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Book Reviews   |    
The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists
Reviewed by Alan D. Schmetzer
Psychiatric Services 2006; doi:
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by Neil Strauss, New York, Regan Books, 2005, 452 pages, $29.95 softcover

Dr. Schmetzer is professor and assistant chair for medicine in the department of psychiatry at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis.

The book The Game is another of Neil Strauss's biographies, but this book is partly autobiographical and a brief history of a group of self-styled "pickup artists"—people who essentially make a full-time career of trying to achieve multiple sexual conquests. The book has a thin, leather-like cover, gold lettering, and a bound-in ribbon bookmark, much like a Bible. The symbolism is intentional, as the book chapters are based on specific techniques and "moves" that form a "bible" of the art of seduction—how to "select a target," "approach and open," remove "the obstacles," "create an emotional connection," and so forth. Although "men will deny it" and "women will doubt it," Strauss declares this to be a true story and asks that the reader blame not the players but The Game. The book features a number of theories or "schools" of seduction.

The running thread throughout is the author's search for his own perfect pickup technique and for a sense of satisfaction in life. The Game's goal is to be able to pick out a random "target" person in any setting, no matter how many competing companions are already present, and by virtue of the right combination of behaviors, body language, and words develop an attraction that ends with a phone number, a kiss, or the ultimate prize—a sexual encounter. Strauss arranges to meet various instructor-mentors, the "gurus," from whom to learn along the way. Each guru has had to study the art of the pickup as a set of behaviors to be analyzed and reduced to a given formula that he can both use and teach to other "nerdy" types, as they are called, during weekend workshops.

The author goes from one guru to the next, perfecting his own style, and, in fact, he renames himself "Style." But by the end of the book, Strauss tires of The Game and does not like the way his new perspective has objectified women. Because of his new-found techniques, though, he finally finds one woman who is more than a conquest to him.

The journey is liberally sprinkled with cameo appearances by celebrities, like Heidi Fleiss, Tom Cruise, and Paris Hilton, to name a few, and both domestic and foreign exotic locales. Strauss is able to laugh at his own foibles as well as describe the despair that can come with a narrow or shallow approach to life.

This book has sufficient psychological and social subtext to be of interest to psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health professionals, both as a diversion and perhaps as a warning of how boundary violations could begin. Many of the described techniques sound plausible, and, for people so inclined, they might even work!




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