H y p n o s i s
Your house is on fire, your children are
All except one, and that's ragged Anne
and she's crept under the warming pan.
Good afternoon. I am your wonderworker, gentlemen and ladies.
Base truth turns to gold beneath my touch.
Actually, I am Theo Giroux, your new instructor for this lovely autumn term.
Before we start, let me anticipate certain questions:
first of all, this class is not an introduction to the more mundane forms
The sales lie, the virginity lie, the love lie, and other lies made tedious
economic necessity are covered in Ellen Whitsy's Intro to Doublespeak.
No ethical cud-chewing allowed. No barbarous insistence upon precedence
data. In my class, thinking on one's feet is emphasized over an accumulation
of debris. Lying is like lighting a fire; you need only to rub two facts
Like filaments of raw silk in water, the constricted truth loosens and the
individual strands spiral to heaven quicker than any earthly prayer or cry.
Lies are powerful, terrifying in their beauty. Consider Medea's gift to
wife: a golden Colchean tangle that, grazing the skin of the princess, bursts
into a fireball. Her old father runs crying and the flames blaze higher,
king, princess, crown and robe into a glassy black stump, white twigs of
What do the palace attendants breathe the next morning? A peppery ash that
was once royal hair, a greasy smudge in the shape of a human hand.
The golden robe itself lies unharmed, glowing warm; perhaps it frightens
Then go. I have nothing to offer you.
But if you are eager to know the substance, stay awhile. This is an advanced
studio class in fabrication. Not on fabrics, literally, but the ability
a gorgeously dense, spot-proof lie. Weave the shimmering lie that is rich
with undertones, subtle allusions, whose tail and head are indistinguishably
into the concrete links of history and circumstance. A lie that coils in
which, when pushed, can collapse into a domino line of smaller winking lies
bear each others' weight and settle into liquid plausibility. A lie that
a million miles beneath the same sun and never tire, never weaken into doubt.
A lie which stretches to envelop the fantastic and improbable while evoking
the one intimate detail that will plant the obstinate seed of credibility
the mind of the listener. Now let's begin with a brief review of key points.
First, you must always keep a clear head. Lying well is like counting cards,
almost impossible. If you realize that you are not capable of remembering
all your lies, practice with simple ones and keep a notebook. Do not try
elaborate and keep away from alibis.
So Rule One: be capable of distinguishing between truth and lies--
your own, of course. Once you lose this, you lose your only advantage.
The only exception to this rule (and remember that lying, like English grammar,
is full of holes) is the historian.
He creates history, his problem lies in how to defuse the competing versions
of his story; a wonderful movie you may wish to see upon this dilemma is
Kurosawa's Rashomon. Besides the historian, the salesman may also,
within his own mind, blur the distinctions but here my point is demonstrated:
he may tell his customer that the product can be immersed in water, but
if he actually
did this himself, he would suffer electric shock. This habit may also ooze
his personal life and he may make use of lying to his wife, his children.
These sorts of people are not adepts but addicts,
lead singularly cheap lives, and are not respected by their offspring.
The second rule is probably obvious by now: never lie to anyone
This is not because the fabric will eventually tear but because it creates
in your own mind. The golden rule works in insidious ways: you think people
you the way you treat them. Therefore, to lie to someone you love will create
the doubt within your own mind that others are lying to you.
And this state of tenuousness, it has been proven over and over, cannot
You go mad without trust. Amidst the vast and rich and icy network of fish
that you net, there must be a buoy, an island, a haven, to which you can
immediately and recuperate. Lying is a difficult endeavor although many
go into it
out of personal weakness. This is why the advanced courses require a mental
examination as a prerequisite. We can't play if some of the marbles are
Ah, but then who do you lie to?
In the spring of 1967, as I was boarding a ship, an accident occurred onboard
and we were left stalling on the ramp for over an hour; it was raining lightly
so I put up my umbrella. Then I realized that it was dripping on the coat
of the lady
beside me so I moved to the edge of the ramp and thus fell into a conversation
with a tall, melancholy looking man who asked me, between spurts with his
aspirator, this exact question.
Who do you lie to?
Rather flustered, I answered: those who need to believe, of course.
He then touched my sleeve, briefly circling his fingers round my upper arm
he were measuring something. Through the cloth, I could feel the cold emanating
from his hand. It was so cold that I thought he had poured lighter fluid
on my arm:
it was the same swift evaporation, the cool that stings like a cut.
Letting go, he asked, Who needs to believe?
Why did I say that? Many people don't need to believe in anything at all.
An aspirator works whether you believe in it or not. Belief is unnecessary
things. I felt his hand on my arm again, cold, tapping. He stared at me
as though he
were looking through me, then, tilting his head far and above, he covered
his mouth, sucked in, exhaling onto the grainy sea.
