BOOKS: PICK OF THE WEEK

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The Independent Culture
Mission statement: To translate and demystify ancient arcane wisdom and techniques for maximum consumer utilisation.

Stephen Russell, barefoot doctor, teacher of martial arts to the groovy, health editor for ladette-magette Minx and author of Barefoot Doctor's Handbook for Heroes: A Spiritual Guide to Fame and Fortune purveys Tao for clubbers. This trendy tome takes your average wannabe through "the external and internal approaches to attaining f'n'f", and the "Five Excellences" on to either fame and fortune, or a state of spiritual maturity sufficient to realise that f'n'f don't matter, anyway.

So, how does this self-help book differ from all other self-help books?

"I never really look at self-help books," says Russell, who sounds much younger than his forty-something years and laughs a lot. "I hate them. They make me cringe. Maybe that's how this one's different. Perhaps it's the non-cringe version."

Russell, a lifelong student of martial arts (his dad got him into aikido) and Chinese medicine, also spent three years apprenticed to radical 1960s para-therapist RD Laing.

"It was magical," says Russell. "He was so charismatic. It was also scary because we were with people who would normally be locked up in high-security mental wards. But we were just in rooms with them, playing trust games."

This experience made a huge impact on Russell. "It toughened me up. And it stopped my fear of hanging out with people that we might normally judge as being evil or scary or misguided."

He pauses. "Do I sound like a nutter? I suddenly realise I must sound like a complete loony because I've been writing all day."

Russell, who at "full motoring speed" pours out 5,000 words each day, is working on his third Handbook (Heroes follows on from Handbook for the Urban Warrior).

It's a Handbook for Modern Lovers: "A spiritual guide to truly rude and amazing love and sex", due to be published next 14 February. "To call my love life chequered," laughs Russell, "is an understatement. But it's fun."

The barefoot doctor: Waterstone's, 20-21 St Margaret's Street, Canterbury, Kent (01227 456343) Wed, 7pm

`Barefoot Doctor's Handbook for Heroes: A Spiritual Guide to Fame and Fortune' is published 27 Apr by Piatkus for pounds 9.99. www.barefootdoctor.co.uk

Lisa Gee

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