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Book Review: "The Art of Seduction", by Robert Greene

This book originally popped up as I was searching for good books to read about dating. Stephen Nash's blog post about the 10 must read dating books for men listed “The Art of Seduction”. I didn't actually get the book in the beginning because I thought the cover was too raunchy. Instead, I got the “48 Laws of Power” by the same author in the same book series. I reviewed it, and liked it enough to get the original book.

The most interesting thing I would say about this book is don't take the advice within it, but still read it. That sounds counterintuitive, and most likely is. You shouldn't actually do the things it says within the book unless you're very rich or very famous. Indeed, many of the examples within the book are of rich or famous people - people who can not only survive but seduce people on a full time basis. Rule 15 in “Art of Seduction” says to “Isolate People from their Surroundings”. Sure, that's a good idea if it means to fly them off to your personal castle in a private jet. Otherwise it sounds like something a control freak would do. The book itself also has a goodly number of repetitive characters, with different stories or takes on the same story for different lessons. Furthermore, a number of these characters don't really have good endings. I don't particularly care that Rasputin managed to seduce the Empress of Russia - because he ended up poisoned, shot, and drowned by her courtiers.

So why am I recommending that you read this book, even if I don't think most if not all the advice is not applicable to everyday people? The one thing that “The Art of Seduction” does well is challenge your worldview. Yes, you probably can get somebody by being nice and boring. As a disclaimer, that's what my strategy is and that's probably what I'm going to stick to (though my definition of “boring” may change). Even for me, though, this book has challenged some presets:

  • Dating is a statistical game. Online dating, in particular, has made this an arguable point. If you only get so many matches, your best move is to frantically accept everybody, right? “The Art of Seduction” makes clear in no uncertain terms that this is a waste of time and energy. It goes so far as to lay out an entire four-step process of how to seduce a potential partner, and lists things to not do. You should know what you want and doggedly pursue somebody who you like, over casting the net wide and accepting whoever accepts you. Don't use breadth-first search. Don't be basic. Develop a heuristic.

  • Boring is always best. My dream day with a potential partner would be eating out, going rock climbing or biking, and then coming back home to read or program. I think it's nice. I don't know how other people would think of this, and I do know that I'm pretty outside the social mean. The examples listed in “The Art of Seduction” are nothing if not exciting. There is always something going on, some amount of chemistry or excitement that gets the heart racing. One particular couple always appeared like newlyweds precisely because they fought every day, and never took each other for granted. I'm not going to be either of those people, but I think pizazz is more necessary than I originally thought.

  • Art is a nice add-on to a repetoire of skills. “The Art of Seduction” opens with a bold statement: women's propensity for seduction, and men's requirements to meet them, is the cornerstone of all civilized society. The idea being, women are physically weaker than men, so women must develop other tactics to get ahead. Women seduce, with seduction primarily being a set of mind games. The men who are able to get desirable, or seductive, women are the ones who are able to match this set of mind games. The nature of seduction is very much artistic, and not technical. Calligraphy, music, poetry, and dance are all activities designed to seduce the mind, and with it the person. I don't know if I agree with the boldness of the message, but I can definitely appreciate it. It makes enough sense, at least from a Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs perspective. I don't think any technical skill can match an equivalent artistic skill in its ability to provide for those higher needs. Those higher needs are what partners look for.

“The Art of Seduction” is a challenging book to read. Don't take all the advice to heart, but question your assumptions and reform them if you find they don't hold water.