Self-Awareness & Self-Deception: Beyond the Unreliable Narrator (A Kite in the Wind: Fiction Writers on Their Craft, anthology, Trinity University Press, also in The Writer’s Chronicle)
We refer to reality as if it were tangible--a geographical location or an absolute and identifiable state--but writers often arrive at the reality of the world of their story, if ever, as a kind of byproduct of the characters' everyday self-delusions.
The term "unreliable narrator" suggests that unreliability is a special category and that most narrators (and people) are clear-sighted, rational, and honest. Even a fairly casual consideration of an ordinary day, however, let alone a crisis, suggests otherwise; there's substantial narrative interest in the chaos of the "normal" human mind. It's a little scary, even for people who consider themselves to be recklessly truthful, to count the number of lies (social lies, kind lies, self-serving lies, small semi-truths to avoid long explanations, and outright lies) we tell. Often, we don't allow ourselves to know when we're lying. It's even scarier to look back over the decisions we've made and to try to remember what made those choices seem so smart or so necessary. So one aim in our ongoing project of writing and reading is the passionate desire to get an accurate view of reality.
Politics and the Imagination: How to Get Away with Just about Anything (in Ten Not-So-Easy Lessons) (Dedicated to the People of Darfur: Writings on Fear, Risk, and Hope, anthology, Rutgers University Press, also in The Writer’s Chronicle)
The Pleasures of Hell (The Writer’s Chronicle)
Teeming with Villains & Villainesses, or, Taking Sides (The Writer’s Chronicle)
Dubravka Ugresic, The Ministry of Pain (The Believer)
Stacey D'Erasmo, Blood, Breath, Bone, String: A Seahorse Year (The Believer)