Julia Edelman's new book is out Nov. 15

By Isabella Biedenharn
October 19, 2016 at 02:24 PM EDT

What were the love lives of our greatest philosophers really like? That’s the question journalist and author Julia Edelman wanted to explore in her cheeky book, Love Voltaire Us Apart (out Nov. 15), which grew out of a successful New Yorker humor piece.

EW is excited to reveal the trailer, above, in which “Friedrich Nietzsche” tries his best pickup lines on real women in New York City. And — spoiler alert — some of them worked! Check out the trailer, above, and below, Edelman tells us how the book and the clip came together.

Introduction from Julia Edelman:

I began working on Love Voltaire Us Apart when I came across Ernst Cassirer’s biography on Immanuel Kant, and read that, “Kant would have been one of the greatest phenomena of mankind in general if he had been able to feel love.” I found myself writing about philosophers’ love lives, and liked thinking about Nietzsche’s best pickup lines, or what Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir’s breakup was like. Several months later, this turned into a “Shouts and Murmurs” piece for The New Yorker, called “Excerpts from Philosophers’ Breakup Letters Throughout History.” Eventually, I expanded the piece into a book, and it became a spoof relationship guide with a philosophical edge, made up of philosophers’ love letters, advice columns and breakup letters, with illustrations by Hallie Bateman.

When I was writing the trailer for Love Voltaire Us Apart, I wanted to put philosophy into practice somehow, and decided to use real quotes by Sophocles, Nietzsche, Carl Jung and more as pickup lines in everyday life. I cast Arturo Castro (Broad City) as Nietzsche’s best friend, and Mara Wilson (Matilda, Bojack Horseman) as Ayn Rand. Arturo ended up having a background in philosophy, and Mara went as Ayn Rand for Halloween twice before, so she already had the accent down perfectly, and was well prepared for the role.

When we shot the trailer, Scott Rogowsky played Friedrich Nietzsche. He wore a full tweed suit and oversized mustache in the middle of summer, and we had a hidden camera set up to get honest reactions. We quickly found that while some women were uninterested, others were clearly impressed and even wanted to continue talking, so maybe these pickup lines could work after all.