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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

In Praise of Lies

Patricia Melo

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase In Praise of Lies

Title: In Praise of Lies
Author: Patricia Melo
Genre: Novel
Written: 1998 (Eng. 1999)
Length: 187 pages
Original in: Portuguese
Availability: In Praise of Lies - US
In Praise of Lies - UK
In Praise of Lies - Canada
Éloge du mensonge - France
Wer lügt, gewinnt - Deutschland
  • Portuguese title: Elogio da mentira
  • Translated by Clifford E. Landers

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Our Assessment:

B : good idea, but a few twists too many

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The NY Times Book Rev. . 16/1/2000 Michael Porter
San Francisco Chronicle . 5/9/1999 Ellen McGarrahan

  From the Reviews:
  • "(S)mart, entertaining" - Michael Porter, The New York Times Book Review

  • "(A)lthough Melo attempts a sleek send-up of both mysteries and magical realism, the result falls short. (...) In Praise of Lies is too tentative in its hilarity and wackiness to be taken seriously as absurdist fiction, and because it's also not lighthearted enough to be a true farce, the reader may end up feeling suspended over a chasm of impatience and doubt." - Ellen McGarrahan, San Francisco Chronicle

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       In Praise of Lies starts out nicely: José Guber is a hack writer who pens cheap thrillers of the sort sold at newsstands. He churns them out -- his task somewhat simplified by the fact that he steals his plots from the classics, offering variations on everything from Chandler and Cain to Shakespeare and Dostoevsky to his boss (who never notices that these aren't very original plots).
       The novel begins with José befriending Melissa, a snake expert who works at the Municipal Serological Institute. He's attracted to her, and she's interested in what he does -- inventing perfect crimes (as she too initially doesn't realise his talent is imitation, not originality). As it turns out, she has an apparently abusive husband she'd like to get rid of.
       José and Melissa have an affair, and plan the perfect murder. Or at least the best they can come up with. Meanwhile, José e-mails the outlines of his latest (stolen) ideas to his editor, only to have them constantly shot down: his career is going nowhere fast -- but at least at the publishing house the attractive secretary, Ingrid, is on his side. Soon enough neither murder-plot nor José's writing career go as hoped for: he finds himself applying for a job at smut-peddler Without Shame and Melissa's husband is still hopping around.
       José doesn't wind up writing porn: Ingrid sets him up at another publisher where the opportunity to become a fake self-help guru suddenly arises -- and if there's one thing José is good at, it's being a fake (and copying ideas from other people's books). Professional success still leaves him with some personal problems -- specifically Melissa and her husband. Murder, betrayal, blackmail ensue -- with José's career all the while taking off.
       In Praise of Lies is a short but crammed book. It is enjoyable as a satire of the book-producing business, especially when José is trying to sell his stolen mystery ideas. Not satisfied with the pulp-industry, Melo also takes on the bestselling self-help category (where the satire isn't quite as successful). The noirish thriller parts begin quite well, too, but Melo piles and then peels away a few too many layers: a more tightly focussed thriller would have been far more gripping, and the twists on offer ultimately here just twist the whole book out of shape.
       Enjoyable, but tries to do a bit too much, and doesn't do it well enough.

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In Praise of Lies: Reviews: Patricia Melo: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Brazilian author Patricia Melo was born in 1962.

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© 2005-2009 the complete review

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