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.

1) I began David Schields’s much talked-about essay/manifesto Reality Hunger last night–a book which liberally uses unaccredited excerpts from a range of sources and compiles them into a kind of long list of inter-referential comments, anecdotes and arguments. On the first page of the appendix, Schields writes that he’d wanted to leave out all citations, but that:

“Random House lawyers determined that it was necessary for me to provide a complete list of citations; the list follows (except, of course, for any sources I couldn’t find or forgot along the way).

If you would like to restore the book to the form in which I intended it to be read, simply grab a sharp pair of scissors or a razor blade or box cutter [ed: is this an intentional nod toward terrorism?] and remove pages 210-218 by cutting along the dotted line.”

Indeed, Random House humored David, and included the dotted line near the spine of the pages in question.