Monday, September 22, 2008

Autowin Book Club #2: Lying, by Lauren Slater

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"Sickness demands compassion, but even so, one can be forgiven for wanting to throttle the narrator of Lauren Slater's latest book, Lying.''
-Rebecca Mead, "Stranger than Fiction: Lauren Slater's Lying: A Memoir."
The New York Times, July 16, 2000
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Angela Hayes: "What are you trying to accomplish in writing Blue Beyond Blue [a book of fairy tales]?"
Lauren Slater: "I wasn’t trying to accomplish anything through the book. The plan wasn’t to put the stories in a book and publish them. My goal was the same as it is in my other writing in that I wanted to create a world through words that was palpable and tangible and could stand on its own."
- A Conversation with Lauren Slater.
small spiral notebook, Summer 2005
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I have a lot of feelings about this book because speaking of lying, have I got some stories for you. I mean it -- that's just how beautifully I've worked it all out, that my life's narrative and this book's narrative have come together unexpectedly but perfectly, offering numerous "factions" for me to weave into a multi-layered tale of drama & intrigue relevant to our discussion of Lauren Slater's memoir, Lying. Butttt ... I'm not gonna tell these stories. Of course, I can tell whatever stories I want to, but wouldn't that be silly, to do that, just because I can.

I've been asking "why the lies?" a lot lately, and though I've found answers for many of the situations begging this inquiry, I haven't found an answer to justify -- or even understand -- Slater's lies.

Here's how I see it: you can lie to protect people, lie playfully with postmodern intent, lie 'cause you can't help it, lie 'cause you're pathological and it's what you do, lie to save your ass. I've accepted lies, overlooked stories I should've been looking over and trusted when I shouldn't have. But generally the liars I've loved are people with hearts -- thus me loving them in the first place. They display, somehow, a degree or remorse, humility, self-awareness, responsiblity or, lacking all these things -- at least a reason, even if it's a fucked up reason.

Furthermore, I've lied in my writing. I've lied to protect people, lied about a fact to get at an emotional truth, lied to clean up a narrative, lied to protect myself professionally, legally or emotionally.

But I can't seem to figure out exactly why Slater is so entitled to her lies, besides "Because I can."
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"I'll tell you about lies. There are white lies and black lies and many shades of grey lies. Some lies are justified. Lies told out of kindness, lies that preserve dignity, lies that spare pain. Everybody's a liar dear."
-Abraxas in conversation with Jenny, The L Word

"What's so great about the truth? Try lying for a change. It's the currency of the world."
-Dan, Closer
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Maybe, since I've already written all my good stories but I'm not done talking about myself (oh man! I've barely even started! Watch me go! memememeeme!) I could tell you a story about someone else, but say it was about me, 'cause it's a metaphor for how I really feel, which is detached. I was just talking to Alex about Lying, which she loved or hated or maybe didn't read at all, and she said she would've liked it better as a novel, like James Frey's Bright Shiny Morning.

I said Bright Shiny Morning doesn't stand up to bright & shiny mornings themselves, which I actually love, because I'm not really a vampire as I said, it's just a metaphor for how I really feel, which is hungry and heartless and pale. That book I talk about that I'm writing is basically A Million Little Pieces with a lesbian reveal on page 256, with extra drunkenness and unemployment. It might not be about that at all, but that doesn't matter, 'cause it's a metaphor for how I really feel, which is abandoned and lost because of my mother, who was mean, and because of my father, who I never met 'cause he was on the road selling things, and then he died, thus becoming the inspiration for the book Death of a Salesman, which is actually a play, but they print plays in books now, because of the Industrial Revolution, which is a metaphor for the theater, literature, death and my father.

Anyhow back to Alex, who only read half this book. Speaking of lesbians and halves, I'm not actually gay or even a bisexual, it's just a very current marketing angle and besides, boys are impossible to communicate with and I'm tired, and bisexuality is a metaphor for how I actually feel, which is conflicted. I'm inspired by Lindsay Lohan, Haviland, and Alex who did not read Lying 'cause of the internet, which I don't believe in, but the internet is a metaphor for how I really feel, which's alienated and lost without my mother, who doted on me like a princess, but not a real princess like Tinkerbell, who might not look real, but feels very real to me.

