When you write novels, Andrew O’Hagan says, “you take it for granted that the imagination is sovereign. But what happens when you are writing a reported story? Isn’t it dictated by matters of fact and therefore outside the imagination?” These may seem like unpromisingly earnest words—of the kind uttered by a J-school professor at the start of his Reporting 101 class. But they are the key to a riveting book that is, in places, deeply moving.
“The Secret Life” is a reported triptych: three short narrations “from the wild west of the Internet.” Each is about a man “on the run,” sometimes literally, at other times in the form of a psychic elusiveness. What the men have in common is that they have all been made real—and surreal—by cyberspace. They are creatures of the web’s darkest recesses, largely inaccessible to the sunlight of ordinary human scrutiny.
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