Telling New Lies: Seven Essays in Fiction, Past and Present

Telling New Lies: Seven Essays in Fiction, Past and Present Melvyn New

University of Florida Press, 1992
ISBN: 0813011205

With the finesse that transports his pun upon the idea of telling (as both “narrating” and “significant”), the author weds a new essay on Jonathan Swift and Thomas Mann with six previously published articles to fashion this new collection, unified in an introductory essay around the theme of falsehood.

These essays range from excursions into eighteenth-century fiction to an encounter with Thomas Pynchon’s postmodern novel V.; from an exploration of Orwell’s 1984 in the light of antisemitism to a study of Sterne’s Tristram Shandy in the light of his suppreseed antagonist, Bishop Warburton; and from a reading of A Sentimental Journey through the filter of Proust to a reading of A Tale of a Tub through the filter of The Magic Mountain.

While the idea of fabrication is inherent in most postmodern commentary, New’s criticism in these essays lies to the right of the literary academy, manifesting itself as a “contrarian,” not liberal, mode of thinking. In his introduction, he takes note of the dread of totalitarianism that defines the horizon of all post-1945 literary study, and of the reader’s necessary task to distinguish lies of power from lies of art – a difficult task, he writes, since “Power will often speak with the voice of art – is, indeed, art’s best mimic, and worst.” If we cannot find the truth in our lies and the grace in our art, New asks, what do we pass on the next generation – “what do we tell the children?”

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