Monday, February 07, 2011

Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love by Andrew Shaffer

Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love
By Andrew Shaffer
Copyright 2011
HarperPerennial - history/biography/philosophy
208 pages

Hume wrote that women want dominion over men and men want dominion over women. He found both sexes at fault in this eternal power struggle, but it was man who started it: "If we did not abuse our authority [over women], they would never think it worthwhile to dispute it."

--p. 99 from the chapter about David Hume in Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love

Philosophy has never been a topic that even remotely interested me . . . that is, till Simon Van Booy got his hands on it and wrote his own philosophy series, which I absolutely loved. So, it's entirely Simon's fault that I decided to read Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love.

Sadly, the book doesn't come close to measuring up to Simon's work. However, it's a nice diversion. Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love is introduced by the author, who explains that philosophers are naturally neurotic, overly critical, and condescending. The rest of the book contains short bios of 37 philosophers -- some of whom shared some natural crossover with others of their generation (Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre are among the most obviously connected). The bios are followed by a "timeline" that places them in historical order and a selected bibliography.

What I loved about Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love:

Very light, funny and entertaining, Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love, is the perfect book for a brain break. It's neither taxing nor complex; and, it's packed with quotes that will make you shake your head in disbelief (or exclaim aloud . . . I probably uttered the words "good grief" a few times). Plus, the book is definitely a fun way to dip your toes in the waters of philosophy without feeling as if you're on the verge of drowning.

What I disliked about Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love:

The same characteristics that make the book entertaining also make it a likely candidate for the use of the word "fluff". And, "not deep" could also be equated to "shallow". In other words, Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love is entertaining, but you won't come out of the reading with any great new understanding and I wouldn't go around quoting the book in order to look smart in a room full of professors. The author makes liberal use of footnotes to insert his brand of humor. I found at least one of those footnotes offensive, but most were just silly.

Here's an example of a passage, followed by the related footnote (following the asterisk). The reference is to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Werther:

Copycat suicides racked up across the continent. "For as it requires but a little match to blow up an immense mine, so the explosion which followed my publication was mighty," Goethe wrote. Authorities in Italy, Germany and Denmark banned the book in an attempt to keep it from completely infecting a generation of disaffected youth. Eventually, the subculture of suffering that the book had spawned fell out of fashion, just like any other fad.*

* Only to be revived (minus the suicides) by the English rock group The Cure in the early 1980s.

--p. 88

The bottom line:

Entertaining, but not overly enlightening, a great book to grab if you're looking for a little lightweight reading that will make you feel like you have been blessed beyond belief in your love life -- even if your significant other is a fat slob, snoring in front of the television.

No, I'm not referring to my husband: He's at the grocery store. Just thought you ought to know. And, I do appreciate him.

In other news: Bookfool has been experiencing a bout of insomnia and hasn't felt much like blogging, although she (oh, no -- referring to yourself in 3rd person is a bad sign of something, isn't it?) did manage to finish three books, this weekend . . . which also means she didn't accomplish much else, but let's just not go there.

Today: Bookfool spent an hour or two loading shelves at the homeless shelter store with lovely donated books. They look terrific!! Almost all of the books we're currently displaying appear to be remainders and I'm a little concerned. The shelter is asking for donations (in other words, "set your own price") and they have received between 10 cents and $1.00 for purchases, thus far. Considering the fact that the books are mostly pristine -- some very nice hardbacks among them -- I think there needs to be a specific price attached to those books, don't you? What do you think is reasonable to ask for them? We'll also have used books and I think they can go for less but 10 cents to haul off a newish book that sat in the back of a warehouse for a while is just crazy. That's not going to benefit the shelter at all. They'll be lucky to pay the rent.

Things I forgot to remember: I keep forgetting to photograph "books in" and, well, this is weird . . . It's probably not going to happen, now, unless someone says, "Oh, please, please won't you take pictures of at least some of them, dear Bookfool?" Because I am unique in my personal style of organization. I bring in my books, log them in and then sort in a way that's much like sprinkling the entire earth with a few buckets of rainwater. Some, I'll put on my TBR shelf by release date, some end up beside the bed (if I look at a title and think, "Want to read NOW!", it goes straight to the bedside pile) and the rest -- swap books, books from friends and drawing wins -- just kind of wander around, settling where they will.

So, then Monday rolls around and it seems like everyone in the galaxy is posting about what arrived in the mailbox. And, mine are in 5 different rooms. Well, usually 3, but you never know. I could write you a list of everything that's arrived since before Christmas, but you have to promise not to gasp and tell me I'm the greediest and most evil book collector on the planet.

