*A Book About Love*, by Jonah Lehrer

Here is my deliberately short review: It is a good book.

Here is David Brooks’s NYT review, he notes “The book is interesting on nearly every page.”

I am well aware of Lehrer’s previous failings, but today I am evaluating only this book.  Paul Celan went so far as to try to kill his wife, but still he is one of my favorite poets of the twentieth century.  I also can walk through a museum without much worrying about my knowledge of artistic biographies — for the living and the dead — and no one seems to think that is weird or an uncalled for way to look at the art.

I have read the Jennifer Senior NYT “take down” review, but I don’t think she scores many points.  While many criticisms of “pop psychology” books about love can be made, and with considerable validity, in those regards Lehrer’s book is well above average for the genre.


Lehrer was always a talented fellow, even if something of a liar and a fraud. Even Imagine is a useful compilation of studies, engagingly presented. You just need to double check everything that he says.

"I am well aware of Lehrer’s previous failings, but today I am evaluating only this book. Paul Celan went so far as to try to kill his wife, but still he is one of my favorite poets of the twentieth century."

That seems like a logical fallacy. Celan's personal misbehavior had nothing to do with his professional performance. However, Lehrer's professional misbehavior is a legitimate reason for people to question the rest of his work.



"I also can walk through a museum without much worrying about my knowledge of artistic biographies — for the living and the dead — and no one seems to think that is weird or an uncalled for way to look at the art."

I think if the gallery you were walking through was by an artist principally known as a forger and you dismissed that because you really thought that this art was very nice people might think that weird.

Why does anyone waste their time with this garbage. Do you honestly feel like you've learned something important about life when you've gained the ability to squawk "the latest studies show" factoids at people? It's pablum for the chattering class.

I waste my time with this garbage just so I can spew "well the very latest studies show the exact opposite. Your factoids are outdated."

"Love defies cost-benefit analyses." How can you object to words of wisdom like that?

But I use PERT charts. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Program_evaluation_and_review_technique

The opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference.

Love is just a four-letter verb.

Love isn't your self/personal warm-and-fuzzy. It's your total, 100%, all-in commitment to your loved one's warm-and-fuzzy, welfare, etc. Love means placing the loved person's happiness and well-being ahead of your life.

St. Paul commented on love.

What's original in this book? What did you learn? Based on the NYT reviews it appears to be a bunch of platitudes about love. "Love takes work"? Who didn't know that already?

Lots of people, although probably not the type of person that is going to buy a book about love.

Good point! So why write a book about it? Can't believe this is the reason TC is recommending it.

The racists and conservatives that populate this blog's comment section would do well to read this book.

I think the crux of the matter is that America herself has become decadent and the America Dream itself has gone sour. There is no place for real love in such a context. As the time goes by, Americans grow more and more restless, desperated, despondent and apathetic.The key question is, can Americans reclaim the American Dream and make it relevant to the 21 th Century? As of now, the November choice seems to be between "despair and utter hopelessness" and "total extinction".As Thomas Mann pointed out in the 20's, American conformity makes the whole situation bleaker than it would have been otherwise.

Some hard-hitting, evidence-free social commentary.

No, it is not. "Si monumentum requiris, circumspice." Just look around. It is clear America as a whole, from the WhiteGenocide crowd to the Blacks-shooting cops to the cops-shooting Blacks to a government that watches it powerless to a people who watches powerless its government watching it powerless, is suffering from a kind of PTSD. From Georgia to Syria to South China Sea, America has been kocked by ruthless gangster. At home as overseas, America has gone from ill-thought out retreat to ill-thought retreat, and its the psychological toll has been staggering.

Google 'availability heuristic.'

It will help you get a grip.

There is much more to a nation than its dumb government. As a Brazilian, you should appreciate that better than most.

'"There is much more to a nation than its dumb government. "
There is, of course there is. However, I must point out that:
When the schism between goverment and governed becomes a unbridgeable chasm, nothing is left but chaos (Americans should understand it, their bloodiest war was one of Americans for or against their own government). Also government is representative of a society's pathologies. It is clear Americans, as the Soviets before them, lost their faith in their leaders and their system.

Saying something is clear doesn't make it so. I know that social science is hard and armchair sociology is not, so the natural tendency is to engage in the latter willy nilly. But please do try to have some self-restraint.

This is one of the most boring refrains constantly among the comments here.

Is your point that this remark would be more persuasive if he cited public opinion polls that showed that belief in the AD has declined, that people feel more desperate, etc.? Or is your point that social commentary of this sort can't really be backed by "evidence" and has little value?

Make sure your answer isn't "evidence-free."

Generally the latter; I don't mind pointing out epistemic sloppiness until I'm blue in the face. People construct narratives and run with them with little reflection about what evidence would actually count as confirmation or disconfirmation, and whether their standard of evidence would allow competing hypotheses to simultaneously be accepted.

