The Secret Life: Book summary and reviews of The Secret Life by Andrew O'Hagan

The Secret Life

Three True Stories of the Digital Age

by Andrew O'Hagan

The Secret Life by Andrew O'Hagan X
The Secret Life by Andrew O'Hagan
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  • Published Oct 2017
    240 pages
    Genre: Essays

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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

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

"Starred Review. O'Hagan's grasp of storytelling is prodigious, and the ending of his essay on Pinn is a particularly inspired, even moving, piece of writing. Taken as a whole, this is an unmissable collection of up-to-the-moment insights about life in our digital era." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. A thought-provoking, eminently readable sui generis examination of selfhood from a master storyteller; highly recommended for all collections." - Library Journal

"Three intriguing pieces of journalism about the new threats of a digital age ... [O'Hagan is] razor-sharp." - Kirkus

"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." - Sunday Times (UK)

"Altogether, The Secret Life is nothing less than an affirmation that using words well still matters, even now." - Evening Standard (UK)

"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 Times (UK)

"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." - The Observer (UK)

"O'Hagan's prose is always a delight. The cadence of his sentences, the way in which he balances extension and brevity, the unspooling and the reeling in, is a masterclass in the art of prose. This is not just a good book, but a necessary one." - Scotland on Sunday (UK)

"The theme is identity in the digital age and [O'Hagan's] three subjects are exquisitely fit for purpose ... Thrilling." - Esquire

This information about The Secret Life was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Andrew O'Hagan Author Biography

Photo: Jerry Bauer

Andrew O'Hagan is a contributing editor to the London Review of Books and Ganta magazine. His first novel, Our Fathers (1999) was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction and the Whitbread First Novel Award.

In 2003 he was nominated by Granta magazine as one of 20 Best of Young British Novelist.

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