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Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir Paperback – October 1, 2001
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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.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
The book begins when Slater, age ten, starts experiencing strange, oftentimes lovely hallucinations, called auras, and then the wracking seizures that soon follow. At the same time Slater manages, slyly but charmingly, to warn us for reasons this book then goes on to explore that she may be making her epileptic illness up. In any case, her seizures worsen, and eventually Slater undergoes brain surgery in order to cure her condition. The surgery works, in that it reduces the seizurees, but she is left still with her auras, and it is in the midst of an especially potent aura that Slater discovers her creativity as a writer. She then goes off to Bread Loaf Writer's conference, only to meet and fall in love with an author some thirty years her senior. We follow Slater, breathlessly, through her illness, her surgery, through her torrid, touching, and at times horrifying love affair, to its painful conclusion, when she is left alone, having to grapple with the emptiness that follows passionate attachment. This book succeeds on multiple levels, which makes for a rich and rewarding reading experience. On the one hand there's the straightforward narrative of illness, cure, and love affair, all compulsively page turning. On the other hand, there's the meta level: throughout the text Slater casts doubt as to the veracity of her story. "Some epileptics," Slater writes, "have the neurologically based need to lie." Or, she offers, maybe she doesn't have epilepsy at all.Read more ›
I picked up Lauren Slater's first book, Welcome to My Country, on a whim in 1997, and instantly fell in love with Slater's impeccable prose. That she related case studies without descending into the smarmy self-help realm of, say, Oliver Sacks helped immensely. Welcome to My Country was on my best-I-read list that year.
Fast forward to 2005, and I start wondering what Slater's been up to since releasing it. I check her out at Amazon, and am thrilled to find she's released two books since. Lying is the first of them I picked up, and it's great to see she's still at the top of her game.
Billed as "a metaphorical memoir," we are given an autobiography of Lauren Slater, an epileptic who's had a rather extreme surgical procedure performed to counter her epilepsy. It controls the physical aspects-- the seizures-- but hasn't controlled any of the mental. This, of course, is the stuff popular memoirs are made of; the dysfunctional childhood sells.
What Slater brings to the table that sets her apart from the others is that, while there is always the understanding that the memoir is colored by the perceptions of its author, Slater recognizes this as much as any reader, and has decided to play with it-- to the point where the reader (and the person who wrote the cover copy, as well) realize that by the time we reach the first of Slater's revelations that she's written a fantasy as an actual event, we can no longer even be sure she has epilepsy. This opens up whole worlds of discussion in the larger genre of memoir, and that in itself makes Lying a singularly important work in its field; if taken as a greater meditation on memoir, the reader should come away with this book with a new way of looking at the form.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Lauren Slater's book, Lying, may very well be a work of genius. It is beautifully written and existentially profound. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Ernest Presley
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 13 months 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 15 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 15 months ago by CelloReader