Cover image for Enough about you : adventures in autobiography
Enough about you : adventures in autobiography
Shields, David.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Simon and Schuster, [2002]

Physical Description:
174 pages ; 23 cm
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PS3569.H4834 Z464 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



A self-reflective and highly inventive book that is both memoir and meditation on memoir. ENOUGH ABOUT YOU is a book about David Shields. But it is also a terrifically engrossing exploration and exploitation of self-reflection, self-absorption, full blown narcissism, and the impulse to write about oneself. In a world awash with memoirs and tell-alls, Shields has created something unique: he invites the reader into his mind as he turns his life into a narrative. With moving and often hilarious candur, Shields covers a variety of subjects, language, sex, literary criticism, basketball, family, Bill Murray - all while exploring the impulse to confess, to use oneself as an autobiographical subject, to make one's life into a work of art. The result is a collection of poetically charged self-reflections which reveal deep truths about ourselves as well.

Author Notes

David Shields was born in Los Angeles, California on July 22, 1956. He received a bachelor's degree in English literature from Brown University in 1978 and an MFA in fiction from the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop in 1980. He writes both fiction and nonfiction books. His first novel, Heroes, was published in 1984. His other works include Black Planet: Facing Race during an NBA Season, The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead, Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, How Literature Saved My Life, and Other People: Takes & Mistakes. Remote: Reflections on Life in the Shadow of Celebrity won the PEN/Revson Award and Dead Languages won the PEN Syndicated Fiction Award. He is the Milliman Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at the University of Washington.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Shields started out writing autobiographical fiction and then switched to nonfiction, including his much-discussed Black Planet: Facing Race during an NBA Season (1999), which he admits is laced with a judicious amount of inventiveness. Contemplation of the blurry line between fiction and fact, and our obsession with self, has now inspired Shields to compose short, vaguely amusing essays meant to explain why he believes that "the only serious subject is the mystery of identity." He does broach this intriguing theme now and then, but basically Shields is just having fun discussing his previous books and the bad reviews he's received, telling not so flattering stories about himself (he read his college girlfriend's journal), and offering breezy literary critiques and a lively assessment of Bill Murray. Shields is pithy, and he does possesses the literary equivalent of the wily moves he so admires in basketball players, but he's a lousy shot, and this assemblage doesn't add up to much. It is, however, diverting in a smart-alecky way, and Shields' fans will enjoy his insouciance. --Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Although its subtitle promises a bold and exotic journey through introspection, this somewhat rambling, definitely disorganized work could more appropriately be called "Musings in Partial Autobiography." Novelist and nonfiction writer Shields (Heroes; Black Planet; etc.) delivers a combination of invention and confession, telling his life story in snippets and half-remembered moments. He travels from one subject to another, skimming the surface of his life like an indifferent water bug. Some essays are steeped in standard autobiographical technique, as when he gains insight from memories of being a jerk at his high school newspaper's office, while others use a kind of free association, allowing Shields to discuss his favorite books without revealing too much of his feelings. In the introduction, he states that he wants to explore his own doomed character; he wants to cut to the absolute bone: "Everything else seems like so much gimmickry." But despite his sharp, excellent writing, there isn't a glimpse of bone here; there's barely even blood drawn. Shields succeeds in examining autobiography itself as a genre, sizing it up with an almost scholarly perspective, but in terms of his own life, he presents few details and then implies that even those may be fabricated or poorly remembered. Those who have come to appreciate Shields's fine writing will enjoy his thoughts on Bill Murray, Nabokov and Adam Sandler, but those seeking true adventure in autobiography should travel elsewhere. Agent, Henry Dunow. (May 2) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The author of two nonfiction works (including Black Planet, which was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award), Shields here puts a twist on his talents by turning to the subject of autobiography and memoir. At a time when publication in this genre is almost overwhelming, Shields has done something different. While this book is certainly about him, it is also much more; Shields lets us into his mind and turns his life into a narrative, with each short chapter working as a snapshot of his life and related subjects. For instance, the reader is treated to intimate and humorous details of relationships he had with two women, Rebecca and Rachel. He also explores such subjects as sex, literary criticism, family, and even actor Bill Murray. In doing so, Shields examines the impulse to write about our experiences, turning our lives into works of art. Shields pulls this off with candor and grace to such an extent that we can see ourselves shining through. Recommended for all libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/02.] Ron Ratliff, Kansas State Univ., Manhattan (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



