhaps ironically, many open minded, free-spirited people out there (at least, among my friend and acquaintances) have pretty, well, liberal attitudes toward copyright–both possessing them, and respecting them. There are of course “fair use” laws, and alternate ways of legally defining one’s rights and intentions about one’s work, such as creative commons, but mostly artists just ignore this kind of stuff. Also, a whole lot of artists just download movies and music (and, no doubt soon, books) illegally.

So I want to pose a couple of questions about this, to everyone, of course, but mostly to the folks who responded to the last post by saying that yes, artists definitely deserve to get paid:

1) Do you copyright your own work?

2) Do you respect other copyrights?