David Shields, a professor and the author of 15 books and several magazine articles, wanted to explore “self-deconstructive nonfiction” with a worthy adversary who held contrasting opinions. Caleb Powell, a writer raising three daughters, was once Shield’s student and apparently made a thorny impression on him. The two of them have written a book together: I Think You’re Totally Wrong: A Quarrel.
And that book has been turned into a movie by director James Franco, who was also once a student of Shields. At the Poets & Writers live event, I got to watch the first 20 minutes, and I look forward to the film’s release so I can see the rest of it.
Sitting comfortably in big chairs on stage, they chatted a bit about each other and their unusual relationship. Powell read aloud from some of their e-mail correspondence to allow the audience a glimpse of what he referred to as “passive aggressive behavior” by Shields, who remained perfectly calm and never got defensive. Shields admitted that just before launching the project, he thought there was a slight chance that Powell might just murder him during their four-day stay in a cabin together, and added that the experience would either be “really exciting or traumatizing.”
Theirs was a unique presentation that I’m unlikely to forget any time soon. I may just have to buy the book as well.