Anyhow if you want to read a good metaphor for bisexuality you could read Orlando, by Virginia Woolf, which is one of the reasons why I'm gay, or metaphorically gay, but mostly it's because of my mother, who missed my college graduation for the WNBA finals, and is not really a social worker, but a nun, and a saleswoman, and Tinkerbell, and the only gay in the village. The End! DISCUSS.
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"I love that there's a secret
behind every secret I've ever told."
-Stephen Dunn, from "Loves"
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"I had not known, until then, that beauty lived beneath the supposedly solid surface of things, how every line was really a curve uncreased, how every hill was smoke."
-Lauren Slater, Lying: A Memoir
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I hoped Slater was attempting to explore one of the following ideas, which interest me:

- Lying as a Valid Storytelling Device in its own right: Slater argues in her introduction to The Best American Essays of 2006 that "Sickness is the natural state in which we humans reside. We occasionally fall into brief brackets of health, only to return to our fevers, our infections, our rapid, minute mutations, which take us toward death even as they evolve us, as a species, into some ill-defined future."

Similarly, I'd argue that deception is a natural state in which we humans reside. We occasionally fall into brief brackets of total honesty, only to return to our excuses, our withholding, our salesmen and our politicians, our exaggerations, our rapid, minute white lies, which take us toward death even as they evolve us, as a species, into some ill-defined life of storytelling. I'd argue that truth and lies aren't good vs. bad, there's tons of nuance, and I find investigations of this stimulating and compelling reads. From time to time, Slater does explore this issue: "Why is what we feel less true than what is?" (pg. 162) and so forth. At these times, she's poised and interesting, vivid and educating.

But ultimately she doesn't seem to prove this point for anyone besides herself. She argues that truth is nuanced and therefore she can write an un-true memoir, but she doesn't argue that anyone else can (or should), nor does she ever explain why her story needs to be told at all, or why it matters, or why this experience is so crucial, so vital -- just begging to be addressed -- that she needs to go through all this metaphoric struggle to begin with.

-In order to make "sane" people understand the crippling nature of mental illness, we must explain it in physical terms: It's difficult to be a privileged white girl writing about mental illness without being scoffed at, call it the Elizabeth Wurtzel effect.

I understand first-hand how much more impact one's description of mental illness becomes when it's manifested physically, or visually.

When I explain I'm having a major depressive disorder episode, I get eye rolls and frustration/confusion -- "snap out of it." When I say the fibro is making my whole body throb and ache (why? 'cause I'm having a major depressive disorder episode) I'm supported and helped.

But, ultimately, this is just the point I want Slater to make. It's not the point she's actually trying to make, though the beginning gives me hope: "I wish I had epilepsy, so I could find a way of explaining the dirty, spastic glimmering place I had in my mother's heart."

Ultimately, she convinces us that her story can only be told as a metaphor rather than through the facts themselves. But beyond that ... so what? We get only that she CAN, and so she will, 'cause she's a liar, and she must. But why must she tell her story at all? I don't know.

Is it because she already told her story, and it was time to write another book and she doesn't like writing about things other than herself? If it's all one big post-modern exercise, than perhaps we should've been informed of this, rather than being lead to believe the story was somewhat true and somewhat untrue -- as in, she isn't just lying about epilepsy, she's lying about all of it. She's writing a novel with her actual self as the main character. Which is neat, and fun, and cool, but she could've done that without all the dwelling on the revolutionary self-importance of her lying and her compulsion to do so.

Does she do her subject justice? What is she doing at all? Postmodern memoirs like A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius are fun, playful and adventurous, but Lying feels self-righteous, especially 'cause she fakes seizures in hospitals without recognizing the time she wastes of everoyne around her. She's so self-centered, it's hard to care much about what happens to her.

Though she's willing to cop to being a liar or a bad person, she's not ready to accept responsibility for the effect this could have on other people, or for how this reflects on her quality as a person.

Undoubtedly, she's a gifted writer. I mean, she's so good! She spins a brilliant sentence and a compelling page. I underlined, I loved the quotes, there were sections that spoke to me clearly and directly. I'd read it again in a heartbeat, I looked forward to picking it up, and I'd recommend it.

Yet at the same time, she sometimes made me feel sick to my stomach. It was often too close to home. I sometimes wanted to punch her in the face.

And the more I research Slater, the more confused I am about how I'm supposed to feel about this book. So I'll stop talking and ask you how did you feel about it.

1. In The New York Times review (The Last Word) of Lauren Slater's book "Unpacking Skinner's Box," Laura Miller writes: "[Slater] is not above manipulating her readers, while technically avoiding inaccuracy, if it will make the tale more potent. This recklessness is both the kernel of her talent and her nemesis; she is forever threatening to cross the line." Do you feel this applies to Lying?

