Editorial Reviews for this title:
In this powerful and provocative new memoir, award-winning author Lauren Slater forces readers to redraw the boundary between what we know as fact and what we believe through the creation of our own personal fictions. Mixing memoir with mendacity, Slater examines memories of her youth, when after being diagnosed with a strange illness she developed seizures and neurological disturbances-and the compulsion to lie. Openly questioning the reliability of memoir itself, Slater presents the mesmerizing story of a young woman who discovers not only what plagues her but also what cures her-the birth of her sensuality, her creativity as an artist, and storytelling as an act of healing.
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
"The beauty of Lauren Slater's prose is shocking," said Newsday about Welcome to My Country, and now, in this powerful and provocative new book, Slater brilliantly explores a mind, a body, and a life under siege. Diag-nosed as a child with a strange illness, brought up in a family given to fantasy and ambition, Lauren Slater developed seizures, auras, neurological disturbances--and an ability to lie. In Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir, Slater blends a coming-of-age story with an electrifying exploration of the nature of truth, and of whether it is ever possible to tell--or to know--the facts about a self, a human being, a life.
Lying chronicles the doctors, the tests, the seizures, the family embarrassments, even as it explores a sensitive child's illness as both metaphor and a means of attention-getting--a human being's susceptibility to malady, and to storytelling as an act of healing and as part of the quest for love. This mesmerizing memoir openly questions the reliability of memoir itself, the trickiness of the mind in perceiving reality, the slippery nature of illness and diagnosis--the shifting perceptions and images of who we are and what, for God's sake, is the matter with us.
In Lying, Lauren Slater forces us to redraw the boundary between what we know as fact and what we believe we create as fiction. Here a young woman discovers not only what plagues her but also what heals her--the birth of sensuality, her creativity as an artist--in a book that reaffirms how a fine writer can reveal what is common to us all in the course of telling her own unique story.
About Welcome to My Country, the San Francisco Chronicle said, "Every page brims with beautifully rendered images of thoughts, feelings, emotional states." The same can be said about Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir.
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