Wednesday, April 11, 2007

News Flash: David Sedaris makes stuff up

Jack Shafer of Slate is shocked, shocked to discover that not everything humorist David Sedaris says is 100% true:
If writing fiction is the license Sedaris and other nonfiction humorists need to get at "larger truths," why limit this exemption to humorists? Let reporters covering city hall, war, and business to embellish and exaggerate so they can capture "larger truths," too. I'm sure that Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair, Christopher Newton, and Slate's "monkeyfishing guy" would back this idea, especially if applied retroactively.
You might think from that excerpt that Shafer is kidding, but read the whole thing; he's dead serious. How much of a moron do you have to be to not see the difference between somebody telling funny stories about playing Santa's elf in a department store and somebody trying to present fakery as serious journalism?

The commenters in The Fray are all defending Sedaris, as well they should. I know Slate thrives off of articles that buck conventional wisdom, but I have to wonder why an editor didn't sit down with Shafer and tell him the lighten up.

2 Comments:

At Thursday, April 12, 2007 at 9:18:00 AM PDT, Anonymous clynne said...

OMG, After reading the entire article, I think maybe your hypothetical Slate editor would have needed to sit down and explain "humor" to the poor guy, not just tell him to lighten up. He actually uses James Thurber as a defense for his argument, and tries to argue that Thurber's changes mean that Thurber entirely defictionalized his stories.

The disclaimer at the end explains all: Alex Heard, the overly-uptight guy from the New Republic is a friend of Jack Schafter, the overly-uptight guy at Slate.

 
At Thursday, April 12, 2007 at 10:33:00 AM PDT, Anonymous doafy said...

This is my favorite part:

"Jon Carroll thinks humorists require "latitude" to make things funny, a notion I find bogus. I find stories that are absolutely true—like the time one of my neighbors, dressed up to party on Saturday night, fell into a 55-gallon drum filled with human excrement and urine—the funniest."

Yet, reading that, I didn't laugh at all. This guy must totally suck at parties.

 

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