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9780299193645

Remote: Reflections on Life in the Shadow of Celebrity

Shields, David

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PEN/Revson Award, 1992

In this truly one-of-a-kind book, the author/narrator--a representative, in extremis, of contemporary American obsession with beauty, celebrity, transmitted image--finds himself suspended, fascinated, in the remoteness of our wall-to-wall mediascape. It is a remoteness that both perplexes and enthralls him.
Through dazzling sleight of hand in which the public becomes private and the private becomes public, the entire book-clicking from confession to family-album photograph to family chronicle to sexual fantasy to pseudo-scholarly footnote to reportage to personal essay to stand-up comedy to cultural criticism to literary criticism to film criticism to prose-poem to litany to outtake-becomes both an anatomy of American culture and a searing self-portrait.
David Shields reads his own life--reads our life--as if it were an allegory about remoteness and finds persuasive, hilarious, heartbreaking evidence wherever he goes.

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Review:

I joke among my friends -- who are almost all obsessed with making it big in the computer industry or the music business -- that Seattle is the land of Microsoft, Microbreweries, and Microcelebrities. David Shields, best known for his novels such as Dead Languages, has written a droll, sometime hilarious, and consistently important factual fiction about this pathological passion for celebrity. Remote seems to be based on the Socratic dictum that the unexamined life is not worth living. But unlike elitist social critics, Shields has had the courage to examine his own fascination with fame, instead of pointing an accusing finger at "them", whoever "they" might be. Like Neil Postman in Amusing Ourselves to Death, Shields seems to argue that it is we ourselves who are to blame for the cargo cult of fame, in which outriggers have been replaced by remote controls as the carriage of choice. Without worshippers, there cannot be deities -- and without channel surfers, there cannot be celebrities.

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Foreword by Phillip Lopate

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