Mandi’s Reads: Lie to Me
Lie to me. I like liars. I also like bullshitters, scoundrels, and charmers. (Probably because I am one). I trust liars. If you tell me you’re honest, well then, I’m just not going to trust you. I’ll wonder why you feel the need to state your honesty. Tell me you’re a liar? We’re golden. I know exactly where you stand. (In a pile of bull. You’re standing in a pile of bullcrap, just like me.)
I have the same philosophy when it comes to books. If you write a non-fiction book, I’m going to question everything about it. I’m going to ask you to cite your sources, then I’m going to ask those sources to cite their sources, and for those sources to cite their sources. I’m going to question the motivations of those sources and your motivations right along with them. I’ll want to know your political leanings, your personal history, where you grew up and how this shaped you. I’ll doubt everything you tell me. All because you slapped “non-fiction” on the cover, I’ll assume everything in your book is pure fiction. Swear to me that you’re being honest, and I’ll react the same way I do when a strange man approaches me in a bar: curl my lip and say, “What’s your angle? What’s your endgame here, pal?”
Fiction, on the other hand? Tell me you’re lying to me, that you’ve invented these people, the facts of their lives, their entire worlds, and I’ll believe you. When we start with an admission of a lie, I no longer have to work to look for the truth. I can suspend my disbelief and delve straight into the story. (All fiction reading is the willing suspension of disbelief.) Once we’ve agreed that everything on the page is lies, then I’m free to find my own truths in the story, the symbolisms, and the themes.
I’ve been travelling a lot over the past month and haven’t been reading too many lies, truthful or otherwise, but I did read a couple of gems. Here they are:
By: Jess Walter
“Great fiction tells unknown truths.” -Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins
This book is full of liars, bullshitters, scoundrels, and charmers. They have manipulated others for so long, all the while convincing them of their honesty, that they have even started to believe their own bullshit (as one character’s ex-wife yells). Yes, the men in this novel are ne’er-do-wells who flit from place to place, relationship to relationship, profound revelation to profound revelation. They are addicted to epiphanies and they mostly have these epiphanies about the women in their lives.
Even as they think they’re telling a love story about themselves and another person, they are really telling a story solely about themselves. A love story told by only one member of the love isn’t really a love story. The love and the lover are ancillary to the story. A one-sided love story is really the story of the person doing the telling—their feelings, their failings and their romantic heroics, and they project these feelings, failings and heroics on their beloved.
All of that sounds quite depressing, doesn’t it? Well, this book does have its depressing moments, but it also has moments of hilarity and beauty. And were I the type of person to describe something using that old descriptive cliché of “sun-drenched,” I would say this book is sun-drenched. It takes you from Hollywood to Italy to Edinburgh to Sand Point, Idaho from WWII to 21st century blockbuster filmmaking on a journey exploring the human condition (OH MY GOD, Mandi…enough with the clichés already!).
Reads well with “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” by Dusty Springfield and limoncello
By: Josh Bazell
I was reading Heidi’s delightful blog on the frustration of loving book series a couple of weeks ago, and I came across a sequel I hadn’t read—Wild Thing, Josh Bazell’s follow-up to Beat the Reaper. How could I have missed it? I adored Beat the Reaper and looked forward to the sequel, and then just… forgot about it. (Yet, I haven’t forgotten to watch every episode of Drop Dead Diva. Go figure.) So, I got Wild Thing from the library and devoured it over the weekend.
Pietro Brnwa/Peter Brown/Lionel Azimuth is still on the run from the mob. When his benefactor (because who doesn’t have a benefactor when one’s life is in need of a little deus ex machina?) hooks him up with the chance to hunt a killer lake monster in Minnesota, Pietro/Peter/Lionel quickly packs in his current job as a cruise ship doctor (ugh, cruises) and makes his way to the land o’ lakes (by way of Portland, Oregon). There he hooks up (not in the colloquial sense, unfortunately for him), with the smokin’ hot, Bettie Page bangs-havin’ paleontologist, Dr. Violet Hurst, and a lot of the novel is filled with their sexual tension (or his perception of their sexual tension). Pietro/Peter/Lionel also runs into some meth dealers, meth addicts, Vietnam vets, and…a lake monster.
Now, there’s a certain overconfident, entitled, oblivious, know-it-all dudebro tone to the book, and I can’t decide if that is the voice of the main character or the voice of the author. I rolled my eyes in annoyance several times, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the hell out of this book. It is what gets described as “a delightful romp,” but I would never use such a clumsy descriptive phrase.
Blogger’s note: You don’t have to have read Beat the Reaper to enjoy Wild Thing. Also, Wild Thing is footnoted, and a footnoted novel is the quickest way to my heart.
Reads well with: “Wild Thing” by The Troggs and PBR