The Lifespan of a Fact (D’Agata, Fingal)

This is a strange and wonderful piece. Based on an essay originally written by D’Agata in 2003 and argued over for seven years, this book records the electronic conversation between the two men about the meaning of genre and truth in writing. There was no way I was going to try to assign a genre to this one. The publishers, perhaps in a moment of irony or perhaps in a moment of ignorance (did they even read the book?) call it Literature / Essays on the back of the book. I’ve read and heard reviews that say D’Agata comes off as a jerk in the exchange. I don’t think so. Both men snipe at each other, and both, I think, have several good points to make. What are the implicit and explicit contracts a writer makes with the reader, especially when it comes to writing that is presented as (choose your own) non-fiction, true, True? Are such categories dated? Or were they false to begin with? Why did we get so upset about James Frey’s book? What do we expect when we read memoirs? histories? What can we reasonably expect from such work?

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