“Amazing stories! Incredible quotes! Sordid details! This book shows that a genius in the realm of thought can be a dummy in the land of love.” — Tom Morris, author of If Aristotle Ran General Motors
What do René Descartes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Jean-Paul Sartre have in common? That’s right: they were all hopeless failures when it came to romance. Author Andrew Shaffer explores the paradox at the core of Western philosophical thought—that history’s greatest thinkers were also the most pathetic lovers to ever walk the earth. With razor-sharp wit and probing insight, Shaffer shows how it’s the philosophers’ missteps, as much as their musings, that are able to truly boggle the intellect.
Shaffer's jaunty compendium of highbrow heartbreak provides proof positive that even the most brilliant of minds can fall afoul of Cupid and offers some measure of hope to the lovelorn. He profiles 37 great Western thinkers, detailing the sometimes lurid, always disastrous ways their love lives imploded. The brisk biographies paint a picture of the pitfalls of marriage, dating, and love, but also a philosophy primer. And after learning that Louis Althusser "accidentally" murdered his wife, that Albert Camus divorced his wife after discovering she was sleeping with a doctor in exchange for morphine, that Friedrich Nietzsche engaged in sexual intercourse on several occasions "on doctor's orders," and that Martin Heidegger discovered his son was the product of an affair between his wife and a family friend, almost everyone will feel better about his or her love life. A Being So Gentle: The Frontier Love Story of Rachel and Andrew JacksonPatricia BradyPalgrave Macmillan, $26 (272p) "Their greatest happiness was being together, and they were miserable when apart." But Andrew and Rachel Jackson's marriage led to vicious smears during the 1828 presidential campaign, when opponents labeled Rachel an adulteress, bigamist, and whore. The Jacksons' adoring 40-year marriage, in fact, began with an elopement while Rachel was still married to a successful but overly possessive merchant. Unable legally to seek a divorce after she fell in love with Jackson, her mother's lodger, Rachel fled with him to Mississippi and Kentucky, and the legality of their marriage remained opaque. Following Rachel's death soon after his election as president, Jackson "mourned every day for the rest of his life." In a narrative more simplistic than nuanced, Brady nevertheless spins an absorbing tale of lovers in adversity and reveals the humanity of an ambitious, calculating politician. 16 pages of b&w illus.