is an art to have so much judgment as to apparel a lie well, to give
it a good dressing" Ben Jonson, Explorata: Mali
"The grifter is back and he's gunning for chumps.So you'd better
zip up those pocket, pal." Gibson op.cit. beneath.
The lecture will look at the role of the narrator.In literature the role
is richer, more ambiguous. How is the narrator to be pictured ?
• the narrator as a separate story teller outside the action .
• the narrator as a separate story teller inside the action; the
narrator in Sondheim's Into the Woods.At one point in the narrative,
the characters break through to the narrator's dimension and sacrifice him
to the rampaging giantess. No, says the narrator, if you kill me, you
won't know how the story ends. His pleading is in vain.
• the narrator above the action, narrator as puppet master. Nijinksi's
staging of Petrouchka.
• the narrator as invisible presence, the voice over, the comic
caption, the voice of the prompter.
• The Invisible narrator, the title card, the title page.
• The narrator tells the story in the picture, Millais' The
Boyhood of Raleigh
• The narrator as God, the moral visitation.
• The author shows the narrator telling the story. The dimensions
of possibilities, Nabokov's Pale Fire. Jackie Batey's
Bottle Hoax of 1749
seance from John Farmer, Twixt Two Worlds, chromolithograph
van Meegeren 1945
Picture Magazine - an invented Marching Band 1896
The Swindles of the World, G.de'Pauli engraving c1590
Doctor Panurgus, Martin Droessout
The Quack Doctor , print by Willem Buyteweck
The Wonderful Pig of Knowledge, English popular Print c1810
Nicholas Blunt alias Nicholas Gennings, as Upright Man and Counterfeit Crank illustrated ballad
Faked Passport used by a Vagrant in England 1596
But what happens if the narrator lies ?
• Herman Melville, The Confidence Man ,
• Thomas Mann Felix Krull, The Confidence Man
• Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire,
• Nikolai Gogol, Dead Souls,
• Edgar Alan Poe, Diddling Considered as One of the Exact Sciences.1843
• Oscar Wilde, The Decay of Lying.
• P.T.Barnum, The Autobiography of a Showman.
• N.Hawthorn,The House of the Seven Gables
• Escher; the optical illusion.
• Jan Steen, the card sharp.
• Duchamp, Rrose Selavy, altered ego.
• Bosch, the Trickster
• Mamet, The House of Games, 1987 and much recommended. Everyone
has their tell.
• The Big Parade about Kim Il Sung.
• Ceaucescu documentary
• Orson Welles, broadcast The War of the Worlds.
• Kelly/Donen, Singing in the Rain
• Honoré Daumier, the invention of Robert Macaire.
Excerpt: House of Games,
The Tell; Mike, "Now the guy from Vegas (he points at the back room)
has got a shitload of my money. He's got a 'tell'. OK ? When he's bluffing,
okay, he plays with his little gold ring. Now I caught him doing it. N'he
knows I did, so he stopped. He's conscious of himself. I want you to do
me this favour. I want you to be my girlfriend for a while, come in the
game, you stand behind me, watch me play. We get in a big hand okay ?
I, uh, I go to pee you watch this guy, and tell me, does he play with
his gold ring. I know he's bluffing. I win the big hand. I'll forget the
eight hundred dollars your friend owes." David Mamet, House of
Games, screenplay, Methuen London 1988.
"The trouble with telling a lie is that you always have to remember
it and be able to repeat it when necessary or risk embarrassing embarrassing
inconsistency. Eventually the lie takes on a life of its own, with consequences
that can snowball until they cannot be controlled.Kim Il Sung is a consummate
liar. One of the longest running examples of his mendacity concerns his
country's programme to develop nuclear weapons. North Korea thought it
could bamboozle the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is why it
agreed a couple of years ago to allow inspections of its facilities. But
Kim underestimated American satellite intelligence...Risking discovery,
North Korea announced its withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty...The crisis that has triggered this has abated but the falsehoods
on which North Korea's Communist society have been based continue, swollen
to such a degree that they consume the entire country."The Great
Leader and the Dear Leader". Leader in the Independent Newspaper
just before Kim's Death.
