The Lifespan of a Fact

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Writer John D’Agata and fact-checker Jim Fingal discuss truth and the definition of nonfiction. Their book, The Lifespan of a Fact, is a record of the seven years of arguments, negotiations, and revisions D’Agata and Fingal went through over a 2003 essay by D’Agata, and it explores the boundaries of literary nonfiction.


John D’Agata and Jim Fingal

Comments [6]

Perhaps the distinction to underline is the difference between journalism (which absolutely requires fact checking) and memoir (a more fluid form of storytelling).

It's been well studied and documented that memory is plastic. It’s why siblings raised in the same home can remember the same family event differently.

As we construct memoirs in whatever format (print, documentary, etc), we collapse events and timelines and we highlight specific details while discarding others for the sake of advancing the story. So by that definition, aren't memoirs always subjective, not a strict record of what actually happened?

Apr. 18 2012 01:12 PM
fuva from Harlemworld D'Agata at your own risk...

Apr. 18 2012 12:59 PM
Erika from Brooklyn

People commit suicide more in Las Vegas for the same reasons that people commit suicide more around the holidays. It’s much harder to feel depressed and alone when everyone around you is happy and having a good time.

Apr. 18 2012 12:53 PM
JJW from Mass.

It depends on what the meaning of "is" is.

Truth is hard to work with. Make it up. Who cares if it's meaningless?


Apr. 18 2012 12:46 PM
Brian from Brooklyn

Question: A friend who read this noted that the conversation about editing seemed to run linearly, from a fact ("fact") page 1, then a response, then page 2, then page 3, and so on. In my experience conversations with editors really tend to hop around in a text, from theme to theme, subject to subject. So my question is, does this book reflect a real conversation, or is this whole thing staged (maybe staged with a point, but still staged)? Thanks.

Apr. 18 2012 12:33 PM

I'll be interested in seeing how many different examples of this you cover besides the "The Lifespan of a Fact"
(who does not append "The alleged "facts" of this work-book-piece may have been changed to satisfy the author's artistic sense." to any work that is authored by Mr. D’Agata?)

I'm sure that the "Mike Daisey - This American Life" expose will be discussed.
(But will anyone be mentioning Daisey's potentially fatal betrayal of the identity of his Chinese translator as an accomplice in the fraud he perpetrated on Chinese factory managers? She is still in China - doing well I hope. But who really cares? I'm sure Mr. Daisey is forwarding to her the royalties from the "show" she was so integral in creating. (members of the international law bar are hereby on notice of a client who needs representation)

Less likely to be considered will be an excellent piece by the late John Solomon that described the type of editing NPR (and I assume WNYC) does to make their segments "smooth and elegant".

Less likely still will be Bob Garfield's screed in defense of manipulation by photojournalists.

Apr. 18 2012 11:49 AM

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