Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love

Andrew Shaffer, Harper Perennial, $12.99 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-0-06-196981-2
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. (Jan.) A Being So Gentle: The Frontier Love Story of Rachel and Andrew Jackson Patricia Brady Palgrave Macmillan, $26 (272p) ISBN 978-0-230-60950-1 “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 [her] every day for the rest of his life.” In a narrative more simplistic than nuanced, Brady (Martha Washington) nevertheless spins an absorbing tale of lovers in adversity and reveals the humanity of an ambitious, calculating politician. 16 pages of b&w illus. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/13/2010
Release date: 01/01/2011
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 208 pages - 978-0-06-203661-2
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