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Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir

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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 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.

221 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2000

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About the author

Lauren Slater

18 books194 followers
Lauren Slater (born March 21, 1963) is an American psychotherapist and writer.

She is the author of numerous books, including Welcome to My Country, Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir, Opening Skinner’s Box, and Blue Beyond Blue, a collection of short stories. Slater’s most recent book is The $60,000 Dog: My Life with Animals.

Slater has been the recipient of numerous awards, among them a 2004 National Endowments for the Arts Award, and multiple inclusions in Best American Volumes, and A Knight Science Journalism Fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology. Slater is also a frequent contributor to The New York Times Magazine, Harper's Magazine, and Elle, among others. She has been nominated several times for National Magazine Awards in both the Essay and the Profile category.

Slater was a practicing psychotherapist for 11 years before embarking on a full-time writing career. She served as the Clinical and then the Executive Director of AfterCare Services, and under her watch the company grew from a small inner city office to a vibrant outpatient clinic servicing some of Boston’s most socioeconomically stressed population.

After the birth of her daughter, Slater wrote her memoir Love Works Like This to chronicle the agonizing decisions she made relating to her psychiatric illness and her pregnancy. In a 2003 BBC Woman’s Hour radio interview, and a 2005 article in Child Magazine, Slater provides information on depression during pregnancy and the risks to the woman and her baby.

She lives and writes in Harvard, Massachusetts.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 238 reviews
Profile Image for Taube.
156 reviews29 followers
September 11, 2013
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.
Profile Image for Jim Elkins.
334 reviews346 followers
April 21, 2020
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.
Profile Image for Erika B. (SOS BOOKS).
1,288 reviews131 followers
August 12, 2016
"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)

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Profile Image for mark.
Author 3 books42 followers
August 7, 2020
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.


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.


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.


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.


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.
Profile Image for Kate.
762 reviews114 followers
August 1, 2007
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.
Profile Image for Rebecca H..
275 reviews99 followers
September 12, 2011
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
Profile Image for Angie.
25 reviews1 follower
June 28, 2011
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.
Profile Image for Nicholas Montemarano.
Author 8 books66 followers
January 31, 2009
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.
Profile Image for Kristin Boldon.
1,128 reviews27 followers
August 21, 2021
Super fascinating memoir. Can't argue with whether it's true because of the title! I do love me a good unreliable narrator. Slater's story about a childhood with epilepsy, a selfish and lying mother, and a torrid affair with an author (John Irving? Geoffrey Wolff?) get flipped, and flipped again. Her synesthetic descriptions of the auras, and hypergraphis, were dangerously alluring. Beautiful writing, and provocative questions about truth and facts. Brings to mind Susan Choi's Trust Exercise, The Glass Eye by Jeanne Venasco, Rat Girl by Kristin Hersh, and the Collected Schizophrenias by Esme Weijun Wang. I skipped the intro, then read it after the end. Ha! A dark sense of humor pervades this weird and wondrous book.
Profile Image for Juli.
155 reviews15 followers
October 31, 2022
the way this didn’t have an audiobook so I took a picture of every page and converted the text to speech…it was not fun. Read for class, don’t feel like writing a review lol
Profile Image for Jeanne.
959 reviews67 followers
April 15, 2018
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.
Profile Image for V.
131 reviews40 followers
November 21, 2017
(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.
Profile Image for Aaron.
50 reviews4 followers
January 12, 2016
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.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Alina.
271 reviews142 followers
June 23, 2022
This was a surprising read. At first, I didn't like how pleasurable it was to read the slick, sensuous prose -- it is full of cliched or culturally common metaphors and images, which Slater uses in her articulating any event or feeling. This makes it very easy and quick to read -- these metaphors and images do not challenge us, but our minds are already so used to and are primed to anticipate them. But she does use them somewhat artfully; I wouldn't consider Slater's prose to be elementary. The quality of her work that saves it from being downright pulpy is that there is a substantial, philosophically complicated idea that underlies the whole work.

Slater's mother was a compulsive liar and a constant drunk. Slater was both dependent on, admiring of, and abused by her mother. Her sense of the distinction between fact and fiction was messed up by this psychological-developmental fact. Slater addresses the reader at various points in this work, telling the reader explicitly that she is lying to us, but that there is still something truthful about her text; and that she will not tell us which details are fact and which are fiction. It seems that she will not tell us this because either she, herself, genuinely can't tell the two apart, that she's never been able to maintain this distinction accurately throughout her life; or, because while she does know that certain details are straightforwardly fabricated, she is so deep in the state of mind that fabrication and lying is continuous with reality, so given her value system, it doesn't make any sense, or it is misleading or a disservice, to point out which details are lies.

