cover image Totally Wired: The Rise and Fall of Josh Harris and the Great Dotcom Swindle

Totally Wired: The Rise and Fall of Josh Harris and the Great Dotcom Swindle

Andrew Smith. Grove, $17 trade paper (412p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2934-5

Critic and journalist Smith (Moondust) takes a deep dive into the hubris, optimism, and creativity of the dot-com boom-and-bust with an overlong and unfocused profile of an early web impresario, Josh Harris. Harris’s, founded in 1993 and one of the first startups in New York City’s “Silicon Alley,” was ostensibly conceived as an incubator for content of all stripes. And had it been run capably, it could have been—Harris’s grasp of the need for unique content was indeed prescient. But in reality, Pseudo was more chaotic bacchanal than business. Drug-fueled parties and Harris’s own increasingly bizarre behavior (such as repeatedly coming to work dressed as a clown) were the norm, while banks and investors were too eager to get in on expected riches to look closely or ask enough questions. Smith charts the all-too-familiar arc of an unsustainable economic bubble broadly and often obliquely, with numerous digressions (such as into Alan Greenspan’s role in the dot-com boom), while major parts of Harris’s story, such as his relationship with his girlfriend, with whom he performed a much-publicized media stunt of living under 24-hour public surveillance, receive little payoff. Smith’s initially promising chronicle resembles, finally, a long-form magazine article that’s been stretched into a book. Agent: Emma Parry, Janklow & Nesbit. (Feb.)