Jenny Yoshida Park
Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, David Shields (2010)
Fragments of magazines, books, advertisements, and images added in response to Shields's text.
In David Shields’s Reality Hunger: A Manifesto he writes that “Forms serve the culture; when they die, they die for a good reason; they’re no longer embodying what it’s like to be alive” (p. 111). He argues that by quoting bits of reality, culture, or preexisting work (for example, sampling older songs in hip hop music, collage’s use of found materials, and the essay’s basis in non-fiction), art can more powerfully portray the experience of being alive today and find resonant emotional truth.
With this idea as a springboard, I inserted bits of “reality” into the book from a wide variety of sources: science articles, trashy magazines, the phone book, advertisements, historical photographs, textbooks, political news, maps, recipes, obituaries, movie stills, children’s drawings. Shields includes a quote about Ralph Waldo Emerson searching for a “new literature” where “everything is admissible—philosophy, ethics, divinity, criticism, poetry, humor, fun, mimicry, anecdote, jokes, ventriloquism—all the breadth and versatility of the most liberal conversation, highest and lowest personal topics: all are permitted, and all may be combined into one speech” (p. 16). I am always striving to make “admissible" every shred of evidence of what it feels like to live in this time and place.
My deliberately selected and cropped invasions became a conversation with the text—a new layer of thought and meaning to be read with the original text, back and forth, weaving in and out. The added words and images sometimes strategically edit Shields’s text, add context (or misconstrue or feign ignorance), imagine a story beyond the text, act as punchline, sharp juxtaposition, lens, retort, and, often, tempt the reader to peek at the hidden words under the paper. My only rule was that the additions could not serve as illustration—they had to create an alchemy with the text to form something new and more oblique: a cognitive burst to send the reader over the gap between the two.
The appendix to Reality Hunger is the legally necessary list of works cited, prefaced by Shields:
“This book contains hundreds of quotations that go unacknowledged in the body of the text. I’m trying to regain a freedom that writers from Montaigne to Burroughs took for granted and that we have lost. Your uncertainty about whose words you’ve just read is not a bug but a feature.… If you would like to restore the book to the form in which I intended it to be read, simply grab a pair of scissors or a razor blade or box cutter and remove pages 210–218 by cutting along the dotted line” (p. 209).
In this spirit, I pared away the parts of the book that detracted from the heart of its message: the front matter containing the business of publishing and cataloging, the “also by” list, title pages, dedication, table of contents, the cover and jacket, and of course, the name of the author. My “re-covering” of the book evolved into an un-covering. What remains is raw, vulnerable, and anonymous: spine exposed, epigraph bared, speaking to readers before they have had a chance to pick up the book, enticing them to join the conversation within.
Jenny Yoshida Park is a Southern California-based book artist and graphic designer. She relishes the immeasurable variety of idiosyncrasies in our culture and funnels them into her art. Her favorite things include: little scraps of paper, gratuitous parentheticals (and brackets), listening to freestyle rap and podcasts, her son’s drawings, and her daughter pretending to be a T-Rex.