John D’Agata writes books in and about nonfiction that get me very interested in and excited for the genre. After the first generation of “New Journalists” who just decided to get out and write great, engaging, personal, subjective nonfiction without dickering over the name of this genre, and then after their 2nd-gen acolytes who made their careers precisely through such careful dickering and promulgation, here’s our 3rd-gen go-to guy, whose nonfiction work seems so smartly disinterested in what (other than its author’s own assertion) makes it nonfiction. And yet his work is so journalistic. By blending and maybe even disregarding genre, D’Agata’s found a way to move the genre forward.
His new book seeks connections between two public events in Nevada: the U.S. Senate’s debate on whether to use Yucca Mountain as the dumping ground for our nation’s nuclear waste, and a 16-year-old’s suicide accomplished by jumping from the observation tower of a Vegas hotel. There is, of course, no connection between these events. The boy’s suicide was not a call against nuclear energy. And yet this is the job of the writer: to look around and make some sense by piecing elements together.
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