Parsing Baloney

Strong sales of the brusquely titled On Bullshit show that America’s book-buying public isn’t yet full of it.

At first, Princeton University Press wasn’t sure whether readers would embrace a 67-page rumination on…well, you know…so it initially published just 5,000 copies in early 2005. But the subject proved such a hit, says publicity director Kathryn Rosko, that by year’s end 375,000 copies were sold.

The crux of the book: People who lie are purposely deceitful, whereas people who b.s. are indifferent to the truth. The theory propelled the book onto the New York Times bestseller list for 26 weeks, where it peaked at number one.

Author Harry G. Frankfurt, 76, a re-tired Princeton University philosophy professor, first wrote the essay-turned-book twenty years ago. He says that he continues to receive letters from readers who either appreciate its premise or view it as a mere hoax. Regardless, the book has earned the Princeton resident some air time on 60 Minutes and The Daily Show With Jon Stewart—which means that these days he’s learning to cope with an elevated public profile. “When I went to vote,” Frankfurt says, “one of the ladies, a poll worker, called me over and said, ‘It’s all just bullshit.’ ”

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