Most people will recognize Stephen King’s It as the one about the killer clown. Which it is. But at 1100 pages, it has to be more than that, you know? In his dedication King writes: “Fiction is the truth inside the lie”—which, I’ll admit, I still don’t fully get—but that’s nevertheless a good place to begin investigating one of It’s running themes: extracting the truth from the lies, particularly the ones we tell ourselves. Centered around a group of raggle-taggle tweens, It is a story about growing up and facing fears, about selectively remembering (and discarding) our early painful memories. What the characters develop, as their first line of defense against the killer clown in question, is an elaborate but ultimately fragile method of narrative construction that carries them into adulthood: Mike Hanlon, one of the story’s protagonists, explains, “We lie best when we lie to ourselves.”
It’s true for all of us. With the recent deluge of social studies concerning #confirmationbias, and with the self-righteousness of American politics cropping up wherever we look—not to mention moral dispatches from Starbucks cups—there’s never been a better time to take a second glance at the stories we tell ourselves. If spun right, “taking control of your narrative” can sound just as liberating as “taking a trip to Aruba”; but the late David Carr, in his memoir, The Night of the Gun, illustrates the exhausting side of this self-embossed coin: “You spread versions of yourself around, giving each person the truth he or she needs—you need, actually—to keep them at one remove.”
So let’s get all our narratives in one place and talk about them, Friday, April 28, 3:30PM, at the 10th Annual Mockingbird Conference. We’ll discuss some of the best stories told by liars and madmen, including some by me and some by you. And—of course—we’ll talk about the great, final page-turner that illuminates the truth about us and pulls us into it, not as tragic heroes but as pardoned villains.