1.0 out of 5 stars
Definitely lost some respect for Neil Strauss here
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on November 2, 2015
I bought this book with some degree of excitement because I am/was a fan of Neil's previous books Emergency, The Game, and a couple of the biographies. I have also been on his mailing list for years and even saw his DVD set where he personally coached several men in The Game and related principles.
Well yesterday I just finished all 400-some pages of "The Truth" and I am rather disappointed. The questions asked at the outset of the book are, in my opinion, interesting questions, but... the wrong questions. Therefore, Neil's personal quest to cast out his own personal demons and his conclusions from that journey are built on fundamentally bad assumptions. (e.g. I would want to ask: What if modern women aren't worth pursuing for long term relationships at all? What is the root cause of why many men are starting to feel this way? How can we fix it? What if monogamy is not the problem, but society?)
Anyway, Neil's bad assumptions can even be seen as we progress through the book because everything he "learns" at each stage is torn down and rebuilt anew so many times that by the end of the whole thing we're just glad to see he's going with SOME belief system as opposed to none. But also by the end, I'm now taking each one of his nice neat little 1-liner insights with huge grains of salt, saying to myself "That's nice Neil - you're really just justifying what you already want emotionally (which is, to get back with Ingrid because you miss her) with logic, just like anyone else would." Ultimately, there are no real insights into love and monogamy versus other styles of relationships - just the scattered thoughts of a surprisingly weak man (surprising because it's amazing he ever became successful with so many women with all this baggage in the first place, which probably says more about modern women than it does about Neil) who has gone through multiple traumatic experiences and learned how to deal with them through a LOT of expensive therapy and then ended up right back where he began, but more satisfied with the situation than before. Whether you're a PUA or a monogamous married man who learns how to not obsess over women so much, you're still trapped in The Matrix, too distracted by the woman in the red dress... and wasting far too much time and money on her.
In his time learning The Game, Neil learned some neat tricks on how to "crack the code" on dealing with the minds of young, modern, entitled women who have been told their whole lives they're God's Gift and should be treated as such. The whole PUA community is based on these tricks and their outgrowth and some of them work quite well. Mystery (Erik von Markovik) even made a whole framework out of it. At first, Neil seemed to take this information he learned and mature with it, incorporating it with a larger body of knowledge on how to make himself (and men in general) better men. This is great and very respectable. This total integration of perfecting the self while carrying a savvy knowledge of how women's brains work is what men need (that is, for those of us who choose to still deal with these women in the first place, an option PUA's and Neil don't ever consider). Neil was headed in the right direction with this. His DVD set was pretty good in this regard.
However, as soon as I cracked open "The Truth", it was like I was reading words written by another man... a regular man, who had learned nothing. A simp with so many emotional problems and deep rooted childhood issues that I was taken aback, and throughout the book my respect for Neil waned considerably. The book is filled with tons of examples of Neil pandering, not knowing what he wants, acting like a pussy, whining, and espousing the philosophy-of-the-moment, whatever seems to suit his perceived needs at the time. He writes himself as a man who is totally at the whims of his own biological urges and has absolutely zero self control. Even though he claims to be the "villain" in this story, there is no one else to act as a protagonist (Ingrid herself is absent most of the book and what little thoughts of hers that are conveyed are simplistic and she comes off as a child-like woman of little substance, hardly someone to be put on such a high pedestal), therefore we must relate to Neil or relate to no one. Sorry, but with all his mental issues, he does not come off as a very relatable figure.
One especially frustrating moment comes when he is operating his "harem" of 3 women, it is clear to the reader that such a relationship requires a very strong dictatorial figurehead patriarch in order to succeed (this is clear both from history and his references and admiration of Father Yod), yet Neil fails to even realize this until later, let alone come anywhere close to actually doing it in practice. When the relationship inevitably fails, it is clear this is due more to his personal mismanagement of it rather than the relationship structure itself. At each failure, I could never sympathize with Neil and root for him to ultimately succeed because he wrote himself as such a pathetic buffoon, trying to cater to the needs of childish women - the exact opposite kind of behavior he taught in The Game, which was successful at managing the child-like behavior of women and not enslaving yourself to their approval or lack thereof.
Ultimately, Neil ends up going on what sounds like a wild journey of various styles of sexual orgies, none of which satisfy him. At the end, by the time he comes full circle and wants Ingrid back (which he realizes at a pathetic moment on a mountain hike which leaves him breathless while his healthier friends go way ahead of him, as if this climax is in any way similar to a near death epiphany where it all turns around) not only is there little suspense in whether she will take him back or not, but you get the impression that anybody would rationalize their decision to go back to monogamy after having so many and varied sexual experiences that you literally "can't imagine one that went unfulfilled." Wow, Neil, good for you. If only all men could live in free-wheeling California with plenty of money and experience non-stop sex with multiple partners, maybe they too would tire of it and ultimately choose monogamy with a new frame of mind. Again, how many men out there can relate to this? As an aside, it would be interesting to know who really paid for all this. My bet is Neil did and most of these women got a free ride on his dime, especially in the harem. When Sage comes back to him in the end, she did so using her "savings" which was singled out as something unusual worth mentioning. Thus in most of these circumstances where money is not mentioned, it would stand to reason that these women are taking advantage of Neil's money and resources. "Love" indeed.
Also, it seems part of the reason this book exists is to help him "wash away" as much of the stigma as possible that he still personally carries associated with writing The Game. THAT alone makes me take this with a major grain of salt. He seems to be pandering to the established norms of today (rationalized monogamy and marriage despite its heavy disadvantages toward men, as well as the cult of female superiority - e.g. Ingrid can do no wrong and is the ultimate prize for... reasons, I guess) in an attempt to help his professional life and have something to show the mainstream media and point at and say "See? I'm with you guys. I saw the error of my ways and I'm not such a bad guy after all. Love me."
Overall, I think Neil is stuck rehashing the same old stuff (albeit using new psycho-analysis methods) that does not solve the problems of modern men, marriage, and relationships... unless of course you're a head case, in which paying the hundreds of thousands of dollars required for all this sort of professional treatment discussed in the book is probably money well spent. It's certainly cheaper than divorce.
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