Part coming-of-age story, part psychological thriller, part philosophical investigation, this unforgettable memoir traces the ramifications of a series of lies that threaten to derail the author’s life—exploring the line between truth and deception, fact and fiction, and reality and conspiracy.
TO NAME THE BIGGER LIE:
A Memoir in Two Stories
by Sarah Viren
Scribner, June 2023
(via Frances Goldin Literary)
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.
« A thrilling, labyrinthine and ultimately illuminating reckoning with what it feels like to be caught up in a vortex of post-truth, conspiracy, and lies, Sarah Viren’s To Name the Bigger Lie is a fascinating and deeply disturbing account of our contemporary age of weaponized falsehoods… This is a memoir, yes, but it’s also a view into a terrifying aspect of modernity, and Viren’s ability to unspool complicated tangles for the reader is unparalleled. » —Alex Marzano-Lesnevich, author of The Fact of a Body
Sarah Viren is a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and the author of Mine. Sarah’s creative work has been supported by an NEA Fellowship and a Kerouac House Writing Residency, and her writing appears in the New York Times Magazine, Oxford American, Texas Monthly, and elsewhere. An assistant professor of creative nonfiction at ASU, she is a graduate of the Nonfiction Writing MFA at the University of Iowa.