Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir

by Lauren Slater

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir was published in 2001 by psychologist and writer Lauren Slater. Several of Slater's books deal with mental health issues and are somewhat autobiographical in nature. Slater also prefers to write in first person in her novels, as it at once entices the reader to the narrator's confidence and leads to a more dramatic let-down when narrated events prove to be false. The major themes in Lying are storytelling and the subjectivity of truth.

In brief, the story is told by Lauren Slater, who begins explaining a childhood in which her parents fought regularly and her mother was inattentive. Slater is motivated by this to seek attention by faking seizures (though we don't understand, at first, that they are fake). Slater undergoes neural surgery to repair connective tissue in her brain, leading to a condition wherein she blacks out when closing her left eye. Slater also explains her consistent experiences with "auras" (different from seizures), which are essentially hallucinations, wherein she experiences imaginary sights, smells, and sounds as though they are happening.

Slater's committed and vivid narration stifles the reader's ability to accept that such a description is a ruse. The idea that storytelling is subjective has its roots in literary modernism (and Slater's book has been called postmodernist for its unreliable narrator and dispensing with ordinary forms; part of the novel consists of doctor's reports and "expert" insights into Lauren's unique condition). To the extent that Lauren's storytelling is compelling, it is a successful lie.

Moreover, as the question of whether or not Lauren Slater actually had "real" epilepsy remains open for the reader at the novel's end, what a firm diagnosis would actually mean for the novel is called into question. All truth is subjective, and Slater's diagnosis might actually do little to change Lauren's lived experience or the experience of the reader.

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