In Fairness to John D’Agata
February 12, 2012 § 29 Comments
One reader, posting in the comments to our earlier John D’Agata discussion, warns, rightly, that D’Agata hasn’t had a chance to defend his position much in the recent critiques of his fuzzy fact-checking and odd Harper’s excerpt. “Disagree with him, fine,” MKE writes. “But don’t underestimate the thought he has put into this. It’s not about him being lazy or cavalier as a writer, as some people who simply don’t get it posit here and elsewhere in this online debate.”
In the interest of fairness, we found the PRI radio interview MKE cites as a good explanation of D’Agata’s approach and transcribed a fair bit of it. Here it is:
I don’t consider myself a journalist. I never received training as a journalist … I know that I do an overwhelming amount of research and I’m often interviewing people but what I then do with the information is dramatically different.
I like playing with the idea of journalism and our expectation of journalism. So I like making something feel journalistic and then slowly reveal that that approach isn’t really going to give us as readers what we want from the text, that we need to try a different sort of essaying, and then the essays become a lot more associative and the perhaps become a bit more imaginative and start taking the problematic liberties.
I think it is art’s job to trick us. I think it is art’s job to lure us into terrain that is going to confuse us perhaps make us feel uncomfortable and perhaps open up to us possibilities in the world that we hadn’t earlier considered.
I think that we have to be fooled before we are really able to wonder. So philosophically my issue is that we’re not allowing an entire genre – nonfiction – to have that kind of a relationship with the reader. And that’s for me, as an artist, that’s problematic.
The entire interview can be listened to (and downloaded) here.