Regan Books, 2005, 464 pages
Hidden somewhere, in nearly every major city in the world, is an underground seduction lair. And in these lairs, men trade the most devastatingly effective techniques ever invented to charm women. This is not fiction. These men really exist. They live together in houses known as Projects. And Neil Strauss, the best-selling author, spent two years living among them, using the pseudonym Style to protect his real-life identity.
The result is one of the most explosive and controversial books of the year -- guaranteed to change the lives of men and transform the way women understand the opposite sex forever.
On his journey from AFC (average frustrated chump) to PUA (pick-up artist) to PUG (pick-up guru), Strauss not only shares scores of original seduction techniques but also has unforgettable encounters with the likes of Tom Cruise, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Heidi Fleiss, and Courtney Love. And then things really start to get strange -- and passions lead to betrayals lead to violence.
The Game is the story of one man's transformation from frog to prince to prisoner in the most unforgettable book of the year.
First of all, no matter what you think of PUAs (Pick-Up Artists) and the bastard child of evolutionary psychology and sexless nerd-rage that is their peculiar philosophy, The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists is a very interesting book. You don't have to like or agree with their theories and their behavior - and most people will not - to find Neil Strauss's dive into their world fascinating, humorous, sometimes incredible, and not infrequently sad in every sense of the word.
Strauss himself can't seem to decide whether he's one of them or not. He began as a Rolling Stone journalist doing an investigative report on PUA culture, and exactly the sort of unimpressive "beta" with no "game" that the PUA community attracts. He ends up learning the techniques so well that he becomes a world-renowned MPUA (Master Pick-Up Artist) in his own right. Adopting the pseudonym of "Style," originally to separate his PUA identity from his real-life journalist one, he became the guy that other chumps flocked to seeking the wisdom of his pussy-unlocking secrets.
This is where the book is most interesting, because as Strauss describes his forays into this world, it's evident that the techniques PUAs teach work. Women, especially feminists, tend to despise the entire PUA playbook for its approach to women as obstacles in the path of poontang, which you can bypass with the correct combination of words and mannerisms. It is obviously a dehumanizing way of looking at women, and however much the more self-aware PUAs will try to frame it as "understanding male-female relations" and claim that they are really looking for love and meaningful relationships and helping guys who have trouble finding them, it's pretty obvious that even the PUAs who start out wanting (or believing they want) a LTR (Long-Term Relationship) rarely end up with one. The more successful they become, the harder it is for them to settle down once they realize that their techniques can actually get women they previously thought of as out of their league in bed with them. Additionally, many of them started out with an angry, bitter, misogynistic core, and PUA culture does nothing to shed the view of women as needy, self-interested bitches who hate Nice Guys.
Add all the women who insist "that shit would never work on me" but find out it does, even when they know what the dudes are doing, and it's easy to see why PUAs generate hate.
So what are the valuable truths and life lessons offered by PUAs? This book is not a PUA guide, although it does describe some of the techniques. Most people have probably heard of "negging" (offering a backhanded compliment or a subtle insult to a woman to put her on the defensive), and one thing this book is full of is acronyms and jargon - a PUA describing a night on the town can sound like a military officer giving an AAR (After-Action Report), or an IT worker describing building a server. Strauss, however, is not primarily describing what the PUAs teach, but what their lives are like.
It's significant, then, that the book opens with his buddy "Mystery" (an MPUA from whom Strauss learned his game) sobbing on the floor.
Mystery, we learn over the course of the book, despite being world famous and making tons of money from PUA seminars teaching the "Mystery Method" which, among other things, involves dressing like this:
is actually nursing psychological wounds inflicted in childhood, and despite his ability to pick up '10s' any night of the week, can still fall into such a depression that he needs hospitalization after his girlfriend dumps him.
None of the PUAs described in this book transform themselves into happy individuals with stable relationships. Even Strauss himself apparently finds his footing again only after sort of leaving the community. (Sort of, because he still runs a consulting business.)
Most of the book is about Strauss and Mystery forming a "project" in Hollywood, where they rented a mansion and set up a residency program for aspiring PUAs. They begin with a set of rules and lofty goals, and in a few months, the place has become a festering den of rival camps, dudes arguing about girlfriends, money, and chores, and "franchises" spinning off from Mystery's method, all of them proceeding to trash each other in a tragicomedy that reminds one of martial arts epics where rival schools begin kung fu wars over who is teaching the One True Style.
Strauss also gets the opportunity to try out his "Game" on celebrities such as Courtney Love and Britney Spears. Which makes another thing apparent - these techniques are most effective on people with huge egos and equally huge insecurities, making celebrities an ideal target.
Ultimately, Strauss's own conclusion seems to be that a PUA lifestyle is addictive and leads to emptiness and disillusionment. (But, it's not preventing him from continuing to sell it.)
The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists is not likely to change your mind about PUAs or their culture, but as a memoir, it's an interesting saga, and as an expose of this subculture, it will probably inspire more pity than anger. 8/10.
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