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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 neurologica 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.


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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 neurologica 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.

30 review for Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Taube

    I absolutely hated this book. But I might be lying when I say I hated this book. Because sometimes a lie is true and sometimes a lie is just a flat out lie. Sometimes a lie is liminal and sneaky, a covert sort of veracity, a very Heideggerian truth, a Stephen Colbert "truthiness" sort of truth. It is a parlor trick predicated on a delicate tissue of confabulations and exaggerations. Oh, and did I mention the fact that I am a former supermodel? This may, or may not be true. But I "feel" as if I m I absolutely hated this book. But I might be lying when I say I hated this book. Because sometimes a lie is true and sometimes a lie is just a flat out lie. Sometimes a lie is liminal and sneaky, a covert sort of veracity, a very Heideggerian truth, a Stephen Colbert "truthiness" sort of truth. It is a parlor trick predicated on a delicate tissue of confabulations and exaggerations. Oh, and did I mention the fact that I am a former supermodel? This may, or may not be true. But I "feel" as if I may have been a supermodel, so in a larger metaphorical sense I very well may have been a supermodel. There you go.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jim Elkins

    Uninteresting Lies Slater is controversial for her mixture of truth and fiction: this book is a memoir about her epilepsy, but apparently she did not have epilepsy; in another book, she has written novelized histories of actual psychological experiments. She also presents herself as a liar, saying at first it is a typical symptom of epilepsy, but then, when it emerges that she may not have been an epileptic, the lying becomes a narrative strategy for getting at underlying truths. Slater has been r Uninteresting Lies Slater is controversial for her mixture of truth and fiction: this book is a memoir about her epilepsy, but apparently she did not have epilepsy; in another book, she has written novelized histories of actual psychological experiments. She also presents herself as a liar, saying at first it is a typical symptom of epilepsy, but then, when it emerges that she may not have been an epileptic, the lying becomes a narrative strategy for getting at underlying truths. Slater has been reviewed and discussed widely, but mainly outside literary circles. I can think of several reasons why she hasn't been reviewed as a serious fiction writer: 1. Her strategy of "lying" is only controversial if the books are read as nonfiction or as historical scholarship. The blending of fiction and nonfiction "to get to the heart of things" (p. 219; cp. p. 192) is not controversial in the domain of writing. What novel isn't about "narrative truth"? What memoir isn't entwined with fiction? What history isn't narrated? What story isn't a lie? Slater's book is peppered with undergraduate-style allusions to "postmodernism," Heidegger, and others, as justifications for what she's doing: but the very presence of those gestures shows how far she is from literary practice. There are no references to Barth, Barthelme, Auster, Angela Carter, Muriel Spark, and others who have asked the same questions. (Not to mention Ali Smith: wonder if Slater has seen her speech at http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/...?) 2. Her writing lacks nuance. It's black and white, and the emotions and scenes are sensationalist. In one episode, her mother berates a hotel pianist for having "heavy hands," and he asks her to sit down and play in his place. Everyone watches as the narrator's mother sits at the piano with a great flourish, and then realizes she actually can't play anything except rudimentary melodies. Her mother then retreats in silence. The next line in the book informs us that Slater had her first epileptic fit that night. There are few scenes in the book that end ambiguously. Slater doesn't evoke or suggest: she dramatizes. The emotional temperature is on high from the first page to the last. 3. She isn't especially reflective, even about ideas that are central to the book. There are a couple of pages in which deeper concerns are voiced, but they pass by quickly. In one scene her doctor is interested to learn that she has become interested in religious issues. She gets annoyed at being compared to Saint Teresa and others, because that would mean that her illness was creating her interest. Is religion itself a symptom? she asks. "Look," the doctor answers, "it's no an either/or thing. Who knows, maybe the disease is God's way of reaching certain people." (p. 201) His thoughts, and her reactions, go to the heart of difficult issues about faith and mental states, and they should be central for Slater, but she has nothing else to say about them. It's almost as if Slater can't keep her mind on the problem. Perhaps it would be better if she wrote about just one day, preferably an uneventful day, and her attempts to understand it. It's clear she has been struggling to understand her life, and it is a sign of her distress that what counts as understanding a problem is usually coming to a workable solution. Often, I think, that's what she has needed. But it's not what readers need, unless of course they are reading her books as self-help manuals -- in which case they will be annoyed, as they often have been, by her so-called "lying." A deeper, more interesting lie, is the one that presents this book as reflective fiction.

