VIDEO: The Question of Nonfiction

VIDEO:  The Question of Nonfiction
FROM JAMES FREY TO MIKE DAISEY the issue of truth in nonfiction continues to be a source of angst, perturbation, inquiry, fun, argument, and discussion.  Here a few authors have a quick say, in a series of LARB One-Minute Films, by novelists Aimee Bender and Janet Fitch, and four wrtiers who work in both fiction and nonftiction:  Laila Lalami, Mark Haskell Smith, Paul Mandelbaum, and Seth Greenland.



Some find the argument that fidelity to fact is the essence of nonfiction, including the memoir, to be an impossible and perhaps uninteresting goal; some, like Seth Greenland, find our culture's inability to agree on the solidity of fact to be a sign of the apocalypse.



Among the recent books on the subject, the one that has caused the most recent hubbub is The Lifespan of a Fact by John D'Agata and Jim Fingal; a couple years ago it was Reality Hunger by David Shields.  We have links reviews of these books in the right column.





Music on all videos:  Performed by Tom McDermott, Courtesy of Bananastan Records and Van Dyke Parks

LARB Contributors

Seth Greenland’s first memoir, A Kingdom of Tender Colors, will be published in 2020 by Europa Editions. He is the author of five novels. His 1997 play Jungle Rot won the Kennedy Center/American Express Fund for New American Plays Award and the American Theater Critics Association Award. He was a writer-producer on the Emmy-nominated HBO series Big Love.

Janet Fitch is a Los Angeles native and the author of White Oleander and Paint It Black. Her latest novel is a two-part epic, The Revolution of Marina M. and Chimes of a Lost Cathedral.

Paul Mandelbaum teaches the literature of Los Angeles at Emerson College’s L.A. Center. His books include the novels Garrett in Wedlock and Adriane on the Edge and the anthology 12 Short Stories and Their Making.

Laila Lalami was born in Rabat and educated in Morocco, Great Britain, and the United States. She is the author of four novels, including The Moor’s Account, which won the American Book Award, the Arab-American Book Award, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. Her most recent novel, The Other Americans, was a national best seller and a finalist for the Kirkus Prize and the National Book Award in Fiction. Her essays and criticism have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington PostThe NationHarper’s, the Guardian, and the New York Times. She has received fellowships from the British Council, the Fulbright Program, and the Guggenheim Foundation and is currently a full professor of creative writing at the University of California at Riverside. She lives in Los Angeles. Her new book, a work of nonfiction called Conditional Citizens, was published by Pantheon in September 2020. 


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