Unconventional business saga about the founding of Wired magazine and its related online empire.
Journalist Wolf, himself a Wired contributor, opens the story in 1985 with its dominant character, 35-year-old Louis Rossetto, living in Amsterdam and dreaming about starting a magazine that would capture not only the promise of online technology, but also the accompanying lifestyle. In Paris, Rossetto met Jane Metcalfe, another youngish American expatriate, who became part of his personal life and eventually his business partner. By the end of the ’80s, Rossetto and Metcalfe had worn out their welcome in Europe with both employers and social acquaintances; they decided to return to the US, hoping to raise money for a new magazine. The author devotes the first five chapters to the rootless wanderings of the oddly magnetic, ethereal Rossetto and the somewhat more realistic Metcalfe, chronicling every kick in the teeth they suffered before launching the first issue of Wired from a San Francisco workspace in 1993. The failures, told in excruciating detail and with oddly flat affect, pile on top of one another until the journey becomes extremely depressing. The Wired launch provides brief uplift, but Rossetto was so contrary with anybody who preached the conventional wisdom of the magazine business that soon the narrative is filled again with relentless contentiousness. Wolf knows his use of the word “romance” is unorthodox; he insists it’s appropriate because it hints at the supernatural, tracing “the effect of a fantastic idea—the idea that computers will make every existing authority obsolete—as it worked through and upon the man who conjured it up.”
Uneven, but the quirky characters and the magazine’s skyrocket trajectory keep it compelling through the final page.