  3. 5 out of 5

    mark

    Okay, Perspectives change - sometimes. This is my 2nd reading. Twenty years apart. "Things" change. People? Not so much, but hopefully we get wiser? Anyway ... from 3 stars to five. ... Lying is a thing people do. It has been a subject and action, central to my understanding of communication, between and within persons nearly all my life. Because of reasons not pertinent to this review. Lying (2000) is a memoir by Lauren Slater published twenty years ago, when she was 37. It's a beautiful, fascinati Okay, Perspectives change - sometimes. This is my 2nd reading. Twenty years apart. "Things" change. People? Not so much, but hopefully we get wiser? Anyway ... from 3 stars to five. ... Lying is a thing people do. It has been a subject and action, central to my understanding of communication, between and within persons nearly all my life. Because of reasons not pertinent to this review. Lying (2000) is a memoir by Lauren Slater published twenty years ago, when she was 37. It's a beautiful, fascinating story. I first read it right after it came out, along with her previous memoir Prozac diary (1998). Ironically - it's probably as close to honest as any book ever. Especially memoirs and biographies. In it she confesses to exaggeration and plain fabrication. However, in my opinion, she's being honest. Far more than most. Lying In Wait is an essay Slater wrote for TIME (June 22/29, 2020) concerning the current COVID-19 pandemic we all find ourselves, like-it-or-not, affected by. Together they make for a fascinating study of the human condition. From at least the last six decades, or from the early 60's to the present. Albeit from the prospective of a complex, white female American - smart, well-educated, and very clever. Slater was diagnosed at age ten with epilepsy. Subsequently, she's been diagnosed as having a "borderline personality disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, and as bipolar, Munchausen's, OCD, depression, and once, even, as autism. Autism!" (pg. 220. Lying) In Lying, the author (I think correctly) takes down, or maybe just throws shade on, the Fields of: Publishing/writing, Education, Health care, and for sure, if not a Field, certainly something all of us have experienced - parenting. She had a narcissistic (read bad) mother, questionable (read fashionable) medical care, and an exploitive (read sexually abusive) mentor. All during her formative years (read before age eighteen), and yet, managed to spin that into a lucrative professional writing career and an 80 acre farm. She attributes this to a school she was sent to, at age thirteen, to learn "how to fall". And yet ... she's still complaining. Or maybe just worried and sad. Something she's been most all her life. Being Alone and isolated Slater says she is, now more than ever. Because of the government ordered shutdown and social distancing. She's lost control. We all have, to greater or lesser extents. However, some cope better than others. Expectations are related to happiness. A balance between one's expectations and realistic outcomes is said by some Psychologists (to include my psych-girl) to be the best prescription for happiness. An imbalance, or "unrealistic expectations", can lead one to all sorts of maladaptive states, i.e. trouble. With a capital T. In other words, physical, psychological, and/or emotional pain. Pain hurts. And that leads one to seek relief. Relief comes in many different forms. Such as lying. Along with drinking, drugs, exercise, work, sex, religion, cults, anger, rage, abuse, etc. and so on. Said another way: war within and war without. There is just no escape. Lying Works lest we all wouldn't do it. To one extent or another. I don't like it; but am trying to get better at it, on advice from my healthcare provider.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Erika B. (SOS BOOKS)

    "Come with me, reader. I am toying with you, yes, but for a real reason. I am asking you to enter the confusion with me, to give up the ground with me, because sometimes that frightening floaty place is really the truest of all. Kierkegaard says, "The greatest lie of all is the feeling of firmness beneath our feet. We are at our most when we are lost." Enter that lostness with me. Live in the place I am, where the view is murky, where the connecting bridges and orienting maps have been surgicall "Come with me, reader. I am toying with you, yes, but for a real reason. I am asking you to enter the confusion with me, to give up the ground with me, because sometimes that frightening floaty place is really the truest of all. Kierkegaard says, "The greatest lie of all is the feeling of firmness beneath our feet. We are at our most when we are lost." Enter that lostness with me. Live in the place I am, where the view is murky, where the connecting bridges and orienting maps have been surgically stripped away. Together we will journey. We are disoriented, and all we ever really want is a hand to hold. I am so happy you are holding me in your hands. I am sitting far aways from you, but when you turn the pages, I feel a flutter in me, and wings rise up." -(163) HOLY COW LAUREN SLATER. What did I just read? I admit that this has been a book that I have been waiting to read since my professor discussed it in my autobiography/memoir class. Thanks Dr. Funda-for taking me to school even during the summer time. I don't know what is fact or fiction anymore, but that was probably the point. This is Slater's memoir on living with epilepsy, Munchausen's, kleptomania, perhaps even schizophrenia...or perhaps she doesn't have any of those. She is upfront that she is lying but also that she is weaving the truth of HER reality. I think that the only TRUTH I could pull from this is Slater is an amazing writer. She's a poet and pulls you in and out of her narrative multiple times. You take her hand and follow her down the rabbit hole, and then once you find yourself comfortable she pulls you back out and tells you, "Just kidding. That didn't really happen." And I loved it. The only thing I struggled with in this book was her story of her affair with a married man. It was uncomfortable at times but now that I'm typing this out...it is a real possibility that it didn't actually happen! O gersh! I'll be thinking about this one for awhile...book hangover here I come. "...I read a book by William James, and like any good book, it did not teach me something new, but drew out the wisdom that was already there, inside me. William talks about there being two kinds of will. Will A and Will B, I call it. Will A is what we all learn, the hold your head high, stuff it down, swallow your sobs, work hard kind of will. Will B, while it seems a slacker thing, is actually harder to have. It's a willingness instead of a willfulness, an ability to take life on life's terms as opposed to putting up a big fight. It's about being bendable, not brittle, a person who is brave enough to try to ride the waves instead of trying to stop them. Will B is what you need in order to learn to fall. It's the kind of will my mother never taught me, and yours probably never taught you either. It's a secret greater than sex; it's a spiritual thing. Will B is not passive. It means an active acceptance, a say yes, and you have to have a voice and courage if you want to learn it. If you know Will B, you know your life." (53) Erika's Amazon Link

