224 pages, 7.9 × 5.1 × 0.64 in
November 5, 2013
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
The following ISBNs are associated with this title:
ISBN - 10: 0345802721
ISBN - 13: 9780345802729
Read from the Book
PROLOGUE IN WHICH I DISCUSS ANOTHER BOOK AS A WAY TO THROW INTO BOLD RELIEF WHAT THIS BOOK IS ABOUT. All criticism is a form of autobiography. I’ve never met the poet Ben Lerner, though we trade email now and then, since we’re interested in each other’s work. In my case, “interested” is a bit of an understatement. I’m obsessed with him as my doppelgänger of the next generation. Both of us went to Brown, have lived in Spain, are Jewish. I wasn’t born in Topeka, as he was, but growing up in a northern California suburb felt as far removed from Oz as Kansas. Both of us are writers and “critics.” Both of us have/had accomplished mothers and dreamier fathers. Above all, both of us are in agony over the “incommensurability of language and experience” and our detachment from our own emotions Ben’s most recent book, Leaving the Atocha Station, is nominally a novel but thick with roman à clef references to his childhood in Topeka, his undergraduate and graduate years in Providence, his Fulbright year in Madrid, his essay on the Library of America edition of John Ashbery’s poetry (which includes the poem “Leaving the Atocha Station”), his poet friends Cyrus Console and Geoffrey G. O’Brien, his psychologist parents (his mother is the feminist writer Harriet Lerner). I’m going to go ahead and treat the novel’s narrator, Adam, as if he were Ben. Ben won’t mind! His book—as what serious book is not?—is born of genuine despair. Adam/Ben wonders if his poems are “so many suicide no
From the Publisher
Blending confessional criticism and cultural autobiography, David Shields explores the power of literature to make life survivable, maybe even endurable. Evoking his deeply divided personality, his character flaws, his woes, his serious despair, 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." This is a captivating, thought-provoking, utterly original book about the essential acts of reading and writing.
About the Author
David Shields is the author of thirteen previous books, including Reality Hunger (named one of the best books of 2010 by more than thirty publications), The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead (New York Times bestseller), Black Planet (National Book Critics Circle Award finalist), and Remote (winner of the PEN/Revson Award). He has published essays and stories in numerous periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, Yale Review, The Village Voice, Salon, Slate, McSweeney’s, and The Believer. His work has been translated into fifteen languages.
“Here is a mind on fire, a writer at war with the page. . . . These rigorous, high-octane, exhaustive yet taut ruminations on ambivalence, love, melancholy, and mortality are like an arrow laced with crack to the brain. [Shields’] gun-to-the-head prose explicates an all-consuming passion for reading, writing, and ‘the redemptive grace of human consciousness itself.”—O, The Oprah Magazine “In this wonderful, vastly entertaining book, he weaves together literary criticism, quotations, and his own fragmentary recollections to illustrate, in form and content, how art—real art, the kind that engages and reflects the world around it—has made his life meaningful as both creator and beholder. Shields is an elegant, charming, and very funny writer. . . . Although his subject is himself, his instructions should prove useful—inspiring even—to all readers and writers.”—The Boston Globe “Shields is a stunning writer. Within this book lies significant passion and revelation. . . . What makes for an amazing reading experience is the piecing together an argument from the fragments. . . . The guy is a maestro.”—The Huffington Post “Shields has an uncanny ability to tap into the short attention span of modern culture and turn it into something positive. . . . How Literature Saved My Life presents a way forward for literature in new forms.”—The A.V. Club “Eminently readable and surprisingly life-affirming. . . . Mr. Shields has written a great book, and one which matters. . . . Uncompromisingly