So far, this week, I've only received one book: The Butt Book by Artie Bennett, illustrated by Mike Lester. I expect my book intake will drop off severely, now that I've decided to take a break from ARCs, although I have a few swap books on the way.

At this very moment: My cats are eating out of the same bowl. I was running out of dry kitty food, so I poured all of it into the one bowl. I didn't know both kitties would show up as soon as the vittles hit plastic.

Apart from Isabel's sudden and inexplicable urge to climb the piano repeatedly, the cats seem to be behaving pretty well, this week. Wahoo for that.

There. I do believe I've covered every subject but the weather. It was sunny and lovely, today, at approximately 48 degrees. You're free to go, now. Congratulations for making it this far!

©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.


  1. The book sounds like a great Valentine's read!

    I agree with you on the price of books in the shelter store, unless it's the homeless people who are buying them for that price. Anyone else who only gives ten cents should be ashamed of themselves.

  2. Hahahaha I need to see this book. I dated a philosopher once and whoa, sounds like they're on to something!

  3. Kathy,

    It's a really fun read and not just about the philosophers' love lives, although you certainly gain an understanding of how difficult it must be to live with someone who thinks a little too deeply.

    My sentiments exactly. I guess people who shop in thrift stores are naturally cheap, but ten cents? That's beyond thrifty. Those who live at the shelter donate their time working there and can take books for free if they want to, so it's the real customers who are setting their own price. I was skeptical about that and it seems I'm right -- they need to set definite prices or they'll end up losing money, in the long run.


    How funny! Yes, I do believe you need to read this book, then. It'll make you feel better about what you experienced, I'm sure. I was surprised at the depths to which those philosophers sank in their love lives. One even thought of women and children as similar to cattle.

  4. Three books sounds lovely. That philosopher book sounds like fun which can't be wrong.

    The remainder books are headed for the pulp mill - while 10 cents seems really low, at least someone will read them. Hopefully. Who's buying them, presumably? That would factor in.

  5. Carrie,

    I had a great reading weekend. I agree; fun is good.

    Remainders actually sell pretty well at the right price. My neighbor (whom I'm working with at the store) told me a charitable organization set up at Walmart and sold some of the same titles for $1-3 each. She says they made a killing. They're being sold to the usual thrift-store customers, so I wouldn't price them too high but I don't think it's unreasonable to ask at least 25 cents for paperbacks and 50 cents for hardbacks OR 25 cents per stacked inch, the same cost the Friends of the Library charge for donated used books at our library sale.

  6. You always read such original books! Also, I sat down earlier, reread your email, and then got interrupted and didn't reply. Must remedy that!

  7. Kelly,

    I love variety. It's my life spice. LOL It's funny you should say that because yesterday I took a picture of the inside of a cabinet, where I've actually got books stashed next to shoes (I just thought that was funny) and then I really looked at the books and thought, "Oh, my gosh. What a wacky assortment."

    S'okay, I just wondered if I'd lost an email. Sometimes things get buried in my inbox or I accidentally hit "delete" (seriously -- I'm terrible about that). :)

  8. The thrift stores here (Goodwill or Savers and DI) all charge around $1.99 for hardbacks.

    I read a book called, SWAY; the Irresistable Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori and Rom Brafman that stated through sociological studies that when things are set too low OR free that most people will NOT buy them. We actually give more perceived value to things that we pay a higher price for. Trying to get more $$ into the coffers of the shelter need to start with something as simple as the price of books!!

    For what it's worth that's my opinion and I'm stickin' to it!!

    Great post!

  9. Inside a Book,

    I'll mention what your thrift stores charge. I really do think it's crazy not to place a value on those books. Some of them are fantastic titles (some are duds, but the good titles should make up for them).

    I've read SWAY and passed it on to my husband. He liked it so much he had his team at work read it. It's a fantastic book. I never got around to reviewing it, here, but I should reread it, anyway (when I can locate my copy -- which my husband really beat up, but that's okay).

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


Thank you for visiting my blog! I use comment moderation because apparently my blog is a spam magnet. Don't worry. If you're not a robot, your comment will eventually show up and I will respond, with a few exceptions. If a comment smacks of advertising, contains a dubious link or is offensive, it will be deleted. I love to hear from real people! I'm a really chatty gal and I love your comments!