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    This was a tricky book to read, because the author/narrator tells you right off the bat that maaaaaaybe she made some things up and maaaaaybe she didn't. Which is, I guess, the truth about most memoirs, but Slater likes to remind you now and then that what you just read might have only happened in her mind. Very tricksy, but not as off-putting as it might sound. This self-consciousness comes off less as po-mo defense tactics than honest representation, because central to the memoir is her seizur This was a tricky book to read, because the author/narrator tells you right off the bat that maaaaaaybe she made some things up and maaaaaybe she didn't. Which is, I guess, the truth about most memoirs, but Slater likes to remind you now and then that what you just read might have only happened in her mind. Very tricksy, but not as off-putting as it might sound. This self-consciousness comes off less as po-mo defense tactics than honest representation, because central to the memoir is her seizure disorder, which, though a physiological condition, can deep affect perception and psychology. If you just let her tell the story the way she wants, you still perhaps better access her feelings, her insecurities, her personal truths. So in a way it's a memoir about memoir-writing. I keep defending it because it is geniunely interesting, but sometimes it makes me batty trying to decide if it was freshman b.s. or genius.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Angie

    Slater is an excellent writer. I liked the play between fact and fiction and her central theme that one can get to the essence of truth through fiction--especially when a ficticious situation is used as an extended metaphor--as opposed to fact. I enjoyed the first quarter of the book. After that it devolved into narcissism and she belabors the "Am I lying? Am I not? Does it matter?" game that she plays with her reader. She claims this book is about her relationship with her mom (primarily) and m Slater is an excellent writer. I liked the play between fact and fiction and her central theme that one can get to the essence of truth through fiction--especially when a ficticious situation is used as an extended metaphor--as opposed to fact. I enjoyed the first quarter of the book. After that it devolved into narcissism and she belabors the "Am I lying? Am I not? Does it matter?" game that she plays with her reader. She claims this book is about her relationship with her mom (primarily) and mental illness (secondarily). I think that is it primarily about mental illness (trying to figure out what is wrong with herself--epilepsy, depression, etc.) and secondarily about her complicated, troublesome self-loathing/love affair with herself.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Amber Tidwell

    unreliable narrators are the best!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jeanne

    I've read and liked at least one and probably two of Lauren Slater's other books. Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir? Not as much, although I very much like the ideas behind it and would like it as an essay. I'm not sure if this is her book being stylistically different or me having different preferences. Slater's memoir is a lie – and it is truthful. Does she have epilepsy, which was partially cured by a corpus callostomy? Was she faking her seizures (if they even happened)? Does it matter? Slater arg I've read and liked at least one and probably two of Lauren Slater's other books. Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir? Not as much, although I very much like the ideas behind it and would like it as an essay. I'm not sure if this is her book being stylistically different or me having different preferences. Slater's memoir is a lie – and it is truthful. Does she have epilepsy, which was partially cured by a corpus callostomy? Was she faking her seizures (if they even happened)? Does it matter? Slater argues that it doesn't. This book is a metaphor: Alcoholism can stand in for epilepsy, the same way epilepsy can stand in for depression, for disintegration, for self-hatred, for the unspeakable dirt between a mother and a daughter; sometimes you just don’t know how to say the pain directly— I do not know how to say the pain directly, I never have— and I often tell myself it really doesn’t matter, because either way, any way, the brain shivers and craves, cracked open. (pp. 203-204) I'm less sure that it doesn't matter what is true, even though I believe that our stories matter more than the actual facts. That your mother died tells me very little, but that you have told me a particular story about your mother's death tells me a whole lot. And yet, reading Lying tells me that it is important – to me – to situate the story in some context, something like the facts. If you tell me that your mother never loved you – while all the evidence points elsewhere, that says something, right? What Slater's story tells me, in brief, is that she felt broken and believed she would be more whole if she received attention and was accepted by others, that she repeatedly sought attention (often being hurt in the process), but ultimately healed herself in a warm and supportive group where people knew her truth, even if they didn't know the Truth. Her story is one of wanting to be seen, while hiding and dissembling. Perhaps my favorite part of Lying is her descriptions of coping with stressors. One can stand strong or fall. [Standing strong] is what we all learn, the hold your head high, stuff it down, swallow your sobs, work hard kind of will. [This second kind of will,] Will B, while it seems a slacker thing, is actually harder to have. It’s a willingness instead of a willfulness, an ability to take life on life’s terms as opposed to putting up a big fight. It’s about being bendable, not brittle, a person who is brave enough to try to ride the waves instead of trying to stop them. Will B is what you need in order to learn to fall. It’s the kind of will my mother never taught me, and yours probably never taught you either. It’s a secret greater than sex; it’s a spiritual thing. Will B is not passive. It means an active acceptance, a say yes, and you have to have a voice and courage if you want to learn it. (p. 53). The truth or one part of it might be that Slater was raised by wolves, damaged, and not given the skills to handle the stressors she faced in life. Adults failed her, yet ultimately, as she approached adulthood, she saved herself.

