Book Review: The Lifespan of a Fact

How negotiable is a fact in nonfiction?

| May/June 2012

  • Lifespan-Of-A-Fact-Cover
    "The Lifespan of a Fact" by John D'Agata and Jim Fingal (Norton)

  • Lifespan-Of-A-Fact-Cover

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.

Kaarla Olivencia
5/17/2012 10:43:55 PM

And that, Sir, is the truth!

Ruby Love
5/16/2012 4:48:07 PM

The lifespan of a fact is indefinite - best left up to Biblical scholars. The "Truth" = number of believers; but that does not inform the reader as to what is true or not, it does, however, cause one to question one's intuition. Knowledge, on the other hand, is experience and experience is wisdom. Whether or not D'Agata is a cross-dresser serves no purpose on that front; he could be a philandering medicine man - either way, as long as D'Agata doesn't care, neither do I!

David Kimball
5/16/2012 2:43:07 PM

There is a great difference between what is True and what is Truth. Our rational mind uses the language of logic, science, and math to determine what is True or Not True (binary). This leads to knowledge. However our intuitive mind uses the language of metaphor and story to discern Truth - of which there are many. And this leads to wisdom. With there being many Truths in a scenario, some Truths will even be opposite from other Truths. We do much damage when we take round intuitive scenarios and try to force them into the square holes of the rational where everything is either True or False.

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