The Game, by Neil Strauss, is a book about a tribe of colossal asshats who go around the world trying to get off with gullible women. It is absolutely outrageous, and I had to do a degree of Googling to determine that it wasn’t some cunning hoax by a radical feminist. If I were an eccentric millionaire, and if the film rights hadn’t already been sold, I would have totally optioned it, because it starts off as a bunch of scared little boys trying to pull girls, like something out of The Inbetweeners, and soon turns into an oddly homoerotic farce, as alpha chat-up artists fight over who gets to train their alleged wingmen. The accounts of their conquests are also oddly Brechtian, with fellow pick-up artists somehow able to communicate with the author while he is mid-conversation with some tart from Toledo, making me wonder if they aren’t a figment of his imagination.
Meanwhile, although there is a degree of human hacking and cod-psychology at work, their ideas for attracting women are absolutely bonkers, and seem to involve dressing up as WIZARDS, dripping with disposable costume jewellery (to give as “gifts”) and conversation-starting gewgaws, and carrying a man-bag full of Magic Circle paraphernalia in order to dazzle impressionable young dollymops. Forget the implied reader, I am more worried about the implied target — presumably an educationally sub-normal magpie who likes card tricks. By the end, despite supposedly being based on a true story, it turns into an obvious and deliberate pastiche of Fight Club, with the collected tools all living together in some awful Hollywood mansion with nothing but pillows on the floor and peanut butter in the fridge, fighting over women (and each other), and struggling with the realisation that they have become a bunch of “social robots”, obsessed with the appearance of being interesting, rather than actually being interesting for real. It’s like some massive, multi-venue, long-term Situationist art installation about being a total prick.
And the women? Largely fake-boobed, opinion-free gigglers, often with psyches plainly already on fire, daddy issues and baggage. I am amazed that the men found that many to chase, although they largely seem to score in strip clubs and casinos, so I guess you find what you’re looking for. If there were a chapter set in a bookshop, it might have had more practical application for me, but I like to think that the kind of women who lurk in bookshops wouldn’t be all that interested in a bald-headed man in a shiny shirt and four-inch platform boots, pretending to read minds and trying to give her a Ratners necklace.
Jonathan Clements is the author of Mannerheim: President, Soldier, Spy, a biography of Finland’s ultimate pick-up artist.