The Secret Life: Three True Stories of the Digital Age

Farrar. Oct. 2017. 240p. ISBN 9780374277918. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780374717094. LIT
OrangeReviewStarLondon Review of Books (LRB) editor at large and Man Booker Prize-nominated novelist O'Hagan (The Illuminations) is an expert in the art of the long-form essay. In this lightly updated collection of three pieces originally published in the LRB, the author provides a compelling examination of selfhood and identity for three distinct personalities wrought in the blurring lines of fact and fiction online. The strongest is "Ghosting," about O'Hagan's attempt to ghostwrite Julian Assange's autobiography in 2011, with O'Hagan displaying a knack for capturing moments of levity despite his frustration as Assange causes the project's derailment. In "The Invention of Ronald Pinn," O'Hagan journeys to the Dark Web to develop an identity for the titular Pinn, who died pre-Internet and has no digital footprint, raising important, difficult questions of the ethics involved in telling someone else's story. The final piece, "The Satoshi Affair," offers a thrilling dive into the fraught world of Craig Wright, who claims to be the mysterious bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto but won't reveal the evidence to prove it.
VERDICT A thought-provoking, eminently readable sui generis examination of selfhood from a master storyteller; highly recommended for all collections. [See Prepub Alert, 5/3/17; "Editors' Fall Picks," 9/1/17.]
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