  9. 4 out of 5

    V

    (Homework response, November 7th, 2011) Lauren Slater is trying to challenge the reader's concepts of reality and truth in her book Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir. The idea of the story potentially being false is first presented in the introduction, which is written by a fictional psychologist. I think it is interesting that she included this, because if she hadn't, the reveal of her potential lie about epilepsy would have come more gradual. The first place where she admits to adding something to t (Homework response, November 7th, 2011) Lauren Slater is trying to challenge the reader's concepts of reality and truth in her book Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir. The idea of the story potentially being false is first presented in the introduction, which is written by a fictional psychologist. I think it is interesting that she included this, because if she hadn't, the reveal of her potential lie about epilepsy would have come more gradual. The first place where she admits to adding something to the story was in chapter three when she embellishes the story by falling into the grave, and then quickly confesses that that did not literally happen. I liked how she goes on from there to gradually make us question more sections of the narrative, such as the paper that may or may not have been written by her neurologist, and culminating with her even implying that she might have been lying about epilepsy this whole time. However I felt like the introduction might have undercut this accumulation by being too open about the possibility of the epilepsy being false. Perhaps she felt it was necessary to prevent people from trusting the narrator too much in the beginning, since she does say that when she handed the draft to strangers they took it too literally. In true postmodern from, she includes different types of narrative in this book, which I enjoyed. These include the introduction by the fictional psychologist, Hayward Krieger, the paper which may or may not have been written by her neurologist Dr. Neu and the letter she addressed to her publisher on how to market this book. Each of these sections serve to question the nature to truth in the narrative. I already talked about the introduction and touched on the Dr. Neu letter. The letter she addressed to her publisher lays out some of her intentions in writing this book, including the purposeful ambiguity. She includes three ways that the book can be read, without hinting at which one is literally true. Also, she points out that she is not a fact and that metaphor can reveal character that fact cannot. At the end of the letter, she is almost pleading with the publisher to publish it as nonfiction, which is similar to how she pleads with the reader in the last chapter. This plead on her readers comes tied in the with AA members who think Lauren is in denial of her alcoholism. I was intrigued by Sandy's analysis that they portrayed that way to show that were unable to see any truth other than their own. Elaine says “Denial always kicks in when we get too close to the truth,” implying that they view the truth as absolute and objective. She swiftly turns from the AA retreat to addressing the reader, both denying that she had epilepsy and begging us to believe that she does have epilepsy.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca H.

    I couldn’t decide for a while whether I loved or hated Lauren Slater’s book Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir. Finally, maybe a quarter of the way into it, I decided I loved it and I never changed my mind again. But it’s the kind of book I would think carefully about before I recommended it to anyone, as it strikes me as potentially hateable. It seems that Slater has a talent for stirring up controversy (whether this is what she intends or not, I’m not sure). My first introduction to her was the 2006 I couldn’t decide for a while whether I loved or hated Lauren Slater’s book Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir. Finally, maybe a quarter of the way into it, I decided I loved it and I never changed my mind again. But it’s the kind of book I would think carefully about before I recommended it to anyone, as it strikes me as potentially hateable. It seems that Slater has a talent for stirring up controversy (whether this is what she intends or not, I’m not sure). My first introduction to her was the 2006 edition of The Best American Essays where she was the year’s guest editor. Her introduction to the anthology told the story of how her book Opening Skinner’s Box provoked all kinds of anger from all kinds of people, but especially professional psychologists, of which she is one herself. Apparently, people didn’t like her portrayal of famous psychological experiments, and they disliked it enough to start an email listserve called “Slater-Hater,” which she followed for a while. The openness with which she discussed this episode, which surely was extremely painful, impressed me, and I’ve been intrigued by her ever since. So, as you can guess from the title, Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir is no traditional memoir; instead, it’s a book where she claims to have epilepsy, but also refuses to tell you whether that’s actually true or not. It might just be a metaphor for something else she is trying to communicate about her life, something about mental illness. She describes the experience of epilepsy in great detail, though, telling about her first seizures and the process of figuring out the disease, describing the various forms of treatment she received, and describing the way she would pretend to have seizures or purposely induce seizures for dramatic effect. The most dramatic part of the book comes when she describes surgery to have her corpus callosum severed — the part of the brain that connects the right and left hemispheres. Her doctor believed that this wouldn’t cure her fully but would cut down dramatically on the number and severity of the seizures, which is did — or which she says it did. It also left her with some strange side effects, such as not being able to read with her left eye closed, since the right side of the brain processes language. Read the rest of the review at

