The Game - Neil Strauss
Reviewed by Amy SohnI never dated Neil Strauss, but I dated guys like him. Like many New York women, I have always gone for balding, pale guys because they're grateful and good in bed. But a few years ago, a distraught Strauss decided he was a loser with women and set about transforming himself into the world's greatest pick-up artist. The Game is his long, often tedious but hilarious account of how he did it. This ugly-duckling tale will affect different readers in different ways, depending on their degree of cynicism: some will be awed by Strauss's m nage- -trois snowball scene, while others will suspect it was cribbed from a third-rate porno Strauss watched in his pre-macking days.When his story begins Strauss is, well, a Neil: an unconfident, self-described AFC (average frustrated chump). He is also, it should be noted, a well-known rock critic who penned porn star Jenna Jameson's autobiography, leaving one wondering just how pathetic women really found him. After paying $500 to join a workshop for aspiring PUAs (pick-up artists) led by a magician named Mystery at Hollywood's Roosevelt Hotel, Strauss becomes addicted to pick-up technique. He trains with several PUA gurus, including Ross Jeffries, a hypnotist rumored to be the basis for the Tom Cruise character in Magnolia. With his brains and dedication, Strauss renames himself Style and soon becomes a master of the game able to get sex from beautiful women who once would have run the other way.But The Game doesn't get really interesting until Strauss deviates from his NC-17 Horatio Alger story and tells what happens when he moves into a Sunset Strip mansion with a group of other PUAs. He starts to see the misogyny of the sport and realizes that most of its leaders had miserable childhoods. The AFC who became a PUA to understand women ultimately becomes an expert on men.As Strauss grows restless to talk about things other than number closes and phase shifts (the book's glossary is a juicy read of its own), the mansion loses its appeal and he reluctantly grows up. When he meets a tough-talking band mate of Courtney Love's named Lisa and they bond over music, we can guess where the narrative is headed. In the book's final pages, he dumps onto his bed all the phone numbers he's collected and tells Lisa, "I've spent two years meeting every girl in L.A. And out of them all, I chose you," which is like telling your mother-in-law that the Thanksgiving dinner you had last year at Applebee's was nothing compared to the one she just prepared. But for some reason, Lisa doesn't flee. I can only hope that in the inevitable 2007 movie version, starring Jack Black and Kate Hudson, Lisa throws the numbers in his face and leaves him for a guy who knows how to pay a girl a compliment. Amy Sohn is the author of My Old Man, which was just released in paperback by Simon & Schuster, and she writes the "Mating" column for New York magazine.