The Lifespan of a Fact

The Lifespan of a Fact How negotiable is a fact in nonfiction In 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

  • Title: The Lifespan of a Fact
  • Author: John D'Agata Jim Fingal
  • ISBN: 9780393340730
  • Page: 448
  • Format: Paperback
  • 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 WhatHow 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 resulted from that assignment was seven years of arguments, negotiations, and revisions as D Agata and Fingal struggled to navigate the boundaries of literary nonfiction.This book reproduces D Agata s essay, along with D Agata and Fingal s extensive correspondence What emerges is a brilliant and eye opening meditation on the relationship between truth and accuracy and a penetrating conversation about whether it is appropriate for a writer to substitute one for the other.

    One thought on “The Lifespan of a Fact”

    1. As of the writing of this review, I am the only person to give The Lifespan of a Fact fewer than three stars. This, I think, is clearly a case of a book preaching to its choir. Those who choose to read a (windy) transcript of a dispute between an essayist (John D'Agata) and a fact-checker (Jim Fingal) on the struggle between fact and truth are perhaps predisposed to 'enjoy' it. It isn't a book likely to be discovered by an audience uninterested in its themes. Accurately or not, I would tend to c [...]

    2. Quick edit(3/22/12): In surveying some of the professional reviews out there (and on here), I've been surprised by one strand of criticism in particular, the heart of which seems to stem from this line on the back cover: "This book reproduces D’Agata’s essay, along with D’Agata and Fingal’s extensive correspondence." It has since emerged that the quotes we get from Fingal and D'Agata have been edited/selectively chosen/made up wholesale for the sake of this book/etc thereby beefing up th [...]

    3. Okay, so this miiiiiight not get five stars from me if I didn't know Jim personally (and think he's pretty much a wonderful human being). But in terms of reviewing MY experience reading it, totally five stars. I laughed out loud literally dozens of times. I love the whole concept, and it was so well-executed. And beautiful! I think the way they did the layout is incredibly clever and effective and cool. In a funny sort of way, I think this is a great book for people who love great character arcs [...]

    4. I taught this book to a class of high school students last semester. Those students, like many of the reviewers here, eventually discovered that the dialogue between the two authors was not as genuine as the book's cover would lead a person to believe.The students, however, took it a step further in a project to fact-check the book--that is, to fact-check what Jim Fingal wrote about John D'Agata's essay. This makes perfect sense: if Jim Fingal was willing to change the details of his dialogue wi [...]

    5. Fact checking can be mind numbing. I know. I've done it professionally. I've also been the writer on the other side of the table. In my experience, most writers are happy to have their articles fact checked, and to talk through any discrepancies that arise. I always was. It gave me the chance to make sure I was saying exactly what I wanted to say (even after going over the words in multiple edits), and it provided a safety net against a lawsuit if I should happen to get something wrong (we're al [...]

    6. Did I like The Lifespan of a Fact? That's a hard question to answer and I'm scared if I do answer it Jim Fingal will come tear my words apart and show the inaccuracy in every tiny little opinion I have.What I can tell you is that I've never read anything even remotely like this before. The premise is that John D'Agata has written an essay about the suicide of a 17-year-old boy named Levi, and Jim Fingal has been hired to fact check it. D'Agata's written an . . . essay I'll guess we'll call it? A [...]

    7. This should be required reading if you want to talk about essays. Unless you think it is a book about fact-checking. In which case: go away.

    8. It is good as a (thought) experiment but it has a very narrow audience (those involved in publishing) which I happen to not be in.

    9. From the format to the subject to every sentence, D'Agata has written a masterpiece. I'm in awe of this work and I know I'm going to teach it soon.

    10. In recent years, there have been a number of scandals involving news agencies and their staff fudging or adjusting reports or manipulating photographs in order to present a story more dramatically or in a way that will increase the attention-grabbing factor. And in the age of the Internet, almost anything can, and will, be checked against the sources (whether those are reliable sources or not). In this short book, John D’Agata, author of an essay and Jim Fingal, a doggedly determined fact-chec [...]

    11. I ended up not liking this book at the start and liking it much better at the end. The basic format is an essay by D'Agata (found in the center of each page) with fact checking on the essay by Fingal around the periphery (with responses by D'Agata). What drives the book is that D'Agata has written what many people would call nonfiction --- a rambling piece centered around the suicide of a Las Vegas teen. Except D'Agata sees himself as an essayist, not a nonfiction writer, and he sees no need to [...]

    12. This is one of the oddest engaging books I've ever read. If you try to explain to someone what it's about it's hard to get across how interesting it is. And informative. The reader learns a LOT about the life and diligence of a magazine fact checker, the extent to which a checker must needs go in order to check literally every single fact in an essay. And Jim Fingal--who, truth be told, wrote most of the words that appear in this book--comes across as an incredibly diligent fact checker. However [...]

