Love and Lies: And Why You Can't Have One Without the Other by Clancy Martin

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Love and Lies: And Why You Can't Have One Without the Other by Clancy Martin

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Category: Popular Science
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Anna Hollingsworth
Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth
Summary: Clancy Martin, a philosophy professor, self-confessed expert liar, and serial groom, exposes the lies we tell to those we love the most. Love and Lies straddles philosophy, psychology, literary criticism, and autobiography, and is sure to induce some serious self-reflection.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 278 Date: January 2016
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-1784700775

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Lying is wrong and the last people you would lie to willingly are the ones you love the most – or so you would like to think. In Love and Lies: And Why You Can't Have One Without the Other, Clancy Martin, a philosophy professor, self-confessed expert liar, and serial groom, sets out on a mission to disprove the central beliefs we hold with respect to, no more and no less than, our own morality.

Love and Lies presents a mixture of philosophy, psychology, autobiography, and literary criticism centering on lying, loving, and how these are invariably intertwined. The book begins with a section on the philosophical and as such admittedly theoretical background to lying, and then implements these ideas to different stages and ways of loving in chapters spanning childhood, first loves, erotic love, and marriage. Martin uses real life and fictional examples alike to expose how everyone lies every day, all the time, and especially to those we hold closes to us; most of these may be small and inconsequential lies, but lies nevertheless. How can you promise someone that I will love you forever when no one knows what the future holds? Is I missed you too not the most convenient reply to your significant other returning from a business trip even if you were happy having some alone time?

What Martin truly excels in is to avoid all moralizing – an achievement in itself when the topic itself is so closely tied up with morality. Martin achieves this tour de force of not holding a moral high ground through talking openly (and sometimes perhaps overly explicitly; at times, the reader feels like they are engaged in involuntary voyeurism) about his own loves, love life, and self-acknowledged expertise in lying.

Another instance of scoring a bull's-eye is the notion of 'love' that Martin adopts. Understanding the admittedly elusive concept of 'love' very broadly contributes to the versatility of the discussion: 'love' for Martin does not only encompass romantic love in an erotic sense but also, for example, the love you feel for your family and the all-consuming, yet nearly not always erotic, first love.

Yet what the book gains in maximal versatility it loses in theoretical depth. The initial short history of philosophical approaches to lying falls nothing short of excellent, treating the thoughts of thinkers from Plato to Nietzsche and Kant to Machiavelli with admirable lucidity; however, after this strong start, Martin's firm grasp of the theoretical aspects of love and lies loosens, turning into a slightly too superficial take on popular psychology. This faltering becomes especially clear in the preponderance of controversial theories relating particularly to child psychology. The Freudian school, Oedipal complex, and Melanie Klein's theories of childhood sexuality are referred to excessively, and while these are undeniable interestingly and accessibly presented, a more balanced perspective is called for, especially as the psychoanalytic tradition comes across as much more uncontroversial in Martin's writing than it in reality is.

This sense of unbalance comes through also as a feeling of repetitiveness at times. Especially the chapter on first love is overly long, largely due to presenting and analyzing the first loves of multiple fictional characters. Again, more factual examples would have balanced the otherwise intriguing discussion on what it is to love for the first time. Cutting down on the discussion here would also have spared more space for contemplations on marriage and erotic love – after all, the author claims to be an expert on marriage, having been divorced twice and married thrice.

Love and Lies is an interesting, even eye-opening, read on more than one level – it straddles theory and autobiography, and facts and fiction with admirably dexterity. It does fall short of a sufficient theoretical balance to survive academic scrutiny, but as a popular science book it certainly manages induce some serious self-reflection.

If this book appeals to you, then you might also like to try How To Sell by Clancy Martin.

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Buy Love and Lies: And Why You Can't Have One Without the Other by Clancy Martin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Love and Lies: And Why You Can't Have One Without the Other by Clancy Martin at Amazon.com.

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