Response to “To the Reader” by John D’Agata

Response to "To the Reader" by John D’Agata, The Next American Essay

The tension in this piece is the meaning of nonfiction. D’Agata begins the essay by listing facts and then uses them to illustrate why and how nonfiction is an art. Essentially, he uses this essay to illustrate Emerson’s quote “There are no facts, only art.” The essay does not have a traditional protagonist or antagonist but the main character (perhaps the reader’s perception of nonfiction) undergoes a change by listing the so called facts that the reader expects from nonfiction and then using them to create art (creative nonfiction). The essay does not have any traditional dialogue but it is written in the first person (which can be interpreted to mean that it is all dialogue). The piece has no particular setting and its theme is that nonfiction is as much of an art as fiction.

The essay works on many levels and does a great job of illustrating the meaning of nonfiction. It is also quite effective in addressing the reader’s prejudices about creative nonfiction (that it is not art but rather a collection of facts). The middle of the essay (that discusses the Latin word for fact and lists words like artifice, counterfeit, etc.) does not work as well because it feels a little disjointed from both the beginning and the end of the essay. Finally, essay does not cross the line by entering the realm of fiction and is an excellent introduction to the book as a whole.

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