As readers, we can tell that Slater is troubled by at least a certain disposition, which we all share, but that she possesses to a particularly extreme degree. This is the disposition to see the world around her in such a way that it satisfies her desires or is conducive towards the possibilities of her wishes being fulfilled. She is insensitive to what is actually happening -- what other people's intentions really are, why certain events have befallen her, what her motives behind her decisions really are. Instead, she construes all of these, she creates them, to her desire's satisfaction. She doesn't notice that she's doing this, or if she does, it feels totally fine; she feels no sense of violating an important norm of being truthful.

We all engage in wishful thinking, and seeing the extremity to which Slater takes this is humbling; it let me at least become ever more self-conscious of when I've been wrong in the past, because I can see, only in retrospect, how my desires and 'internal narrative' blinded me. As a whole, this memoir is not only enjoyable and easy to read, but it is also has the potential to put one at this existential edge, to relate to oneself in a new way.
Profile Image for Lauren Taylor.
13 reviews
March 7, 2023
This book is about Factitious disorder, about mythomania, about maternal enmeshment, about traumatic memory, but without a stable or reliable narrator, which can make her unlikable at times. If you’re the type of reader who is likely to feel manipulated by half-truths, you will be. If you’re the type of reader comfortable with sitting in the slippery unknown of mental illness, this book is fascinating.

Profile Image for phoebe.
175 reviews1 follower
May 30, 2023
This memoir gave me the same feels that Girl, Interrupted did all those years ago when I first read it. Reading Lying was like being in a strange dream where everything is sort of gelatinous and there aren’t any edges. I personally love being confused so I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Mental illness memoirs are so addicting for me… is that concerning?
Profile Image for Vincent Scarpa.
567 reviews155 followers
June 29, 2020
“Is metaphor in memoir, in life, an alternate form of honesty or simply an evasion? This is what I want to know.”
20 reviews
August 21, 2021
Loved this book, I learned more about what it's like to have epilepsy while laughing throughout the book.
Profile Image for Josie Donohue.
37 reviews1 follower
October 31, 2022
- Read for my Creative Nonfiction class in college -

This book made my head spin 😅
Profile Image for Cassie.
249 reviews15 followers
September 27, 2020
If you’re writing a thesis in memoir or essays, I HIGHLY recommend this. So so much
Profile Image for Erin.
Author 2 books12 followers
March 21, 2011
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.
Profile Image for Laura Wallace.
186 reviews92 followers
December 11, 2013
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.
Profile Image for Mert.
Author 2 books62 followers
September 26, 2020
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.
Profile Image for Jenny Mckeel.
46 reviews4 followers
August 3, 2009
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.
Profile Image for mis.
287 reviews30 followers
July 10, 2015
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....
Profile Image for Cherylann.
60 reviews
March 6, 2012
Never have I connected so much to a book. As an admitted compulsive liar, my concept of the truth is a manipulative one at best. Lauren Slater uses her truth manipulation as a means to simultaneously write a non-fiction memoir, and a complete lie. Now, grew up learning that Fiction is fake, and non-fiction is not-fake. It's convenient how those letters are set up. Slater pushes this, more than Truman Capote in his "non-fiction novel" In Cold Blood. Slater's experiences that she writes about are probably not all true, however because she is upfront about that, her book remains non-fiction. She manages to write a memoir that is about things that maybe never happened to her, but are completely indicative of her. This is the most brilliant memoir I have had the pleasure of reading.
Profile Image for F.
620 reviews71 followers
February 20, 2021
In a class which very few of us enjoyed, where I liked essentially none of the reading list, Lauren Slater's Lying shines bright as a diamond in the rough. It was novelistic, well-written, and not a didactic autobiography which you were supposed to learn from, and come away with this grad message. Slater tells you, is up front with her readers, about how she lies. She constantly lies. She doesn't know if its due to her disease or what, but don't believe her! She doesn't know her own truth!

It was one of the few books that most people in class read. A lot of us wrote our final papers on it. I am glad the autobiography class at least introduced me to this book.
Profile Image for Kyle D..
Author 1 book6 followers
March 22, 2015
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."
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