IN THE PRESS
Media-savvy readers! I’m really excited to share with you some recent press mentions. The first was in Jennifer B. McDonald’s NYBTR review of The Lifespan of a Fact, a book I keep wondering whether or not to read. On the plus side, it sounds super-interesting (“An innovative essayist and his fact-checker do battle about the use of truth and the definition of nonfiction”). On the minus side, it apparently looks like this:
McDonald takes particular issue with D’Agata’s claim that “artistic” writing should not be subject to rigorous fact-checking:
Superb literary artists have managed to do their work while remaining precise about details D’Agata would dismiss as frivolous. What of Updike’s criticism and E. B. White’s essays and Joan Didion’s sociopolitical dispatches? More recently, what of the narrative journalism of Katherine Boo, Elif Batuman and Philip Gourevitch, or the essays and criticism of Jonathan Franzen, Pankaj Mishra and Zadie Smith?
I wish I had more time to comment on the actual issues, but you know me (super-efficient self-promotion machine), all I will say is how honored I felt to appear on the side of the truth. Big shout-out to all my fact-checkers – I love you guys!!
Many thanks also to Dave Lull, for alerting me to Richard Warnica’s recent essay in Maclean’s on John Jeremiah Sullivan (who has apparently decided to renounce the first person!):
In some ways, Sullivan is not unlike his fellow GQ writer George Saunders—whose 2007 collection The Braindead Megaphone had a similar mix of stranger-in-a-strange-world reported essays. Along with other writers like Elif Batuman, they’re forming a new breed of American essayists. In the tradition of Norman Mailer, Joan Didion and David Foster Wallace, they write deeply observational and distinctively first-person work. But there’s also an interesting sense of insecure irony to each of them.
So thrilled to be one of the insecure ironists! I guess! Whatever that means! JJ, we’ll miss you!!
Lastly I’m delighted to report that the ideas of The Possessed have permeated the cold hard world of political analysis – check out Thomas de Waal’s new essay in Foreign Policy on Russian literature and post-Soviet politics:
In her surprising 2010 bestseller, The Possessed, Elif Batuman makes the case for why Russian literature can be a guide to most of life’s questions, big and small. “Tatyana and Onegin, Anna and Vronsky,” she writes, recalling some of the Russian canon’s most famous characters, “at every step, the riddle of human behavior and the nature of love appeared bound up with Russian.”
My idea here is a little more modest: a brief sketch of how three great works of Russian literature can be mapped onto the stories of the three post-Soviet countries in which Western commentators take the keenest interest: Russia, Ukraine, and Georgia.
Read it and weep. I mean it – it’s really sad!!