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Andrew Genn - DepositPhoto

Andrew Genn – DepositPhoto

Books are an important part of my life.  Fiction in all its multicolored genres, are my preference.  Non-fiction is fine, if there is something uniquely scientific or historical I can learn.  Self help books?  Worse than eating liver.  I will admit to being someone who probably needs a self-help book or two, but at my age, I’ve made peace with my flaws.  God made me this way, which is why I’m convinced he has a great sense of humor.

The current issue of New Yorker has an enlightening (no pun intended) article by Boris Kachka, The Power of Positive Publishing – How Self-Help Ate America.  Boris opens with a quote by critic Dwight MacDonald, from his 1954 survey of “Howtoism”.   How-to writers are to other writers as frogs are to mammals.  Their books are not born, they are spawned.”

Included in the magazine article is an extraction of two or three examples from 31 self-help books to illustrate key lessons, reported by Eric Benson, Angela Hu, and Emma Whitford.  A few caught my interest.

How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less: By Nicholas Boothman

“After greeting someone, immediately clap your hands, then raise your handshake hand toward their heart.”

I could be wrong, but believe this to be a rehash of behavior seen with the in-crowd of the 1960s, especially when influenced by mind-altering substances. Be my luck to practice it on an unsuspecting woman, then get roundly slapped for it … then arrested.

How to Think More About Sex: By Alain de Botton

“Reframe your view on impotence – not as a sign of inability, but instead as a sign of evolved compassion and kindness.” and “See bad dates the way you see bad weather – natural parts of life that can’t be prevented or controlled.”

First of all, I don’t need any help thinking about sex. Besides, compassion and kindness is now available in a purple pill.  Always been a believer in better living through chemistry.  As for bad weather dates, smart people know when to get out from the rain.

The Art of Seduction: By Robert Greene

Be hypnotic. Repeat words, especially ones with emotional content, like taxes, liberals, and bigots.

I’m not sure I’d be comfortable seducing anyone who gets turned on with words like bigot. I’ll stick with the tried and true words like rich, diamonds, and producer.

The 4-Hour Chef: the Simple Path to Cooking like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life: By Timothy Ferriss

“To hand-catch a pigeon, pin it against the ground, don’t grab it.” And “When bear hunting in Alaska’s Chugach Mountains, aiming for the shoulders will increase the likelihood of hitting vitals like the heart.”

I’ll go on the assumption this book was targeted for the apocalypse crowd. I wonder if he has the recipe for field dressing a cat.  Theory has it there will be a lot of them in a futuristic, dystopian world.

I shouldn’t be such a killjoy on self-help books.  Some, I’m told, can actually be … very helpful.  I’m quite close to someone who reads them all the time, waits until I’m about to fall asleep, then holds a particular page in my face with, this remind you of anyone?”

Gave me idea for one of my own.

Curmudgeon.  It’s not just for Old Folks Anymore.