Elif Batuman on Mike Daisey, fiction, and nonfiction

I think Elif Batuman is a wonderful writer. Here at The Rumpus she defends Mike Daisey–a position to which I am not sympathetic–but does so in a sensitive, even-handed way that acknowledges where and how Daisey sinned, but suggests that perhaps we (and Ira Glass) should treat his trespasses more leniently. Along the way she develops some very interesting thoughts on the relative authority and value of fiction and nonfiction in our culture today, and how these have evolved in distressing ways. Highly recommended, as is everything else I’ve read by Elif Batuman.

I bet if Tolstoy was writing now in America, there would be a lot of pressure on him to do War and Peace as a nonfiction book – like, tracing the domestic and personal life of his wife’s grandmother through journals and letters, interwoven with his own philosophical musings about the Napoleonic wars. But Tolstoy didn’t think he was detracting from the truth-telling power of his book by writing it as a novel.

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