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The slippery online ecosystem is the perfect breeding ground for identities: true, false, and in between. We no longer question the reality of online experiences but the reality of selfhood in the digital age.
In The Secret Life: Three True Stories, Andrew O’Hagan issues three bulletins from the porous border between cyberspace and the ‘real world’. ‘Ghosting’ introduces us to the beguiling and divisive Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, whose autobiography the author agrees to ghostwrite with unforeseen—and unforgettable—consequences. ‘The Invention of Ronnie Pinn’ finds the author using the actual identity of a deceased young man to construct an entirely new one in cyberspace, leading him on a journey into the deep web’s darkest realms. And ‘The Satoshi Affair’ chronicles the strange case of Craig Wright, the Australian web developer who may or may not be the mysterious inventor of Bitcoin, and who may or may not be willing, or even able, to reveal the truth.
What does it mean when your very sense of self becomes, to borrow a phrase from the tech world, ‘disrupted’? Perhaps it takes a novelist, an inventor of selves, armed with the tools of a trenchant reporter, to find an answer.
For prose, try Andrew O’Hagan’s The Secret Life on the wilder shores and darker characters of the internet. It’s funny, neatly written and deeply thought-provoking.
O’Hagan is an immensely engaging writer: wry and witty, and insightful ... despite their technological background, these are ultimately human stories and O’Hagan tells them superbly.
Altogether, The Secret Life is nothing less than an affirmation that using words well still matters, even now.
O’Hagan [is] a vivid and meticulous writer ... at the core of this excellent collection we glimpse the unbridgeable difference between the real and the invented.
It is a tribute to O’Hagan’s quiet and effective betrayal of Assange that the reader’s ambivalence towards the Wikileaker does not prevent the reader’s gradual antipathy.
The theme is identity in the digital age and [O’Hagan’s] three subjects are exquisitely fit for purpose … Thrilling.
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