White Lies

Everyone tell lies. In many cases, lies, whether severe or small, are used to deceive a person into feeling a certain way. Sometimes, lies are told to benefit not the liar, but the person or people that they are lying to. Other times, lies are told to benefit the liar, like that time in 10th grade when you came home past curfew and your excuse to your parents was that you, “forgot how late it was.”

Now to focus on a liar who entraps her readers by establishing a theme challenging our minds to see what is truth, and what is fiction. Lauren Slater is the main attraction in her “factual” memoir, where she gives us a first row seat to all of her most intimate memories as she grows from a helpless child, to a young woman.

Slater takes a metaphorical approach when tackling the ideal of truth, which is somewhat strange. Throughout the memoir, experiences, stories, and possibly even diseases are directly told to each reader in the forms of lies. And how can we tell that these are all fabrications of the author’s memory? Because she tells us! On page 24 of Lying, she shares with her audience a story, yet prior to her story, she states, “Epilepsy shoots your memory to hell, so take what I say, or don’t. This I think I recall.” By slipping this in before a dark memory, she foreshadows that there is more uncertainty to come in the remainder of the memoir, as well as the theme that she herself doesn’t know if what she is remembering is the truth.

Writers of creative non-fiction struggle to clearly display the validity of their subjects, and it is very important that they do. Since CNF is created by the memories, experiences, and recollections of that author, it is up to them to include as much true content as they can. For many of the best works of CNF are pieces in which the reader can easily develop a relationship with the reader, and a level of intimacy, based on the author’s willingness to share with the reader his/her most intimate moments. Slater takes an interesting position on truth by lying.

By the third part of the memoir, she generates an ample amount of fibs, which instills doubt in the reader. On page 148, Lauren meets with her neurologist. In this part of the book (SPOILER), she has already undergone a procedure in which her corpus callosum is severed. This procedure lowers the severity of her epilepsy, and reduces her seizures, leaving her to mainly suffer from auras, which are dream-like states in which she uses to her advantage to write. During her meeting with the neurologist, he begins to write up a prescription that would cure her auras. Her response: “No.” This again contributes to the suspiciousness of her story, as well as her disease. This build up of invalidity subconsciously instills question in the reader. Slater does this by providing a surplus of detailed recollections of her life.

Since Lauren Slater includes only content from her personal experiences during her youth, it is difficult, from a readers perspective, to believe that no inconsistencies exist in her recollection. This worries me, for the sake of the classification of the genre. The only aspect of CNF that separates it from the rest is it’s truthful content. But what if it is isn’t true? This is up to the author, and at times, readers may never know if the “truth” they are reading, is in fact truth.

One thought on “White Lies

  1. I think the last paragraph is important, we never really know what is nailed down truth in Lauren Slater’s memoir Lying. But I don’t think we have that ability in a lot of creative non-fiction that we read for simple pleasure, but our reliability is what is pulled into question, even thrown in our faces in her memoir. Intimacy is also an interesting idea here, often we gain intimacy by admitting hard truths about ourselves to other people, and that requires a certain amount of vulnerability. Slater gives us vulnerability, but we don’t know if its simulated, so i guess we gain closeness by discerning her lies and actively reading? By engaging the lies with the truths do we learn to care for Slater or do we just test our own sleuthing skills?

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