Monday, August 27, 2012

A born liar

How do you feel about a narrator who lies?

I sometimes think I'm too trusting. I believe anything anyone tells me; I don't expect people to lie. I am learning, in some instances, to be a little more discerning but it doesn't come naturally to me. I mean, for all I know you could all have alter egos, the real yous being kept well hidden. Particularly those who never show photographs of themselves. then again, maybe the ones who do put on a show are the ones to really doubt because they're trying hard to be someone different.

Nick could be a right-wing fundamentalist Tory; Jams might really be Bonaparte O'Coonassa; Cherrypie could be a tap-dancing devotee who has never travelled outside of her home village. Who knows?

But I'm going off the point. I've just finished reading One Day in May by Catherine Alliott. I've read quite a few of her books and they've all been light, fairly frothy well-written chick-lit; One Day in May has moved on from that. The story has more depth than her previous books and I'm not sure that's for the best. I enjoyed it though except ... the narrator lies to her audience.

We don't find out until nearly the end at which point I feel well and truly cheated. If you can't trust the narrator (and heroine) of the story then whom can you? 

Does that happen in Atonement? I have a vague idea it does but I don't recall clearly nor can I remember the title of the book written by a good novelist whose name escapes me. Not Margaret Atwood , not Susan Howatch - oh, what is it? Anyway she wrote a novel in diary format based on the letters/diary of a real person. But at the end revealed a big lie. 

I don't like being lied to by the narrator; how do you feel about it? 

P.S. I just searched diary on Amazon and the book I am thinking of may not have had that word in the title but you would be amazed at how many diaries there are, from red stilettos to fat bitch, seducers to ladettes, rapists to provincial lesbians. You know what will happen, don't you? I'll wake up in the middle of the night, remember the author and then forget by morning.


SmitoniusAndSonata said...

I'm not sure . Reporting , whether it be in the paper or on the news , requires total accuracy . And biographers shouldn't lie , but may speculate about motives and the consequences of events , if they make it clear that that's what they're doing .
But I don't expect a novel to be true or factual ... I rather like the improbable or alarming as long as it's safely bound in a pretty cover !

Gledwood said...

When I was at university (and did actually turn up to a seminar) I remember our tutor going on about something called an "unreliable narrator" ~~ in other words the story is being told by a lying bastard. Or someone too brain dead to take note of what is actually happening.

By the way I think most compulsive liars have a "personality disorder"... I used to know someone, the kind of person who wasn't a friend but I would bump into him and he would babble on and on... I'm pretty sure he had a narcissistic personality disorder. Other liars I know for a fact are diagnosed borderline personality disorder... and antisocial personality disorder.

The bastards at the methadone clinic thought I had a personality disorder. Despite the fact that it's flaming obvious I'm bipolar. Pfffffff!

Anonymous said...

Been reading the bible, have we?

nick said...

Damn, rumbled. How did you know I was a right-wing fundamentalist Tory? I do my best to conceal my belief that all homosexuals, adulterers and single mothers should be executed but somehow you've caught me out. Oh well, it was getting tougher and tougher to pretend I was a diehard socialist. Now I can drop the whole phoney charade.

Oh yes, lying narrators. They don't bother me at all, surely it's just another twist in the plot?

CherryPie said...

As I am a lady of a certain age my eyesight is not what it used to be.

I did a double take when I read tap-dancing... When my eyes came into focus I realised I hadn't been rumbled after all ;-)

Liz said...

But, sonata, I ned to be able to trust the narrator - otherwise everything is put into question.

And you see, gledwood, i believe these people!

Ha ha, anonymous!

Glad to hear that, nick. No, I don't think it is just a twist, not if the basis of the story is suddenly thrown out.

Your secret is still safe with me, cherrypie!