Monday, January 24, 2011

GREAT PHILOSOPHERS WHO FAILED AT LOVE by Andrew Shaffer (2011) Harper Perennial

Writer Andrew Shaffer is another Twitter find. You'll spot him there as himself @andrewtshaffer and also as the amusingly wicked aliases @EvilWylie and @EmperorFranzen, having outed himself in Galley Cat and then revealed more in a wonderful interview by @ninatypewriter. You don't need to be a big book geek like me, however, to enjoy Shaffer's fascinating debut GREAT PHILOSOPHERS WHO FAILED AT LOVE.

Anyone who has taken a philosophy 020 course as an undergrad will remember the names Aristotle, St. Augustine, Descartes, Engels, Goethe, Hegel, Hume, Locke, Rousseau and Sartre, but scratch the back of your brain and try to come up with something lasting that one of these guys has thought or said. Fret not. Their pithy remarks about love and women are conjured here in tantalizing entries. And, if you think you've made your fair share of mistakes on the love parade, be prepared to sit in the rumble seat, because the errors these great thinkers have made will push you further than a back-seat ride.

According to Diogenes the Cynic, Aristotle would "walk up and down discussing philosophy with his pupils until it was time to rub themselves with oil" while women were confined to the home and barred from public functions. After he indulged in "hellish pleasures" with his lover for more than a dozen years, St. Augustine's mother set HIM up with a "respectable woman" (a 10-year-old girl). And, then he converted to Catholicism. Camus was clear about his inability to love his wives or any other woman for that matter: "to love someone means to be willing to age with that person. I am not capable of such love." John Locke claimed that his " the only mistress." Such a romantic.

The craziest, to me, however, is Ayn Rand, who when abandoned by her much younger lover (who happened to be heating it up with a fashion model at the same time) insisted, "The man to whom I dedicated Atlas Shrugged would never want anything less than me! I don't care if I'm ninety years old and in a wheelchair!" You see? Capital C-Crazy. Take solace. You may drink and dial, but you'll never be as mad in love as Ayn Rand.

Pick up GREAT PHILOSOPHERS WHO FAILED AT LOVE , sit back, relax and enjoy the deliciously lascivious and often kooky ride. Besides, it'll make you look good.

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