The Lifespan of a Fact
How negotiable is a fact in nonfiction? In 2003, an essay by John D'Agata was rejected by the magazine that commissioned it due to factual inaccuracies. That essay which eventually became the foundation of D'Agata's critically acclaimed About a Mountain was accepted by another magazine, The Believer, but not before they handed it to their own fact-checker, Jim Fingal. What...more
Accurately or not, I would tend to c...more
Moving on, this slim "book" is unlike anything you've ever read. It's a sort of companion piece to the astoundingly good About a Mountain (also by D'Agata). About a Mountain was originally an essay that was later fleshed out into a book. The Lifespan of a Fact is the story of that original essay but really it's about fact-checking, but no, it's really really about truth vs. accuracy, but seriously it's really really really about Art and Literature and th...more
This is an essay by John D'Agata about a teen suicide in Las Vegas. Some portion of the essay appears on the center of every page, surrounded by a tiny-type argument between D'Agata and a fact checker. So as you read the essay, you also read the fact checker pointing out its inaccuracies, and you read the author's responses, which basically amount to 'This is art so I don't have to care if it's not strictly true.'
D’Agata refuses to exchange incorrect fi...more
I am currently in the mi...more
I'm still not sure if I agree.
On the one hand, the author tells his fact checker that his version of "facts" are more precise and less confusing to the reader. But how can bending the truth in the name of style...more
Recently, I engaged in an existential debate regarding the meaning of book evaluation. My considerations began in December as I compiled my year-end lists. Surprisingly, I found that I rate fiction higher than nonfiction. As I explored the reasons behind my presuppositions, I learned that the rating scale is calibrated differently per genre. On fiction’s side, I rated a book on entertainment value, quality of language, and character development. On nonfiction’s side, I based my r...more
This is an article, and a conversation about that article between the author and the magazine-hired fact checker. Both are hard-headed, and both go where they don't belong (the author changing facts on a whim and being a right prig to the the fact-checker; the fact-checker objecting to stuff that isn't a fact in the first...more
To read this so I could understand it, I had to read it twice. The first time through, I just read the essay, which by itself is great. The second time through I read the notes: the fact-checker's relentless disputes and the author's sometimes irritated, smart-ass, dismissive, clarifying and compelling...more
He's an awareness-raiser for the essay, and an envelope-pusher when it comes to genre. Was the making of this book just a 7-year plot to lean against the edges of what we expect an essay to be?
Here's what happened: D'Agata submitted a piece to The Believer for publication, a piece which was, ostensibly, a true account of the suicide of a Las Vegas teen. The article-essay also included D'Agata's own personal experience of the chain of events and explored the n...more
The book asks interesting questions. What is a fact? What should we expect from journalism? Non-fiction? An essay? Should the reader be expected to understand D'Agata'...more
The materials were delivered well, the author and fact-checker were snarky and pedantic and tedious and fascinating and interesting. This may be about fact checking an article that I would never have finished (I don't actually like the author's writing) but that may be because I side with the...more
First, I think it's kind of ironic that the book is an argument in how truthfully a essay is presented when it's clear that some editing, compressing, & rearranging went on to present John & Jim's conversation in an "entertaining" way. You don't write back & forth for seven years & have it come out as nicely structured as this book. The meta quality of it all amuses & irritates me.
Second, for al...more
But the first thing I noticed about this book is that the essay D'Agata and Fingal are fighting over is a piece of shit, which significantly mitigates D'Agata's claims to stand in the company of Cicero, Orwell, and Thoreau. Also, D'Agata himself is a piece of shit, deliberately misunderstanding what Fingal is trying to say constantly. So you're lef...more