One has good reason to be suspicious of a book that calls itself a "metaphorical memoir." If a metaphor substitutes one thing for another to which it's not ordinarily related, and a memoir relates the personal experiences of the author, then a metaphorical memoir would be... well, lying, if we're going to get technical about it. Or it could be Lying, in which case, hold that judgment and lay all categories aside: here is a book so stunningly contrary it deserves a whole genre to itself.
Lauren Slater may have grown up with epilepsy. Or she may have Munchausen syndrome, "also called factitious illness," also called lying. Or, quite possibly, she has never had any of the above, and all her exquisite evocations of auras and grand mal seizures are merely well-researched symbolic descriptions of her psychic state. In a chapter that's disguised as an extended letter to her editor (and impishly titled "How to Market This Book") she defends her decision to call the work nonfiction:
Why is what we feel less true than what is? Supposing I simply feel like an epileptic, a spastic person, one with a shivering brain; supposing I have chosen epilepsy because it is the most accurate conduit to convey my psyche to you? Would this not still be a memoir, my memoir?Slater is peering down a slippery slope here, and for all its manifest brilliance, the pyrotechnics of its prose, reading Lying can be an unnerving experience--sort of like hanging out with a compulsive liar, actually. (It's no help to find out that "after all, a lot, or at least some, or at least a few, of the literal facts are accurate.")
But if Slater is playing with our heads, she's not doing so for fashionable postmodern reasons. Lying's bag of tricks emerges from some complex and deeply felt ideas about form, reality, and consciousness itself--and what's more, it's an extraordinary memoir, "true" or not. A field full of nuns, their windblown habits tipping them over into the snow; an electric brain stimulator that makes a patient see colors and taste her own words; Slater rolling in mounds of Barbadian sugar and then running back to her mother, coated like candy--who cares whether any of these actually happened? In the end, Lying is fundamentally true, just as a great novel or indeed any great work of art is true: in a way that has nothing to do with fact. --Mary Park --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
If fact is shaded with metaphor, does it become fiction? In a memoir that raises that question, the author of Prozac Diary and Welcome to My Country narrates a life marked by a disease she may or may not actually have. "I have epilepsy," she writes in the first chapter. "Or I feel I have epilepsy. Or I wish I had epilepsy, so I could find a way of explaining the dirty, spastic glittering place I had in my mother's heart." But was it epilepsy, or depression, or bipolar disorder, or Munchausen syndrome, or none of the above? And did Slater really undergo a corpus callostomy operation separating her right and left brain? Questions of authenticity aside, at its core this memoir touchingly describes the coming of age of a young girl who relies on illness to gain the attention of her narcissistic mother and ineffectual father, and who must find a way to navigate her parents' often vicious marriage and her own troubled adolescence. Slater, who says she must take anticonvulsant medication daily, had her first seizure the summer she turned 10. The symptoms of epilepsy function as a vehicle for her most potently written passages: dazzling hallucinations, teeth-grinding spasms, exuberant exaggerations. As often happens to those with illness, Slater moves from diagnosis to misdiagnosis to cure to redefinition and eventually to acceptance. In her afterword, the author explains that for personal and philosophical reasons, she had no choice but to transcribe her life in "a slippery, playful, impish, exasperating text, shaped, if it could be, like a question mark." The skill with which she achieves her goal reflects unusual insight. Agent, Kim Witherspoon. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Wow. What an incredibly powerful memoir...for so many reasons. The writing was incredible, the premise of showing the "narrative of an illness" even better. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Kimberly Roberts
So she admits her epilepsy is a metaphor. I was okay with that. The metaphor is her truth. Still, her mother is too absent later in the book; concrete memories are absent too, and... Read morePublished 3 months ago by bon2beez
Although impeccably written I wish I have not been 'tricked' into believing her story. In the other hand it shows her incredible ability to sound truthful. Read morePublished 3 months ago by CelloReader
This book is a roller coaster it is much too foul for me with sexual references and the F bomb used various times. Not bad not good.Published 11 months ago by Photoaholic
I thought this was an excellent memoir. Not only was it well written, explored the question of truth. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Kindle Customer
This book was just ok. I stopped reading it for a few days and I had no interest in finishing it.Published 13 months ago by Reading is my ESCAPE from Reality!