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How To Lose Friends & Alienate People Paperback – 1 Nov 2001


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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown; Reprinted edition (1 Nov 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316857912
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316857918
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,100,076 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

In How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, Toby Young--columnist and former co-editor (with Julie Burchill and Cosmo Landesman) of The Modern Review--portrays himself as a man pulled to the New York media set by twin desires: to trade one-liners with modern day Dorothy Parkers and Robert Benchleys over very dry martinis, and to drink Cristal from a supermodel's cleavage in the back of a limo. In the event, neither is fulfilled and desire shows itself up to be the snake that eats its own tail--endless and ultimately encircling a big fat zero.

How to Lose... is Young's own telling of his disastrous five-year career in New York journalism, initiated when he is offered a job at Vanity Fair, Conde Nast's flagship star-fest. Young may have been hired for his snappy prose, but his real genius turns out to be antagonising the rich and famous. He is the British bulldog in the Armani-clad china shop of the politically correct glossy posse. He hires a strip-o-gram on bring-your-daughter-to-work day, commits the cardinal sin of asking celebs about their religion and sexual orientation, gets blasted on coke while trying to do a photo shoot and spends less time pulling up his chair to the modern day equivalent of the Algonquin table than trying to blag his way past "clipboard Nazis" barring his way into showbiz parties. Oh, and he gets sued by Tina Brown and Harold Evans. This is the place, he soon discovers, where greatness is measured not in your prose stylings, but how far up the guest list you are for Vanity Fair's Oscar party. But two things raise this particular loser's story above the crowd. First is his spot-on outsider's inside observations on phenomena such as the rigidly Austen-ite New York dating scene. Second, he has the columnist's knack of connecting everyday experience to social politics in order to grind both personal and political axes. In the adoration of the celebrity aristocracy by the masses, he sees the realisation of de Toqueville's warning of "the tyranny of the majority" and witnesses, for those lower down the food chain, the corruption of the "be all that you can be" meritocracy America promises. If these are soft targets, then the hilariously toe-curling experiences that lead him to take aim are well worth the price of a cocktail. --Fiona Buckland

Review

I'll rot in hell before I give that little bastard a quote for his book (Julie BURCHILL)

This man, Toby Young, is a rat and a snake and, to hear some tell it, also a raccoon. He deserves all these nasty blurbs (Dave Eggers, author of A HEARTBREAKING WORK of STAGGERING GENIUS.)

In How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, Toby Young--columnist and former co-editor (with Julie Burchill and Cosmo Landesman) of The Modern Review--portrays himself as a man pulled to the New York media set by twin desires: to trade one-liners with modern day Dorothy Parkers and Robert Benchleys over very dry martinis, and to drink Cristal from a supermodel's cleavage in the back of a limo. In the event, neither is fulfilled and desire shows itself up to be the snake that eats its own tail--endless and ultimately encircling a big fat zero. (How to Lose... is Young's own telling of his disastrous five-year career in New York journalism, initiated when he is offered a job at Vanity Fair, Conde Nast's flagship star-fest. Young may have been hired for his snappy prose, but his real genius turns)

Fiona Buckland, AMAZON.CO.UK REVIEW

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IT WAS THE AFTERNOON OF JUNE 8, 1995, WHEN I finally got the call. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By S.M. Gidley on 20 Oct 2008
Format: Paperback
I came to this memoir as I was interested to see how they had turned it into the film (which I saw first and thought was crucifyingly dull, although Simon Pegg is good). From all the press surrounding the film you could get the wrong idea about the book. If you believed everything you read then you'd be of the opinion that once you'd finished this book you would hate Toby Young to the point where if you met him you'd kill him, and that simply isn't the case. If anyone comes out of this looking bad it's the monstrous denizens of New York. There's no doubt that Young is the architect of his own downfall but, strangely, Fleet Street comes out of this looking a surprisingly commendable place, with a great sense of humour and a healthy dose of cynicism.

With all the bluster over Young's "negative charisma", the fact that this is an interesting and no doubt accurate representation of working at Vanity Fair in the 1990s gets lost. Read this for some pretty robust portraits of some of the city's movers-and-shakers of that era if nothing else.

The book does tend to unravel a little bit towards the end, much as Young's own life does. All the diverting stuff falls by the wayside and we get a lot of introspection about his family which is interesting but doesn't really fit with the tone of the book.

There is no doubt that Young is an intelligent, well-educated man (but do you have to keep telling us you got a First in PPE at Brasenose College, Oxford??), there is plenty of informed discussion on the American condition that borders on the academic. However, he should have kept a little bit more to the comic path and stayed away from the redemptive ending that, ironically, is so beloved of our trans-Atlantic brethren.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By John E. Davidson on 29 Mar 2005
Format: Paperback
It is very difficult to like Toby Young (on the basis of this book or his frequent appearances as a talking head on TV shows), however this is a very good and entertaining book.
It tells the story of Toby Young's time in New York working for Vanity Fair magazine. Toby Young is an interesting, if not particularly attractive, character. He is a very strange mixture of high brow and base instincts coupled with a rather adolescent sense of humour and an amazing ability to offend both intentionally and unintentionally. He seems very self-aware in reflection but is clearly unable to use this self-awareness in the heat of the moment. At times he seems to suffer from 'Roger Rabbit' syndrome - he must say it because it is funny (at least to him) regardless of the consequences.
Toby Young arrives in New York expecting to the presented with a smorgasbord of attractive women bowled over by his English accent, evident (at least to him) intelligence and his celebrity connections (from his position at Vanity Fair). This does not happen. He expects to have a brilliant career at Vanity Fair but he finds the office politics difficult (because he is not a believer) and his sense of humour and capacity of foot in mouth constantly land him in trouble. He becomes obsessed with celebrities but demonstrates a total lack of ability to talk to them in interviews or social situations - a bit of a problem when working for a celebrity magazine. He finds many aspects of life at Vanity Fair distasteful and cannot keep his mouth shut about them leading him inexorably towards the door.
Toby Young comes from the great British tradition of intellectual scepticism (lapsing into cynicism and negativity) and through this filter he is often startlingly perceptive about Vanity Fair, New York and the USA in general.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Tom on 20 Feb 2003
Format: Paperback
Lets get one thing clear from the start there are many things to dislike about Toby Young but his writing should not be numbered among them. He does not come out well from this autobiography but that is to his own great credit: he may be a despicable little s*** but at least he’s honest. It is so refreshing to read something in which the author's mistakes, both of judgement and character, are not excused or explained and the whole is not endlessly self serving. I’m sure that in actual fact the whole exercise was designed to raise his profile and so actually it is self serving but it never gets irritating.
Not only his writing funny and incisive but when he moves beyond the self deprecating anecdotes he is capable of some pretty serious insight. This is not just a tale of his fall from grace with the Manhattan social system but his view of that system as he falls. Of course much of his complaints can seem like the self justificatory carping of the loser but Young is honest enough to face up to this. His insight into the American Dream and the hidden but powerful class system in New York are important and worthwhile. His comments are given some historical grounding in his repeated referencing of de Toqueville. Some readers may find this irritating but for me it provided the core of the work.
His own personal redemption through Caroline and his return to England were contrasted with the emptiness of the drug fuelled celeb gazing that had characterised his life on both sides of the Atlantic. His writing in these sections contained a tenderness that was at odds with the barbed comments that characterise the rest of the book and more effective for it.
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