where the writers are
Do We Need The Truth In Non-Fiction?

I use the word "truth" in my title and the article is dealing with "facts". I think the "truth" of reality is made up of "facts". 



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What happened in Vegas

By John D'Agata and Jim Fingal

From The Lifespan of a Fact, by writer John D’Agata and Jim Fingal, published in February 2012 by W. W. Norton. In 2005, as an intern at The Believer, Fingal began fact-checking D’Agata’s article on the 2002 suicide of Las Vegas teenager Levi Presley. The book is based on emails exchanged by D’Agata and Fingal. The fact-checked article appeared in The Believer in 2010.

 Hi, John. I’m the intern who’s been assigned to fact-check your article. I was hoping you could clarify how you determined that there are thirty-four strip clubs in the city while the source you’re using says thirty-one.JOHN D’AGATA: Hi, Jim. I think maybe there’s some sort of miscommunication, because the “article,” as you call it, is fine. It shouldn’t need a fact-checker. I have taken some liberties in the essay here and there, but none of them are harmful. I’m not sure it’s going to be worth your time to fact-check this.FINGAL: I hear you. But I think it’s just policy to fact-check all the nonfiction pieces the magazine publishes. So could you help me out with that number?D’AGATA: All right. Well, from what I can remember, I got that number by counting up the number of strip clubs that were listed in the local yellow pages. However, since that issue of the phone book was long gone by the time I started writing this, I found that porn article that I gave the magazine so that they could check up on my estimate.FINGAL: I guess that’s where the discrepancy is, because the number that’s mentioned in the article is different from the number you’re using in your piece.D’AGATA: Well, I guess that’s because the rhythm of “thirty-four” works better in that sentence than the rhythm of “thirty-one,” so I changed it. FINGAL: Hey, John… again =). I was wondering if you could weigh in on this tic-tac-toe game with the chicken. It looks like it happened after Levi Presley died. Also, the woman who won it wasn’t really from Mississippi. I think she was a local resident. Does this matter?D’AGATA: I realize that, but I need her to be from a place other than Las Vegas in order to underscore the transient nature of the city—that nearly everyone in Vegas is from someplace else. And since she did in fact originally come from Mississippi, I think the claim is fine as it is.FINGAL: What about that fact that this didn’t occur on the day Presley died? It’s not accurate to say that it did.D’AGATA: It was part of the atmosphere of that particular summer.FINGAL: Then isn’t that how it should be framed?D’AGATA: No, because being more precise would be less dramatic. I don’t think readers will care whether the events that I’m discussing happened on the same day, a few days apart, or a few months apart. What most readers will care about, I think, is the meaning that’s suggested in the confluence of these events—no matter how far apart they occurred. The facts that are being employed here aren’t meant to function baldly as “facts.” Nobody is going to read this, in other words, in order to get a survey of the demographics of Las Vegas or what’s scheduled on the community calendar. Readers can get that kind of information elsewhere.