Completely batty: Vampire Therapist reviewed

Grade: B+ Looter-shooters, match-three games, dragons and spaceships… Sometimes you despair of video games doing the same thing again and again – and then a lone developer gets a severe bump on the head and produces something completely batty.  Vampire Therapist is a comedic adventure-story therapy-simulation starring a vampire, except he’s also a cowboy, and he’s training to be a cognitive behavioural therapist in the backroom of a German nightclub under the tutelage of a 3,000-year-old bisexual vampire who was romantic with Marcus Aurelius back in the day.  Our hero was a bad vamp in the Wild West for many years, you see, but he fell in with the Transcendentalists

Therapy has turned on itself

Were I to overcome a lifelong scepticism about the healing powers of talk therapy, I imagine languishing on a psychiatrist’s divan and whimpering something along these lines: ‘All this “woke” stuff – I’ve even come to hate the word. Resisting its idiocies is taking over my life. I worry that I’m not setting my own agenda. When you decry something as stupid, aren’t you still babbling about something stupid? It’s a big, wonderful world out there, and “wokery” is killjoy, reductive and mean. I feel trapped.’ Yet according to the recent essay collection Cynical Therapies, I’d elicit an icy response. ‘Look here, Karen,’ my hypothetical therapist charges with a scowl.

The company of hens could be the best cure for depression

A friend of mine, an inspirational teacher, says that one of the best things parents can do is to allow children to believe that their dreams can come true. Arthur Parkinson met his first chicken as a toddler, growing up in a former mining town, and from that moment he longed for a brood of his own. So his father set to, building a handsome ark-shaped hen house, poring over Ad-Mag to find amusing poultry for sale, driving Arthur around country lanes at weekends in search of rare breeds. ‘If only you could bottle up the happiness of chickens, you’d be on to a groundbreaking antidepressant’ Parkinson also had doting,

A podcast with real emotional heft: Philippa Perry’s Siblings in Session reviewed

Have you ever taken a piece of advice? I’m not asking a rhetorical question. Have you ever once in your life been given a piece of advice that you’ve then acted on? I ask this question a lot at parties, and generally find the answer is: ‘No, not that I can think of.’ It may be that when we take good advice, we begin to imagine we came up with the idea in the first place. It may be that we always just do whatever it is we were always going to do. All I can say for sure is that if you ask: ‘What’s the best piece of advice

We’ve become a nation of armchair psychiatrists

Are we becoming a nation of amateur psychoanalysts and armchair psychiatrists? We all speak the language of therapy and are quick to diagnose and label friends, strangers and even loved ones. Prince Harry does it to his wife Meghan Markle in a forthcoming five-part series on mental health for Apple TV that he’s co-produced with Oprah Winfrey. Discussing his wife’s suicidal state of mind during her pregnancy Prince Harry offers this diagnosis: ‘The thing that stopped her from seeing it through was how unfair it would be on me after everything that had happened to my mum, and now to be put in the position of losing another woman in

Mommy issues: Milk Fed, by Melissa Broder, reviewed

This is a novel about ‘mommy issues’. Rachel is a Reform Jew, ‘more Chanel bag Jew than Torah Jew’, and her mother has always been preoccupied by her daughter’s weight. ‘Anorexics are much skinnier than you’, she tells Rachel when she develops the condition as a teenager. ‘They look like concentration camp victims.’ Rachel’s therapist, Dr Mahjoub (who, we are told, fills her consultation room with elephants in trinket form) recommends a total break in contact between mother and daughter for 40 days. Before this begins, Mahjoub makes Rachel perform an art therapy exercise: to create a sculpture of how she sees herself out of modelling clay. ‘I made massive

The cure becomes the problem: The Seduction, by Joanna Briscoe, reviewed

Beth, the protagonist of Joanna Briscoe’s The Seduction, reminded me of Clare in Tessa Hadley’s debut, Accidents in the Home. Both are domesticated mavericks with a reluctantly wandering eye: frustrated mothers looking for lovers to mirror their dormant wildness back at them. The fact that Briscoe’s work feels familiar — sharing the same bohemian preoccupations with adultery, motherhood and quirky interiors as other purveyors of the unfairly maligned Hampstead novel — is no bad thing. The author has a fine eye for aesthetic detail and an even finer one for parental relationships. The star of the show is not actually Beth’s love life, but her heart-breaking attempts to revive her