Saturday, November 28, 2015

"The Factory of Facts" by Luc Sante (Memoir/Cultural History)

ISBN: 0-679-42410-5 Pantheon Books

The Factory Facts by Luc Sante

One of the most unique memoirs I've ever read, but then again, Luc Sante is one idiosyncratic and special writer.   "The Factory of Facts" deal with Sante's childhood in his native country Belgium as well as New Jersey, his adopted home with his family.  The beauty of the book is that Sante writes about culture as the foreground to his life.  Although our lives are quite different, we are almost the exact age.   Both of us were born in 1954, and I recognize his cultural posts throughout the book.  Whatever it's a candy company that doesn't exist anymore, or a TV show/Film - I understand the importance of items that surround one's life. 

More of a collection of essays than a running narrative, Luc Sante came from a hardcore working class world, where I believe he's the only one who went on to college.  A brilliant observer of things around him, he is also sensitive to the fact that he is one from two cultures - Belgium and the United States.  Both are complex and multi-cultural locations as well.  One chapter he discusses what it is like to live in America and think/talk in French.   A lot of people think of translation as something easy as a Google app, but the fact the thinking is different, which conveys the 'fact' that language is a big part of our make-up.  Signage in a department store can be something obscure and totally odd, because it doesn't really make sense in a French context.  

"The Factory of Facts" is cultural history more than a straight ahead memoir, but the surroundings can tell a great narrative, when it is placed behind an individual.  I have to imagine writers will find this book fascinating.  I, who know very little of Belgium and its culture (only TinTin I'm afraid) I learn a lot through the eyes and mind of Sante.  As a writer myself, I'm consistently reminded how important my surroundings and things are to me.  Especially as a writer, and this is a great book that is suitable for those who want to write and those who do the job. 

- Tosh Berman

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