October 18, 2018
Harry Potter volunteered as a fact-checker for The New Yorker
by Alyssa Monera
Daniel Radcliffe has done a lot of strange things for his career. Posing half naked with a horse, standing at the window shouting at passersby, and now volunteering as a fact-checker for a magazine. Okay, maybe that last one isn’t as weird as the others.
The short stint was done in promotion of Radcliffe’s latest gig, The Lifespan of a Fact, which opened on Broadway this past September. The play follows the true story of a back-and-forth between writer John D’Agata and literary magazine fact-checker Jim Fingal, which was turned into a book in 2012.
Radcliffe, who plays Fingal in the show, went in recently to fact-check a single article for the New Yorker: a review for a Mexican restaurant in Brooklyn called Oxomoco.
A detailed account of the experience can be consumed in this article from the New Yorker, but in short: it was an awkward and harrowing event.
“I just fact-checked a fucking article!” he reportedly said, “nothing I do today will be harder than that.”
There’s no way around it: fact-checking is hard and meticulous work. So, how did the original fact-checking story go down? Fingal had to deal with something much heavier than a restaurant review: an essay about the tourist-centered Las Vegas following the suicide of a local teenager, Levi Presley. Although, Fingal’s original essay was commissioned and then later rejected by Harper’s Magazine for its literary approach, The Believer offered to take it on seven years later. Thus, started the journey of The Lifespan of a Fact.
The book is a darkly humorous insight into the relationship between writers and editors. Its discusses heavy subject matter with constant interruptions by redlines and snarky comments about sources that escalate into a combative back-and-forth.
So no, Radcliffe’s experience with the New Yorker wasn’t quite as intense, but then asking to replicate that sort of situation might have been a tall order.
The Lifespan of a Fact will remain on Broadway through January 2019.
Alyssa Monera is an intern at Melville House.