RaveThe Guardian (UK)... there were moments when I had to put down his book, so unsettlingly vivid were his descriptions of the casual acts of violence and petty humiliations that defined the time ... There is something almost hallucinatory, too, in the intensity of certain passages in Inventory that evoke his isolated wanderings through a claustrophobic city where, more than once, he is a target for casual violence from strangers ... remarkable ... a book of hard-won truths, a detailed map of a journey out of the labyrinth, the maze of memories, anecdotes, evasions and secrets that families construct in an attempt to protect themselves and those who come after them ... In often radical ways, this is a book about breaking that silence ... A book of revelations, then, both large and small, its truths reverberate in the imagination long after you finish reading it.
MixedThe Observer (UK)Reality Hunger...is not just a manifesto for a new kind of genre-blurring 21st-century prose, it is also a series of short, sharp provocations ... For all its supposed 21st-century cut and thrust, Reality Hunger reeks of a certain kind of endlessly referential, post-modernist lit-crit theory from the 1980s that briefly made Barthes and Baudrillard fashionable names to drop whether or not one had read their books. Which is a shame, because there is much here that is thought-provoking ... Shields has a point when he nails the traditional contemporary novel for being, for the most part, not at all contemporary ... Some of the most illuminating sections in Reality Hunger are, unsurprisingly, to do with the memoir, one of the defining literary forms of our time. Refreshingly, he argues for the unreliability of memory as a basis for memoir writing ... your tolerance for [Reality Hunger] may well depend on which side of the great post-modern divide you stand. It is not often that Ezra Pound and the Beastie Boys are celebrated in the same paragraph ... I doubt whether his manifesto will have any great impact beyond the rarefied world of literary culture, but it certainly seems to have struck a chord within it.
RaveThe GuardianLike her debut, the wonderfully titled Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music Music, Music. Boys, Boys Boys, which described her journey into punk and beyond, this new volume is essentially a chronicle of outsiderness. It is driven by a relentless honesty about herself and the dysfunctional family dynamic she was born into, which she lays bare with an almost forensic eye ... To Throw Away Unopened is a painstaking—and painful—dissection of her own familial fallout, of the things that had gone wrong at home that, for better or worse, continue to define her as an outsider ... It is a book, I think, that will resonate, like punk did, with anyone from a similar working-class background who is still angry with the ways in which the world had become even more weighted against them in terms of education and self-expression. Conversely, it may shock and appall anyone who doesn’t share or even understand the depth of that anger—particularly when it is expressed by a woman in her 60s.