Sep 25, 2006

The unbearable lightness of Arianna

She's afraid of eyelash curlers, yet her new book tells women to be fearless.
One place to begin is by asking why she would have written a book like On Becoming Fearless. Huffington regularly appears on television to offer critiques of the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq war. She has turned the Huffington Post from a laughable vanity project to blogosphere powerhouse. (She has plenty of money, too.) To read On Becoming Fearless is to encounter a peculiar form of authorial persona—perhaps best described as the love child of Hillary Clinton and Tony Robbins. Here is an author who aspires to intellectual heft (quoting Montaigne, alluding to George Bernard Shaw), yet whose method is as touchy-feely as a New Age guru ("The most important thing is to approach our lives not out of lack and need but with fearlessness and trust"). In her mind, it's all connected: Her motivation, she explained, was to start a "fearlessness epidemic" that would transform the lives of women. Tellingly, what moved Huffington to action wasn't merely perceived inequality but also the immediate lack of female readership at her own site. She had been surprised to find that the readership of the Huffington Post—more than 2 million visitors a month—was predominantly male. Huffington conceived of a section of the site that would deal with what seemed to her to be the primary thing holding women back: their own fears. The resulting book may be frequently banal, then, but it is banal by choice, indicative of her habit of combining the personal and the professional, the selfless and the self-interested.

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