Monday, April 11, 2016

Hypertextual Lies Shall Set You Free!

Lies raises as many questions as longer works due to its hypertextual format, which seduces the reader (or maybe not) into several careful readings, a task that is less taxing with this work as compared to traditional works of fiction.
As a work of fiction, the structure of Lies emphasizes the interconnected relationship of fact and fiction. Nora Ephron once said that “everything is copy” and “writers are cannibals,” and I am gradually realizing how right she was. Apart from our own perspectives, all that writers glean from the experiences and perceptions of others becomes the raw material for fiction and nonfiction alike. Beware of writers, for they will transform your words and thoughts to suit their artistic needs, bending the “truth” to which we all cling so desperately!

Fantasy is so much more interesting than the raw reality of our day-to-day lives, and Pryll shows how lies emerge as a more interesting version of honesty, as long as we are aware of the truth which our lies hide and why we are compelled to fictionalize our experiences in the first place.

In my first run-through of Lies, I, like McKenzie, chose “Truth” the whole way through, only to finish with an anticlimactic ending that lacked substance. Choosing “Lies” throughout my second reading revealed more depth, especially with the addition of metaphorical interpretations of “summer lovers” and the notion and act of infidelity:    

There are other codes too. "Summer lover" is actually the names we call our journals. It started when she and I started writing letters to each other. When [we] were writing to each other, we were spending time together. When we were writing in our journals, we were "cheating" on each other. "Sleeping with" our summer lovers meant fantasizing about sex in our journals. She was the first to give her journal human characteristics.

This false account is not only more interesting than the truth, but it also has no conflict, which flies in the face of the traditional requirement of a story needing strife to be considered a story; the infidelities become symbolized both as acts of writing to oneself as opposed to writing to a lover, coupled with the fantasy of one for the other—all desires are fulfilled through artistic deception. 
Pryll’s narrative also explains that lying = dancing and drinking rum and cokes = crying over the lies told to one another. These codes make honesty easier by garnishing the truth with figurative language. But these cyphers serve a superior purpose in the manner of writing, in that they reveal the essence of fiction: to artistically expand upon our perceptions in order to grapple with the nature of our world, our universe, ourselves, others, and what we imagine may exist beyond what our myopic natures can comprehend.

Erratically navigating Lies—Truth, Lies, Lies, Truth, for ex.—reveals subtle diversions and additional details in the story, making it more engaging. The Lies always spice up the story in interesting ways, such as in the following passage—a lie that draws attention to the necessity of imaginative deception in writing:

Actually, this never happened. I am a writer, and I wrote a story about an artist colony where this woman, who's craft is inspiration, guides all the painters, writers, sculptors and poets to different places in the city. Her favorite places are the bus depot and the subway tunnels at night. She helps to expand people's minds with her beauty and her mystique.

In the above passage, further details of scenery mentioned in other combinative selections of Truth and Lies are given, only they are revealed to be the product of the writer’s imagination. Pryll breaks the fourth wall and places other clues in the story that directly let the reader know he/she is being manipulated, his “diorama” constantly shifting before our eyes in a manner that is either engaging and game-like, frustratingly facile, or somewhere in between.



  1. I think what bothered me most about "Lies" was the simplicity of the story. I read an article that praised Pryll for his use of pronouns so that the reader would not be confused if the second text did not match in gender to the first, that the use of pronouns was ambiguous but made for better connectedness among the texts. But I think that I wanted more story; the use of the hypertext format was too limiting for my taste. Even my preferred hypertext, "Henry," was annoying once the textual options repeated too much. I was willing to overlook it in "Henry" because I viewed it as a poem rather than a story (which implies narrative structure and elements).

  2. I agree with you on the reading of just "Truth" being anticlimactic. When reading it, I just assumed that all of it was the truth, infidelity and all. But reading through the "Lies" portion opened up more truth that what Truth did. But I have to question whether or not "Truth" and "Lies" are just titles or are they meaningful choices for the story. It seems that "Truth" is less truthful (or otherwise more fictitious) than the "Lies," or perhaps that the "Truth" comes out during the "Lies" portion of the story, as in reality is the "Lies" and "Truth" is the story they're developing within their journals. But as you note, the story/dialogue/structure shifts as one alternates between truth and lies, blending the two sides of the narrative and making them harder to decipher.