I was going to start this blog post by writing that my mother once said “The truth will set you free.” But this isn’t true. My mother said this many times, and recently I’ve been considering the adage more closely, and I have realized it is not true. The truth cannot set you free. The truth can keep you free, but when you’ve lied, your only options are: (1) to reveal, and in doing so to explode the awful bomb of the lie, its shrapnel hitting all sorts of unintended targets. Or (2), to live the lie out. You can decide to uneasily fold it into your identity. You can try to make it somehow true. But even that, we all know, can never work.
A lot of my recent stories examine characters who choose the latter: to live out their lies, to even make a point to prove them to be true, sacrificing too much of their own identity in the process. “I Know You Know Who I Am,” the most recent, is about this exactly. An excerpt, as the narrator describes it:
“It wasn’t that I’d never lied before, or even that my lies weren’t frequent: they were. The problem was that I’d made this person, this ghost, who could walk through the walls of my life, disorienting and rearranging, forcing me to recalculate every time Luke asked about him, which was often. And even more of a problem—it was working: Luke believed me. If I wanted him to think I was generous, I could work into conversation that Finn had been in some trouble with his landlord and I’d bailed him out. If I wanted him to think I had self-control, I’d explain that there had been another incident and Finn needed to learn I couldn’t do everything for him. After a few months, I had given Finn his own, terrifying breath.”
The story means a lot to me, not only because this is all stuff I used to struggle with (as I think many of us do), but because I feel like I’m making progress as a writer and a person. Basically, I’m starting to write the stuff that makes me uncomfortable. Writing a first-person narrator who we know from the start is a liar was especially hard, too, for somewhat obvious reasons. And so the charge became trying to tip off the reader via external clues which parts of his story are lies, and which are the bleeding, sorry truths.
Other news! Bodega Magazine recently accepted a brief piece, “Paid Vacation,” for their upcoming issue. Thank you, Emily Pan and Melissa Swantkowski!
I also got word I received a scholarship to attend Slice Magazine‘s conference this fall. So I’m pretty jazzed about that. The drive from Indiana to New York will be long. I will drink a lot of coffee and listen to a lot of 80s Pop Pandora Radio. Which, by the way, I highly recommend.
I’m nearly done with my workshop syllabus for the fall, in which I’ll teach amazing stories by (among others) Carol Anshaw, Kate Walbert, Amy Bloom, Vincent Scarpa, Catherine Carberry, Elise Burke, Roxane Gay, Rebecca Makkai, Karen Dietrich, Jennifer Egan, Jen Michalski, and Megan Mayhew Bergman’s astonishing first collection, Birds of a Lesser Paradise. I’m so excited. I’m so grateful. I’m really looking forward.