Types of mendacity
• The creation of a narrative per se.
• The creation of a personality: Orpen, Duchamp, Lewis.
• The creation of a technology.
• The language of lying The Half Truth. Economical with the truth,
Pale Fire; completed 1961, the mad comedy of two worlds
in conjunction. The foreword, poem, commentary, and index.
The Confidence Man; the title leads to anticipations;the
celebrated cavalcade of potential suspects on the river boat. "there
was no lack of variety. Natives of all sorts and foreigners; men of business
and men of pleasure; parlour men and backwoodsmen, farm-hunters and fame-hunters;
heiress-hunters, gold-hunters, buffalo-hunters, bee-hunters, happiness-hunters,
truth-hunters, and still keener, hunters after all these hunters. Fine
ladies in slippers and moccasined squaws; Northern speculators and Eastern
philosophers; English, Irish, German, Scot, Danes; Sante Fe traders in
striped blankets, and Broad way bucks in cravats of cloth of gold; fine-looking
Kentucky boatmen, and Japanese looking Mississippi cotton-planters; Quakers
in full drab, and United States soldiers in full regimentals; slaves,
black, mulatto, quadroon; modish young Spanish creoles and old fashioned
French Jews; Mormons and Papists; Dives and Lazurus; jesters and mourners,
teetotallers and convivialists, deacons and blacklegs; hard-shell Baptists
and clay-eaters; Sioux chiefs as solemn as High Priests. In short a piebald
Parliament, an Anarchasis Cloots congress of all kinds of that multiform
pilgrim species, man." ; see also pp 229-231, Melville's characters
Philip Kerr, The
Penguin Book of Lies, Penguin London 1991; the basic
collection of texts - Quintilian,How an orator should employ a lie; Niccolo
Machiavelli, How Princes should honour their word; Michel Montaigne, A
should have a good memory; Sir Richard Steele, On sustaining deceit; William
Hazlitt, Puffing; R.L.Stevenson, Truth of intercourse; Oscar Wilde, The
Decay of Lying; Hansard/Harold Nicholson, We lie Damnably; reference to
the Piltdown Man, Chatterton and the account of how Rasputin was murdered.
Alexander Klein, Grand
Deception,The World's Most Spectacular and Successful Hoaxes,
Impostures, Ruses and Frauds, Faber and Faber, London 1956; including
The Abyssian Princess who outwitted the British Navy; Orson Welles and
the Men from Mars and Van Meergren
Walter B.Gibson, The Bunco Book, the Bunco Man from the Carnival
Worker, Sharpers, Confidence man and schemer of the Get Rich
Quick Variety, Citadel Press Seacaucus, NJ 1986 (1946) Gibson
was the creator of the character The Shadow whom Orson Welles
played on radio. Featured in this book include description of
The Gold Brick, The Automatic Bowling Alley, The Three Pin Game,
The Wheels of Chance; How Gamblers win at Poker;
Gary Lindberg, The Confidence Man in American Literature, OUP London
1982. "...the confidence man sees more opportunity in New World
fluidity, not merely to improve his lot by cleverness and technical
proficiency, but actually to recast the self through cunning imitation"
Tony Tanner, introduction to Melville's The Confidence Man, OUP Oxford
1989, an excellent analysis of the liar in a fluid social context.
R.L.Gregory and E.Gombrich, Illusion in Nature and Art, Duckworth
London 1973, see "Illusion and Art"
and the best single publication is
Mark Jones (ed.) Fake ? The Art of Deception, University of California
Press, Berkeley 1990 (also a British Edition, copyright the British Museum.
see also Carl Sifakis, Hoaxes and Scandals, A Compendium of
Deceptions, Ruses and Swindles, Michael O'Mara Books, London 1993. Published under
Licence from Facts on File.
The Big Parade, a documentary about the political pageantry and mythology
of the North Korean leader Kim Il Sung.
The War of the Worlds.
The House of Games
The Winter's Tale (the character of Autolycus)
Singing in the Rain.
Into the Woods.