So I'd heard of this book through a coworker at a previous job, as well as through a friend. But talk about this book was often from people who didn't actually read it, or having read it couldn't articulate what it was about very well.
So I found myself at Borders and found a comfy ass chair and saved myself the $30 they wanted for this thing and read it there for free.
Well. Uhm. Yeah, it's a fucking long ass book, but not quite the intellectual sado-masochism of Infinite Jest.
Strauss, no nobel prize winning writer but apparently modestly successful with his Rolling Stone stuff, shades of HST, and some popular trash books such as co-author with Jenna Jameson of a book on sex, etc. He doesn't fail to provide for something of interest to the 'common man'. Or, as they say in their peculiar acronym infested jargon, an "AFC" (average frustrated chump).
There is the silly, formulaic "transformational" motif going on here. Strauss calls himself an AFC before he found out about these pick up artist (PUA) techniques. He supposedly was moved in this direction by an editor who wanted a story on this stuff. So he went to some workshops and become a part of this subculture in the process. His first workshop was for $500 in cash, do writers get money to explore stories like this? Is this 'business expenses'? Can they write off their cocaine purchases as business expenses if they write a story about it?
Apparently there was a alt.seduction.fast community back before USENET was destroyed by the borg that is Google and it had some FAQ. This thing produced a 'lay guide' which, like UNIX, was free and then not-free (now). No group of PUA/developers has decided to keep it free and GPL'd that I am aware of. So it's all now in those "get any chick you want, fast!" websites that have the plausibility of a v1@gr@ spam in your inbox.
But the book is something else. Told in an easy to read format with plenty of story development we have a simple cast of characters, mostly Style , Neil Strauss' nom-de-pimp and Mystery, the OG PUA of this level of the Game from whom Style learns.
Style, as Strauss calls himself for most of the book, becomes a rabid disciple of PUA teachers, and quickly becomes a mPUA ("Master PUA") within the space of a year of fanatical effort. In this time he ignores everything, including work, in order to dress up, "sarge" (which means
"look for girls", often at clubs, but presumably anywhere), study NLP - a crap hypnosis based pop psychology from the 70s - how to give chicks multiple orgasms, have confidence like Tony Robbins, study Tom Cruise in Top Gun for macho cocky expressions and so on.
The motif of dramatic personal transformation is what drives many to religion - to be "born again!" - and it is not surprising to have him mention one PUA student leaves the PUA scene to find God. It is also not surprising that he describes one PUA business as being not just a little cult-like shades of Fight Club, with bald disciples moving into to sleep on a floor while studying how to pick up chix, instead of whatever it was that FC was doing - making soap?. One character even goes by the name Tyler Durden.
So Strauss talks about The Game (routines designed to win and entertain women, split them away from their friends, get their phone numbers, get them into menage-a-trois, etc) as he talks about the strange life of becoming a PUA, following around PUA gurus and becoming one in the process.
The book manages to avoid being too much of an obvious sales pitch except when he talks about his sexual frustrations and plays up what a 'loser' he was which is brief as it was fake sounding. Not that he probably wasn't telling the truth, but few losers seem to be willing to admit it unless they are tacitly claiming to be 'winners' right now, like some born again junky on a soap box.
The movement of time is a bit jarring, but the characters are easy enough to follow. Strauss is a writer for Rolling Stone so he presumably has an above access ability to go to "Hollywood parties" which he mentions in passing. Tom Cruise, Courtney Love and few other celebs make an appearance in the book. The appearance of Heidi Fleiss makes the obvious utility of PUA methods to pimps like Fleiss rather disturbingly obvious. Style/Strauss goes head to head with Fleiss in trying to pick up chicks. Which brings me to misogyny.
