May 14, 2015

Machiavelli was Funny!!

About five hundred years ago, in a letter dated December 10, 1513, Niccolo Machiavelli announced to his friend Francesco Vettori that he had written a "little study" on politics.

That letter, one of the most celebrated in all of Renaissance literature, not only provides an important timeline indicating when Machiavelli likely penned what would become known to the world as The Prince but reveals something that many of his critics don’t know: that he was well-loved by his friends for his bawdy, ironic, self-deprecating sense of humor.

Yes, Machiavelli was funny!

In fact, there's a lot of evidence in his correspondence which suggest that he was a very likable, down-to-earth guy who was probably a blast to hang out with in local taverns and bars. But it’s his poems, tales and plays that give us the clearest glimpse of his dark humor and wit.

In his comedic play, Clizia, for example, he mocks the folly of an older man’s pursuit a beautiful younger woman, and in the novella Belfagor he has his protagonist choose between the torments of hell and "the anxiety of the marriage yoke." Anyone who’s been married for long enough can see the humor in that, right?

Even the dark and brooding German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche found humor in Machiavelli’s prose, noting that in The Prince, he “lets us breathe the dry, refined air of Florence and cannot help presenting the most serious matters in a boisterous allegrissimo, perhaps not without a malicious artistic sense of the contrast he risks—long, difficult, hard, dangerous thoughts and…the very best, most capricious humor.”

But the most startling example of Machiavelli's vivid imagination and lascivious wit can be found in a letter he wrote to his friend Luigi Guicciardini. In it, he tells a tale about an encounter he supposedly had with a grotesque old hag who he was tricked into having sex with one day in Lombardy.

“Damn it all, Luigi!” he begins. “You see how fortune can bring about in men different results in similar matters. You, when you have had her once, you still get the urge to have her again.” He then recounts his own recent foray in a dimly lit room, only to discover, after the fact, that he had been sorely duped.

“My God!” he writes. “The woman was so ugly that I almost dropped dead.” On the top of her bald head, he said, “were a number of lice taking a stroll”; her “eyebrows were full of nits;” “one eye looked up and the other down”; her “nostrils were full of snot and one of them was cut off” and “her mouth looked like Lorenzo de’ Medici’s” but “it was twisted on one side and drooled a bit since she had no teeth to keep the saliva in her mouth. And I swear to God!” he quips, “I don’t believe my lust will return as long as I am in Lombardy.”

Did this actually happen?

Who knows. But that’s not the point. What matters is that Machiavelli could find humor in even the grimmest of situations. That he was a master at this is reflected in a letter he wrote near the end of his life in which he cites the lines from one of Petrarch’s sonnets: If at times I laugh or sing/ I do so because I have no other way than this/ To give vent to my bitter tears.

Poor guy.

But here’s the bottom line: there’s a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt, as humorist Erma Bombeck observed. And that's a fate (especially as parents!) we can’t ever escape.

So what do we do?

Laugh and sing, my friends. Laugh and @&% sing — just like Machiavelli!

For my book click here

January 9, 2015

On Machiavelli, Justin Bieber and George Clooney

So you might not think that Machiavelli, Justin Bieber and George Clooney could be mentioned in the same book but they are in Machiavelli for Moms, along with many others, including:

Aristotle, Francis Bacon, Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, Jim Hensen, Harry Houdini, Thomas Jefferson, Steve Jobs, Julius Caesar, Abraham Lincoln, Vince Lombardy, Steve Martin, John Quincy Adams, Lorenzo de'Medici, Jopseh Campbell and James Madison. And that's not all. Also mentioned are Cicero, Thucydides, Richard Nixon, Steve Martin, Gene Wilder, Erma Bombeck, Dr. Spock, Emile Zola, Sir Issac Newton and Machiavelli's literary hero, Dante!

To learn more about Machiavelli for Moms click here.

February 6, 2013

Machiavelli for Moms (Simon & Schuster)

Machiavelli for Moms has been hailed by Parade Magazine as "a funny and creative new parenting guide." To learn more or for a free excerpt click here!