  11. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. SPOILER ALERT: This is my favorite part... Secretly each and every one of us longs to fall, and knows in a deep wise place in our brains that surrender is the means by which we gain, not lose, our lives. We know this, and that is why we have bad backs and pulled necks and throbbing pain between our shoulder blades. We want to go down, and it hurts to fight the force of gravity... William James talks about two kinds of will. Will A and Will B, I call it. Will A is what we all learn, the hold your h SPOILER ALERT: This is my favorite part... Secretly each and every one of us longs to fall, and knows in a deep wise place in our brains that surrender is the means by which we gain, not lose, our lives. We know this, and that is why we have bad backs and pulled necks and throbbing pain between our shoulder blades. We want to go down, and it hurts to fight the force of gravity... William James talks about two kinds of will. Will A and Will B, I call it. Will A is what we all learn, the hold your head high, stuff it down, swallow your sobs, work hard kind of will. Will B, while it seems a slacker thing, is actually harder to have. It’s a willingness instead of a willfulness, an ability to take life on life’s terms as opposed to putting up a big fight. It’s about being bendable, not brittle, a person who is brave enough to try to ride the waves instead of trying to stop them. Will B is what you need in order to learn to fall. It’s the kind of will my mother never taught me, and yours probably never taught you either. It’s a secret greater than sex; it’s a spiritual thing. Will B is not passive. It means an active acceptance, a say yes, and you have to have a voice and courage if you want to learn it. If you know will be you know your life. You know what my mother never learned. That it is only by entering emptiness and ugliness, not by covering it up with feathers and sprays, that you find a balance so true, no one can take it away.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas Montemarano

    I can understand why someone would love this book and why someone else (especially someone who has written a more straightforward memoir of illness) might absolutely hate it, given Slater's blatant, almost aggressive blurring of the line between memoir and fiction, but I'm an enthusiastic member of the former camp rather than the latter. I can't say, based on how she comes across as a character on the page, that I'd want to spend time with the author, but that's really none of my business as a r I can understand why someone would love this book and why someone else (especially someone who has written a more straightforward memoir of illness) might absolutely hate it, given Slater's blatant, almost aggressive blurring of the line between memoir and fiction, but I'm an enthusiastic member of the former camp rather than the latter. I can't say, based on how she comes across as a character on the page, that I'd want to spend time with the author, but that's really none of my business as a reader. What matters is that I loved spending time with her on the page; couldn't put the book down. And the writing, sentence by sentence, is super.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Vincent Scarpa

    “Is metaphor in memoir, in life, an alternate form of honesty or simply an evasion? This is what I want to know.”

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kristina

    Loved it!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Cassie

    If you’re writing a thesis in memoir or essays, I HIGHLY recommend this. So so much

  16. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    I really enjoyed reading Lauren Slater’s Lying because of the range of experimentation within the text. The problem I often have with memoir is the tendency some writers have to be overly poignant and important about their life stories. Personally, I’m not a real fan of that type of memoir. That’s why I really appreciated Slater’s ability to tell her story with a really specific kind of coherence and intelligence. She is able to look at the experiences within her life from a critical as well as I really enjoyed reading Lauren Slater’s Lying because of the range of experimentation within the text. The problem I often have with memoir is the tendency some writers have to be overly poignant and important about their life stories. Personally, I’m not a real fan of that type of memoir. That’s why I really appreciated Slater’s ability to tell her story with a really specific kind of coherence and intelligence. She is able to look at the experiences within her life from a critical as well as personal point of view. The fact that she acknowledges that memory and perspective can be flawed and gives multiple suggestions throughout the memoir of what the truth might be gave me a lot of food for thought. These ideas also helped me construct my own first essay for this class in which I too question the idea of what is real and what is not. In other words, Slater’s book gave me an awful lot to think about, as well as things that will contribute to my own work. I loved the moments of experimentation within the text. For example the one line “I exaggerate” that makes up an entire chapter. Separating specific lines and phrases is a trick often used in more experimental poetry as well, so I am always interested in works that play with structure and format. Other great moments are when Slater introduces academic or scientific language into the text. An example of this would be chapter five, which reads like a scientific study or case study. It made me think about how illness can bring these things which most people never read or think about unless in the field of science or medicine, to the forefront of people’s lives. All of a sudden these complex words, facts, statistics, and ideas manifest themselves in a person’s actual life, in reality. It can be an overwhelming thing. It also reminds me of the two friends I’ve had who became doctors. As they went through their training they both sort of became hypochondriacs, convinced they had a different incurable disease every other week. Of course, they knew it wasn’t true, but one of them admitted to me once that reading and learning about the horrible things that can happen to the human body makes you worried about what is going on in your own at the same time. To get back on track a bit, another style move that I loved was the times in the text when Slater used numbered lists. This happens, for example, in chapter seven which is basically a large list and also a letter from Slater to her editor on marketing the book. It’s one of my favorite chapters in the book. On the one hand, it’s kind of hilarious and fun to think that someone would actually write this kind of quirky random letter to an actual editor at a publishing house. On the other hand, it is kind of scary sometimes, how odd we writers can be, both in professional and personal lives, and how those lives can so often intersect when we’re not paying enough attention and keeping them in line—Or is it when we’re paying too much attention?—in any case, writers are a bunch of odd birds and god knows what editors think about some of us in our stranger moments. I guess that’s the fun thing about lying in fact and Lying the book...Slater shows us that there is room for experimentation in both as well as truth in both.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Laura Wallace

