Seven years ago, I posted a piece about “Liars in Literature.” Now, with “The Lyin’ King” Donald Trump having announced another presidential run last week, I thought it would be timely to write a follow-up featuring some lying characters I’ve “met” since 2015.
Those fictional fibbers may not be admirable, but they sure can be interesting. We wonder why they lie, if they believe their own lies, whether others believe their lies, whether lying will help them or hurt them, etc. But there’s no wondering about whether truth-averse hater Trump’s “Truth Social” social-media platform has the most hilariously Orwellian name ever. 🙂
Among literature’s liars mentioned in my 2015 post were the despotic rulers in George Orwell’s 1984, the men who framed Edmond Dantes in Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo, the murderer in Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, the aristocratic Godrey Cass in George Eliot’s Silas Marner, young Briony Tallis in Ian McEwan’s Atonement, and the impoverished Mayella Ewell (who lies under pressure from her brutal/racist father) in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
Some fibbers in novels I’ve read since 2015? Lawrence Osborne’s creepily compelling The Glass Kingdom, which I just finished, stars a young American woman who’s a liar and thief — though she’s partly sympathetic due to her social awkwardness, the way she’s victimized by several people even more unethical than she is, and the fact that her secrets are not as secret as she thinks. Sarah Mullins is living in Bangkok (pictured above) — the huge, new-and-old, multicultural capital city of Thailand that Osborne describes so minutely and evocatively that it’s no lie to say it’s a co-star of his 2020 thriller.
Another untruth-teller, in Liane Moriarty’s aptly titled Big Little Lies, is brutal abuser Perry Wright — who has a respectable public reputation as a hedge-fund manager. (Perhaps being a hedge-fund manager should’ve been a giveaway.)
Also possessing vicious traits beneath an upright public facade is Nils Bjurman, the lying state-appointed guardian of Lisbeth Salander in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, etc.).
In addition, there’s the Nazi murderer who forges a false identity as an American wife in Kate Quinn’s thriller The Huntress.
And the unnamed narrator of Henry James’ The Aspern Papers who’s guilty of using subterfuge to try to get his hands on the letters of a famous deceased poet.
Law-enforcement officials in Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give? Quite willing to lie to protect a white police officer who murdered a young Black man.
The three Joy Fielding novels I’ve read all prominently include liars — in some cases close family members who might seem loving but are actually kind of psycho. That trio of suspenseful books includes Grand Avenue, Don’t Cry Now, and Lost.
Of course there’s also Jay Gatsby, who lies about many things in The Great Gatsby. Oops, I read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic novel before 2015, but forgot to mention it in my seven-years-ago post. 🙂
Your favorite (or not-so-favorite) liars in literature?
My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.
In addition to this weekly blog, I write the 2003-started/award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com every Thursday. The latest piece — about my town’s secretive Council and a parking deck finally opening — is here.