Tuesday, November 11, 2014


I coincidentally read two fascinating longish-form things today about fabulists, Hanna Rosin's piece in the New Republic about Steven Glass and this 2012 New Yorker story about a marathon runner who (almost certainly) cheats. It's fascinating to read about liars who can sustain these super complicated stories for so long--both stories involve fake websites, notes, and characters. The first article is also about forgiveness, and the second is more open-ended.

It made me want to listen to this good old This American Life episode, "Liars." So good.

And I've always been interested in Munchausen Syndrome and Munchausen by proxy, which I guess now fall under the umbrella term Factitious Disorder? All of these are fabulous syndrome names, and the disorders are ones that are somehow simultaneously beyond my understanding and weirdly comprehensible. I think anyone with even a tiny bit of experience with lying, getting caught in a complicated lie or feeling the terror/gratification of a successful lie or exaggeration, could see how this might happen, and how it would be both compulsive and satisfying, but also...humiliating. And complicated, of course, by the fact that it's a mental illness, a true compulsion.

“All of us have to be prevaricators, hypocrites, and liars every day of our lives; otherwise the social structure would fall into pieces the first day. We must act in one another's presence just as we must wear clothes. It is for the best” ― O. Henry


Joanna said...

Is "Liars" the episode with the teenager who convinced himself he was British? I think I met him at a party in New York! He works at NPR.

Liz Woodbury said...

Ahh, no it looks like (from my extensive research) that episode was called "Hoaxing Yourself," which would fit right in with my lying theme. I'm not sure I ever heard it, but I'm going to listen right now!