    it's impossible to know if I would like this book so much had I not read it as a young teenager. it was one of the first meta-books (metafiction? metamemoir? meta-metaphorical memoir?) I ever read. plus Slater's sentences are silky-smooth, the kind I loved back then. Lying is in my head in a major way and I always enjoy rereading it. I have since known several pathological liars, including one who probably has Munchausen's, so Slater's book has taken on the additional aspect of giving me an insi it's impossible to know if I would like this book so much had I not read it as a young teenager. it was one of the first meta-books (metafiction? metamemoir? meta-metaphorical memoir?) I ever read. plus Slater's sentences are silky-smooth, the kind I loved back then. Lying is in my head in a major way and I always enjoy rereading it. I have since known several pathological liars, including one who probably has Munchausen's, so Slater's book has taken on the additional aspect of giving me an insider's (well, maybe) perspective on mythomania. but of course her sly, cunning perspective is that lying/Munchausen's is intimately tied to her epilepsy-if-she-even-has-that which is intimately tied to her creative drives and talents, but of course she's also parodying illness memoirs that might contain such comforting hypotheses, but then she's also I think actually criticizing the idea that people get better or that your sick self isn't your real self. nevertheless I don't feel as betrayed or taken advantage of by this book the way some people have been (see http://www.nytimes.com/2000/07/31/bus... ). also props to Slater for introducing me to the Sharon Olds poem "First Sex" which I later memorized and recited in a poetry workshop, humorously mirroring the scene in the book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mert

    3/5 Stars (%65/100) I hear you ask "how can a memoir be metaphorical?." Well, the book actually explores this idea. If a work has fiction in it then it can't be autobiographical or vice versa. However, this is not always true. There are many types of life narratives (not autobiographies) and this is an interesting one. From the title and the beginning, we understand that all the things in the book might be a lie after all. Well, they might be true as well, or some of them are true. We don't really 3/5 Stars (%65/100) I hear you ask "how can a memoir be metaphorical?." Well, the book actually explores this idea. If a work has fiction in it then it can't be autobiographical or vice versa. However, this is not always true. There are many types of life narratives (not autobiographies) and this is an interesting one. From the title and the beginning, we understand that all the things in the book might be a lie after all. Well, they might be true as well, or some of them are true. We don't really get an answer so don't expect to find out if she is telling the truth or not. Slater claims that she has a mental illness and this causes her to mix reality and fiction. How do we know for sure that she has an illness? We don't. However, the way she talks about it makes you believe her. She reminded me of the trickster type. You know that trickster lie but you believe them anyways because they make it believable. In general, I liked the book. However, towards the end of the book, the lying thing started to become annoying and then finally the book ended. It was good overall because it was very different than other memoirs and life narratives. Very original and postmodern but not extremely good.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Mckeel

    I absolutely adored this memoir, but perhaps it's not for everyone. "Lying" is the coming of age story of Lauren Slater and describes her battle with epilepsy and the attendant neurological and psychological symptoms, which include a tendency to exaggerate and lie. Throughout the memoir Slater is up front about the fact that she is blending fact and fiction and is using epilepsy as a metaphor for her mind and the things she is struggling with. So you're never quite clear what is "fact" and what I absolutely adored this memoir, but perhaps it's not for everyone. "Lying" is the coming of age story of Lauren Slater and describes her battle with epilepsy and the attendant neurological and psychological symptoms, which include a tendency to exaggerate and lie. Throughout the memoir Slater is up front about the fact that she is blending fact and fiction and is using epilepsy as a metaphor for her mind and the things she is struggling with. So you're never quite clear what is "fact" and what is "fiction," what is actually true. You don't exactly know when she is lying. I wasn't bothered by this, as the memoir feels very emotionally authentic and also because Slater addresses the way she is writing the memoir very deliberately throughout. Part of the project of the memoir is an inquiry into the nature of truth and metaphor. What I really loved about this memoir is how honest it is and the emotional depth Slater plumbs. The honesty is intense and refreshing and there's a lot of wisdom in this memoir. The structure of the memoir is a little quirky but for the most part it is a linear narrative, with a few interruptions. I thought it was awesome.

