The Lie -- reviewed by Mimi Carmen
If you're looking for a story full of surprises, humor and pathos, "The Lie" takes you there. To start, you wonder, "What's the matter with this guy? Why can't he just settle down?" It appears he has everything, so what's his problem? And that's the theme of the story. On the surface there doesn't appear to be a problem, but there's a feeling of something off kilter, like a kid's building block about to fall, like the rumble of distant thunder you wait to happen. Oh, sure, it makes your eyes fly to the next paragraph, turn the page, and what's not to like about something charming, exaggerated, preposterous? But, and perhaps most importantly, along with surprises, and entertainment and timeliness, the story flexes the muscles of your empathy, and broadens your spectrum of life. And while it designs itself with lies, it fashions itself with honesty.
Lonnie, his wife Clover, and baby Zana remind you of a regular, nice couple, living in a city, (could be anywhere), and as the story opens, they're having the usual hassle of hurrying before going to work in the morning. There's the "mounds of laundry," the scattered clothes on the floor, the gurgling baby, the smelly diapers, the relentless rain outside.
Of course last night it was like it used to be before "baby," with old friends, wine, intellectual, stimulating conversation, so they stayed up until nearly morning. This morning with one bleary eye opened, Lonnie sees Clover running around half naked, and it doesn't turn him on, as he's seen it a thousand times already.
Clover plants the baby on Lonnie so she can dress for her job as a legal secretary, with its bright future. She's studying to be a lawyer and goes to school at night. After she leaves, Lonnie makes tonight's supper, takes Zana to the baby sitter, and thinks about his boring day
Lonnie, twenty-six, a college graduate, used to be in a band, and now he faces the sameness of the editing screen of his job at "Iron House Productions" and his churlish boss, Radko. Right this minute, after he leaves the baby off at the sitter it's time to get to his own job, and he wants to throw up, with revolting, nausea and feelings of rebellion in the pit of his stomach. He thinks what it would mean to have the day to himself instead of his usual function, like a cog in a machine on an assembly line.
And this starts a series of lies, like a chain of menacing beads. Lonnie strings his lies together each day, and capers as if he's an adolescent. After the first lie to get the day off, the story travels in a trail of emptiness, as it leads to plastic signs of fast foods places, food as tasteless as ashes, movies where he takes in all ten, and bars with one beer after another, and women who look into his eyes with an invitation. But finally, the awakening isn't a lie. It's stunning, and fantastic.
As I read the last word, it is with the joy of knowing T.C.Boyle is still writing the stories I found so enticing, that lured me into his lair. "The Lie" is a brilliant 24 carat diamond, a five-star story in his "Wild Child" collection.