A Top 10 Book of Essays & Literary Criticism for Fall 2017, Publishers Weekly | Books We Can’t Wait to Read in the Rest of 2017, Chicago Reader
The slippery online ecosystem is the perfect breeding ground for identities: true, false, and in between. The Internet shorthand IRL—“in real life”—now seems naïve. 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, the essayist and novelist Andrew O’Hagan issues three bulletins from the porous border between cyberspace and IRL. “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 deep into the 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, Satoshi Nakamoto—and who may or may not be willing, or even able, to reveal the truth.
O’Hagan’s searching pieces take us to the weirder fringes of life in a digital world while also casting light on our shared predicaments. What does it mean when your very sense of self becomes, to borrow a term 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.
Andrew O’Hagan is one of Britain’s most exciting and serious contemporary writers. He has been nominated for the Man Booker Prize three times, was voted one of Granta’s 2003 Best of Young British Novelists, and received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is the author of Our Fathers, Be Near Me, and The Illuminations, among other books. He lives in London.