Lying is also part of a Great American story-telling tradition, celebrated by Mark Twain and plenty of other American writers. Think of all the great lying that spices up Huckleberry Finn. In older cultures, lying as a method of making a point or making life more interesting was accepted as part everyday communication. It made life better, like color tv heightened the experience of staring at the black-and-white dots of our first cathode ray-driven trances.
In simpler days, literary lying was laughed over as much as it was vilified. In the 1920s, my grandfather, a journalist, managed to convince the entire staff of San Diego's Scripps-Howard newspaper and the population at large that their city had been built on a labyrinth of salt caves that might collapse at any moment, dragging San Diego and its residents into a briny apocalypse. The article ran on the front page on New Year's Day and when my grandfather revealed that the whole story had been a hoax, residents, editors, and publishers alike forgave the brash young journalist with a chorus of relieved guffaws.
Pre-historical lying y is a little more difficult to judge, because the ancient lies were passed down verbally, leaving us no evidence. Regardless of the pride story tellers took in orally reproducing exacting tales that helped communicate behaviors ethical and nasty, heroic and cowardly, they also wanted to create an effect as writers do today. Therefore they probably added a little color, a little spice to the mix, for the benefit of their audiences and to better their chances of eating a decent stew and sleeping someplace warm. They can be forgiven, because facts don't always captivate and besides... We know that the mind is really nothing more than a drawer of mis-matched socks, and regardless of our efforts, we're going to distort reality.
Scientists are the first to confess that their objectivity is warped by variables that begin with their measurements and end with the unreliable disciplines of logic and communication. Historians are usually a bit more steadfast about the accuracy of their recording, but plenty of them have also admitted that they are screening reality that they have no connection to beyond the cerebrum. Journalists have developed an elaborate set of ethics that work for some of the people some of the time, but aren't they still lying through their teeth? It's not always a bad thing. It's just that they're trying to represent reality with their blurred senses, cluttered brains, and frantic fingers. Meanwhile, reality floats serenely by on the time-space continuum, beyond the writer's reach, refusing to be reproduced.
Author John Rechy maintains that the only writers who are not liars are fiction writers because they begin by saying, I'm gonna make up a story and, if you're interested in my lies, you'll read and perhaps even enjoy them. Okay, so perhaps fiction writers aren't liars because they are sneaky — they avoid getting boxed in by any quantifiable truth, regardless of how truthful you find their tales. I lied plenty in my first two novels, even though they were naturalistic and even prize winners as fictions about historical people, places and events (Gates of Eden) and the wobbling nature of my own recollections (A Bowl Full of Nails).
I plan to lie in my next novel. I also plan to steal.