Living as I have for decades right off the information super highway I was already aware of the seedy underworld of pick up artists. Or, if your the kind of geek who likes a mnemonic: PUAs.
Some commodities suffer from an imbalance, high demand and low quality of supply. The skill of how to get the girl is one, as are cures for cancer, weight loss programs, or how to close a sale. There is a kind of evolutionary arguement to be made that in all these cases if a high quality solution were to emerge the other side would come under powerful evolutionary pressure to discover a counter measure. One reason the hucksters thrive in these markets by virtue of the plausable premise that it just might be some secret high quality trick to it. Cancer? Positive attitutde. Weight loss? Bacon! Close a sale? “Would you like it in blue or grey?” Get the girl? Demonstrate value and play hard to get. Humans are a mess, the ultimate rube goldberg device, so these all work. Sometimes.
You could write a book like Neil Strauss’s The Game about any one of these markets the exhibit high demand and an unlimited supply of low quality goods. And in each case you’d get the same assortment of characters; the desperate, the needy, the clueless, the hucksters, and the occational guys with talent. You’d also get that delightful pattern, common on the internet, of groups of common cause forming. Random samples of people who share the problem at hand who gather and toss about ideas about what works and what doesn’t work.
The nature of such groups can cut across a wide spectrum from cheerful good fun, thru wholesome, into vile, and unto distructive cultism. In the venn diagram of what kind of book The Game is one bubble should be about the transition of one such community thru all those stages. At the beginning we have a bunch of dweebish shy disfunctional guys who are teaching each other to take a bath, wear snappier cloths, how to approach a stranger, how to make small talk, how to avoid wearing out your welcome. At the end we have power hungry entrepeurs pulling down vast sums of money to teach this demographic the skill of being assholes (see photo of author and his teacher) and how best to apply their new found skills – approach women in quantity.
The venn diagram of what kind of book this is would include quite a few more bubbles.
This is certainly a book about cults. And I might add it to the small pile of my favorites. It’s a rare example of a “I was a cult victum” narrative where the author is not entirely angry, alienated, and damaged at the end. That said I suspect there is more of that then he is letting on.
This is certainly travel narrative of that fun kind: fool goes to strange and exotic foreign land where he behaves like an idiot and makes a long series of very bad choices. As readers we get a continual perverse frisson from that. We regularly roll our eyes, gasp in disbelief, and take comfort in the fact we wouldn’t be such a bozo. By way of example at one point he, as instructed, picks up a set of thick acupuncture needles and shows up at he dissheveled home of an amazingly dysfunctional celebraty where she alternately sticks him and runs out for junk food. And that’s only an example!
It is also a fine example of the classic story of hero leaves home, has adventures, return home wiser. But oh our hero is flawed, which makes us sad.
It is also a comedy, we know because it ends romantically. But then is is also a tragedy, since many people die – well they don’t necessarilly die but there is a souless cult leader with his nest of scary of zombies left unresolved at the end.
It has that nerd, fantasy fiction, geeky element where in you learn a secret language. Not Kilingon. I was reminded of that fun book Edge City where you can learn bits of the secret language of Real Estate developers. For example here we learn the term “Chick Crack,” i.e. those little personality surveys found at the back of women’s magazines. There are plenty more.
I recomend this book for all that. Who doesn’t like a book about men behaving badly. It’s expensive, but if you get it from your local library you get a kind of director’s edition. Since at least one sad sweet shy dweeb will have selectively underlined portions in the hope of treating his problem.
(I have a bad feeling this post is going to attract a lot of spam.)