    13. Wow. Let's just start with that one word. 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 [...]

    14. This book is endlessly fascinating! Let me try to explain how and why this book got published. Almost 10 years ago, John D’Agata wrote an essay called “About a Mountain” that was rejected for publication from various periodicals due to factual inaccuracies. Enter Believer magazine, who was willing to run the piece with a certain number of inaccuracies, as long as they knew exactly what they were and wouldn’t be surprised by anything post-publication. Believer puts their staff fact checke [...]

    15. I'll keep this simple: I agree with John D'Agata. I think the term nonfiction is problematic, and I wish D'Agata would have raised the issue of the term "creative nonfiction" just once when Fingal kept referring to "nonfiction" and "not fictional." It's much more complex than either/or. But D'Agata confirms my own stance, that I, too, prefer "essay" (my autocorrect just changed that to "easy"--ha). What I write is, at its core, an attempt to get AT something and to get at it in an artistic, imag [...]

    16. Short and interesting book that examines how an essay (nonfiction, in theory) gets written and edited. The book is formatted with the article in the center of each page, surrounded by columns of the author & editor's conversations (I'm presuming emails). The exchanges are fascinating and I kind of can't believe they "aired their dirty laundry" so to speak. It's such a smart idea for a book, and eye-opening. I'll never read an article of this type in the same way again.

    17. Interesting conversation about constructing "non-fiction" narrative, how we define truth, and the blurry line between fact and fiction. Good read for anyone grappling with the creative non-fiction genre.

    18. I'd be giving this a higher rating (star-wise) if I didn't disagree with author D'Agata so completely. Thanks to Jim Fingal for fighting for the idea that facts matter!

    19. A stubborn, delightful dialogue that takes things apart, looks at pieces of the question of "truth" in non-fiction and the essay in particular. Articulate, smart and passionate on both sides.

    20. Evaluating TruthRecently, 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 [...]

    21. Reading this book is like being caught in the middle of an argument between two people who have a point, but are both incredible assholes. Do you side with the author who thinks a fact or series of facts shouldn't get in the way of the story? Or with the fact-checker who allows no room for interpretation, or at least no interpretation other than his own? At least as far of the middle of the book, I'm on Team Sartre: Hell Really Is Other People. An additional frustration is that we don't seem to [...]

    22. Essayist John D’Agata and fact-checker Jim Fingal collaborate, or argue, their way through one essay based on impressions of a 16-year-old’s suicide jump from the Stratosphere tower in Las Vegas. . Or perhaps discuss, analyze, or converse their way through the essay, attacking such questions as WHAT IS ART, what is a fact, is an essay with facts required to stick only to facts, what makes non-fiction factual. along with the rules of writing essays or the rules of writing truth, or what is tr [...]

    23. I was genuinely surprised by this book, I thought when I first opened it up that I was going to hate it because it appears super weird on paper. I decided to read the book by reading the essay in its entirety and then I went back and re-read it with all of the fact-checking. I think I liked the book so much because I did this approach. I'd never had much experience with fact-checking prior to this novel, I knew that it existed but I never understood how truly vital the job is. This was fascinati [...]

    24. I've had this book relaxing on my reading list for a few years, but I finally got to it amid the controversy over the falsified Rolling Stone article on the UVA rape. The reporter in that case did not do her due diligence, and the story came apart at the seams. I decided to pick this book up to interact directly with a journalist weaving a story using facts. Well:It's ironic that, given how this book is about the expandable limits of a text and the creative — nihilistic? — ways we need to th [...]

    25. Does Nonfiction need to be precise? Is there room for poetic language?An author and a fact-checker debate the questions. The fact-checker starts the book by acting polite and business-like. He explains to the author that his essay is not accurate. The author doesn't like his opinion.I recommend this book.

    26. A funny and fascinating look at the relationship between accuracy and truth, and what that means when it comes to the genre of Nonfiction. It took a while to get used to the style, and the way the read this is something I had to experiment it. But it was well worth the effort.

    27. I thought this book was really clever. It dragged in a few sections, but it earned an extra star because of the unique format. If you are interested in truth and it's relationship to art, you might enjoy this.

    28. When I started reading this book, I intended to skim it. Hardly in the spirit of the thing, I know, but there it is. I got sucked in, though, and I read every word. Several times over, in a few places, to a friend, with shouting and gesticulation.The physical layout of the book is brilliantly conceived, but a little daunting: the original essay appears in the center of each page, and the fact-checking and responses relevant to the visible essay section are laid out around it. It's effective and [...]

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