Monday, February 02, 2009

Tell Me Everything: a novel

by Sarah Salway

The protagonist of this book is a pathological liar — unless she's so delusional that she doesn't realize she's lying — or may she's just lying to herself too. In theory, I guess, it's an interesting exploration of truth and truth-telling, growing up and learning the rules of shared reality, make-believe as essential to the construction of a self... but ultimately I just found the character annoying, willful, stupid, mean, self-destructive: in a word, a teenager, but with all that stuff magnified and laid bare. Looking back I'm kind of surprised that I didn't quit reading it. I think maybe I was waiting for the big "reveal" at the end, but I didn't really feel the impact, maybe because I wasn't invested in (or impressed by) the character's ambition to create a new life for herself, because I didn't feel her pain.

The character's quasi-fugue escapism reminds me a bit of The Dive from Clausen's Pier, in which a young woman runs away from dealing with her fiance's paralyzing injury — a real trauma, even if the physical trauma is not her own. In this book, however, it's never entirely clear if any real trauma serves as motivation, or if attention-seeking behavior manufactures a a justification for itself.

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