from Part III: Rebecca's Journal From the sound of things, the girl who lived next door to me my sophomore year of college was having problems with her boyfriend. One night Rebecca invited me into her room to share a joint and told me she kept a journal, which one day she hoped to turn into a novel. I said that Kafka believed that writing in a journal prevented reality from being turned into fiction, but as she pointed out, Kafka did nothing if not write in a journal. I liked the way she threw her head back when she laughed. The next day I knocked on her door to ask her to join me for lunch. Her door was unlocked; she assumed no one would break into her room and, in any case, the door to the dormitory was always locked. Rebecca wasn't in and neither was her roommate, who had all but moved in to her boyfriend's apartment off-campus. Rebecca's classes weren't over until late afternoon, I remembered, and I walked in and looked at her clothes and books and notebooks. Sitting down at her desk, I opened the bottom right drawer and came across a photo album, which I paged through only briefly, because underneath the album was a stack of Rebecca's journals. The one on top seemed pretty current and I started reading: the past summer, she missed Gordon terribly and let herself be used on lonely nights by a Chapel Hill boy whom she had always fantasized about and who stroked her hair in the moonlight and wiped himself off with leaves. When Gordon visited, she felt very close to him again, but her mother wouldn't let them sleep in the same room, which caused Gordon to pout unbecomingly. When Rebecca returned to Providence in the fall, she knew she wanted romance, and after weeks of fights that went all night and into the morning, she told Gordon she didn't want to see him anymore. Me, on the other hand, she wanted to see every waking moment of the day and night. As a stutterer, I was even more ferociously dedicated to literature (the glory of language that was beautiful and written) than other English majors at Brown were, and I could turn up the lit-crit rhetoric pretty damn high. She loved the way I talked (my stutter was endearing); her favorite thing in the world was to listen to me rhapsodize about John Donne. She often played scratchy records on her little turntable (this was 1975), and when I said, "The Jupiter Symphony might be the happiest moment in human history," her heart skipped a beat. Toward my body she was ambivalent: she was simultaneously attracted and repelled by my strength. She was afraid I might crush her. I finished reading the journal and put it away, then went back to my room and waited for Rebecca to return from her classes. That night we drove out to Newport, where we walked barefoot in the clammy sand and looked up at the lighted mansions that lined the shore in the distance. "The rich, too, must go to sleep at night," I said, offering Solomonic wisdom. We stood atop a ragged rock that sat on the shoreline; the full tide splashed at our feet. The moon made halos of our heads. I put my hands through her hair and kissed her lightly on the lips. "Don't kiss hard," she said. "I'm afraid I'll fall." Tuesday and Thursday afternoons -- when she worked in the development office -- I'd go into her room, shut the door, lock it, and sit back in the swivel chair at her desk. She always left a window open. The late fall wind would be blowing the curtains around, and the Jupiter Symphony would always be on the little red record player on the floor. She often left wet shirts hanging all over the room and they'd ripple in the wind eerily. On the floor were cracked pots of dead plants. On the wall were a few calligraphic renderings of her own poetry. Her desk was always a mess. Her journal, though -- a thin black book -- was never very difficult to find. I was nineteen years old and a virgin, and at first I read Rebecca's journal because I needed to know what to do next and what she liked to hear. Every little gesture, every minor movement I made she passionately described and wholeheartedly admired. When we were kissing or swimming or walking down the street, I could hardly wait to rush back to her room to find out what phrase or what twist of my body had been lauded in her journal. I loved her impatient handwriting, her purple ink, the melodrama of the whole thing. It was such a surprising and addictive respite, seeing every aspect of my being celebrated by someone else rather than excoriated by myself. She wrote, "I've never truly loved anyone the way I love D. and it's never been so total and complete, yet so unpossessing and pure, and sometimes I want to drink him in like golden water." You try to concentrate on your Milton midterm after reading that about yourself. Sometimes, wearing her bathrobe, she'd knock on my door in order to return a book or get my reaction to a paragraph she'd written or read. She'd say, "Good night," turn away from me, and begin walking back to her room. I'd call to her, and we'd embrace -- first in the hallway outside our doors, then soon enough in my room, her room, on our beds. I hadn't kissed