Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dr. John Harrison

I have begun my chapter on the intersection between health and self-help, and one of the authors I want to explore is the Australian Dr. John Harrison.
Harrison was something of a medical celebrity in Australia in the late 1980s, and through the advocacy of Louise Hay he became a worldwide influencer in the field of alternative health and the mind-body interaction. His magnum opus is a book called Love Your Disease It's Keeping You Healthy, and I hope to look at this book in some depth in this chapter.

It was an immensely influential book in its time, selling over 100,000 copies and becoming a bestseller in America.
Harrison seemed to have been combining New Thought ideas with fashionable psychology, naturopathy and Eastern-influenced health advice (he speaks glowingly of the concepts of Traditional Chinese Medicine). Indeed, his seeming "blame-the-victim" rhetoric is quite stark in the book, and quite unembarrassed. It is not the sort of thing that would be published now.
Harrison's reputation was later destroyed through some extremely questionable accusations of sexual misconduct, and Australian journalist Sue Williams wrote a fascinating book about this case called Death of a Doctor (2005), in which Harrison is vindicated and posited as something of a victim of the conventional medical establishment.
It's interesting to examine an Austraian book which had a great influence on American self-help writing and publishing - quite a reversal of the usual state of affairs.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November 2: Reading Notes

I am quite close to finishing this chapter on the self-help literature of business, sales and marketing, and I do think it is making for quite a fascinating chapter. I am, of course, running well behind schedule, and I really have to try to speed things up somewhat.

There are a number of Australian business people who have written self-help books intended for a more mainstream audience, as well as more specialised books directly targeted at a readership of salespeople or small businesspeople. The first book I am looking at is John McGrath's You Inc. McGrath is a Sydney real estate tycoon, and he once came to speak at a conference I was organising when this particular book was released. I remember that he didn't at all conform to the stereotype of the business go-getter. He was quiet, reserved and even shy. He was addressing an audience of booksellers, a breed known for its complete cynicism, and there wasn't much connection going on. They were horrified at his ideas of laminating your goals and putting them inside your shower for you to read while you are soaping up your extremeties.

Paul Hanna is the main focus of this chapter, and I find him an intriguing character. Again, I have seen him in action, and he conforms completely to the stereotype of the motivational speaker. He is garrulous, loud and totally guileless. And perhaps because of these qualities I watched him actually win over another audience of sophisticated cynics. He also portrays himself as the failure, which is an interesting trope in self-help literature - the little man who overcomes in spite of the odds. You Can Do It! and Don't Give Up! are both highly autobigraphical, and so rich sources for my study.

I've wanted to read Anita Bell's work for some t ime, especially her books about paying off your mortgage in 5 years. The idea appeals to me, though the reality is starkly horrible. Basically you reach real-estate success by starving yourself and not leaving the house except to work. Your Success in Five Years or Less is ostensibly about a more general plan for success in five years or less, but it's really just about paying off your mortgages quickly and investing in more real estate.

Networking books are a whole sub-genre, and I have read many of them. How to Master Networking is by an Australian author, and is filled with practical tips. It's actually an incredibly useful book and as a result I haven't read it with much of an eye towards theory but to actually employing some of Robyn Henderson's methods.