H y p n o s i s

Your house is on fire, your children are burnt;
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 of lying.

The sales lie, the virginity lie, the love lie, and other lies made tedious by their

economic necessity are covered in Ellen Whitsy's Intro to Doublespeak.

No ethical cud-chewing allowed. No barbarous insistence upon precedence or

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 together,

then blow.

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 the new

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, fusing

king, princess, crown and robe into a glassy black stump, white twigs of bone.

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 you.

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 to weave

a gorgeously dense, spot-proof lie. Weave the shimmering lie that is rich

with undertones, subtle allusions, whose tail and head are indistinguishably woven

into the concrete links of history and circumstance. A lie that coils in upon itself,

which, when pushed, can collapse into a domino line of smaller winking lies that

bear each others' weight and settle into liquid plausibility. A lie that can run

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 within

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 anything

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 into

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 precious.

This is not because the fabric will eventually tear but because it creates doubt

in your own mind. The golden rule works in insidious ways: you think people treat

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 be sustained.

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 go

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 missing.

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 as if

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 to most

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 it

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.

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.
Somebody, give me an example, quick.
' I have a daughter in the sixth grade. '

'You have a daughter. Really? In the sixth grade? My daughter is a year older
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.
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 eye.

Six--Always start from a moment of truth, meander,
and end with a factual statement.
For example: Did you know that today is the fiftieth anniversary of the death

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 half-life

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 Island


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 these

during the course of this term. Lying is like Chess; is it the Gambit, the End Game?

The strategies differ accordingly. While doing a brief overview of How to Make,

How to Present and How to Correct the Lie, we will be focusing most of our energies

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 must face

if it succeeds. We will be armed with certain foolproof methods of escape, both

derisive and offensive, as well as occasional forays into historical case studies of

endlösung: the collective amnestic, schizophrenic, and, ever so briefly, violence

in the hearth and home. At the end of this course, no truth shall evade us unscorched.
And the tourney?

Yes, of course: each year we have a tourney between our department and the logic

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 method.

Also, guerilla warfare is superior to organized warfare simply because it does not

adhere to a fully known set of rules; it cannot be anticipated. I will emphasize this

again and again: Rely upon instinct; run with it. The best liars are not the organized

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 and not

Apollo who fashioned the lyre.

The last week of the semester will be spent on two things: the philosophical necessity

of lies in our society and how to detect a lie. People shall work in pairs to ascertain

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 than you

can predict the future. In wartime France, the exquisite stained glass of

the cathedral at Chartres vanished. Once the bombings ceased, the stained glass

reappeared, burning in all its glory. It was a different sort of miracle: the villagers

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 somehow.

That is why we must understand who we are and what we are made of. I advise you

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 your last

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 this statement?
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 them on

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 summer.

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. Go now.

I am going to go lie down in the next room. I am feeling sick at heart, collapsible.

It's the weather, the violent change in the leaves; everything is gold and yellow--

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 the blue,

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 which

ribs pulled outwards and curved into a fragile, unearthly cathedral of light. But above,

an enormous black stain smeared the plate: this was my heart.

Why is it so dark? I asked.

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 too long

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 now gnawing

me hollow. I have here in my pocket the perfect specimen of a nut: large, brown,

glossy, but, when I crack it open, look: nothing but a giant, pasty grub: truth.

Is truth ever bearable? Shall we give it a go? Let's use the example of the daughter

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 sees, in

the face of one beloved, the childish features that have long laid dormant: a wavering,

singed smile.

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 and drop

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 it's

the earrings: I'm under a spell and I do things against my will. Or perhaps it's simply

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 going to

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 stopped

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 metallic flecks,
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 breathing
comes quick and shallow. A whimper. And then it's over. Various doctors have
examined her; they took samples, careful shavings. An allergic reaction to loss?
Jewelers are already offering bids.

But there is still hope: her arm moves imperceptibly--a few degrees each hour.
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 gold.
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 in this
pool. My fingers glistened but the light pulls away. When I put my head down to
drink; the river vanishes, the lights go out. For a few seconds, I saw her shaky amber
outline, then a thick unbreathable blackness filled the room. I was suffocating; on all
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.