Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Fabulist - Stephen Glass

The other day while Internet surfing I found out about a runner who apparently cheats at marathons, although no one can figure out exactly how, and he hasn't admitted to doing so. This man even went so far as to make up races, creating race websites and phony results for imaginary runners. What kind of a person does that? I can see wanting to win a marathon, but to go to the lengths a person would have to go to cheat at a marathon, or to make one up, seems like more work than just running the marathon and not worrying about placing in your age group or whatever.

The cheating runner made me think about Stephen Glass. I have to confess that for some reason I love the movie Shattered Glass, which is based on the true story of Glass, a former journalist who was caught making up quotes, people, and even events in his stories, some of which were completely made up. I thought maybe reading this book, a supposed work of fiction but really a sort of retelling of Glass getting caught and fired and then his life for a couple months after that, would give some insight into why someone would cheat/lie. That was not the case. In fact, I have to say that if his writing for The New Republic was as poor as the writing on display in this book, I seriously question the people who didn't immediately sense that it was fiction - and poorly done fiction at that.

One might think that someone who lies compulsively could come up with a great work of fiction, but this was not even "good." The dialogue sounds phony, most of the events make little sense - I think sometimes this is meant to be funny, but it's just stupid. For such a skilled liar, Glass can't keep track of details at all. Does the apartment building have a doorman or not? How could you see Syl's bikini when she's wearing a hoodie that goes past her waist and then a couple lines later she removes the jeans she now has on? The story goes so far off the rails in the last 30 or so pages that it's breathtaking. What's baffling to me is that the events in the book will begin in a way that seems very realistic, and then you can see Glass adding nonsense and silliness as he continues to describe what is happening, so that as a reader my mind kept catching on this fluff and thinking - what? And of course, there was no real explanation or motivation offered. This book was not worth reading, I'm afraid.

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