Lying And Cheating

Neil LaBute, Seconds of Pleasure (Faber, 2005, 223pp, £7.99)

Some people think of the entire enterprise of fiction as a sort of confidence trick. And, to a certain way of thinking, it does seem that way: people who don’t exist, in places that never were, doing things that never happened, eliciting feelings in the reader which seem pretty like to those you might have for real people, in real places, doing real things. Some of the most giddily thrilling moments in my lifetime of fiction reading come from writers who openly play the hustler. The agonising death of George and the heartbreaking grief of Amelia in Vanity Fair gain from Thackeray’s insistence that his characters are mere puppets – the reader, sharing in the characters’ submission to the author, shares more heavily in their loss and pain. One of the pleasures of fiction is in observing the author conjure up those real responses to the made-up world, with you the reader as the willing assistant. Continue reading