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Arianna Huffington meets Madame de Menopause

A review of Arianna Huffington’s ‘Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Happier Life’. You've seen the advice a thousand times. But the person giving it is something else...

12 April 2014

9:00 AM

12 April 2014

9:00 AM

Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Happier Life Ariana Huffington

W.H. Allen, pp.342, £16.99

A-Huff’s career has been remarkable for the contrast between hard-headed social advancement (‘the most upwardly mobile Greek since Icarus’) and addle-pated spiritual questing. In this she resembles an older, colder Gwyneth Paltrow, who coincidentally came out with her ‘consciously uncoupling’ corker as I was ploughing my way through Thrive — such a G.P. cookbook title! Like Paltrow, who recently vowed that after years of lying she was ‘starting to get honest: the path to honesty has been one of the most beautiful, painful and interesting lessons of my life’, A-Huff attempts to portray trauma as a lifestyle accessory and growth enhancer.

It can’t be a bundle of laughs finding out that your butch Republican hubby is actually a gay libertarian, but she took it on her admirably tight chin and didn’t just survive, but yes, thrived, shucking off her drab politician’s wife’s weeds and pulling on the sharp suits of the mega-career woman, creating the Huffington Post, which she sold to AOL within just six years for $315 million.

But no matter how rarefied a gal’s air, sooner or later Madame de Menopause will come a-calling. Most of us see even simple middle age as a sign to slow down, peel off the pantyhose, reach for the elasticated waistbands and proudly exclaim ‘Ooof!’ upon sitting down. If we were to find ourselves on the floor of our ‘home office’ bleeding from a head wound, having collapsed through not sleeping and working 18-hour days, as A-Huff did in 2007, most of us would think ‘Sod work! I’m gonna go on a Caribbean cruise and eat ice cream with bourbon poured over it for breakfast all the way!’


But characteristically, A-Huff decided to make a whole new string for her bow from her temporary trip-up. Of course, most of us who manage to reach middle age without getting our head stuck up our own fundament while simultaneously gazing down from an ivory tower are well aware that if we force ourselves habitually to work 18 hours a day, then probably something’s got to give. Doing so, and then writing a book about why one shouldn’t do it, seems quite like tying one’s own legs together and then complaining that some unseen hand has forced one to hop. To put it mildly, it’s not as though this book was crying out to be written — you’ve seen the advice 1,000 times, from the NHS website to the pages of Vogue.

Sleep in a dark room, eat less, move more (and die anyway, as they never see fit to add). Though she fusses a great deal over what the pursuit of success is doing to women’s heath, A-Huff never quite convinces as a Little Friend to the World’s Females. In her first book, 1974’s The Female Woman, she portrayed feminists as confused and neurotic misfits who projected their inadequacies onto men — rather shamefully amusing, seeing as her husband turned gay when they were married; maybe she was projecting her thwarted desires onto him? — and obsessively pursued careers at the expense of their home lives.

Which she must have herself done, obviously, to have been on the floor bleeding from a head wound after habitually working an 18-hour day! If A-Huff can’t take the advice she first dished out a whopping 40 years ago, one might well ask, why should we take it now? The uncharitably-minded might see her sudden enlightment that there’s more to life than being grasping, pushy and ambitious as a sly bit of ladder-pulling; ‘Don’t do as I do, do as I say’ coming from older women to younger often masks jealousy of youth, and a distinctly unspiritual desire to keep the spoils of success all to oneself. It’s all very well ceaselessly to repeat that there is more to life than money and power when one has spent one’s life chasing and accumulating money and power and now has the absolute luxury of stopping to smell the roses ad infinitum.

Mind you, if A-Huff ever stops to smell roses belonging to you, keep a sharp eye on her, because if you turn your back for a second, she’ll have picked them quick, sold them to the nearest florist for a fortune and then told you it’s better to give than receive. I was interested to see that none of the top ten sites where one may volunteer — that is, work without payment — was the Huffington Post itself, notorious for not paying writers one red cent for content.

Beware of Greeks sharing gifts — including those of wisdom and hindsight — when A-Huff’s about, as she’s bound to come out on top, bleeding from the head and smelling of roses.

Available from the Spectator Bookshop, £13.99. Tel: 08430 600033


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