Today’s guest blog is by Carol Goodman who is talking about the unreliable narrator. She is the bestselling author of fourteen novels, including The Lake of Dead Languages which sold more than 160,000 copies and The Seduction of Water, which won the 2003 Hammett Prize. She has been nominated for the Simon & Schuster-Mary Higgins Clark Award, the Nero Wolfe Award, the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and more. She lives in the Hudson Valley and teaches creative writing at The New School and SUNY New Paltz.
Hello. It’s me, your old friend. What you don’t remember me? We went to high school together. I lent you my copy of Catcher in the Rye. You lent me your copy of I Am the Cheese and then I spoiled the ending for you. Or maybe we met at a party. You don’t remember? You had had a few—and so, come to think of it, had I. I don’t remember much of what happened after that. I may have hit something on the way home but I’m pretty sure it was a deer. Or perhaps you remember me from that old book by Nabokov, the one in which that saucy little girl seduces me! What? You don’t believe a 12-year-old girl could seduce an old charmer like me? Well just listen, and I’ll show you how it’s done.
Some have accused me of lying but I maintain that only the unimaginative look at my talents so basely. Perhaps I embellish, but who doesn’t? Who would you rather listen to—a slave to the truth or a born storyteller who knows how to convey the essence of the truth? What would Don Quixote be without his dragons to slay? After all, everything is subjective. We all have our biases, our blind spots, our secrets. Who’s to say that my version of the truth isn’t as valid as yours? Like my friends Tom Sawyer, Holden Caulfield or Forrest Gump, I may just not understand everything I see, but I’ve got an inventive way of putting it. Or I may be suffering from some traumatic incident—the death of a spouse, horror on the battlefield, a history of child abuse—that causes me to evade certain facts. Perhaps I’m a soldier suffering PTSD who can’t admit his best buddy is dead, or a diffident butler who doesn’t want to face his master’s pro-Hitler leanings, or an amnesiac who doesn’t want to remember that he killed his wife. Can you blame us? Haven’t you ever pushed some uncomfortable truth to the rear of your mind in order to get on with it? Or had a few too many drinks to make it through the day? That doesn’t make us crazy, although between you and me and that figure in the wallpaper over there, I may be. In fact, if you look closely at my stationery, you’ll see I’m writing this from a mental hospital, but they say I’ll get out soon and who’s to say just when I started going crazy or when I started getting better?
Besides, if I’m crazy, what about the rest of you phonies? You act like you’re looking for the truth, but I’ve never enjoyed such popularity! Since a certain “girl” (talk about embellishment!) burst on the scene I am in high demand. I am entertaining! I keep you guessing until the last page and, as I think you’re beginning to see, we’re not so different you and I. You envy my ability to shape the truth and suspect I hold the key to figuring out the world around you. Because, let’s face it, who can you trust these days? Politicians? The banks? The media? Your neighbors? Your best friend? Your husband? Your wife? As my good friend Tom Sawyer once said, “I never seen anybody but lied one time or another.”
Far better to get used to it. Learn to spot the exaggeration, the delusion, the evasion, the misunderstanding, the lie. I can teach you all that and give you a good time along the way. I promise it won’t be dull. Trust me.
Books (and two films) mentioned and alluded to: Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, I Am the Cheese by Robert Cormier, River Road by Carol Goodman, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, Forrest Gump, Going After Cacciato by Tim O’Brien, Memento, The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.
River Road by Carol Goodman (Titan Books) is out now £7.99
She came out of nowhere - Nan Lewis—a creative writing professor at a college in upstate New York—is driving home from a faculty holiday party after finding out she’s been denied tenure. On her way, she hits a deer, but when she gets out of her car to look for it, the deer is nowhere to be found. Eager to get home and out of the oncoming snowstorm, Nan is forced to leave her car at the bottom of her snowy driveway to wait out the longest night of the year—and the lowest point of her life…The next morning, Nan is woken up by a police officer at her door with terrible news—one of her students, Leia Dawson, was killed in a hit-and-run on River Road the night before. And because of the damage to her car, Nan is a suspect. In the days following the accident, Nan is shunned by the same community that rallied around her when her own daughter was killed in an eerily similar accident six years prior. When Nan begins finding disturbing tokens that recall the death of her daughter, Nan suspects that the two accidents are connected. As she digs further, she discovers that everyone around her, including Leia, is hiding secrets. But can she uncover them, clear her name, and figure out who really killed Leia before her reputation is destroyed for good?
You can find more information about Carol Goodman on her website and you can follow her on Twitter @C_Goodmania and on Facebook.
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