  20. 5 out of 5

    mis fit

    Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir is a memoir about growing up with epilepsy... or maybe not. Though ostensibly a work of nonfiction, this isn't as straightforward as your average living-with-illness memoir. What happens when the narrator has an admitted penchant for “exaggerating”? Very interesting things!! Seizing is grabbing for something, wanting to take hold of it. It's about Slater's empty mouth, chewed up and raw, a hunger so violent she's eating her own tongue. Slater does a lot of longing thr Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir is a memoir about growing up with epilepsy... or maybe not. Though ostensibly a work of nonfiction, this isn't as straightforward as your average living-with-illness memoir. What happens when the narrator has an admitted penchant for “exaggerating”? Very interesting things!! Seizing is grabbing for something, wanting to take hold of it. It's about Slater's empty mouth, chewed up and raw, a hunger so violent she's eating her own tongue. Slater does a lot of longing throughout the book, and this is what I most relate to: her mixed-up, tumultuous striving. (Lots of connections can be made between this one and Appetites: Why Women Want by Caroline Knapp, who is also awesome). There is some seriously beautiful storytelling going on here, especially with regards to the author's relationship with her mother. Anyways, looking forward to Slater's other stuff....

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kyle

    If you said to me, "Who is your favorite writer?" I would probably say Ursula K. Le Guin. But if you then clarified a bit and said, "No, I mean, whose writing is so surprisingly and shockingly well crafted that you can't read it without feeling like you just stepped into a puddle of ice water?" I would say, "Oh, duh. You mean Lauren Slater. She's the best. Like, she might actually be *the* best."

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mary Lynn

    Very interesting format, style, and beautifully written. Is it a novel; is it a memoir; are these facts, or fictions? Slater's text refuses to be bullied into categorization. I recommend this for anyone interested in the storytelling trade. (Also: a lot of great insight into temporal lobe epilepsy, metaphorical or not.)

  23. 5 out of 5

    Henry Barry

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book, simply because I spent the entire time thinking to myself: "What in the world is this crazy lady going to do next?" Slater completely succeeds in her goal of blurring the line between fiction and memoir, making a very interesting story. I was able to read this in an afternoon, and loved the fast pacing.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    At the end of reading this, I put the book down and realised that I still have no idea whether this is a memoir or a novel. Which means that Slater accomplished what she set out to do. Fascinating reading, be it fact or fiction.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mamie

    An amazing mind [email protected]#k .

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer O'Kelly

    This wasn't a good book. I ordered it at a time when I was very interested in the notion of personal narrative building - the place of fiction in constructing an identity and understanding our own lives, particularly in instances of somewhat disrupted consciousness, as in the case of certain personality disorders or mental illnesses. 'Lying' seemed an ideal read. Slater describes the book as a "metaphorical memoir". She sets out to blur the lines between memoir and fiction, publishing as non-fic This wasn't a good book. I ordered it at a time when I was very interested in the notion of personal narrative building - the place of fiction in constructing an identity and understanding our own lives, particularly in instances of somewhat disrupted consciousness, as in the case of certain personality disorders or mental illnesses. 'Lying' seemed an ideal read. Slater describes the book as a "metaphorical memoir". She sets out to blur the lines between memoir and fiction, publishing as non-fiction a book that admits to the inclusion many non-truths, while insisting that this is more truthful because it is narrative, not fact, that really gets "to the heart" of who we are. She acknowledges that the blurring of fact and fiction is commonplace in memoirs and novels, but seems to attempt to do something more daring by insisting upon the autobiographical accuracy and non-fiction status of a text that is explicitly packed with untruthful narrative constructions. Add to this her metaphor: the impact of epilepsy upon self-understanding, behaviour and memory. This is the basis for her insistence that a memoir full of lies is the only kind she could write, because this reflects her own slippery life experience. It is an experience shaped both by seizures and an accompanying personality disorder which leads her to lie frequently and intensely - albeit, in a way she claims reflects who she really is more than the facts. In the execution however, Slater is clearly so impressed by the potential cleverness of this idea that she loses all grace and subtlety, as well as any trust in the intelligence of her reader. She shakes the strings with which she pulls her puppets so violently in the face of her audience that she may as well be screaming "look what I'm doing!" "look how intelligent this is!" She is brash. She leaves no room for ideas to breathe or for readers to become engaged with her project on their own terms. The things is this: the idea that fiction has a role to play in our self-understanding and expression is an intriguing but not an original one. The blurry lines between fiction and memoir are similarly interesting. A project that plays with those lines and explores the implications with regard to altered experience under illness, or not, has the potential to be challenging, insightful and illuminating. To achieve this however, you have to actually play with the lines. It is not sufficient to simply point out that the lines are there and expect this in itself to be revelatory. Readers deserve more depth than that and the topic requires it. For me, Slater's thin approach in the handling of these ideas leaves us with little more than an irritating central character with a bloated sense of her own intrigue and importance and falls very much short of delivering the required depth to make this book satisfying.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Xandria

