Everyone knows that a lot of memoirs have made-up scenes… fictions contain literal autobiographical truths. So how do we decide what’s what, and does it even matter?” This question is at the heart of Lauren Slater’s strange but mesmerizing book, Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir. If you take this book at face value, you’d think that at the age of 10 Slater became epileptic and experienced violent seizures that left her with almost no school life; that the epilepsy made her prone to lies; that she developed Munchausen syndrome; and that she underwent brain surgery that cured her seizures but not her personality disorder.
Or has Slater, in a desperate bid for attention, made it all up? There’s simply no way to know, since Slater, an intrusive narrator as well as an unreliable one, presents both theories as true. Yet you can’t dismiss the book as the ramblings of a crazy woman. Her arguments are beautifully shaped; her prose – especially the descriptions of her childhood – blunt and searing. In the end, does it matter if you know what’s real and what’s fantasy? In this case, the answer is: When the narrative is powerful enough, not at all.