Without even opening his eyes, he said, And what after you've burnt
all your bridges? I lit a cigarette, blew it in his face. I'll find
other things to burn.
He took the hint, and eased his way back to his luggage and wife.
I completely forgot about this until several months later,
when I was paging through a magazine: it was unmistakably him,
though a bit younger, more poised, pipe in hand. The smaller photo beneath
confirmed my suspicion: the woman that he had been with was not his wife.
The name he had given me was not his real name.
And what was that pipe-- a prop? He died so young: only sixty-five.
A man with a bad conscience.
Rule three--do not repeat yourself unless the person is deaf.
Somebody, give me an example, quick.
Rule four--Do not overemphasize. A lie should always emerge as
a response rather than a statement, offhand rather than didactic.
The pleasure of the lie is veering the conversation in a dialectic
method towards your lie. Therefore, it is always a long nudge
rather than a coup.
' I have a daughter in the sixth grade. '
'You have a daughter. Really? In the sixth grade? My daughter is a year
than yours but Jeanie was put back a grade because, well, let's face it,
she's no genius;
Couldn't add to save her life. Takes after her mother, most likely.''
Note how bitterness often exudes a whiff of truth.
Five--Do not appear overconfident. It breeds resentment.
For example: Did you know that today is the fiftieth anniversary of the
Do not appear hesitant. It engenders mistrust. The appearance of honesty
is an art that has often been relegated to the realm of naiveté when
it is actually
the fine balance of shrewdness and trust. Look a person straight in the
Six--Always start from a moment of truth, meander,
and end with a factual statement.
of the radiant Madame Curie who discovered a rare, phosphorescent metal
and died of it? She was born in 1867, and died at the age of sixty-seven.
She is a woman of precision. Pravda's reporters exhumed the corpse and found
her body unfolding like a night-blooming cereus: her face was entirely unlined
and her nails had grown a eighth of an inch. Now riddle me this: if the
of uranium points to the inevitability of lead, how did Madame Curie's half-life
of thirty-four years foreshadow Manja Sklodowska becoming Marie Curie?
Names are fascinating--I've spent the last two summers working on the Ellis
Now at which point in this statement do truth and lies part ways?
When do they converge?
Look at my tongue: the Pentacostal flame that dances on the tip:
Pravda is Russian for truth. Truth is an eighth of an inch too deep.
There are other points, numbering in the hundreds, that we will add onto
during the course of this term. Lying is like Chess; is it the Gambit, the
The strategies differ accordingly. While doing a brief overview of How to
How to Present and How to Correct the Lie, we will be focusing most of our
on examining failure; after all, the potential for disaster is omnipresent
and what we
must do when a lie fails is of larger immediate consequence than what we
if it succeeds. We will be armed with certain foolproof methods of escape,
derisive and offensive, as well as occasional forays into historical case
endlösung: the collective amnestic, schizophrenic, and, ever so briefly,
in the hearth and home. At the end of this course, no truth shall evade
And the tourney?
Yes, of course: each year we have a tourney between our department and the
department and, as you all know, we have won the tourney seven years running.
That's because their greatest theoreticians, their prize plums,--the philosophers--
are devious little weasels; there is no objectivity possible in their dialectic
Also, guerilla warfare is superior to organized warfare simply because it
adhere to a fully known set of rules; it cannot be anticipated. I will emphasize
again and again: Rely upon instinct; run with it. The best liars are not
ones but those who, familiar with the terrain, rely on inspiration and whim.
Never be heavy-handed or adopt a logical manner; it is wingfooted Mercury
Apollo who fashioned the lyre.
The last week of the semester will be spent on two things: the philosophical
of lies in our society and how to detect a lie. People shall work in pairs
the amount of truth in one another. It is rather subversive since we are
going to now
analyze and dissect our own motives and techniques, the underbelly of all
our ventures into this field. Any questions?
When people lie to us, what are we to do?
It's inevitable. You can't completely immure yourself from pain anymore
can predict the future. In wartime France, the exquisite stained
the cathedral at Chartres vanished. Once the bombings ceased, the stained
reappeared, burning in all its glory. It was a different sort of miracle:
had painstakingly dismantled each of the windows and buried them separately.
We too need only to secure the parts that shatter; the rest will endure
That is why we must understand who we are and what we are made of. I advise
all to buy a full length mirror, open your mouth wide and see who's in there.
I once saw an eye peering out at me. A tawny yellow eye, gleaming, blinking.
A paper, twenty pages, will also be due at the end of the term, and the
topics will be
discussed with your preceptors. Any more questions?
