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Friday, February 15, 2013

The Lifespan of a Fact.

The premise: a man writes an essay filled with incorrect facts and the fact checker who makes his life hell. The Lifespan of a Fact. by John D'Agata and Jim Fingal.

In 2003, D'Agata submits a relatively short essay to a magazine for publication. Fingal is charged with fact-checking it. What ensues is a years-long debate about the use of facts in narrative journalism, what exactly each mans job is, and what "truth" really is in storytelling. D'Agata's essay is here in full, and Fingal's notes and correspondence with D'Agata appear in this book in the exact order of the essay.

This piece of work was utterly, completely, and indulgently fascinating. It's not a long book; I easily ate this up in one sitting. I was riveted by the work Fingal did on fact-checking and the detail he was expected to reach in his work. I was enthralled by D'Agata's storytelling, and when these two were thrown together is was an orgiastic level of fascination in two men who go to bat for their deep-seated beliefs.

There is so much to talk about after reading this book; the line between truth and lie, the difference between journalism and storytelling, when it's OK to stretch or twist the truth and when it instead becomes disrespectful and unethical. All of these debates play out in the margins, and it's not quite so black and white as right and wrong.

Don't miss this outstanding piece of work, only in hard copy:

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