Mick Brown

The tyranny of 1970s self-help gurus

As any book about the rise of that most nebulous idea ‘wellness’, should, James Riley’s Well Beings begins with Gwyneth Paltrow, purveyor of ‘This Smells Like My Vagina’ candles, ‘Metabolism-Boosting Super-powder’ and nostrums about mindfulness and ‘self-care’ – for which read self-indulgence. In 2019 Paltrow’s company Goop chartered a luxury liner for a ‘Goop at

A strange vibration

Among the many curiosities revealed in this book, few are more startling than the fact that at the height of the so called ‘summer of love’ in 1967 the British historian Arnold Toynbee, on a visit to San Francisco, made his way to the Haight-Ashbury district — hippy central — to catch a concert by

Beautiful thoughts for all occasions

Kahlil Gibran was 40 years old, a short — he was just 5’3” — dapper man with doleful eyes and a Charlie Chaplin moustache, and in the first throes of the alcoholism that would result in his early death, when in 1923 he published The Prophet. A collection of 26 prose-poems, written in quasi-Biblical language,

Was Chris for real?

I still don’t know whether I’ve been had I have been wondering what to do about Chris…. Well, I call him Chris, but the truth is that I’ve only met him once and I’d hardly say our brief acquaintance qualifies as friendship. How does one get oneself into these quandaries? Four weeks ago, I was

The great enemy of dogma

Nobody could accuse Pankaj Mishra of lacking ambition. A mixture of memoir, history, political and philosophical treatise, An End to Suffering sets out to tell the historical story of the Buddha and to contextualise his teachings in the development of the Western philosophical tradition. Hindu by birth and rationalist by disposition, Mishra leads us on