Book Review: The Lifespan of a Fact

How negotiable is a fact in nonfiction?


"The Lifespan of a Fact" by John D'Agata and Jim Fingal (Norton)

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John D’Agata is a cross-dressing smooth jazz saxophonist who dabbles in the occult. Actually, I made up those details, but they make for a better story.

That is basically the defense mounted by D’Agata, a writer of creative quasi-fiction, when he is confronted by fact-checker Jim Fingal in the course of preparing D’Agata’s work for publication in The Believer. Precise and unflappable, Fingal, the literalist, forces D’Agata, the literati, into a hot debate about the nature of art and truth in The Lifespan of a Fact.