Forthcoming from Knopf in September 2014
A debate, nearly to the death, about life and art, cocktails included.
Caleb Powell always wanted to become an artist, but he overcommitted to life (he’s a stay-at-home dad to three young girls), whereas his former professor David Shields always wanted to become a human being, but he has overcommitted to art.
Shields and Powell spend four days together in a cabin in the Cascade Mountains, playing chess, shooting hoops, hiking to lakes and an abandoned mine; they rewatch My Dinner with André, Sideways, and The Trip, relax in a hot tub, and talk about everything they can think of in the name of exploring and debating their central question (life and/or art.
The relationship—and the balance of power—between Shields and Powell is in constant flux, as two egos try to undermine each other, two personalities overlap and collapse. This book seeks to demolish the Q&A format; it also seeks to confound, as much as possible, the divisions between “reality” and “fiction,” between “life” and “art.”[KS1] There are no teachers or students, no interviewers or interviewees, no masters in the universe, only a chasm of uncertainty.
In December 2013, the actor/director/writer James Franco is directing a film version of the book, with Shields and Powell striving mightily to play themselves. The film will be released at the same time as the book.