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Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Secret of Successful Sub Rosa

Four years ago, I wrote a review of a book about "Success Secrets Of Highly Secretive People". It has now been reissued in a new and revised edition, with the addition of the phrase "Sub Rosa" to the title. I phoned the author:

"Yeah, what?"
"It's me, guy that interviewed you in 2012. Question."
"Shoot."
"How come you added "Sub Rosa" to the new edition?"
"Means secret!"
"I know that. "Under the rose" often refers to a carving over confessionals."
"So what're you, Catholic?"
"Portuguese  Panpsychic."
"Close enough. I'll tell ya. Rose was the emblem of the Egyptian god, Horus.
"God of the sky?"
"Yeah, but the Romans thought his name was Harpocrates --Greek god of silence."
"Like Harpo Marx performed mute?"
"Exactly,  Greeks then Romans used Harpo, Horace, or Horus as short for Harpocrates."
"So you get an error in translation?"
"Yeah, an error that runs three thousand years and becomes part of the woodwork."
"Anything else?"
"Nah, just post what you wrote four years ago."

From 2012:
                                          [ Harpocratic Eros, c. 100–50 BCE. (public domain)]

I don't ordinarily do book reviews but will make an exception here because this is an exceptional book. I don't have to tell you how successful it has been over the years in helping us keep ourselves to ourselves in a pressure-cooker of mass disclosure. Nor do I have to tell you how many refinements and editions it has gone through, so I won't because I don't have to and you can't make me.

It is sufficient to say that, unlike other self-help books,  Success Secrets of Highly Secretive People  has undergone enough constructive revision to have cured it of any accidental clarity.

Some books can change your life. I'm not telling whether this one will or not. That is not the job of the reviewer. It is the job of the apologist, and most people think apologists are a pretty sorry bunch. I could tell you that is because many people never crack a dictionary --now there's a life-changing book-- but I won't. Not my job. Nor is it the reviewer's job to fall under the spell of his or her subject even when confronted with great truths like, "Only in the presence of secrecy can blabbing flourish." Of course, that is not a great truth, nor is it in the book. I just made it up. It is flapdoodle-- but could the reverse be true?

If there are answers to this and other important questions -- like who wrote the thing and where can one find it?-- they are not forthcoming. I had the honor of  meeting  the author at a wildly secret book-signing and asked how the subject arose and why it was so fascinating. The author gave me a kindly, earnest, pensive look, thought for a moment and said, "Nosey old thing, aren't you?"

24 comments:

  1. A first edition of this book has been loitering on the top shelf of one of my secret bookcases since 2012, but I never felt I had the right to publicly admit it. The information I've absorbed from reading this modern-day classic will be taken with me to my grave.

    You should definitely do more book reviews, Geo. The staff on the New York Times best-seller list desperately needs you.

    I think we need more Harpocrates in Congress.....

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    1. Agreed, Jon, re Congress. And I would do more reviews but it's getting harder and harder to find books that have never been written.

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  2. At the risk of being Harpocritical (heh, heh, heh) how can there be any content to the book? If these are the highly secretive secrets of highly secretive people how would anyone find them out?

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    1. "Harpocritical" --I like it! But might be guilty of Harpocrisy if I answered beyond congratulating your observation that the book couldn't have any contents.

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  3. I shall position myself under the rose by mentally placing myself at someone's dining table somewhere in Renaissance Italy.

    'Nuff said.

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    1. Sounds like an excellent plan, Cranky. And doable --I suspect a Renaissance never ends.

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  4. Interesting to read what you WON'T do as a critic :-)
    Humming "Listen, dodadadoo, do you want to know a secret?" I will tell you what our great poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said:
    "Niemand beichtet gern in Prosa;
    Doch vertraun wir oft sub Rosa
    In der Musen stillem Hain."
    Now there you are! I'll keep the secret of its translation on my balcony, under the rosa rugosa.

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    1. Dear Brigitta, that is a beautiful passage from An die Günstigen. Poetry is indeed well-adapted to confidences in the Muses' silent grove.

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  5. I'm definitely going to have to read this book now...but of course that is going to be a mite difficult, as I can't believe highly secretive people are going to let their secrets be published for the likes of me to read!
    Yes, definitely a conundrum...I am determined to solve - one way or another...LOL

    Brilliant!!!

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    1. Thanks, Ygraine! Closest I've come to finding this volume is those little blank sketch-books sold in art supply stores. The buyer furnishes content.

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  6. "Nosey old thing, aren't (arnchu) you.." I must use that sometime, like when I talking to my adult children.

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    1. Come to think of it, Susan, I might've picked up that line from my own kids in the first place.

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  7. Now I can't get a Beatle's lyric out of my mind-
    "Do you want to know a secret,
    Do you promise not to tell whoa, oh oh."

    So as not to inflict it upon my dear Lana or neighbors
    my singing will remain secret, sub rosa- maybe it should be sub marine.

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    1. It's such a fine song. Sing it loud as you like, but sub rosa is fun too. However "sub marine" might be a bit much --unless it's a yellow submarine.

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  8. In keeping with the topic, my comment shall be a secret. Rest assured that it is highly intelligent and exceedingly complimentary.

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    1. O Jenny, Thank you for your mysteriously unimpeachable compliment. I shall secretly treasure it always!

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  9. All sounds very harpyish to me, but don't tell anyone.

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  10. You could probably get a grant from the CIA to discover their secrets... Or maybe they've spent all their money to exhume Steve Jobs and water board him till Apple opens the secrets of the phone which will bring and end to secrecy

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    1. Secrets are fungible, Sage. I've come to suspect, like other saleable items, they can be manufactured on demand.

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  11. Replies
    1. Most kind, CC. I need kind right now. We all do. Thanks!

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  12. I've decided I'm going to keep on the 'tabla rasa' side of thing instead of 'sub rosa'. No conflict I can see with that, eh? '
    If ever I decide to sponsor a academy awards look-alike, It's going to be named "More Enigmatic Than You Know", with your permission, of course.

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    1. Mike, if there is a clean slate in existence it is a secret well-kept. You have my permission --passed down to me from Ptah, Egyptian God of Architecture, Craft and Good Posture-- to sponsor an award that looks like him and Oscar.

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