Our Critic's Tip Sheet on Current Reading: Female Fibs; Liebling at War; Mailer and Auchincloss, Separated at Birth

Little White Lies, Deep Dark Secrets: The Truth About Why Women Lie (St. Martin’s Press, $23.95) is the latest from “gender expert” Susan Shapiro Barash. I picked it up out of idle curiosity (are women’s reasons for lying really different from men’s?) and would have put it straight back down (the writing is shockingly bad), but I was struck by the bold amorality of Ms. Barash’s approach: “I neither condemn nor condone the lies women tell,” she solemnly declares. Turns out that’s a lie. In fact, she thinks fibs are fab. Here’s the final sentence of her book, the sum of the wisdom she’s squeezed from “extensive personal interviews with women and experts in the field of psychology and counseling”:

“In my research for Little White Lies, Deep Dark Secrets, I’ve come to recognize lying as an inestimable weapon in the female arsenal as women search for personal retribution and satisfaction.” Inestimable weapon? Female arsenal? Personal retribution? Looks like the gender wars are heating up.


A. J. LIEBLING’S WORK as a war correspondent has been collected in a single volume, edited by Pete Hamill: A. J. Liebling: World War II Writings (Library of America, $40). This charming passage is from a dispatch Liebling sent from Paris by “wireless” on Sept. 1, 1944, exactly a week after the city was liberated: “The gratitude toward Americans is immense and sometimes embarrassing in its manifestations. People are always stopping one in the street, pumping one’s hand and saying, ‘Thank you.’ It is useless to protest. To the Parisians, and especially to the children, all Americans are now héros du cinéma. This is particularly disconcerting to sensitive war correspondents, if any, aware, as they are, that these innocent thanks belong to those American combat troops who won the beachhead and then made the breakthrough. There are few such men in Paris. Young women, the first day or two after the Allies arrived, were as enthusiastic as children; they covered the cheeks of French and American soldiers alike with lipstick. This stage of Franco-American relations is approaching an end. Children, however, still follow the American soldiers everywhere, singing the ‘Marseillaise’ and hopefully eyeing pockets from which they think gum might emerge. And it is still hard for an American who speaks French to pay for a drink in a bar.”


BLINK AND YOU’LL miss it: In Larissa MacFarquhar’s genial New Yorker profile of 90-year-old Louis Auchincloss, “East Side Story” (Feb. 25, $4.50), there’s a priceless exchange between our über-WASP hero and Norman Mailer, who was once moved to wonder why he and Mr. Auchincloss were so cordial, even though they had nothing in common. “Nothing in common!” Mr. Auchincloss replied. “We live in the same silly island, publish our wet dreams, and go to the same silly parties—and have for years! It would take a mother’s eye to tell the difference between us. Of course, it is true that I don’t marry quite so much.”