Stacy's Reviews > The Lifespan of a Fact

The Lifespan of a Fact by John D'Agata
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's review
Apr 14, 12

Read from April 13 to 14, 2012

It gets an extra star for being such a quick read. It is essentially one short essay about Las Vegas suicides and one in particular, with a lot of literary embellishments and poetry along the way. In Cold Blood, essentially, but just a drop. This essay is then turned meta-essay by a clearly contrived back and forth between the real author and a real fact-checker. Both are full of themselves and love to hear their own voice pontificate, theorize, contradict, and play devil's advocate. Both are stubborn. Both voices, which circumnavigate the essay on each page in alternating colors based on the level of verifiable fact, ruin the essay, which is mostly the point. Nonfiction vs. essay, Truth vs. truth, hard facts vs. soft facts. Both protest too much. It reminded me of the meta-fiction "novel" Pale Fire by Nabakov which I read recently, where the made-up "author" and neighbor to a poet completely ruins the poet's Cantos through his inserted commentary. I haven't read any other essays by the author, so don't know if this is just his running schtick, this pseudo-nonfiction, un-classifiable, wish-I-were-Capote-or-Didion-or-Cicero-or-Something-You-Think-Is-Artistic. And I can't tell if the fact-checker is nit-picking asshat or just embellished here for effect. Regardless, the essence remains, which is still the point. I'm still thinking about it. I'm still thinking about a very real kid that, for circumstances mostly unknown, jumped to his death from the top of the Stratosphere tower in Vegas. And I'm thinking about how you can possibly capture that story in any other way.

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