Thursday, July 20, 2006

Book-A-Day #4 (7/20): On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt

I'd wanted to read this for quite some time, especially since I kept seeing it on bestseller lists. However, I never actually saw it in a bookstore, so, last week when I was at a library with my boys, I looked it up in the catalog and found it sitting on the shelf.

And I discovered why I'd never seen it in a bookstore: it's tiny. The trim size is roughly 4" x 6", and it contains 67 small pages with not over-many words on each. Even if I'd been looking directly at it in a store, it would have been hard to spot.

A book that short is finished almost before it's started, so of course I took it. And now I've read it.

Sadly, it's not that good. It's yet another in the endless line of supposedly shocking books by smart, credentialed people (Frankfurt is a Princeton philosophy professor) on unlikely subjects. And it's terribly dull; Frankfurt feels compelled to footnote all of his not-very-entertaining quotes in a book on bullshit. It's also windy and tedious; Frankfurt is mostly embarking on a survey of the literature of bullshit -- which seems to be whatever is under that heading in the OED and what he can dredge out of his own brain. The style is High Academic, and the meat is a half-serious attempt to delineate the territory between bullshit and lies.

Avoid this book; if you're looking for a short, funny look at something unlikely, may I instead recommend Chuck Yerby's The Devil's Details: A History of Footnotes?

1 comment:

redchurch said...

A book on bullshit, which of course, by its own definition, must be bullshit. Get it? Har har.

Maybe you have to be a philosophy major to appreciate that. ;)

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