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December 05, 2004

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Aldo

I find it interesting the lack of mystery books on the NYT list. I found that I was in more agreement with the WaPo list, even in the non-fiction selections.

I wonder is the new Godfather book that good? Can you imagine if Bruen was asked to write it what it might be like?

Fiona

That Charles Taylor sure gets a big thumbs up from me...

Rebecca

Will someone please tell me what's up with Andrew Crumey and Machiavelli? Seldom have I read a more vitriolic and small minded review. Maybe the biography really stinks, but if that's the case, for goodness' sake attack the biographer for trivializing his subject, not the subject himself, who at least deserves some respect as the father of modern political science, and possibly the earliest advocate of a republican form of government in the European tradition. (Yup, that's right. The Prince is just a companion piece to the much longer Republic.) Instead we get a backhanded compliment that White "knows how to tell a story" and then an anecdote with the SHOCKING revelation that a fifteenth century aristocrat treated protitutes with contempt. I imagine MOST upperclass men looked on lowerclass women as their social and intellectual equals, and treated them with all the respect and compassion they deserved...just the way they do today. ;-)

Aldo

Rebecca,
Thanks for saying what I was thinking. I find this utterly amazing. We should all be schooled in the classics again, something sorely missing from the public K-12 curriculum.

Rebecca

Aldo -

Since we're both in the education business, I'd like to give credit where credit is due here, to an exceptionally good instructor of Columbia's required "Contemporary Civilization" (aka Western Philosophy) course: Nathalie Silvestre, at the time a poli-sci grad student, was the one who presented Machiavelli to me and my class, and did a good job of it.

I think what really troubled me about the review was its smug prurience though. The description of Cesare Borgia as a "psychopath" and the recycling of the incest thing (the case for incest between Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia is about as compelling as the case for incest between Anne Boleyn and her brother) smacked of the old English (or in this instance Scottish) view of Italy as a sort of "sin city" cross between Vegas and Daytona Beach....where you go for warm weather and to get laid. And then ending with the STUNNING statement that "ruthlessness always brings about its own downfall." Huhh??? To modify Chevy Chase: this news just in, General Franco is still dead of natural causes, in his bed, mourned and honored after 40 years of ruthlessness. And by the way, General Pinochet is still alive, as is Fidel Castro (and any number of other ruthless worthies). If you want examples closer to Machiavelli's own time, look at Ferdinand of Aragon, one of the great rivals (and slanderers) of the Borgia family. Crumey is preaching a ridiculous "bad people always lose" doctrine which is either idiotic or disingenuous (since the contrapositive is inevitably that winners are always good people). If you have problems with evil, read Kierkegaard or Unamuno to shore up your faith or Camus or Wiesel to divest yourself of it, but for don't pretend it doesn't exist and that at the end of the day Teacher will come and put the bad boys in detention while the good kids get to go roast smores on a campfire.

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