In fiction, authors begin by fashioning a sympathetic hero – someone we can care about, or, in the case of an anti-hero, at least feel for – as the entrance point to their story. It’s the trick an author uses to grab and, hopefully, hold the attention of the reader throughout the book. You, the reader, they expect will swallow the whole story – utterly inconceivable and illogical though it may be – just because you like the hero. Well, that’s what poor writers expect, anyway – and Lawrence Wright is a very poor writer.
Lawrence Wright’s most recent anti-religious tome (that’s what Larry specializes in – attacking religions) is not supposed to be fiction. So why such an obvious pack of lies? I wondered, as I leafed along rolling my eyes. There were actually passages that had me choking with laughter at some of his attempted mile-long stretches to make Paul Haggis look…well, not like a hero, that’s just not possible, but sympathetic, anyway. It was obvious to me, of course, that Larry had help building his Frankenstein of a story thanks to the wild imaginings and convenient memory loss served up by Paul himself. (If you doubt Paul’s propensity for telling world-class whoppers, read The Big Lie.)
Let me treat you to the truth behind just a few of Larry and Paul’s pathetic lies:
LIE: “London, Ontario, is a middling manufacturing town halfway between Toronto and Detroit, once known for its cigars and breweries…The city, which sits in a humid basin, is remarked upon for its unpleasant weather. Summers are unusually hot, winters brutally cold, the springs and falls fine but fleeting.”
TRUTH: This is Larry’s attempt to make it appear as if poor little Paul struggled through his formative years in somewhere akin to a dustbowl town in Texas. In fact London, Ontario – known as “the Forest City” for its beautiful landscape – is one of the most picturesque, and one of the wealthiest, cities in Canada. When we were growing up it had the most millionaires per capita of any city in Canada. London boasts a world-renowned university with a medical center known for its heart surgery breakthroughs and a business school that is a mecca for students from all over the continent. Although it is situated near the Buffalo, New York, snow belt, London is, in fact, known for its surprisingly mild weather due to the “lake effect” of being situated between three Great Lakes. Storms that routinely plague Toronto, Detroit and Buffalo skip right over London and this fact is well known…to everyone, it seems, but Larry and his researchers.
So if poor little Paul didn’t come from such a bad place, how could Larry make his hero appear challenged? Hmmm….
LIE: “The Haggises were one of the few Catholic families in a Protestant neighborhood, which led to occasional confrontations, including a schoolyard fistfight that left Paul with a broken nose. Although he didn’t really think of himself as religious, he identified with being a minority….”
OMG!! (This is where I nearly choked from laughter.)
TRUTH: At no time in our young lives did we live in a protestant neighborhood. We always lived near Catholic schools, and attended Catholic schools. (Which begs the question, How did the protestant “schoolyard bullies” get in, Paul – by cutting through the fence and running the gauntlet of nuns?? I kind of doubt it, those nuns were pretty tough!) In fact, I can’t remember a time when we weren’t surrounded by Catholics. The only “minorities” we knew were my father and his parents who were Anglican. Did Paul get his nose broken at some point? Yes, very likely. But, knowing Paul, if he did, he earned it. This is one of those tall tales Paul would routinely tell at home that would result in a chorus of “Oh, Paul, come on!” from his parents. If I heard my parents refer to him as a “con artist” once, I heard it a hundred times over the years. Cute at 10, not so cute at 60.
My mother would be choking with laughter were she alive to hear this next whopper:
LIE: “Paul spent a lot of time alone. He could walk a mile to catch the school bus and not see anyone along the way…”
Sounds just heartbreaking, doesn’t it?
TRUTH: At this point we lived on an 18-acre estate on a lovely wooded hill about one mile from our Catholic grade school. Our Catholic high school was about a fifteen minute drive away. When Paul did take the school bus, which was rare, he was driven down the hill to the stop by his doting mother in her Mercedes Benz. More often than not, since Paul was nearly always late, he was driven to the door of the school.
Paul lived a thoroughly pampered life right up until he was shipped off to military boarding school for, as Haggis tells us, forging checks. Well, that wasn’t quite all, was it Paul? But I suppose a dash of honesty was necessary to help the lies go down, at least where the gullible are concerned.
Near the end of this first chapter of wall to wall deception, Paul and Larry finally, vaguely allude to something closer to the truth about Paul. After claiming that at this time London was known as “Speed City” (London, Ontario??) for its meth labs “that sprang up to serve its blossoming underworld” (that would be Paul and his two friends), Wright mentions that, per Haggis:
“Hard drugs were easy to obtain. Two of Haggis’s friends died from overdoses, and he had a gun pointed in his face a couple of times. ‘I was a bad kid,’ he admitted. ‘I didn’t kill anybody. Not that I didn’t try.’
Yes. Now Paul is getting a little closer to the truth about his sordid past.
Make no mistake, the people interviewed for this book all set out to profit from it by pushing off lies and misconceptions on the ill-informed. All have their particular motives, most of which boil down to hoping to garner some publicity for themselves so they can make a buck…and whitewash over their own sordid pasts.
For the truth about these individuals visit http://www.freedommag.org/hbo/