Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Critic and writer Shields (Reality Hunger) and his former student Powell, once an aspiring artist, now a stay-at-home dad, spent four days together in 2011, conversing on a wide range of issues related to the artistic life. At the center of their quarrel is the push-and-pull between which is the best path: devotion to art or life experience? Shields concedes that Powell has traveled more, had more adventures, and raised more children, but Shields's devotion to writing paid off in the form of published books, prestigious teaching positions, and engagement with the literary world. As a book-in-dialogue, the two freely discuss and dissect their debts to My Dinner with Andre and David Lipsky's book-length interview with David Foster Wallace, Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself (2010). Shields and Powell keep waiting for "the flip," or the moment when their roles in the interview will reverse, or one will convince the other he is right, but each is so full of complexity and contradictions that it's difficult to imagine if such a flip is possible. Like any good belletristic conversation, the authors discuss dozens of literary figures, books, and movies, from novelists David Markson and Renata Adler to the movies Sideways and The Crying Game. And, like a true teacher, Shields is always pressing for the larger issue, questioning why art matters or how can suffering be alleviated. A worthy and important addition to the genre, this casual conversation pushes readers to rethink fundamental questions of life and art. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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