Monday, December 14, 2009

The 50th Law

What an extraordinary book!
It was a sheer stroke of genius to get 50 Cent to do a self-help book, and Robert Greene was the perfect author to select to help him out.
Now, the inimitable Fiddy needs no introduction, but for those interested in self-help writing Robert Greene is a fascinating character. He scored a great hit in the late 90s with The 48 Laws of Power, a book that was decidedly controversial and swam against the tide of 1990s advice manuals. Interestingly, Greene drew on the literature of renaissance Italy and examples from the French royal courts to to illustrate his philosophy, and the result was, not unsurprisingly, quite bloodthirsty and, literally, Machiavellean.
Greene has been similarly brave in this interesting book, where he draws his examples not just from 50 Cent's experiences in the music industry, but also from his career as a drug dealer and small-time thug. Such anecdotes, while illustrative of the measures necessary to achieve extraordinary success, may not sit comfortably with the average consumer of self-help books. I have no doubt, however, that the advice would strike a chord with the young men who make up 50 Cent's fans and, one supposes, the intended audience for this book.
Indeed, the testosterone level of this book is almost off the chart, and the authors constantly re-inforce the need to be an individual, look out for your own needs, and not be taken advantage of by those in power. Greene manages to find supporting quotes from Emerson along with his usual favourite writers and commentators from Renaissance Europe. Interesting to have 50 Cent juxtaposed with the great American philosopher.
The thesis of the book is that in reality life is exactly like life in the 'hood, and all of us are fighting for survival as bitterly and desperately as 50 Cent had to when he was a young hustler. We are enjoined to stay real, and to base our life plan on action and experience, not on the advice of others or, ironically, philosophies read in books.
I don't really think there's anything else even remotely like this book that's ever been printed. Of course, hardship to success stories are as old as printing itself, but I don't think I recall ever seeing a book in which the central subject is unashamed of his previous state of reprobation, and uses its lessons to impart advice to others. This makes the book truly unique, and endlessly fascinating, if not at times morally challenging.
I liked it, and think it would be the perfect thing to give any angry young man.