The Penguin Book of Lies


As this marvelous anthology of the world's greatest lies attests, lying is an endlessly fascinating subject. People have been lying for as long as they've been talking, which is why it's hard to repress a sneaking admiration for liars on a grand scale. In THE PENGUIN BOOK OF LIES, Philip Kerr has culled the most outrageous tall tales from 25 centuries of deceit, from the Bible to Casanova through Nietzsche and Nixon. Interspersed throughout are reflections on the subject from some of history's most profound thinkers and moralists, who have come up with a thousand and one different ways of classifying lies and castigating liars. Theoreticians such as Machiavelli and Swift, Freud, and Saint Augustine can, on the other hand, teach practitioners a great deal about how and when to lie most effectively.

This compendium of mendacity runs the gamut from Cicero on how to deceive a judge to Ferdinand Gregorius on the not-so-miraculous restoration of Lucrezia Borgia's virginity. How Richard III obtained his hump is followed by Samuel Pepys on lying to his wife and the story of Mary Tofts of Godalming, who claimed in 1726 to have given birth to 20 rabbits all in a single month.

After Oscar Wilde's lament on the decay of lying, one finds an excerpt from "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," Prince Youssopov's "How I Killed Rasputin," John Dead on taking a lie-detector test, and Shere Hite on faking orgasms.

The above is but a sampling of the Wealth of Kerr's offerings. Two and a half millennia have yielded some whoppers, and THE PENGUIN BOOK OF LIES contains the best of them.

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