I'm sure you can tell me all about the country I live in from where you sit in Brazil

"All" is an exaggeration-- yours, not mine, mind you--, but, yes, one can observe a lot just by watching. America has lost its way. Ask Mr. Trump' supporters. Why would they take such pains to make America great AGAIN, if if she were great already? Ask Mr. Trump's detractors. A mad man is about to lay his dirty paws on the nuclear codes. And there are, also, angry talks about emails, Wall Street, FBI, IRS and an obstructionist Congress. Ah, also, people are shooting cops, which is almost everywhere considered a very rude behavior.

American society is being torn apart by greedy, opportunism, violence, despair and anomy.

"I’m sure you can tell me all about the country I live in from where you sit in Brazil"

Cliff, it's a defense mechanism. A lot of people have an inferiority complex about their country. Particularly someone living in the third world. So, they tend to brag about their own country, often exaggerating it's accomplishments and tear down other countries and exaggerate their negatives.

Shoot the messenger (it is a very common practice... in Third World countries). American problems are self-inflicted. I am not the one who is making a political career out of preaching that Americans have been backstabbed by their mainstream masters, sold out to Mexico and China and the country needs to be overhauled like it were a failing cassino. I am also not the major party candidate who was praying (or whatever she does) that the FBI let me alone. I am surely not shooting Black people and I am not shooting cops. I am neither obstructing the president's agenda nor saying the Congress would rather ruin the country than let me govern. Truth is, the system is broken beyong repair. Sorry, but we can watch FOX News and read Salon.com here too. If Americans really believe one-thousand of what they say to each other (when they think foreigners are not paying attention and they can dispense with their tiresome jingoism), they just need an excuse to be on each other's throats soon. But what I know? Shoot the messenger. You are just a Fort Sumter short of a disaster.
This is what America is becoming: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ul9jbIP_93g&app=desktop

Any perspective on a country should include both the positives and the negatives. There are always plenty of both. Your commentary always highlights the negatives with respect to America and the positives with respect to Brazil with never an attempt at balance.

It's similar to prior_approvals comments between America and Germany. Likely for the same emotional reasons.

I guess that when the Rome burned, someone complained that people were dwelling on the bad news on purpose. I mean, as far as I know, the weather could have been great that day.

There is a big difference between countering organized international anti-Brazilian propaganda (without denying there are big problems to be faced-- as I mentioned some times, Brazil's big corporations boards and the line of succession were devasted by corruption charges-- lots of movers and shakers are in jail or risking jail time--, which hurts the economy and made the Rio-2016 effort even harder than it was expected) and trying to hide the basic truths concerning American life today as seen -- and shouted from the rooftops-- by Americans of all parties, all religions, all ages, all conditions, and all dispositions. What we can see nowadays is a despirited, terrorized, angry and shaken country.

Nah, it's really not like that here Thiago. We live here, so we know a lot more than you about it. You only see media reports, just like we only see media reports on Brazil. If it bleeds it leads so we all see the negatives outside of our own little areas of experience. You can keep typing but our reality is what it is no matter what you type, as yours is no matter how much we tease you about filthy, murderous, corrupt Brazil.

It is a matter of mettle above all. During the war against the Paraguayan aggressor, after years of fruitless fighting, when our soldiers were spending sleepless nights fighting in the mudd, dying like flies from cold, disease, hunger, bullets, stabs, it was rumored the Emperor would sign an armistice with the invader, so Brazilian soldiers could come back to home at last, and a Brazilian mother (whose sons, seven sons, including a minor, were fighting in Paraguay-- afterwards, one of them would become president) said she would rather have them all buried in Paraguay than going back to home without the final victory. "Come back with your shield or on it" as the Spartans would say. Multiply this for dozens of millions of Brazilian women and you have Brazil, a country that would rather choose death than dishonor.

As for American reports, stands to reason people would not resort to such communications if they were not sure they would be largely believed. Again, I am not talking about how Brazilian correspondents see America, but how American journalists, businessmen and politicians think American readers/viewers/listeners/consumers/voters see America. It is the sad picture of a despirited and demoralized nation. My email inbox is full of reports about how America is dying and Democrats/Republicans/Trump/Atheists/Muslims/the Tea Party are to blame.

You are ignorant of how the modern media (internet, TV, your email inbox) works. Let's just say your inbox doesn't correspond to everyday reality here. Any more than we should believe our inboxes full of reports of the disaster looming in Rio, right Thiago?

There's reality, and then there's the prism of reality shown by those with an agenda.

"Any more than we should believe our inboxes full of reports of the disaster looming in Rio, right Thiago?"
It is different. Most of those reports are from foreigners whose readers are foreigner citizens, too. It is your weekly thirty-second report from exotic South America. And no Brazilian would deny there were isolated problems, but those can be solved if one is resolved. A brand new footbridge in Rio collapsed when a wave washed it, and innocent people died (apparently there were some strategically distrubuted kickbacks involved). To prevent the shinning infrastructure we built for the Olympic Games from resting in pieces before its time causing a gigantic death toll, Brazilian authorities ordered a rigorous revision of the public works. This, problem-> solution, is the pattern of a living, vibrant society.

