Sunday, February 3, 2019

A swipe at John D’Agata

John McPhee, in Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process (2017):

Is it wrong to alter a fact in order to improve the rhythm of your prose? I know so, and so do you. If you do that, you are by definition not writing nonfiction.
That must be a swipe at John D’Agata, who in The Lifespan of a Fact (2012) explains that he changed a “thirty-one” to a “thirty-four” in a piece of reportage because “the rhythm of ‘thirty-four’ works better in that sentence.”

If McPhee takes other swipes at D’Agata, I’m not able to recognize them, because I gave up on The Lifespan of a Fact after two pages.

There are many things to like in the essays of Draft No. 4, but the essay that gives the book its title has by far the best stuff. And speaking of titles and factual accuracy: I want to be accurate about the title of McPhee’s book, but I’m not sure how to be. On the title page: Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process. But the Library of Congress catalogues the book as Draft No. 4: Essays about the Writing Process.

Related posts
Deresiewicz v. D’Agata (With a quotation (?) from Orwell)
Make it known (D’Agata borrowing without attribution)

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