2. In her New York Times' review of Lying, Janet Maslin writes: "It is not likely that the reader's interest in Ms. Slater's medical and philosophical condition will rival her own." Does it?

3. How did you react to the love affair with the poet teacher at Breadloaf? Haviland and I reacted very differently to it, and I'm curious how other people felt.

4. Does it matter to you if the story is true or not? Would you have read it differently had it been a novel?

5. What was your favorite scene?

6. Do you think this book would've been written differently now in the post-James Frey internet age, when facts are more easily and instantly verifiable?

7. The primary difference between a memoir and a novel, as I see it, is the meta-story implicit in the memoir. When reading Jeanette Walls' Glass Castle, to pick a popular example, the story is not only what's in the book, it's also the story of a woman who survived homelessness and insane parents and lived to tell the tale, and eloquently. If her story isn't true, then it's just the story, which is fine, but that's a novel.

There's some things I want to tell you, and you can tell me how you feel about them, and if it changes your feelings about this book.

So What She Lies, I'd Lie to Her Too:

a) The forward is presented as a letter of endorsement and praise written by Dr. Hayward Krieger, Ph.D., a philosophy professor at the University of Southern California.

Dr. Krieger does not exist.

He is a character invented by Ms. Slater, who -- when called out for this blatant misrepresentation -- sent a letter to the NY Times as Dr. Krieger expressing "his"/her outrage at this discrediting.

b) Ms. Slater was born in 1963 and began at Brandeis in 1981, which puts her at Breadloaf Writer's Conference in '81 -- according to the narrative she was 17 and it was the summer before college. She cites Francine Prose as an instructor and Mark Strand as a visiting poet. Prose did not begin teaching at Bread Loaf until 1984. Mark Strand's years:'73, '82, '84, '85, '92, '93. Slater did, without a doubt, attend Bread Loaf (she describes it in detail in her well-written introduction to The Best American Essays 2006), but she did not attend at the age of 17 in 1981 under a different name, as she says in this book. Consequently I doubt she had the affair she describes either.

c) Ms. Slater's memoir "Prozac Diaries" apparently is the true memoir she claimed she wouldn't be able to write. In Prozac Diaries, Slater recounts growing up with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and depression with two sisters who were not mentioned in Lying. The book was praised for its honesty and passion. Apparently she then felt the need to write another memoir about herself, but with a different syndrome than the one she already wrote about. This sort of makes my head hurt just to think about it.

d) In Lies, Lies, Lies, Yeah: Lauren Slater's book "Lying," on blogcritics.org, Sadi Ranson-Polizzotti -- who is also an epileptic -- has this to say about her description of the illness: "For all of its cinematic imagery and consistent with epilepsy symptoms (for the most part,), it's lacking some of the personal detail that I would expect from an epileptic, and also, for someone with temporal lobe epilepsy, a condition for which hypergraphia is a major concern, the book is remarkably short. It's that Slater is almost too perfect in her fucked up, epileptic fugue and the tale she tells that gives rise to doubt."

e) There was quite a stir over Slater's book Unpacking Skinner's Box, in which she "re-tells" the stories of major psychological experiments. Take a gander at this particular argument, from beatrice.com.
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"Is the urge to make meaning a misguided human coping mechanism that gives a false shape to our existence? How best to live? To die?"
(Lauren Slater)
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"Thoughts?"
(Haviland Stillwell)

19 comments:

mira said...

first!!!!

there is no dr. kreigier? wtf. i should have done my research.

i think i need to sleep on this.

The Brooklyn Boy said...

So many feelings. Will post more later. Helluva rundown, kid.

Haviland Stillwell said...

Riese, I wish you were my literature teacher. Oh, wait - you kind of are! This post is like a dream assignment from Paideia...seriously. If you lived in Atlanta, I would tell them to hire you right now to teach high school lit. You would rock that.

I, like you, struggle not to add personal "thoughts" to my analysis and feelings of this book and Ms. Slater. Hm. Some of you reading this know what I'm talking about. Some of you think you know, but you have no idea.

In one sense, I like that she is vague in her specifics, that she's mysterious, that we don't really know what was real and what wasn't. It's like, what is ever real, and how do we know anything is fact, unless we do background checks on all the people we meet, and that seems so jaded/necessary?

I don't know. Thoughts.

burningsteady said...

