Although I've not met Venkatesh Rao, I was introduced to him via email last summer after reading the book. In my personal letter to him I said:
"I finished, and quite enjoyed, Tempo yesterday.
I especially enjoyed Chapters 2, 3, and 4. While reading them I found myself increasingly dazzled by each new conceptual innovation, then wondering whether you would actually convince me that your conceptual innovations were useful, and then being profoundly grateful for the pay-off when it came through, over and over again. I LOVE the Freytag Staircase, an immense amount of good stuff is packed neatly and conveniently into that one concept. At one point I was thinking that this was one of the most original, interesting, and valuable books written in the past fifty years - and I read a LOT. I was also wondering how on earth you were going to land this plane, so to speak, after such a spectacular ride.
That said, Chapter 5 didn't quite do as much for me as did the earlier chapters (I've got nothing against Chapter 1, it just isn't a superstar as are 2, 3, and 4). It might be that I just haven't adequately digested your definitions of "strategy" and "tactic," and that when I do perhaps I'll be just as dazzled as I was by 2, 3, and 4.
Chapter 6, at this point, seems simply harmless and anti-climactic, almost banal in comparison to your earlier intellectual pyrotechnics - though again perhaps I will have a gestalt shift later after I've more completely digested the tools you've given me."
It is interesting, having read the other reviews, that the one negative review specified the last 30 pages as the best - those that I found anti-climactic.
This is not an easy book to digest, nor will it appeal to most casual readers. After reading it I found myself drawn to re-read Eric Auerbach's "Mimesis," a wonderfully personal, yet highly scholarly, account of the role of representation in the literature of western civilization. I see Auerbach's "Mimesis" as really the history of individuality from Homer to the present.
Now that I'm six months removed from Tempo I find that I still reflect on it. The concept of the Freytag staircase that he develops, an elaboration of the well-known Freytag's pyramid of dramatic structure, is a useful way for me to reflect on the emotional dynamics and decision-making frameworks that have been characteristic of various phases of my life. I'm a big fan of Alasdair MacIntyre's notion that a virtue culture is dependent on a lifelong framework of meaning, and as an educator I use the concept of lifelong goals to encourage young people to structure their lives in serious and productive ways. Rao's Freytag staircase, and the associated conceptual framework before and after, will provide adults who are serious about lifelong meaning with an additional lens through which to understand their own goal-orientation and decision structure.
Tempo covers so much ground across many different domains that it is difficult to summarize. It is a short book, and I would simply encourage those who are interesting in a much more sophisticated understanding of how they and others structure their personal narratives and decision-making to read it and integrate Rao's conceptual tools into your own personal narratives and decision-making.