"There’s reality, and then there’s the prism of reality shown by those with an agenda."
And accepted by those who support this agenda. I doubt Mr. Trump is the only one who thinks America is not great anymore. I doubt Mrs. Coulter is the only one who thinks Democrats sold America out. I doubtbMr. Obama is the only one who thinks Congress is a bunch of crazies who wants to prevent economic recovery and help mass shooters to kill inocent Americans. Again, they say those things because they know they will be believed. Even in the midst of a bitter political struggle that devasted the succession line and the big corporations' boards, Brazilian citizens would never accept this kind of propaganda because we are proud of our country and its achievements, we are the children of a great civilization, we are the masters of an area bigger than the Roman Empireand we know we are fated to greatness.

And yet you come across like someone with mental problems. I say this thing because I know it will be believed.

Which is part of your audience's social pathology.

Whoosh, right over your head. Maybe take a few plays off there, champ.

Whatever you may say, Brazil will prevail because our cause is righteous and yours isn't.

If the cause is getting in the last, craziest word then I agree you (representing Brazil) will prevail. The righteousness of that cause is hard to discern however.

No, the cause is freeing the word from oppression and making sure that "the wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together".

It was plagiarized from Ovid.

I was going to say he stole it from Aristophanes in Plato's Symposium...

We live in a strange era when confirmed plagiarists may continue to publish and are widely praised in the "paper of record" while skillful writers versed, perhaps uncouthly, in certain unpleasant facts are routinely cast out of polite society.

"while skillful writers versed, perhaps uncouthly, in certain unpleasant facts are routinely cast out of polite society."
Yeah, those "unpleasant" "facts". It is a shame some causes dare not speak their names...

Razib Khan had a name.

As far as I know he still has it (and with such a name is a miracle he is not on a no-fly list). What doesn't have a name because its standard-bearers are a bunch of cowards is the whinning about how their "facts" are being suppressed by the baddies and how it was all much more svientific in the good old days of Harry Laughlin.

Can you find any criticism for Razib Khan? To me he is unimpeachable.

Maybe he is. So are lots of people who don't write for the NYT and on whose behalf no one marvels at this "strange era" of ours (you know, the one with non-segragated restrooms). By the way, the National Review cut his ties to Sailer, so disgust with the VDare-Taki Complex is hardly a defining characteristic of the "paper of record".

"We live in a strange era when confirmed plagiarists may continue to publish and are widely praised in the “paper of record”
And Blacks can use the same restroom I do. Weird, right?

What an odd analogy.

No, it is not. There were less "strange eras" when the unpleasant "facts" peddlers were the top of the polls when Blacks couldn't use the same restroom I do because it is a "fact" they shouldn't. Good times, right?

So your reply to all this is basically to shout racism? Kinda making Oscar's point for him, arent you?

Yeah, this is a "strange era", so unlike, say, Laughlin or Charles Davenport's. I say again, it is a shame Oscar's cause dare not say its real name.

In the 1950s, people were racist. Therefore it's ok for Jonah Lehrer to plagiarize!

Its name is science

"In the 1950s, people were racist. Therefore it’s ok for Jonah Lehrer to plagiarize!"
No, but I freely admit it is more reasonable than " the NYT commented a book from someone who commited (in other works) plagiarism, therefore racism is great". And give the NYT credit. They tried to make it work, but soon they found out that i,porting their writers from the American equivalent to the Völkischer Beobachter was a bad move.

"Its name is science". Of course, it is...

" And Blacks can use the same restroom I do" I think John L has used this line before when he has nothing to say, yet still has diarrhea of the keyboard.

You Fascists are so pathetic.

Do you think MR is the "paper of record"? As indicated by Tyler, the NYT published a takedown-style review.

Pretty sure the Magnetic Fields said it best.

"The book of love is long and boring..."

I have a lot more sympathy for Lehrer after having read "So You've Been Publicly Shamed". That said, I'm still not going to read his book. (I never read any of his books before he was exposed, either.)

I've never liked Lehrer's public personality (I've never met him and have no knowledge of his private life). At the height of his success he came off as an Ivy-educated chatteratti a-hole, someone whose career came from mixing with the cool kids, having the right look, and never writing anything which didn't flatter the biases of his elite social group.

But what does it mean to plagiarize from yourself? Isn't that the gist of the charge against Lehrer, that he recycled columns, not that he stole content?

He wore white shoes before Memorial Day, or its modern equivalent, and this peer group will never forgive him or let him forget it. But c'mon already.

The real problem was that he fabricated quotes, plagiarized other writers, and his writing had tons of factual errors.

No, the real problem was that he was not a good writer.

Yeah, I don't see why borrowing from your own previous work is such a horror show.

But as mcknuckles mentioned, that wasn't his only offense. Michael Moynihan caught him fabricating quotes from Bob Dylan and others in his book on creativity.

Very much appreciate the sentiment in this post. There's not enough forgiveness among thought leaders. Lehrer, for all his failings, has been brave in moving forward with his career. We shouldn't just be evaluated based on our best and worst moments, but also by all the moments in between.

I'm sure he'll move to a much higher class of lie.

An appropriate joke:

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