There is an essay somewhere that, if I could find it, would lead me to believe it was about _Lying_. It was Slater's reaction to poor reviews, taking valium, being overall crazy. I thought maybe it was in _In Fact_, but that's a different crazy essay. Where the hell is this essay?

Also, we're reading _The Woman Warrior_ in my long forms class, which had me thinking about _Lying_ and the use of non-traditional narrative in memoir. Perhaps even the Didion line "I am talking here about a time when I began to doubt the premises of all the stories I had ever told myself."

Time to go to school and talk about these things, though it might be more comfortable to stay in my pjs and discuss them here. (=

Anonymous said...

i'm pretty sure that anyone who reads this book has a personal reaction to it. i think these days it's hard to find someone who has not been seriously deceived in one way or another. i think that is probably why this book causes such a stir in people, because it hits most people on such a personal level and causes such a personal reaction.

i don't have a problem with some of the 'lies' that slater tells. the forward being written by a fake professor didn't really bother me until i thought about the fact that it was slater writing about herself from the perspective of another person, which is a serious sign of mental illness. it's her unwillingness to admit her untruths that really gets me riled up.

i think it's this unwillingness to reveal the truth, her inability to see the damage that she causes, the lack of remorse she shows that makes me angry. it's as if she gets off on her ability to deceive people, she enjoys fucking with people and thinks that she is above the truth and the people that read her books don't deserve to know what is real and what was not. i imagined what it would have been like for me to read this book if i had a personal relationship to someone who really did have epilepsy. to just pretend to have this illness, for what? it made me feel bad for people who have to struggle with this illness day in and day out.

i thought it was strange that she made no mention of her sisters in this book. it just further proved to me that it wasn't true, because if in fact she was a child struggling with this disease, i am sure it would have had a profound effect on her siblings. she didn't even mention them ever being around, let alone being remotely effected. i'm sure her sisters were pretty pissed that they weren't even invited to barbados.

if she was using this story to talk about her mental illness and was able to express that in a way that didn't make her seem like a pompous asshat, i would have respect for her. her attitude makes me crazy.

i could talk about this book forever and then some.

also, unrelated, i hope you read this.

http://nymag.com/news/intelligencer/50515/

hazel said...

When I first started reading this book I got really caught up in wanting to know the TRUTH. I kept asking myself, is this a lie? is this a lie? I soon realized that I was missing the point and once I relaxed and just allowed myself to read the book as Slater presented it I discovered two things. One: what saves the book from being mediocre is the fact that Slater is a talented stylist. That woman can really write a sentence, as I believe Riese already mentioned. Two: None of the book really rings true. It feels a lot like listening to someone (with a knack for storytelling) telling you their daydreams. Daydreams are always shallow and narcissistic and id driven, as is the narrative of Lying. I often felt the same way while reading A Million Little Pieces.

And just because it is largely fictional doesn't make it any less of a memoir, nor does it make it fiction. It is ultimately about Slater, about the stories that Slater spins about herself, to herself. There are no subplots or foils or any of the detailed acknowledgments of a world outside of the self required to make it a novel. (Not that there aren't self-indulgent novels, of course, but they're different than what Slater has done).

In the end, all I can say is that Slater has done something interesting, a worthy exercise, if not entirely successful, at least discussion-worthy.

Dave said...

I really enjoyed this book. It had a lot of words. It touched me. Not like an uncle, but more like a curious cousin who has developed faster than the other girls. I liked it, and I almost felt bad about liking it so much.

The part that really made me fall in love with the book was when the feelings really came pouring out. It was like this book was written about my life. I just hope that her next book has a little less jokes about stepping in poop and goes more in depth regarding prostitutes and how much they enjoy getting facials.

The Brooklyn Boy said...

I had a similar experience: The first time I read Lying, I thought about trying to parse what was "true." Until I read the paragraph about resisting gravity on p. 51 and decided I didn't want to know. Not yet. So I just read it for the story. And I liked it, though I did find the occasional second-person passage to be irritating -- I just wanted more narrative. Stop telling me you're lying. Or you aren't. Just tell me what you're trying to say. Metaphorically.

Then I read it again. And I liked it more. The story part. Because the truth thing was starting to bug me. And like the anonymous commenter up there, I liked "Lauren Slater" less and less the more I thought about what she was doing: "Where does she get off (potentially) co-opting an illness other people actually struggle with?" and fucking with readers and so on.

