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The notion that our universe is an elaborate web of lies and deceit is hardly a novel one. Anyone old enough to have discovered the truth about the Tooth Fairyor taken an introductory course in U.S. governmentknows that the world as we know it owes a lot to smoke and mirrors. Jeremy Campbell gives our collective cynicism a well-researched voice in his book The Liar’s Tale: A History of Falsehood. Unfortunately, he devotes far too many pages to truth and falsehood as expressed by great thinkers such as Freud, Kant, and Nietzsche. Campbell’s exploration of trickery in the natural world is the true strength of the book; the psychobabble and Philosophy 101 refresher are better left in the confines of hallowed halls and ivory towers. In nature, “lying” is intrinsically linked to survival: Animals play dead to avoid being eaten, and certain fish and reptiles change color to attract potential mates. Shedding new light on what it means to tell a lie, Campbell toys with the notion that all animals, including humans, may be dependent on a sort of “instinctual” deception to survive. He also inadvertently coins what is sure to become a mantra for fibbers, impostors, tall-tale-tellers, charlatans, frauds, and stool pigeons everywhere: “To refuse to embellish is to rule out possibilities, which are the source of new meaning.” Campbell discusses A Liar’s Tale at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 7, at the Ripley Center, 1100 Jefferson Drive SW. $13. (202) 357-3030. (Sarah Godfrey)