David Shields

Somewhere between the raves that adorn its jacket (from Raban, Tisdale, Vivian Gornick, and others) and last week’s nasty-ish take-down by Alex Beam in the NYTBR lies the truth about David Shields’ new book. A memoir/natural-science essay/quotation collection, The Thing About Life is that One Day You’ll Be Dead dwells, productively, on the bitter end that we all prefer not to think about. What makes Shields’ ruminations on his own mortal coil so funny and absurd is the way he combines them with a portrait of his own incorrigible, unstoppable father, a man who seems to give the lie to every one of the supposed truths about inevitable decline. Browsing The Thing, an esteemed colleague of mine called Shields “just another Baby Boomer with his head up his ass,” but I beg to differ. Yeah, the book’s kind of too much, just like everything this UW prof writes. But the excess—of navel-gazing, of random facts, of quoting other authors—is as irresistible as the horny shenanigans of Shields Sr. And the Chip Kidd cover is awesome. Third Place Books, 17171 Bothell Way N.E., 366-3333. 7 p.m. Also at the University Book Store, 7 p.m. Fri., March 7, and Elliott Bay Book Co., 7:30 p.m. Mon., March 10. MARK D. FEFER

Wed., March 5, 7 p.m.; Fri., March 7, 7 p.m.; Mon., March 10, 7:30 p.m., 2008

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