Saturday, April 21, 2012

Just the Facts on Facts

Somber-faced and in his best black suit, Barry Ritholtz holds hat over heart at the grave of fact, dead this week at the age of a 2.372, as reported by Rex Huppke in the Chicago Tribune.

But in fact (!). fact is not dead, simply gone underground.  In the currrent London Review of Books, Christian Lorentzen reports on the curious underground life of the fact-checker, the odd underground creature who beavers away at double-checking the author magazine copy and who seeks no praise nor wages except the satisfaction of knowing that it is his (or usually, her) spirit of conscientious inquiry that allows us to classify the belly button of this week's mega-celebrity as an inny, not an outy.  Fact-checkers, Lorentzen points out, even have an artistic tradition: from Ray Milland in  The Lost Weekend, who retreated to her day-job as a date-checker when not seeking to redeem a seemingly unredeemable alcoholic, through to the hero of Bright Lights, Big City, whose actual job was fact-checking--unless you can say that his real job was snorting cocaine an his fact-checking a hobby.  Lorentzen also promotes John D'Agata's Lifespan of a Fact (dull, she finds it; perhaps more on point, David Shields' Reality Hunger, about how facts are in and fiction is out (just ask James Frey and his co-acolytes at the first church of Oprah).  Lorentzen could have added Farhad Manjoo's  True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.   That's a book which, in fact, I have not read. But as any good graduate student might say, I'm perefctly willing to discuss it with you.

No comments: