Nic at Knight

Not included: The Pauper.Title: “The Prince”

Author: Niccolo Machiavelli

Rank: 3,214

Blurb: “Its essential contribution to modern political thought lies in Machiavelli’s assertion of the then revolutionary idea that theological and moral imperatives have no place in the political arena.”

Review: “this book has imensely inspired my life and moral. i haven’t changed myself for the books sake, but merely incorporated the books ‘principalities’ into my life as i best see fit to encourage a better life. the package came in ample time and was boxed safely”

Customers Also Bought: “The Prince (Cliffs Notes)”, by Stacy Magedanz

Footnote: Stinque Book Chat doesn’t give a damn about your holiday weekend.

The Prince [Amazon]

Buy or Die [Stinque@Amazon kickback link]

39 Comments

Read it years ago. Am curious to see what people here think and I’ll re-read it later. But am in the middle – p537 out of a total 1200- of Les Miserables, in a new translation put out by Modern Library of the complete text which is turning out to be one of the great reading experiences of my life, and don’t want to divert my attention (I can barely read one thing at a time let alone two) from it. I’ve already been bawling like a fool and dread the final quarter when I will most likely have to draw down the blinds and stay in a darkened room. I knew the bare bones of the story but wasn’t prepared for the great panache of the writing and its aphoristic, pungent, witty style. I was prepared for a big old plot but not the way he has set-up enormous conflict among his people as events unfold. And my god, do they ever live and breathe! It might be hard today to believe in Louis XVIII but not in Jean Valjean’s escapes, or Fantine selling her beautiful front teeth, or Marius’s grief.

Grand opera as fiction. Has anyone ever done a comparison with War and Peace? They are set in roughly the same period and both novels deal with the struggle for personal freedom and social justice. Both novels look back to a time presented by the author as being simpler than the present; till that perception is destroyed as the story unfolds. Both novels concern revolutions: one that was and one that will be – And if Tolstoy does Austerlitz in a sequence that is a marvel of reconstruction, Hugo does Waterloo in a sequence that I daresay is as shocking today as when he wrote it – But if Tolstoy is writing about families making the cement that holds society together, Hugo writes about orphans, outcasts who struggle against overwhelming odds. And the conflict between the progressives and the ultras is eerily reminiscent of the what’s going on here today.

And now I must get to work.

I read Nicky in my 20s.

Being a bit of a pragmatist, I sort of agree with Nicky.

Theology (aka ideology) has no real place in politics especially when said theology/ideology doesn’t make no goddamned sense in the real world. Too many bad things happen when you’re welded to a failed theory. Subprime bomb 08. Iraq 03. USSR 1917-1989. WW2. US America Korea 1950 (see Charles Willoughby–all round ass and RW idiot and MacArthur’s G-2 at the time.)

As for morality? Well. I prefer to live by the code as summed up by a literary hero, Sam Damon from Anton Myrer’s Once An Eagle.
“If you have a choice between being a good ****** and good person. Try to be a good person.”

One thing that US America (and perhaps both the DoD and State in particular) should read again: Nicky on mercs. When push comes to shove, they will bail on you or charge you double. Plus they drain your cash faster than regulars. Of course, most of us here figured that from what we’ve read about the happiest place on earth, Iraq.

I think it’s a useful primer. On the other hand, I half joke that Asians (yellow/brown) don’t really need to read it because we’ve already got that hardwired into our programming thanks to our “inherent” pragmatism and general all round “sneakiness.”

It’s nice to participate in the book club for a change.

@Benedick:
Personally prefer Hugo over Tolstoy. One of my favorite books is Hunchback of Notre Dame (not the Lou Holtz Story.)

Tolstoy does some wonderful work, but he made the war of 1812 dull for me. W&P was one of the longest drawn out reads for me (took me 2 years to finish W&P.)

To be fair to Leo, I don’t discredit his talent as a writer. It certainly wasn’t the most painful read. That honor belongs to L. Ron and his piece of rotting elephant dung known as Battlefield Earf (sic.)

@ManchuCandidate: I wonder what translation of W&P you read? Constance Garnett? It’s not very good. I first read the Maudes’ which was the best, so far as I could tell, till the new one that was recently published. That’s a revelation. But I’ve always adored the book.

I’m way into Wm Manchester’s “Death of a President”. What a book! About 1/2 way done with The Prince. Should be able to finish it by noon.

I have sadly little time to read half as much as I’d like. I’m a third of the way through Seeds of Terror by G. Peters, and thoroughly depressed by the total cluster in the stans and how we allowed it to get worse. My son has been pestering me to try and catch up with him on the young Potter books (haven’t read any, he all seven thrice over), and I may just read one as filler before I ship south.

I loved both Hugo’s LM and all the Tolstoy I’ve read, especially W&P. I got the new translation two years ago and it awaits me. I think I will have time soon. Bene, your comparison of the two is very good, Jean Valjean was my hero in high school and young adulthood.

@redmanlaw: Is it helpful to have read how painful it was for him to write it and get it cleared by the Family? That’s on my list as well…

Just finished Waiting by Ha Jin. I snagged it off my wife’s bedside table where it had sat for months, and where it will sit for many more after my review of it. Won the National Book Award, tho.

@Benedick: I loved reading Les Miserables whenever the hell it was I did it. (The musical, meh). I will have to look up this new translation. But I want to read Jane Mayer’s Dark Side, The Nabisco Quiver just read it, I believe.

As for Nic’s Prince – (re)reading it, my overwhelming response was wondering why or how it and Machiavelli have gotten such perjorative connotations. I’m with Manchu on this – Nic is a pragmatic guy, he says repeatedly he’s not talking about republics, (that’s in Discourses) and is talking about principalities. I wish Rumsfeld and Cheney had read the sections on how to competently invade another country. And Bush had read about the need to avoid flatterers and putting ones’ self in a bubble.

ASIDE: SLF and Baked are schooling me something fierce in Wordscrapper. Boo!

@Dodgerblue: Among other things, Van Jones is the co-founder of Color of Change, which is successfully pursuing the Glenn Beck boycott. But WorldNetDaily is claiming the scalp.

@nojo: I wrote the Color of Change folks asking them about their position on same-sex marriage. ::crickets::

ADD: WND can go fuck itself.

@JNOV: It’s also part of a wingnut rant against administration “czars”, never mind that presidential advisers have been called that since Ike, and Shrub had more than Barry. Van Jones was a window-dressing appointment at best — I can’t even work up the energy to make fun of the pointless hyperventilation over him.

Me, I only know about him because of a New Yorker article last January, and he struck me as something of a smooth operator.

@nojo: Beck was bitching about The Green Commie Czar in his infamous “Obama, I believe, is a racist (but I’m not saying he has anything against white peeples).” Ugh.

The first czar I remember was 41’s drug czar. WTF with this Kill a Commie for Christ bullshit? Plus, I watched a show on Dalton Trumbo last night, so I’m all up in arms about this Commie/Socialist bullshit in general. I’ve been called worse things, but, so far, my livelihood hasn’t depended on these labels.

@JNOV: I’ve mentioned this before, but growing up in the Sixties and Seventies, the grainy Joe McCarthy clips seemed a thing of the distant past. Now here we are, two decades beyond the fall of the Wall, and the old bogeys are still the best bogeys.

First czar I remember? Must have been Saint Ronnie’s drug czar. Or maybe Jimmy had an energy czar. Or Jerry. Nixon, of course, was too busy acting like one himself for anyone else to claim credit.

But strictly speaking, this is the first czar reference I was aware of:

May God keep the Tsar… far away from us!

Another entry for Benedick’s, um, bulging dossier.

@Dodgerblue: Harry Shearer this morning: “They’re smelling blood. And unlike most of us, they like that smell.”

Demoncrats: Following the Commands of Lunatic Right-Wing Nutcases Since 1980.

@SanFranLefty: I thought the same thing when I read the part on invading and maintaining power in countries with a different culture and language. I first read The Prince in a political philosophy class and have always felt poor Nic was not only maligned and misunderstood, but in fact really degraded by the way his name is invoked by the modern day ratfuckers, to borrow a Nixonian term. He was one of the great political philosophers, and not some evil schemer–it’s all about ruling effectively, not just about holding onto power for power’s sake.

@nojo: “I only know about him because of a New Yorker article last January, and he struck me as something of a smooth operator.”

Uh, yeah. Brilliant guy, but has alienated a LOT of people in his prior endeavors due to a nasty habit of taking credit for the work of others. Not to mention his tendency to have press conferences and bad mouth cops (often well-deserved, but it makes quite the paper trail). I was shocked he got the appointment, given what could be found about him just by searching the archives of the SF Chron and Oakland Tribune.

@SanFranLefty: Has a mixed rep in the enviro community. But I figured paying some attention to green jobs was better than none.

@Mistress Cynica: So true. The whole “ends justify the means” thing is such a misstatement of his theory. Nevertheless, I can see where some of what he says can easily be manipulated by men who seek power for its own sake.

In reading it, I was struck at how many things he says are still viable in today’s political environment. I thought the following passage was especially relevant to today’s health care “debate”:

It should be borne in mind that there is nothing more difficult to manage, or more doubtful of success, or more dangerous to handle than to take the lead in introducing a new order of things. For the innovator has enemies in all those who are doing well under the old order, and he has only lukewarm defenders in all those who would do well under the new order. This lukewarmness arises partly from fear of their adversaries who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men who do not truly believe in new things until they have had a solid experience of them.

That last line sounds almost exactly like Bill Clinton’s statement about people loving health care reform once it’s passed.

@Benedick: I so loved the characters in Les Miz (even though I had to read it for French class and was therefore somewhat stymied by language) and how they came alive in that book that I’ve never seen any film or theater version. It’s one of those things where I can’t imagine someone else’s vision of Valjean and co. comparing favorably.

I am kinda interested in reading it in English, just to see how it translates. The version of The Prince I read had an interesting introduction explaining the various translations of the word virtu and how it has complicated English translations over the years.

@Jamie Sommers: Sums it up perfectly,which to me demonstrates 2 things: he had a tremendous amount of insight into human nature, and people don’t change.

@Jamie Sommers: Makes me want to re-read it. There’s a lot about the Medicis in Ascent of Money and also in Homosexuality and Civilization (as compared to Civilization without Homosexuality = Fail).

As to meditations on Hugo’s masterwork: I thought the musical totally thrilling. Not a great score but the story was distilled into a theatrical fire-bomb. The moment when the barricades descend was a defining moment of what musicals can do: music, story, design, direction, acting, orchestral arrangement all come together to blow the place apart. To say nothing of that vast stage revolving as the actors did The Step de Les Miz (see The Step de Hello Dolly as reference) to keep in place. OMFG! As good as the moment in Gipsy when our eponymous heroine is behind the curtain, then in front of the curtain, then the whole fucking stage is trucking right out at the audience as she strips for the first time.

There is a simply wonderful film version of Les Miserables, written and directed by that very under-appreciated though very successful director Claude Lelouch with Belmondo as Jean Valjean. He turns the story into a phantasmagoria of power in the wrong hands and it contains a performance by Annie Girardot (as a Mme Thénardish monster) of astonishing complexity and depth. And plus Belmondo. And did I mention Belmondo? And that Belmondo is in said movie? Because he is. Belmondo, that is. Belmondo.

@Benedick: I think that by the time I saw the musical it had been out for years and so it was the third string taking it on tour. The staging and theatrics were great, but the woman who played Cosette was completely overwrought in her singing style (similar to the unfortunate style popularized by American Idol).

@SanFranLefty: You had to see it on Broadway at the Imperial with John Napier’s astounding set. I saw Patty LuPone (whatever) as Fantine and some dim Limey slut as Cosette. And it’s true, yes, this is where the whining rot first introed by nojo’s BFF ALW began to degrade the art of singing before being taken up by every queen in his mother’s basement but still.. it had splendor. That story! And Javert’s leap to death! OMFG! But then it went on the road for a very, very, very, very long time.

Litte known fact: the costumes were all made with no zippers or velcro. The designer only allowed buttons or tapes. And no man-made fibers: only imported Melton wool and cotton. How many tens of thousands of dollars did that add to the costume budget when they were built? And how much did it add to the weekly operating budget? One can only imagine. But however much it was it was worth every penny.

To impress upon civilians re cozzies: My union, Actors’ Equity, has two contracts: one for Principals who play the part assigned, as re Mama Rose; and Ensemble (euphemism for Chorus). This is the Pink contract much despised by me. If you double parts; ie, play your main part then put on a cloak to cross the stage to fill it up, you are doomed to the chorus. (Imagine how this puts a crimp in one’s negotiations) Les Miz, by my union’s definition, had only 3 Principal parts. Everyone else spent the night changing their clothes. So imagine a huge army of dressers in the wings, meeting the actors as they come hurtling off the stage with, say, 24 secs to change down to socks and shirts and get back out in a new costume, wig, boots, etc, dealing with fastenings from the early 19th cent. OK. So it’s only me gets it.

Wait. What are we talking about? Oh right, Belmondo.

@Benedick: I saw it in L.A., and what you say about it was true: “The moment when the barricades descend was a defining moment of what musicals can do: music, story, design, direction, acting, orchestral arrangement all come together to blow the place apart.”

@Benedick: I’m sure you’re right but, lord help me, I remain lukewarm and fear the new order.

Anyhoozits, I’m reading a new book now called The State of Jones. I’m only halfway through it, but I recommend it even if you (comme moi) don’t care for the Civil War genre.

@Benedick: I don’t know which part I find more interesting – the costumes or the unions’ contract policy.

@ALL: Who has book suggestions for next month? I can pull out the list of all of the suggestions from a few months ago, if the readers would prefer.

@Jamie Sommers:
Pretty good summary. I think that a lot of people who prefer to see humans as pure, noble and good are prone to hysterics with Nic (that bugaboo about ideology rearing it’s ugly head.) Those of us who view humans as something less than, don’t see the problem with him.

He is pretty timeless, much like Sun Tzu and unlike Von Clausewitz.

@SanFranLefty:
As for books. Well, the problem is that the books I would love to share are in the long category and aren’t something one can just read in a month (when properly motivated I can read it in a week, but that’s just me.)

All not long books, but good ones.

Steinbeck: Winter of Our Discontent
Guliver’s Travels
A personal favorite of mine: The Manchurian Candidate

@SanFranLefty: Next time you see Beck or O’Reilly just remember that they have smashing health and retirement benefits provided by their unions: most likely A.F.T.R.A., though they could be S.A.G. Once you get, as they say, vested in either you can be very happy.

The chorus contract dates from the day when they had their own union. They will not give it up because they can’t be fired. Once you get hired on a chorus contract if the show runs 45 years and you get hired as a teen you can still be there 45 years later playing a teen. I know a couple of people who have been in Phantom since it opened. The only thing that can be done is to be fired for ‘just cause’ – which is well-nigh impossible – or for a producer to buy out the contract, which is very costly. Only time that I know of it happening is when C McIntosh replaced the entire cast of Les Miz.To the great indignation of many. I think this is the only country where such preposterous rules apply.

I was once a prince who ascended to office by the grace of others. It is true as Nic says, that the prince in that situation must endeavor to build his own power base *if* he wishes to remain in that position. I decided against it, and completed my service as a good man who came to the aid of his party. Before that, I did not understand why respected lawyers did not remain in that position for more than a few years.

I asked Mrs RML if Nic established the rules or if he merely recorded them. We agreed that he wrote what he saw – this is the way things are. The book (which I’m still working on) is a very clear-eyed examination of how to ascend to power, how to deal with threats to one’s power, and how to exercise power in order to remain in power. Very pragmatic and sage advice, written btw, by a guy who was on the outs for much of the later years of his life, a functionary looking to be installed in office by the grace of others.

@ManchuCandidate: Man, I tried to read Gulliver’s Travels and had to give up. Way too intensive on the sly references and elbow-in-ribs jibes about events that were current and people who were alive hundreds of years ago. I felt like I could have enjoyed it with a thorough grounding in the history of the period, but without that, it was completely bewildering.

@Benedick: Holy F’ing shit, I didn’t take a single labor law class (not that they taught them in my soon-to-be-protecting the richies law school) but there are so many stories to tell in that little slice of labor law.

@IanJ: Would you read Manchu’s Steinbeck nomination? What’s your suggestion? We have to come up with something to keep Nojo showered in the nickles from Amazon and HF keeping his local book stores in business. Plus have me and Cynica and Jamie and MellBell not be the only ones reading…

@SanFranLefty: Speaking of which, the last monthly Amazon kickback was $61.94. Huzzah!

(No, really. I’m impressed.)

Oh, and I came this close to finally getting a Stinque Shoppe set up at Cafe Press, but then I thought the time would be better spent finally learning how to program an iPhone. Which, lemme tell ya, is serious shit.

@SanFranLefty: The new Pynchon book? Just a shot in the dark here — I couldn’t get through Mason & Dixon.

And — no labor law classes at The Farm? I thought that was mandatory for Keeping The Unions Down.

@Dodgerblue: What’s the new Pynchon book?

I love the title of Winter of our Disconnect, I’ve never read it.

I’m sure there was at least one labor law class, I was too busy spending 3L year working off campus for the poor people in Oakland and EssEff to take actual classes. Sallie Mae paid them tens of thousands of dollars so I could work for free at nonprofits. Actually, I checked out of law school the first week of 2L year when I scheduled all my classes to be on one day of the week and spent the other six days working or playing soccer. Of course, first day of classes was 9/9/01 and three days later I was feeling nihilistic. My law school experience was a little surreal – 1L year = stolen Presidential election; 2L year = 9/11 and Patriot Act; 3L year = invasion of Iraq. It’s enough to make you jaded about the Rule of Law. Such as.

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