D’Agata Redux: New Ways of Understanding
February 15, 2012 § 10 Comments
And I find myself agreeing with many of the comments on Brevity criticizing D’Agata. As Judith Kitchen eloquently comments, “I prefer to think we are humbled by the real world, and what really happens.” And Laura Miller’s comment that “he’s actually taking reality and reducing it to something simpler and more in line with conventional views of the world” gets exactly to this point that I’m struggling with.
However, unlike Miller, in D’Agata’s writing, particularly in About a Mountain, I see a more unconventional view of the world than in nearly any other book I’ve read in the last few years. (And I should make a note here that I’ve moved from discussing the essay that was the germ ofAbout a Mountain, to just looking at the book. I should also note that in the book D’Agata includes a notes sections at the end that documents the facts that he changed.)
In the book, D’Agata reveals not only unexpected and unconventional narratives, but forges and entirely new way of looking at environmental, or any other kind, of catastrophe. With the lyric prose and tireless listing, he actually makes me feel, truly feel the impact of Yucca Mountain. This nearly physical understanding was far more meaningful than hundreds of news articles on the subject could ever come close to achieving. And right now, this seems to be the critical work of creative nonfiction. It is not information that we are short of, but ways of understanding and living with an overwhelming amount of information.