Thursday, 12 November 2015

Books You'll Be Killed If Caught Reading--Reb MacRath

The instant I saw the fool reading that book, I knew he was going to die. He'd come to the job, a right son of a bitch, instantly deciding who his rivals and allies would be...who to suck up to and who to ignore. When I greeted him, he eyeballed me, then walked away without a word. At his desk, with elaborate care, he took out the fat book that signaled his ruin.

One month later, he was fired.

Robert Greene may have written the most famous guide to power next to Machiavelli's The Prince. It's a frightening tapestry interweaving principles, analysis and detailed applications. Greene's readers seem to fall into three camps, excluding the Avengers, Lady Gaga and Godzilla (none of whom need written help):

1) Eyepoking Established Pricks (EEPs) who have already mastered the basics and want to sharpen their wiles and claws to protect their fortunes. They share next to nothing of their own trade secrets but are remarkably skillful at getting rivals to confide. And they have the uncanny knack of inspiring fools to believe that their favors will all be repaid. In the cruel world EPPs so love, they're clever enough to seem at least to be what they're not: honorable souls. EEPs will only harm you if you possess enough talent to pose a real threat.
2) Over Eager Opportunists (OEOs) in search of cool shortcuts to power. Few filthy tricks are beneath them and they're quick to discard friends no longer of use. Without conscience, they couldn't care less if they're caught, trusting greater ruthlessness to always save the day. OEOs will sock it to you for the power of ruining your day.
3) Bleeding Moral Victims (BMVs) who hope to defend themselves against camps 1 and 2 while growing in power without risking hell.

Strangely enough, the second camp is the most endangered. For it courts ruin on both sides. The EEPs will strike gleefully at any OEO dumb enough to flaunt a book like The 48 Laws. The BMVs will shun them for the gracelessness shown in displaying a weapon far better concealed. Make no mistake, Greene's books are loaded guns. But surely no one's reading them in noble EbookLandia, where the high road is traveled by all.

Examples from The 48 Laws:

Law 3: Conceal Your Intentions
Law 6: Court Attention At All Costs
Law 10: Avoid the Unhappy and Unlucky
Law 11: Learn to Keep People Dependent on You

And think: there are 44 more laws just like those! You're ready for the next book now.

Examples from The Art of Seduction:

Law 1: Choose the Right Victim
Law 2: Create a False Sense of Security
Law 3: Send Mixed Signals
Law 20: Mix Pleasure with Pain

Any hot girl who spotted a man reading that would react as if she had seen this:

Product Details

Her three immediate questions would be: why is he learning that stuff from a book....why does he read it in public...and upon whom or what has he practiced?


Be of good cheer, though. There is a fourth camp--actually a club of sorts. And its members have read, or they know in their bones, the principles espoused by a writer still greater than Greene.

The sign above the entrance reads Richly Enlightened Warriors.

Their guide:

Product Details
(The definitive translation.)

Written in the 17th Century by a Spanish Jesuit, The Art is unique in its binary focus on ethics and worldly success.

Keep the extent of your abilities unknown.The wise man does not allow his knowledge and abilities to be sounded to the bottom, if he desires to be honored at all. 

Folly consists not in committing Folly, but in being incapable of concealing it. All men make mistakes, but the wise conceal the blunders they have made, while fools make them public. Reputation depends more on what is hidden than on what is seen. If you can’t be good, be careful.

True friendship multiplies the good in life and divides its evils. strive to have friends, for life without friends is like life on a desert find one real friend in a lifetime is a good fortune; to keep him is a blessing.

Avoid victories over superiors. All victories breed hate, and that over your superior is foolish or fatal. 

Use human means as though divine ones didn't exist, and divine means as though there were no human ones.

Members of this club may not dress like the courtiers of old.

But they know all the protocols for moving in powerful circles--and they've learned how to make their way through slippery terrains without losing their souls or their balance. They know when to hold their tongues and when to coat them with silver. They know that their own success does not preclude them from reaching out to others. At the same time, they shun those who openly espouse such shit as 'You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.'  This isn't a club without favors but a club in which favors have real warmth and flow. That said, it is hardly a club without rules.

Ask the ghost of Beau Brummell about that.

Brummell's two claims to fame in late 18th Century England were: his breathtaking sartorial splendor and his wicked wit. He secured the patronage of the Prince of Wales...carved his niche in the prince's court...and won a royal pension. Set for life, you'd think. Not quite. He became too comfortable and turned his wit upon the prince. Specifically, the prince's weight. Alas, Beau lost both his patron and pension for the sake of a cute but cold quip. According to Greene, 'He died in the most pitiable poverty, alone and deranged.'

Gracian has much to say about discretion and prudence and manner. He has left us a wonderful guide that is both a manual for making our way in the world and reaching for the stars.

You'll be admired for studying it...and you needn't fear for your life or try to seem smaller than Ant Man.


Mari Biella said...

Very interesting, Reb. I've a nasty feeling I've already encountered a few EEPs and OEOs, though I wouldn't have classified them as such at the time. I'm almost tempted to read Greene's book just to get a better handle on their psychology! Gracian's book will definitely be added to my 'to read' pile.

Reb MacRath said...

Thanks, Mari. I hope you do check out the translation I featured: Christopher Maurer. Reading Gracian after reading even a little of Greene is like breathing beautifully clean mountain air.

Bill Kirton said...

Thanks, Reb. At last the keys to my release from the prison of a literary 7 stone weakling who gets adverbs, conjunctions and participles kicked in his face by Real Writers.
(Footnote: This will mean nothing to any reader unfamiliar with the wonderful adverts for Charles Atlas's courses on Dynamic Tension in - I think - the 1950s.)

Dennis Hamley said...

Yes, Reb, Charles Atlas adverts were in the 50s. I was only twelve when I saw my first one. I was SOOOO impressed and if I'd had more than one shilling a week pocket money I'd have enrolled. It sounded dead easy. Much better than press-ups or that ghastly Bullworker a rival outfit was advertising. However, in retrospect, I think I'm glad I failed to negotiate a raise on my Saturday shilling.

Dennis Hamley said...

I meant 'Yes, Bill.' Sorry. But Reb will be pleased to know as well, I'm sure.

Reb MacRath said...

Thanks, Bill and Dennis, for weighing in on the subject of which we dare not speak. You've shown total mastery of Gracian's 217th maxim (or is it his 216th?) in deflecting the focus from strategical to muscular power. But, as a former dirt farmer from Buffalo, I know nothing of such stratagems and can only defer to your wiles. I'm just a poor babe in the woods.