August 30, 2008
Watch the whole diavlog, based on Richard Preston's book "Panic in Level 4." I especially loved this segment about a genetic disease that causes people to cannibalize their own bodies. They need to be guarded constantly, lest they bite off their own fingers and so forth. Preston tells us to think of a person who compulsively bites his cuticles or chews the skin off the inside of his lip and then imagine the volume turned way up.
ADDED: About that embedded clip. Preston talks about the nonfiction writer's contract with the reader. I don't think all nonfiction authors are really offering what he says and certainly, as a reader, there's nothing about a nonfiction author's offer to tell the truth that makes me agree to suspend disbelief. So it's not a contract with reciprocal duties. And in some cases, I might want to read someone precisely because I am entertained by the very aspects of the work that are not on the up-and-up. (I'm thinking of Hunter S. Thompson.) In most cases, I just know that to get what I want, I have be alert, looking for lies and distortion.
I read a lot of judicial opinions and political writing, and I'd be a chump if I read that writing with the idea that they had offered to tell it straight and I was therefore bound to accept their assertions at face value. But I'm not a chump, and in fact, for me, most of the pleasure of reading that stuff is looking for the flaws and reading between the lines.