But I put a hard stop on that myself. Just because you don't like a character (author) doesn't mean you can't like, or even love, the story she's contained in (authored). And I respect the craft that went into it, because to draw a character that people hate -- not just dislike, but hate -- means that said character is quite fully realized. That's difficult. At its pinnacle, you end up with Lolita's Humbert Humbert, someone so repulsive and so fascinating you can't turn away even as you feel gross for flying through the pages. (Sidenote: Nabakov = word porn) Slater's accomplished something of that here, and it seems the question to ask is: "Does it matter if that character is ... her?"

PS
I came mega close to losing this comment to the InterWebs, but I conquered IE's crappy effin browser and recovered it. Score.

Haviland Stillwell said...

Bklyn boy, to your point: you say you don't have to like a character to like their story...but what about liking a person but not liking their story? Don't you think that's more to the point? And aren't we made up, on some level, of the stories we tell? Don't we have to have some accountability for what we SAY? People have to have something to go on, something to know is tangible about someone. Otherwise, what is there?

I also ask the question about what y'all thought about the "love affair" section...

riese said...

BB - But wouldn't you say that Slater wants us to think about who she is? I mean she name-drops the other books she's written, draws attention to the lying thing about 100 times, and breaks the fourth wall every chance she gets. I would've loved the story if it had stood on its own, but she seemed to want the story to be about her personal decision to lie about her illness than about the story itself.

riese said...

me and haviland just had a commenting jinx experience

autumn m said...

ok so i know that i didnt read the book so i really have no right to comment about this, but im going to. you made this book sound good, and i almost thought about buying it after reading your post, but then you mentioned that she faked seizures. i could never read a book where someone actually does that, i would get pissed, find the author, and probably beat her to near death. and through what all else you said, it seems like the book "lying" is just as the title implies, a book of extremely well written lies. i think haviland said it how i want to say it, "that we don't really know what was real and what wasn't." and i think it's weird that you mentioned "a million little pieces". cause i had a fiction book idea, anf i wrote the first chapter then let a friend read it so i could get input. she said it reminded her of a chapter in the book "a million little pieces". i never heard of it before, so i took it to read it. it's sitting there next to my bed, waiting for me to pick it up. then i read the link you put up. the one that talked about the lies that were told in the book. it made me not want to read it. why would someone want to read a book or memoir that you know is a lie? doesnt it defeat the point of reading someone's story, if the entire thing is falsified?

The Brooklyn Boy said...

hav, riese -- Saw your comments. Interesting points and questions. The kid's got answers, promise. But I have to cover a team event tonight, so it might be a while (i.e. much later tonight). Be back.

Crystal said...

Bright Shiny Mornings is a metaphor for how I feel.

Speaking of feelings... I feel like I'm glad I didn't buy/read the book. I fully intended to until you told me about the feigning illness aspect, and then I got angry.

The Brooklyn Boy said...

hav - You're right. We are made up of the stories we tell. They're our armor and our security blanket. I'm pretty sure I've been in character since going to college. Other people take this to an extreme and "reinvent" themselves, trying on a new style as they see fit. Maybe the business woman renounced her punk past. Maybe the hipster guy got tired of the yacht club. Who are we to know? Who are we to ask? It seems, like you commented earlier, that it would be awful jaded to do so continually.

The problem with that is Slater says we should ask. Which fucks with my aforementioned "liking" the book. I read it as if it were a novel, and the more I read about the situation and people's thoughts, it's becoming more and more evident I shouldn't let her get away with that.

So then to answer the question I posed earlier: Yes, it does matter that it's her. Because it's not only about her. It's about everyone/thing she affects, which -- as Riese and anon pointed out -- is something so severely lacking in this narrative. She siezes for attention, she steals without repercussion, it's one big vacuum of sheshesheshesheshe.

Where we become accountable for the stories we tell is when we ask people to understand us, to be the security blankets we seek in our stories. If you're still lying then, well ... you're probably not long for that friend-/relationship. That's when it matters, and that's when it fractures. Slater's book is one big bad boyfriend. (Or girlfriend. I just liked previous alliteration, ha.)

I didn't really have much of a specific reaction to the love affair, other than it seemed so ... typical. And it fit the narrative. And she wrote it well. So I ran with it.

riese - I think I covered your ground in that monstrous ramble. Lemme know if you want further clarification.

To answer one of the "Big Seven" I hadn't seen addressed, I fucking loved the scene of the snowfighting nuns. That was bucolic.

hazel said...

There seems to be a general disdain for Slater because of the lies she chose to tell. So, what if she had told lies that you approved of or found appealing?

