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The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists

Neil Strauss

The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists

Author:Neil Strauss
Release Date:2005

By Joab Jackson | Posted 12/14/2005

Among other things Strauss can give you a new appreciation for Will Ferrell. Near the end of Wedding Crashers, the Saturday Night Live alum makes an uncredited cameo as Chazz Reinhold, the ultimate pickup artist. In the space of a few minutes, he conveys all the greasy traits such a persona might entail. A hyper middle-aged man-child who lives with his mother, Chazz has a nearly inexplicable power to draw strikingly gorgeous women into his lair. It is as comical as it is creepy.

Neil Strauss’ The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists delves into real-life would-be Casanovas, painting a similar, though less compact, portrait. A self-professed “average frustrated chump,” Strauss signs up for a Los Angeles workshop on how to get dates, held by an unemployed magician calling himself “Mystery.” Turns out, Mystery is but one member of a whole subterranean culture of like-minded gurus, who share tips and conquest stories on the internet. Strauss slowly ingratiates himself into this bunch, first as student, then as fellow instructor.

The guys Strauss hangs with are both smooth and mentally stunted. Their opening lines and scripted routines seem to work at least occasionally, mostly because of sheer persistence, and that the women they hit on—mostly in clubs—want to hook up anyway. Strauss admits that as he got better at scoring phone numbers, the more he lost respect for the bearers of those digits, as well as for himself. “In the process of dehumanizing the opposite sex, I had also been dehumanizing myself,” he writes. The story spirals into shaggy-dog territory as Strauss and fellow seducers rent a mansion off of the Sunset Strip that was once inhabited by Dean Martin. As if making a guest appearance, Courtney Love moves in, for reasons not entirely explained.

Women play a marginal role through most of The Game, though. The book is really about how the male competitive spirit can be a great motivator, at least before it froths into sheet lunacy—familiar terrain for Strauss. He corralled the first-person voices of the Mötley Crüe boys into The Dirt, a salacious bio of that group. The Game tells his own ascent to suaveness and fall into debauchery. In the end, it is a mash-up, in equal parts how-to guide, anthropological expedition, Hollywood Babylon, love story, and introspective journey into the male psyche. Improbably enough, it succeeds on pretty much all of those counts.

E-mail Joab Jackson

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