Well then, let's end with a game of darts to see what you've retained from
quarter with Prof. Moodie.
1. If you are Theban and I am not, which of us is lying?
2. What are the three forked and unforked lies in our lives?
3. In your expert opinion, who is the father of lies?
4. Is the examined life worth living? What role do axiomatic lies play in
5.What is the relation of lying and truth to happiness? Which is nearer?
6. Are lies undoable?
7. Are lies remarkable?
8. Is trust expendable or can we burn it like a dollar bill?
9. Is it necessary to conserve our lies or is the supply inexhaustible?
10. How could you lie to me like this? What have I done to you?
When you've finished, hand in the papers to the person right of you.
If you are the person at the farthest right, gather the papers and place
the ledge of the window. Let the breeze fan these oracles onto the masses.
We shall meet again on Wednesday. It is wan autumn itself, and no Indian
Already autumn. Really lovely weather, too lovely to stay inside. Class
will be held
outdoors beneath the riotous foliage. I shall not be present. Attendance
is not required.
You are on your own. The tangibility of lies nets the intangibility of desires.
I am going to go lie down in the next room. I am feeling sick at heart,
It's the weather, the violent change in the leaves; everything is gold and
it's barbaric, unsettling. The barometer says a storm is stirring; I can
feel it in
the moistness, in the wind; I can see a blackness in the sky blotting out
extinguishing the sun. This morning, my physician saw dark clouds as well:
on my X-rays, the backbone appeared as a white fusion of molten glass from
ribs pulled outwards and curved into a fragile, unearthly cathedral of light.
an enormous black stain smeared the plate: this was my heart.
Why is it so
The radiologist shrugged: Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't.
I tap my lungs occasionally, you know, and I think that I have been exposed
to this. My teeth and clumps of hair will fall out, my cell count dwindle
and my skin
turn black beneath my fingers; truth, repelled by my cynical exterior, is
me hollow. I have here in my pocket the perfect specimen of a nut: large,
glossy, but, when I crack it open, look: nothing but a giant, pasty grub:
Is truth ever bearable? Shall we give it a go? Let's use the example of
again: I lost my daughter yesterday. I lied to her. It was a terrible mistake.
Is this believable? It's worthless as it is: it needs more texture, more
cruelty, a touch of
viva voce from which it springs up as searing as the moment when one first
the face of one beloved, the childish features that have long laid dormant:
I'll tell you about my daughter. Last Saturday, I come home from work and
I catch her
on her way out: she's dressed up in a fringed skirt, pearly pink lipstick
earrings; the earrings are her mother's. Her hair is newly cut at a slant.
How do I look? she asks.
You look -- I venture, then drop my voice, exhaling softly. Why? Perhaps
the earrings: I'm under a spell and I do things against my will. Or perhaps
my nature; it's what I do well.
Stop it, she screams, You're trying to make me crazy
aren't you? Why can't you ever
say anything nice to me? You probably drove her crazy too. You think I'm
run away, don't you? Why don't you just say it? You hate me. Just say it.
I hate you
too. I wish you were dead.
It's not true, I say quickly, Don't be angry. I love you. I just -- can't
help it. It's what I am.
What is the relation of lying and truth to happiness? Which is nearer?
I reach out to still her, to calm her, to shut her up, to still her dry
heaves and hiccuping.
The neighbors call. I don't say anything and eventually they hang up. She's
crying. Already there is a silence, a sudden drop in temperature.
Do you want to know what happened?
The moisture of her breath freezes into a glittering, suspended mass of
and her hair stiffens into dense clumps of shining wire. Gold rivets her
spine and she
stands upright, solid, limbs outstretched in a dull, reflective sheen. Her
comes quick and shallow. A whimper. And then it's over. Various doctors
examined her; they took samples, careful shavings. An allergic reaction
Jewelers are already offering bids.
But there is still hope: her arm moves imperceptibly--a few degrees each
This morning, I heard her sneeze, pause, then sneeze again. Last night,
as I carried her
up to the second floor, I saw that her skin had a rosy incandescence: just
as there are
veins of gold in the earth, there were veins of blood discernable beneath
The metal was warm to the touch.
An afterglow trailed behind us, encrusting the carpet and stairs with a
thin river of
light that pooled at the foot of her bed. I leaned over and cupped my hands
pool. My fingers glistened but the light pulls away. When I put my head
drink; the river vanishes, the lights go out. For a few seconds, I saw her
outline, then a thick unbreathable blackness filled the room. I was suffocating;
fours, I found my way to the door, then to the stairs then to the entrance
where I lit a
match and another, to watch the boards rippling in a reddish heat, turning
into gold for
hours and hours.
One, two, three--
Snap out of it.
I have no daughter.