Liar is such a harsh term, yet every last person is a liar to some degree. By omission if nothing else. We Texans have a reputation of being braggarts, blowhards, and bullshitters. I can't say for certain whether we have a higher percentage of people in those categories than other states, or regions of the world, but I can tell you I've met a few world class liars. Some of liked, some I wanted to choke. Why? What's the difference. Why will I sit and listen to one guy's stories even when I know he's yanking on my leg harder than a two hundred ton locomotive, but avoid avoid the other fella like he's a salad shooter?
Let me introduce you to three different liars and show you what I mean.
Larry has ratty looking handlebar moustache and the kind of twang to his voice usually reserved to bad dinner theatre actors trying to portray a Texan. He lies so often and with such boldness that often times he forgets what the truth really is. He doesn't think before he lies and often tall tales himself right into a deep hole. Here is a but one snippet of an actual conversation with Larry (Larry is real as is this dialogue, but his name has been changed.)
Chewing on the corner of his nicotine stained moustache, Larry said, "Hopefully this weekend I can get down to the lake and take my submarine out."
Being a new hire at the post office I hadn't learned the truth about Larry yet so I replied with, "Your what?"
"My sub." "Larry's chest swelled like a dead fish as he said, "I saved this antique collectors life once and he gave me an old submarine as a reward."
"This is when a third guy walked up. One that had worked at the PO longer than myself and said, "You're not still telling that same bullshit story are you?"
Larry never batted an eye. "It's not bullshit. It's moored to the marina at Lake Meridith right now."
"So's my boat," said older guy. "And I go every weekend. How come I've never seen a submarine
Not to be deterred, Larry comes back with, "Kids are always playing on the damn thing so I gotta keep it submerged."
"Oh yeah, then how do you get in and out of it?"
Larry was out of the game right there.
Now to liar #2. We'll call him Moe.
Moe worked at the post office right alongside Larry, and he lied every bit as much. One day Moe told me a story for the better part of a half hour before I realized he'd taken the exact plot of the first Rambo movie and inserted himself as the lead character. He strung me along thanks in part to his black eye and bruised knuckles. I never got the faintest whiff of bullshit until he got the part where he was in jail and the police sent for his old military commander because they took one look at his military records and knew he would be the only who stood a chance to reason with him. Later I learned that Moe had simply got in a bar fight over a woman and got tossed out, but his grandiose, detail-filled tale encompassed half the city and a dozen patrolmen.
Another timer time Moe told a group of us a story about his days serving in Vietnam. a gripping tale full of detail and adventure. The four or five of us listened and enjoyed the tale. Only after it was over and Moe walked away did one guy say, "Wow, those exact same things happened to me. Matter of fact I told Moe my story a few weeks back."
Right about then someone in the group asked, "Why didn't you stop Moe and call him out for stealing your story?"
The answer? "Because Moe tells it a hell of a lot better than I do."
Now to Curly. Curly also works with Larry and Moe at the post office. He also lies. But when Curly tells a story he mixes in the truth. He talks about actual places we've all been. Like Moe he adds in lots of details, making absolutely every last one of them is true and accurate. Curly's lies are more about manipulation. tweaking turning the truth, disguising it the way a magician does with smoke and mirrors. He camouflages the lies with the truth. Wrapped up and tucked inside the truth no one listening to his story ever doubts his version. They weren't there to witness it, but nothing is outlandish or out of Curly's character so they have no reason not to believe.
Jump over to the world of fiction. I once read a novel, set in the seventies that included a scene with a group of farm boys engaged in a sexual act with a calf. I immediately doubted that would happen. Now I'm not naive enough to believe a lonely farm boy never ever has formed a "special bond" with his livestock, but having been a teenage boy I highly doubt they'd gather in a group to do so. Then a few chapters later these same boys were grabbing for each other's privates in the locker room after a football game. Right then I stopped reading in the same fashion as I avoid listening to anymore of Larry's stories. Trust me when I say there is no more homophobic environment in the world than a Texas high school locker room. No guy wants to get got so much as eyeballing another dudes jock, so he sure as heck isn't going to be grabbing for it.
Now this was from a very well known and successful novel. It fooled a lot of the people but just like Larry's submarine story couldn't fool a guy who spent lots of time at that marina, this famous author's novel couldn't foll me, a boy who'd grown up in a very similar environment as his characters I cried bullshit and flung the book against the wall. (Any guesses to the title or author?)
But wait you say. Millions of people bought into a series of books about an orphaned wizard who could walk through a brick wall and catch a train to a giant hidden magical castle full of witches and wizards. They eagerly stood in line at midnight to grab the next installment and read a fanciful game of flying snitches and brooms. Of an entire society of magical people living undetected in modern times.
You are right and the reason why is because like Moe's yarns the stories were highly entertaining. You can flat out lie and have everyone know you are lying, but you dang sure better be entertaining of you do.
Now to Curly. My favorite author is Richard Russo. Take a look at his novels, Nobody's Fool, if you haven't read the book maybe you caught the movie version starring Paul Newman. Or The Risk Pool, which is my favorite Russo novel. Maybe you've read Empire Falls for which the Pulitzer was awarded. Or the HBO miniseries of the same name. Bridge of Sighs is Russo's latest work.
The point is everyone of his novels are filled with characters so real they could be your neighbors. Dates, events, locations and conflicts are written with such accuracy that you forget you are reading fiction. Russo's work is about the psychology of man, the human spirit, and the fragility of our decisions. I never questions what I'm reading I'm simply happy to read and learn about my fellow man.
As a writer, I like to think I fall somewhere between Moe and Curly. Entertaining and maybe a bit outlandish in my telling at times, but true to my characters and the world they in habit. If you happen to learn something about your fellow man in the process than I have succeeded beyond even my own expectations. In the meantime, I'll keeping coming up with lies and writing them down on paper. How about you, told any good yarns lately?
Totally unrelated to this post, but thought I'd let you know Rebecca has a picture of me up at her blog Sanding the Rails today.