David Foster Wallace: Nonfiction’s Special Contract

February 27, 2009 § Leave a comment


Our friend Richard Gilbert notes on his blog Narrative some wonderful recently published comments from the late David Foster Wallace about the difference between (and the importance of the difference between) fiction and nonfiction.

Here is one of those comments:

“[W]e all know . . . any embellishment is dangerous, that a writer’s justifying embellishment via claiming that it actually enhances the overall ‘truth’ is exceedingly dangerous, since the claim is structurally identical to all Ends Justify the Means rationalizations. Some part of nonfiction’s special contract with the reader specifically concerns means, not just ends, and also concerns the writer’s motives . . . and maybe the ultimate honesty that good nonfiction entails, and promises, is the writer’s honesty with herself.”

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