Writers Reveal (and Revel In) Their Reality TV Obsessions

Anna David’s new book Reality Matters is a collection of personal essays from noted writers about reality TV shows that have shaped them in some way. If there’s anything more entertaining than experiencing the guilty pleasure of reality TV firsthand, it’s reading a bunch of brilliant people trying to rationalize their obsession with the genre. We asked David about the moment that inspired the project, and here’s what she had to say:

One night when I was watching The Real World, I realized that the show actually inspired me to think about my own life — mostly about how happy I am not to be a semi-ignorant, self-destructive twenty-something anymore. Then it occurred to me that other writers might have their own interesting thoughts about what they got out of whatever reality shows they liked. And since watching reality TV is considered so shameful by such a large segment of the population, I figured that it could be fascinating to turn the standard wisdom on its head and say that no matter how ridiculous some of these shows are, they really do have something to offer.

Which makes perfect sense to us. (For the record, if we’d been asked to contribute it would have been impossible to decide between an ode to 16 and Pregnant or Ruby — and that’s just right now.) After the jump, find excerpts from a handful of our favorite essays. Reality Matters hits shelves tomorrow.

“I got high one afternoon and tuned in. I don’t remember where in the season they were, or what happened on the episode, and it doesn’t matter. I saw people doing shit that I could identify with, except that it seemed cooler, more exciting, more dramatic, more difficult, more rewarding, more perilous, more of everything, and, most important, more real. I was fucking hooked.” – James Frey on The Real World