Saturday, October 10, 2009

Lying by Lauren Slater

"There is only one kind of memoir I can see to write and that's a slippery, playful, impish exasperating text, shaped, if it could be, like a question mark."
From Lying by Lauren Slater

I could puzzle over this fascinating tale for a long time. Lauren Slater has written a memoir about lying which isn't really true. It's a lie. So if it is a lie how can it be memoir? The truth is that Slater really writes as a metaphor. Her story, as compelling as it is, she claims as metaphor.

The tale she weaves is very sophisticated and full of subtle tricks and clever manipulations. The reader must constantly ask, is this true? Is this a lie? Does it matter?

At one point she observes that most fictions are made up of true events and most memoir has a lot of made up stuff. Who's to say what is true and what is not true?

The loose tale of this narrative which is also very interesting to me on a personal level is the author's coming of age beset by a very serious case of epilepsy. One of the side effects of this type of epilepsy is a propensity to lie. So is the story real or made up? At one time she lays all the possibilities out for the reader. All the different diseases she might have or might not and all the different ways this story might have been told.

This tale is endlessly fascinating...a puzzle within a story. Or a series of puzzles that make up a story...or don't. Everything is cast into doubt but everything seems true. The writing is so beautiful, the idea so brilliant, and the narrative so compelling that you can't stop thinking about it and flipping around her sentences and her words.

The story appealed to me because it is not boring and the words are carefully chosen and beautifully strung together. Some (like Oprah!) might get put off by the lying. Ultimately it raises important questions about the nature of truth and the difference between truth and fact.

Slater has a couple of other well known books about mental health and illness. I look forward to reading all of them.


zenabu said...

Sounds postmodern?

Steph said...

Very interesting!