    I know that a lot of people in reading this book felt frustrated because we don't know whether the author is lying or not. But for me, it didn't matter if she was lying or not. Besides, how do we know that other people who are writing their memoirs aren't lying? We don't. There's no true way of knowing, unless I guess they pass a polygraph while reading their memoir. But even that can get shady. Whether or not Slater has epilepsy isn't what interested me. It's not something I obsessed about. Ins I know that a lot of people in reading this book felt frustrated because we don't know whether the author is lying or not. But for me, it didn't matter if she was lying or not. Besides, how do we know that other people who are writing their memoirs aren't lying? We don't. There's no true way of knowing, unless I guess they pass a polygraph while reading their memoir. But even that can get shady. Whether or not Slater has epilepsy isn't what interested me. It's not something I obsessed about. Instead, I understood that if she had epilepsy, she suffered. If she didn't have epilepsy, she suffered. I understood that her experiences were traumatic and whether one disease be the root cause or another, I can read it metaphorically and even literally as someone dealing with a disease. I can see the suffering and the trauma endured, I can read about the rehabilitation and the struggle to find authenticity in oneself. I can appreciate her alleged experiences because lying is part of the human experience; suffering is part of the human experience; disease and sickness are part of the human experience. Other than her mother, Slater's main antagonist can be herself. And don't we all know how that feels like? Whether its our body or mind betraying us, our tendency to lie to ourselves, etc. It all fits. Slater has a tremendous gift with words and each page is absolutely spellbinding. I fell into her words so easily; she kept me completely entranced. I think that the reader must follow Slater's advice for enjoying the book and not getting too wound up if she's lying about details or not: "William talks about there being two kinds of will. Will A and Will B, I call it. Will A is what we all learn, the hold your head high, stuff it down, swallow your sobs, work hard kind of will. Will B, while it seems a slacker thing, is actually harder to have. It’s a willingness instead of a willfulness, an ability to take life on life’s terms as opposed to putting up a big fight. It’s about being bendable, not brittle, a person who is brave enough to try to ride the waves instead of trying to stop them. Will B is what you need in order to learn to fall." So if you read this book, let yourself fall. Fall into the narrative, fall into the story, fall into the metaphor. But don't fight it; don't try to figure out what is a lie and what isn't.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Eryn

    This book is as hard to rate on a five-star scale as it is to figure out what "really happens." Slater does remind us constantly that everything she's saying could be a lie. But I didn't truly get into her frame of mind until the end, when Slater lays out her "motto" with such clear, solid language it'd be hard to miss. As much as I bumbled my way through this memoir, I ultimately liked it. The writing was strong, the formatting was interesting (it had a letter to her actual editor on how to mar This book is as hard to rate on a five-star scale as it is to figure out what "really happens." Slater does remind us constantly that everything she's saying could be a lie. But I didn't truly get into her frame of mind until the end, when Slater lays out her "motto" with such clear, solid language it'd be hard to miss. As much as I bumbled my way through this memoir, I ultimately liked it. The writing was strong, the formatting was interesting (it had a letter to her actual editor on how to market the book in the middle; pretty entertaining to me, as a person in publishing), and the ending rang true. It also reminded me of my favorite quote from the Harry Potter series: "Of course this is happening inside your head. But why on earth should that mean that it is not real?" Considering how much I think about that line regularly, perhaps Lauren Slater and I have more in common than I thought.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    A fascinating "metaphorical memoir" that straddles the line between fact and fiction. Slater rigorously investigates the power of narrative to shape her life story into something that feels, to her, more true than the facts. I love her inclusion of so many narrative forms: medical abstracts, interviews, confessions - all forms of professional or "authentic" telling that we often assume to be true. "Diagnosis itself is a narrative phenomenon," she says, speaking of the different ways that science A fascinating "metaphorical memoir" that straddles the line between fact and fiction. Slater rigorously investigates the power of narrative to shape her life story into something that feels, to her, more true than the facts. I love her inclusion of so many narrative forms: medical abstracts, interviews, confessions - all forms of professional or "authentic" telling that we often assume to be true. "Diagnosis itself is a narrative phenomenon," she says, speaking of the different ways that science has explained the same mental, neurological and physical disorders over time. The epilepsy she claims to have in Lying is at times a true illness and at other times simply a metaphor, a constantly shifting reality that comes close to capturing the complex process of turning our life experiences into "true" stories we can share.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I loved this book. Lauren Slater writes so beautifully, and the material was so engaging. Did she have epilepsy? How do truth and memory and “fact” work in a memoir, or even just in our own understandings of our selves? I really appreciated the various methods she applied in how she formatted the text. The 4 main sections, broken up into chapters. Chapters made of numerical lists, or of excerpts (real or not?) from other sources. The over-arching structure was strong enough to support those smal I loved this book. Lauren Slater writes so beautifully, and the material was so engaging. Did she have epilepsy? How do truth and memory and “fact” work in a memoir, or even just in our own understandings of our selves? I really appreciated the various methods she applied in how she formatted the text. The 4 main sections, broken up into chapters. Chapters made of numerical lists, or of excerpts (real or not?) from other sources. The over-arching structure was strong enough to support those smaller, more experimental sections. And I really liked that she directly dealt with the natures of truth, metaphor, memory, etc in the text, almost directly addressing her audience at times. Rather than just having an author’s note, she integrated those dichotomies right into the text.

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