Haviland Stillwell said...

hazel -- I did find a lot of her lies appealing (like, for example, the affair with the older man..)...I found a lot of them super appealing and interesting...I don't think thats the point. I think what I'm saying is that I actually liked the book, and as someone who doesn't know Slater, from a distance, I think it's sort of cool, what she did.

I'm just saying if I knew her, if she were a part of my life in anyway, I wouldn't be able to deal with it...even as appealing as some lies seem to be at times.

riese said...

I have a lot of feelings to address a lot of things, but right now I'm having that me-me-me feeling best visually expressed by an 8-year-old girl raising her hand in the air, squealing, possibly even getting up onto her knees, supporting her right arm with her left, and going "meeeeee, i know meeeee!"

So ... quickly ... here's the thing, from a publishing POV. Memoirs sell better than fiction. That's why James Frey and the Love and Consequences girl did what they did -- to move copies. This is a problem with America that we don't read novels like we used to (whereas in the past, Jack Kerouac and Dorothy Allison could pen memoirs with some liberties, call them "novels," and still sell like hotcakes). So insisting on selling something as a memoir when it's clearly not a memoir is problematic 'cause you have to question her motives.

And I want to believe -- wanted to believe when I chose this book in the first place, that she was doing so to break genres, explore the blurry truths and lies that the fake doctor lauded her for ...

... but the inclusion of the letter to the marketing people, although it defended WHY she should be able to call this a memoir -- and to that end, she made her point/case -- but, aside from proving that she can call this a memoir, she still didn't make a case for why it was important that it be marketed as such -- didn't seem to take the argument past her own experience. As in; she didnt want to raise awareness for people with Musasdnfejkalns or however you spend it, she didn't want to increase visibility for her patients, she didn't want to repent or apologize or explore why she did what she did and how she hopes to change and improve as a person (as most memoirs do include some kind of redemptive narrative arc), she just wants to do it because she's smart and she can, and she wants what she wants, and, I imagine, because, as I said, memoirs sell better.

Her book "Opening Skinner's Box" uses real psychological studies to tell fictional stories about the studies, but using the real names of the doctors involved. I feel like she just wants to do stuff that doesn't make sense for no good reason besides to show off. Lots of authors do this kind of postmodern genre-fucking, but they usually pull it off with far more clarity and humility, e.g., Dave Eggers, Nabakov, Bolano, Barthelme, Danielewski, et al.

I realize that was a long list of men. I'm sure there are women that could pull this off (Virginia Woolf comes to mind ...?), and now I'm annoyed that I can't think of any, and wonder if I'm a bad feminist. Does postmodernism require testosterone fueled ego? Or less feelings? I think I'm digging myself a grave.

riese said...

You know how I feel about making everyone buy expensive books, but I think we're going to have to read The Night of the Gun next. I just started it, and I find his approach to the "truth" to be far more interesting and expository than *cough* Ms. Slater's and I think it would be an interesting next book to talk about. The author, David Carr, quotes Sissela Bok in Moral Choices in Public and Private Life, who said:

"The moral question of whether you are lying or not is not settled by establishing the truth or falsity of what you say. In order to settle this question, we must know whether you intend your statement to mislead."

So. I did like the book. I liked reading it, and I am sad that I've discouraged people from reading it, you really should read it, it was interesting and compelling and quite lovely at times.

And I don't know if it bothers me on a level because I'm a writer, because I know how publishing works, because I have a derth of experience with mental illness, liars, the mentally ill and so forth ... but I think ultimately I have to ask, would this story be a good one if she took out all the stuff about lying and telling the truth etc. If it was just a novel, or just a memoir ... and I think it would. So it kinda feels like the rest of it is just on there as some sort of masturbatory exercise that I, were I a patient of Ms. Slater's, would probably find insulting. Her insistence feels commercial and egotistical.

She co-opts the narrative of mental illness to tell her own story. People do this all the time, but they don't insist it be called a memoir, it's a novel. In fact, so much of writing fiction is about finding a way to convey your emotional truths through a story that might have nothing at all to do with the facts of anything that have ever happened to her.

However i say this from the vantage point of now knowing that this book was almost entirely made up, and that she already had written a successful memoir about herself, so clearly it wasn't as impossible to write truthfully about her life as she claims it is here. It's like she's acting like she's in school and was given an assignment to write a memoir and insists she can't write it in any other way but to lie. But she gave herself the assignment, so what's she fighting for, exactly? Or is it just for the thrill of the game?