The University of Iowa

John D'Agata reading

John D'Agata
Archive Date: 
Wednesday, February 22, 2012

John D'Agata and Jim Fingal read from their new book, The Lifespan of a Fact, which focuses on the question of how negotiable a fact in nonfiction actually is. 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.

John D'Agata holds an MFA in Poetry from The Iowa Writers' Workshop and is also a graduate of the UI Nonfiction Writing Program. His books include About a MountainHalls of FameLost Origins of the Essay, and The Next American Essay. He lives in Iowa City and teaches in The Nonfiction Writing Program.

Jim Fingal worked for several years as a fact-checker at The Believer and McSweeney's, where he worked on the titles What Is The What, Surviving Justice, Voices From the Storm, and others. He currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he designs software.


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