Sarah Viren at Harvard Book Store
To Name the Bigger Lie:
A Memoir in Two Stories
in conversation with JILL LEPORE
June 21, 2023
7:00 PM ET
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
This event is free; no tickets are required.
Harvard Book Store present SARAH VIREN—contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine and author of Mine—for a discussion of her new book To Name the Bigger Lie: A Memoir in Two Stories. She will be joined in conversation by JILL LEPORE—David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History at Harvard University.
Update on Event Masking Policies
Masks are not required for this event. As of June 1, 2023, masks are encouraged but not required for most Harvard Book Store events, unless otherwise specified. Please review individual listings.
About To Name the Bigger Lie
Sarah’s story begins as she’s researching what she believes will be a book about her high school philosophy teacher, a charismatic instructor who taught her and her classmates to question everything—in the end, even the reality of historical atrocities. As she digs into the effects of his teachings, her life takes a turn into the fantastical when her wife, Marta, is notified that she’s been investigated for sexual misconduct at the university where they both teach.
Based in part on a viral New York Times essay, To Name the Bigger Lie follows the investigation as it upends Sarah’s understanding of truth. She knows the claims made against Marta must be lies, and as she uncovers the identity of the person behind them and then tries, with increasing desperation, to prove their innocence, she’s drawn back into the questions that her teacher inspired all those years ago: about the nature of truth, the value of skepticism, and the stakes we all have in getting the story right.
A compelling, incisive journey into honesty and betrayal, this memoir explores the powerful pull of dangerous conspiracy theories and the pliability of personal narratives in a world dominated by hoaxes and fakes. To Name the Bigger Lie reads like the best of psychological thrillers—made all the more riveting because it’s true.
Praise for To Name the Bigger Lie
"Sarah Viren’s To Name the Bigger Lie is a work of radical moral philosophy as much as a memoir of one woman’s confrontation with the seeming contradictions of certainty and doubt, truth and conspiracy, of the sometimes unbridgeable distance between the truth we know and the one we can prove. This is one of the most astonishing books I’ve ever read — a beacon in these uncertain times." —Lacy M. Johnson, author of The Reckonings
“To Name The Bigger Lie is one of the most dynamic memoirs I’ve ever read. At the heart of this magnificent book is an incisive exploration of the concept of truth, a subject that, in an age of proliferating fake news, conspiracy theories, and coerced conflicts, couldn’t be more urgent.” —Mitchell S. Jackson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author of Survival Math
"You don't expect a book on the nature of truth to be so darn readable. I could not put this down. It's like Schopenhauer meets Gone Girl. Viren chases into nightmarish places the rest of us try to avoid—she confronts shadows, emails monsters—and brandishes philosophers along the way to make sense of what's unfolding. A breathless and edifying read. You come out of this book different, and also more connected to who you once were." —Lulu Miller, co-host of Radiolab and author of Why Fish Don't Exist
Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes
As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.
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