A lighthearted history of lying that may play better in Britain than in the U.S.

TRUTH

A BRIEF HISTORY OF TOTAL BULLSH*T

A professional fact checker says that if you think we live in “a uniquely fact-resistant time,” you need to check your facts.

Phillips, the London-based editor of the nonpartisan fact-checking organization Full Fact, sounds a distinctly British keep-calm-and-carry-on note in this anecdotal rejoinder to the idea that “we live in a ‘post-truth’ age.” “Don’t get me wrong,” he writes. “I’m not trying to convince you that our present time isn’t stuffed to bursting with a hundred thousand flavors of horseshit—it absolutely is! It’s just there’s a simple problem with the idea that we live in a ‘post-truth age’: it would mean that there was a ‘truth age’ at some point that we can now be ‘post-’ about.” Lacing profanity into jaunty but often sophomoric arguments, Phillips notes that ancient clay tablets record the misdeeds of an apparently dishonest Mesopotamian merchant. Later dissemblers include showman P.T. Barnum, Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, and Benjamin Franklin, a “gleeful perpetrator” of literary hoaxes under pseudonyms. Why do we tolerate lies? The reasons range from laziness (it’s too much trouble to check facts) to the cognitive bias called “anchoring,” “our brain’s tendency to latch onto the first piece of information we get about any subject and give it more weight than anything else.” Phillips allows that lies can kill—“when our leaders lie, sometimes really, really, really large numbers of people die. There can be wars and stuff”—but we needn’t “freak out” about perfidies like “fake news.” We can survive them “just as long as we don’t throw up our hands and go all, ‘LOL—nothing matters.’ ” The author’s jolly style at times has the air of insouciance he warns against, and in a presidential election year in which a candidate’s lies can have perilous consequences, this book may strike Americans as tone deaf.

A lighthearted history of lying that may play better in Britain than in the U.S.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-335-98376-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Hanover Square Press

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

SO HELP ME GOD

The former vice president reflects warmly on the president whose followers were encouraged to hang him.

Pence’s calm during the Trump years has been a source of bemusement, especially during the administration’s calamitous demise. In this bulky, oddly uncurious political memoir, Pence suggests the source of his composure is simple: frequent prayer and bottomless patience for politicking. After a relatively speedy recap of his personal and political history in Indiana—born-again Christian, conservative radio host, congressman, governor—he remembers greeting the prospect of serving under Trump with enthusiasm. He “was giving voice to the desperation and frustration caused by decades of government mismanagement,” he writes. Recounting how the Trump-Pence ticket won the White House in 2016, he recalls Trump as a fundamentally hardworking president, albeit one who often shot from the hip. Yet Pence finds Trump’s impulsivity an asset, setting contentious foreign leaders and Democrats off-balance. Soon they settled into good cop–bad cop roles; he was “the gentler voice,” while “it was Trump’s job to bring the thunder.” Throughout, Pence rationalizes and forgives all sorts of thundering. Sniping at John McCain? McCain never really took the time to understand him! Revolving-door staffers? He’s running government like a business! That phone call with Ukraine’s president? Overblown! Downplaying the threat Covid-19 presented in early 2020? Evidence, somehow, of “the leadership that President Trump showed in the early, harrowing days of the pandemic.” But for a second-in-command to such a disruptive figure, Pence dwells little on Trump’s motivations, which makes the story’s climax—Trump’s 2020 election denials and the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection—impossible for him to reconcile. How could such a selfless patriot fall under the sway of bad lawyers and conspiracy theorists? God only knows. Chalk it up to Pence's forgiving nature. In the lengthy acknowledgments he thanks seemingly everybody he’s known personally or politically; but one name’s missing.

Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 9781982190330

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

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