a girl since I was twelve, so I tried to make up for lost time by swallowing Rebecca alive: biting her lips until they bled, licking her face, chewing on her ears, holding her up in the air and squeezing her until she screamed. In her journal, she wrote that she'd never been kissed like this in her life and that she inevitably had trouble going to sleep after seeing me. I'd yank the belt to her bathrobe and urge her under the covers, but she refused. She actually said she was afraid she'd go blind when I entered her. Where did she learn these lines, anyway? Shortly before the weather turned permanently cold, we went hiking in the mountains. The first night, she put her backpack at the foot of her sleeping bag -- we kissed softly for a few minutes, then she fell asleep -- but on the second night she put her backpack under her head as a pillow. Staring into the blankly black sky, I dug my fingers into the dirt behind Rebecca's head and, the first time and the second time and the third time and the fourth time and probably the twenty-fourth time, came nearly immediately. From then on, I couldn't bring myself to read what she had written. I had read the results of a survey in which forty percent of Italian women acknowledged that they usually faked orgasms. Rebecca wasn't Italian -- she was that interesting anomaly, a southern Jew -- but she thrashed around a lot and moaned and if she was pretending, I didn't want to know about it. She often said that it had never been like this before. Every night she'd wrap her legs around me and scream something that I thought was German until I realized she was saying, "Oh, my son." My son? She had her own issues, too, I suppose. We turned up the Jupiter Symphony all the way and attempted to pace ourselves so that we'd correspond to the crashing crescendo. I was sitting on top of her and in her mouth, staring at her blue wall, and I thought my whole body is turning electric blue. She was on top of me, rotating her hips and crying, and she said, "Stop." I said, "Stop?" and stopped. She grabbed the back of my hair and said, "Stop? Are you kidding? Don't stop." By the end of the semester, though, packing to fly home to San Francisco to spend the Christmas vacation with my family, I suddenly started to feel guilty about having read Rebecca's journal. Every time I kissed her, I closed my eyes and saw myself sitting at her desk, turning pages. I regretted having done it and yet I couldn't tell her about it. "What's wrong?" she asked. "I'll miss you," I said. "I don't want to leave." On the plane I wrote her a long letter in which I told her everything I couldn't bring myself to tell her in person: I had read her journal, I was very sorry, I thought our love was still pure and we could still be together, but I'd understand if she went back to Gordon and never spoke to me again. She wrote back that I should never have depended on her journal to give me strength, that she would throw it away and never write in it again, and that she wanted to absolve me, but that she wasn't God, although she loved me better than God could. Anything I said she would believe because she knew that I would never lie to her again. She loved me, she said; she'd known and loved me all her life, but she had just now found me. Our love, in her view, transcended time and place. Well, sad to say, it didn't. The night I returned from San Francisco, she left a note on my door that said only "Come to me," and we tried to imitate the wild abandon of the fall semester, but what a couple of weeks before was utterly instinctive was now excruciatingly self-conscious and the relationship quickly cooled. She even went back to Gordon for a while, though that second act didn't last very long, either. It was, I see now, fairly bizarre behavior on my part. After ruining things for myself by reading her journal, I made sure I ruined things for both of us by telling her that I had read her journal. Why couldn't I just live with the knowledge and let the shame dissipate over time? What was -- what is -- the matter with me? Do I just have a bigger self-destruct button, and like to push it harder and more incessantly, than everyone else? True, but also the language of the events was at least as erotic to me as the events themselves, and when I was no longer reading her words, I was no longer very adamantly in love with Rebecca. This is what is known as a tragic flaw. Copyright © 2002 by David Shields

Table of Contents

I. Prologue
In Praise of Realityp. 3
II. M-m-me
Rousseau's Distancep. 11
Two Houses of Languagep. 15
Letter to My Fatherp. 21
Games and Words and Icep. 25
Autobiography's Rapturep. 33
Satirep. 35
Rebecca's Journalp. 41
IV. Me as You
Using Myselfp. 51
The Same Airp. 57
Remotenessp. 61
V. Me and You
In Praise of Collagep. 73
Downwardp. 79
Properties of Languagep. 91
S & M: A Brief Historyp. 99
Possible Postcards from Rachel, Abroadp. 107
On Views and Viewingp. 115
The Problem of Distancep. 125
VI. You as Me
Other Peoplep. 133
Are You Who I Think I Am?p. 135
Doubtp. 141
The Only Solution to the Soul Is the Sensesp. 147
Blindnessp. 171