A very, very easy one this year:
All true, yet I'm still struggling to think which category I fall into. And no, that isn't an invitation to comment.
I am far from being a player. Of course making such a statement myself is problematic on so many levels, but I couldn't think of any other way to open this review. The thing is that as a single guy who is looking for a partner and who happens to occasionally and rarely talk to members of the opposite sex (shut up at the back) it's impossible not to relate to at least some aspects of what goes on in a book about a guy who is dealing with his own issues with women. Of course, that could just be the nature of self-help books (even though, technically, this is less self-help and more a commentary on self-help): to be read in a way that will get the reader to personalise and relate. Which is even more ironic and meta considering that's exactly the skill being talked about within. Phew. Let's talk about the book itself for a minute shall we?
The book traces the origin, development and conclusions of a master pick-up artist in the making, Neil Strauss, also known as Style. He begins lamenting his lack of skills with attracting women, blaming in part the lack of exposure to them during his younger years (yes, sounds familiar I know). He decides to tackle this problem academically; by striving to define and quantify what was wrong in order to create specific solutions to overcome them: routines, scripts, tactics and strategy. On the way he also chronicles the rise of a community that grows around these ideas and processes, cumulating in multiple businesses, geographical centres and even academies containing them. I'll say it now - the book itself is quite trashy in terms of writing style, but the sheer content more than makes up for that.
But back to me. Despite not being a player (I am yet to figure out if that's by choice or not), I have to say I was quite surprised by how familiar some of the techniques described in the book were. Not in a sleazy or manipulative way of course, but in a more organic and correlative one. There were a fair few times when I would think "xxx totally does that!" or "that's what I see yyy doing all the time!" and perhaps even a "but... I do that too!" at times. In broad terms this book is actually about social relations, and for those who are socially apt naturally or after development it's both a little disconcerting and validating to see behaviours put down and packaged as strategy or script. The fact is that there is a reason why popular people are popular and if I have even an ounce of that stuff myself, reading it in black and white did allow me to trace back why that might be. And no, I won't tell you which exact techniques I recognised.
Essentially as a person socialises and matures and gains experience they begin to realise what works and what doesn't. Things like Social Awareness, Perception and Emotional Intelligence are all things that can develop over time both organically or academically, but it's only those who have that will know how to efficiently and quickly both build and destroy relationships. I'm not sure how far in that journey I am, but even right now I'm writing this post in a way that I know will give a certain impression to readers; and I know that even admitting as much is a part of that plan.
Leaving aside the context of pick-up, I do think the book makes a pretty good and fun commentary on social relations. It tells us how straightforward this process can be, but also how nothing of value comes for free. Just being told that both sides of the coin exist is a valuable lesson in itself and for that alone the book gains a recommendation.
Ah Race. A good five years after the first film and we actually get given a sequel. Is it really possible to build on the "should be bad but is rather good" character of the previous instalment?
Well it seems so and in exactly the same way. We still have the ludicrous premise, the hammy acting and awful, awful special effects. And we still have irrelevant distractions, the half naked guys and enough twists to make the guys behind us in the cinema want to discuss it out loud during the show.
But then we also have the comedy, the tripping plot, the half naked chicks (Deepika yay!) and the fun - oh my the fun - all proving that a film can be way more charming than the sum of it's bad parts. And that's all that's important in Bollywood really. So yes, even though it makes me feel oh so dirty doing so, Race 2 gets a cheerful recommendation from me.