This book comes as a dividend of reading Brian Christian's The Most Human Human, as that is how I discovered it. In pure behaviorist fashion, the pickThis book comes as a dividend of reading Brian Christian's The Most Human Human, as that is how I discovered it. In pure behaviorist fashion, the pickup artists exploit human psychology and rote routines to find bedmates. You know the drill: "Hey, how are you?" "Fine. You?" "Good. Good to see ya." These are the sort of programmed responses we develop to get through day-to-day existence without overwhelming our central cortex. Christian referenced The Game to make the point that rote human interactions reduce (arguably cheapen) the value of daily experience and rob us each of the opportunity to enjoy the richness of human intercourse. However, many from the underground culture of pickup artists The Game exposes would argue that cheap sex is better than no sex, entirely missing the point that the word "intercourse" carries multiple meanings.
Neil Strauss enters the pickup world as Hunter S. Thompson quested to Vegas, with full-gonzo buy-in that doesn't sour until it is nearly too late for him to extract himself. There are elements here, too, of a real-life Fight Club, right down to someone named Tyler Durden (life here imitating art). So this book chronicles Strauss' 2-year transformation from an introverted, socially-awkward shlemiel to a confident (yet sensitive!) rake, capable of seducing Courtney Love but in fact far more interested in her personal well-being.
The only downside to this book I can find is in its tawdry packaging. The copy I got from the library was faux-leather bound, embossed in gold replete with mudflap-girl silhouettes, and dangling an affixed bookmark of red ribbon. While this might have made the Gideons proud, I felt a bit self-conscious carrying it on the Metro.
Strauss' observations and inclusions (field reports from himself and fellow pickup artists) are at once witty and insightful. And they're all about promoting interaction. Just as Christian analogizes the art of conversation to a rock wall with neoprene handholds, pick-up artist Juggler writes of eschewing talk-show-host style inquisition in favor of opening a conversation with provocative statements: "I live in Ann Arbor, Michigan -- home to hundreds and hundreds of ice cream shops." "My housemate's cat is the reincarnation of Richard Nixon." He explains, "Talking in statement form is the way old friends speak to each other.... They invite others to share and make perfect metaphysical sense." (p. 118)
Strauss makes a strong case that, taken non-misogynistically, mastering the art of artful interaction is a legitimate pursuit. At p. 172, he notes, "There are certain bad habits we've groomed our whole life -- from personality flaws to fashion faux pas. And it has been the role of parents and friends, outside of some minor tweaking, to reinforce the belief that we're okay just as we are. But it's not enough to just be yourself. You have to be your best self. And that's a tall order if you haven't found your best self yet."
As Strauss searches for (and finds) his best self, he finds that the thrill of the hunt (and the catch), devalues his perception of the prize and dehumanizes the object of his attention. (How can one have affection for a "target?") He also becomes disconcerted as he realizes his newfound skills in seduction do not prepare him in the least to maintain and nurture a genuine relationship. That's a whole uncharted level of intimacy, and it is this that he ultimately longs to explore. Of course, it takes about 400 pages and lots of imposed nurturing of fellow man-children for him to realize that level of maturity.
It goes without saying that he'll get a girl in the end. The questions readers will ask themselves is... does he get THE girl... and could he keep her? I ain't tellin'. The journey is fascinating throughout, with the author an engaging guide....more