Misogyny is mentioned here and there but it is not really discussed at length. I'll give Strauss credit for mentioning it at all, not that music and Rolling Stone are exactly bastions of political correctness. I will give my thoughts on the subject. Essentially the PUA milieu is hyper-misogynistic. The ability to manipulate women into liking them, and sleeping with them, causes men to see women in a rather poor light explains Strauss. But I would suggest that it might be a rather poor light that motivated them to want to explore this possibility in the first place. It might be a woman-haters fantasy to prove to himself, again and again, that women are easy to manipulate, shallow and faithless. The PUA doesn't look for ways to find good women, of it they are found, they look for ways to destroy their defenses. There are, to my knowledge, no active anti-PUA groups out there. What does it prove? That women, even married ones, can be emotionally 'seduced' into doing things they will regret?
Despite Strauss' access to "Hollywood parties" - which he used to bribe one mPUA with - he seems to sarge in normal bars just like everyone else in the book, and he doesn't even claim to have had sex with Ms. Love. Which rang a little hollow.
The level of drug use in this book is almost non-existent, which is frankly hard to believe. Not that PUAs need drugs, just that drugs, esp. in major cities, are everywhere. These guys might be as clean as he suggests, but drugs are around even if they aren't being done by Strauss. He only claims to have "come close" to doing coke, something I found totally impossible to believe. Courtney Love "gave no evidence of drug use" despite having lived in a commune of PUAs with Style/Strauss. What?!?!?! There is no mention of Ecstacy and only minimal mention of Coke, two huge "party" drugs. Even the alcohol is not overly mentioned: we are to assume that mostly sober guys are mostly going after sober chix in some Mormon faux-coffee houz? Nein!!!
But, you are asking, what about "the tech"? Did Strauss talk about his "Game"? He does, and in some fair detail. He approaches a woman and asks her to guess a number from one to ten he's written on a napkin - it's always 7 which mostly works. He does the "jealous girlfriend routine" in which he asks a woman's opinion of whether a friend's ex-girlfriend's pictures should reasonably provoke jealously in his new girlfriend, etc.
So while reading this long ass book, and finding myself somewhat in disbelief of this stuff. I mean this guy carries runes with him to a bar to do rune readings, he also mastered simple magic tricks. This appears to be silly or implausible. Being hungry I went to a local chain sandwich store famous for making some loser lose weight. A pretty Latina came out to fill my order stone faced and professional. No one else was there at that moment so I figured... what the hell? She asked what I wanted and then I said "So.. uh.. if you think of a number between one and ten, I'll bet I can guess it..." she seemed to buy it and immediately said "seven!". I said.. "well, you have to not tell me..." She smiled and immediately said that she wanted to try it again and I was stuck, and my "seven" wad was shot. The next round didn't go well, but what happened was interesting: she was quite friendly, unusually so. She wanted to know if I had any more things to show her? I said uh... no while trying to think of more of the Game but then I remembered the "spell" routine. "Do you believe in spells?" I asked her. Now someone had entered, another customer, and her coworker popped out. I was now feeling pretty bold to be pulling canned PUA material on this girl, but I figured, "who cares?" and wondered what it would look like if I was hitting on this chick right here. No one, surprisingly, seemed to care. I explained to her that a "friend" had a woman cast a love-spell on him to make him fall in love with her. Did she think it was true? She totally fell for it. She admitted to "reading about that stuff and weird things happened and so she stopped". She opened up like a can of tuna. I got a boner. Normally under these circumstances I'd have "number closed" (asked for her number) but I opted to just let it go. I asked for her name, but didn't offer mine to give her the "IOI" (indication of interest) test. She told me her name and immediately asked mine. Bingo. She smiled as I left. It was the most conversation I'd gotten out of a cute girl in the shortest period of time for awhile and perhaps forever. I was blown away. Suddenly all of the crap in the book seemed just a little too plausible. And, frankly, ugly. Suducing girls with boyfriends and even married women seemed very ugly. After all, these guys were supposed to be over "one-itis" (the infatuation with a single unattainable woman characteristic of the "AFC" curable, supposedly, by sleeping with 12 women). And yet they couldn't seem to get over "number-countitis" wanting to fuck everything in sight to get your total lay count up - I just made that up. Upon meeting other PUA scenesters they ask "What's your score?" which means how many women have you had sex with? This social pressure to have indiscriminate sex is just lame. It leads to pressure to screw women in relationships and married women. Fucking other peoples mates is a fool's game which proves nothing and destroys peoples ability to trust you. Also, it's probably the number one way to get someone trying to kill you. I am pretty over that one. If these guys are so good why don't they try to challenge themselves to "catch and release" taken women? I guess the idea of being a "cad" who can sleep with a new woman, taken or not, is so appealing that they can't stop. But, it's like insisting your new firearm always be loaded with the safety off, and any opportunity to fire be used. Sorry for the metaphor.
