This is what you get when an author can't decide if their book is "funny" or "serious"...
An unashamedly unabashed subtitle proclaims this non-fiction title to be “The Most Brilliant Book Ever Written!” for a book that professes to educate us on lies and why we tell them – the irony could not be more transparent, or maybe it could. Whether you place it in the category of a ‘jest’, ‘exaggeration’ or ‘propaganda’ depends on your understanding of the various (and many) constructs of lies.
The slenderness of this book belies the depth of research that has clearly been done. One can only imagine the inordinate amount of information, both useful and negligible, that the author trawled through for this creation. It is the kind of book that you will to be good... and in some part, it lives up to expectations: I particularly appreciated the final section, detailing how to recognise a liar, a reasonably thorough account of the key physical giveaways that liars trip themselves up with. The plethora of quotes on the subject of lies from a vast array of individuals from poets to philosophers, from politicians to Adolf Hitler (a classic, by the way), are a nice touch if nothing new.
And therein is the crux of the issue: A Brief History of Lies doesn’t offer anything original and any non-fiction title that proffers up conclusions based on others’ data really must include a bibliography, which is astonishing in its absence. The author does acknowledge the purveyors of his quotations, he invariably omits to tell us where he found said quotes. A bibliography would essentially give the book more credence as legitimate non-fiction. But our consternation at the lack of originality fades in comparison to our bemused bewilderment at the scant historical background into lies themselves.
On the plus side, the illustrations are a wonderful source of humour and light relief from an occasionally dry text, even if they are incongruous against the quasi-serious tone of the content. Besides, there are only eight illustrations by the talented, Calvin Innes, which is not nearly sufficient! A Brief History of Lies is useful as a concise revision of the key past and present hypothesis on lying, but ultimately fails to deliver. It is neither funny enough to be found humorous, nor significant enough to be taken seriously.
We interview C J Daugherty about Night School
- 10 January 2012