In sports it is the most skilled who create extra hoops for themselves to make the game more challenging. I was recently playing pool against a friend who was much less skilled. To keep me from slaughtering him more or less instantly I restricted myself to bank shots which I have a hard time with. Our game was much closer.
So the book is quite an engrossing read and it's not totally flattering to the PUA industry it shadows so closely. Style claims that others bite his techniques, yet these are methods they all shared freely in the A.S.F forums or a web board named "Mystery's Lounge" (which exists still, I think on http://www.themysterymethod.com). Mystery, the other main character, is portrayed as a psycho/depressive. Tyler Durden is portrayed as a total loser who'd rather control guys who want to get laid than get himself layed (Tyler is ironically quoted on the mystery method website and is associated with "Real Social Dynamics" or something like that, a PUA training site).
Style, late in teh book, shoots out an attack on the "robots" that the PUA schools are making, and it seems like a good parallel to any "method" that tries to make a complex topic simple: it has holes.
The PUA game apparently focuses on the "takedown" element of seduction. Actually keeping the GF is not played up, and even symbolic elements like getting phone numbers may be placed above other elements like actually following through with calling - which Style mentioned he didn't do in two notable cases.
Acronyms, acronyms? What's with all the fucking jargon? Well, partly it's almost certainly designed to give the appearance of a secret initiated group. It might have some history of just being related to internet nerdery - are there not slews of acronyms in 'net speak?. Another aspect of acronyms in PUA-speak probably has to do with the ability to talk about PUA methods openly in front of HBs ("hot babes") while being cockblocked by AMOGs("alpha males of group") and so on. It's like those who speak in spanglish or use sign language - a "private language".
Style mentions how shallow and empty the mPUAs are despite their reputations. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying PUAs are necessarily shallow and empty, but this PUA stuff should be at best part of a well rounded arsenal. "Running out of routines" is lame. The routine, at most, should be a segue into your normal self. If you are only playing at being a coy, push-pull, ambiguous player, what happens when you "close" and start spending more time with her? The shallowness of the techniques might be why they place a high emphasis on numbers/volume and turn over: since you are going to fail at the GF game you go for the flashy "turn 'em over" fast game.
Now, I suspect that many of you reading this are single. And even if you are in a relationship or marriage, chances are you might just need to make use of some singles skills if things turn out less than ideal. So for you PUA skills might be more than just a novelty.
The PUA stuff is like white sugar, intense and without substance. It tastes good, changes the flavor of something, but by itself it gives you cavities, makes you obese and gives you diabetes. The Game needs to be rounded out with real interests, real passions, real goals in life, real self improvement - these various things are to be faked to attract women - e.g. in the "photo trick" you carry pictures with you that give the appearance of being active and with attractive women so you can show them off to new prospects.
To return to the sugar metaphor, a real 'player' would want to have real nutrition in his game, to really be someone who can not only capture women, but offer them real companionship and have a real life. This would be like the difference in a sugar beet - a high fiber healthy good - and sugar itself stripped of nutrition but highly tasty.
Despite his comment on robots I didn't catch any real suggestions from Style, although he does make general points in this direction. The PUA industry has very real potential to be, if it's not already, another means of taking advantage of horny lonely men (like strip clubs, porn and kuro5hin).
Are PUAs losers? Probably, however they appear to be losers who are, at least, getting laid occasionally and probably have a very low fear of speaking to women. It beats a WOW addiction perhaps?