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How To Lose Friends & Alienate People [Paperback]

Toby Young
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)

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Book Description

18 July 2002

In 1995, high-flying British journalist Toby Young left London for New York to become a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. Other Brits had taken Manhattan - Alistair Cooke, Tina Brown, Anna Wintour - so why couldn't he? Surely, it would only be a matter of time before the Big Apple was in the palm of his hand.

But things did not go according to plan. Within the space of two years he was fired from Vanity Fair, banned from the most fashionable bar in the city and couldn't get a date for love or money. Even the local AA group wanted nothing to do with him.

How To Lose Friends & Alienate People is Toby Young's hilarious account of the five years he spent steadily working his way down the New York food chain, from glossy magazine editor to crash-test dummy for interactive sex toys. But it's not just a collection of self-deprecating anecdotes. It's also a seditious attack on the culture of celebrity from inside the belly of the beast. Not since Bonfire of the Vanities has the New York A-list been so mercilessly lampooned - and it all really happened!



Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; New Ed edition (18 July 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349114854
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349114859
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 305,884 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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It was the afternoon of 8 June, 1995 when I finally got the call. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Appropriate title 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
4.0 out of 5 stars great book, bad man 20 Feb 2003
By Tom
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Candid and funny 24 Jan 2011
By susie
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Journalist Toby Young writes candidly about his exploits in New York while working for Vanity Fair and "lads' mag" Gear. And he doesn't pull any punches - even when the tales reflect badly on him. The words "juvenile" and "immature" seem to sum him up through most of the book, but in a way you can't help but like him.
While I found How to Lose Friends and Alienate People a really entertaining read, there were times when I found myself cringing. I kept thinking "what if your children ever read this?"

The book is full of amusing stories and, somehow, Young manages to become the hero of his own downfall.
It is also a cautionary tale - drugs and alcohol and his obsession with women's breasts feature heavily in his demise.(At one point he is so smashed that he gives away his mother's gold ring to a teenager he meets in a bar. It was matter of huge regret since his mother was dead and he had no way of tracing the girl.)

I have seen the film of the book - Young is played by Simon Pegg - but I wish I had read the book first. A lot of the material that the film-makers did not use is funnier than the extracts that did feature in the film.

Young has obviously grown up since writing this memoir and is currently doing a lot to highlight the problems with the education system in Britain and working on a project to open a free school in London. He's come a long way since he hired a strippagram for a work colleague on "Take Your Daughters To Work Day!"
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Don't believe the anti-hype 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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars good read
Really enjoyed Tobys experiences in New York well worth a read.. I must watch the DVD as well. It was easily read and very amusing
Published 4 months ago by A. M. Malloy
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful - A stroll through the grave yard of Simon Pegg's career
This film has a lot of high profile actors in it (Megan Fox, Simon Pegg, Kirsten Dunst, Gillian Anderson and Thandie Newton), but it really doesn't do justice to the book by Toby... Read more
Published on 9 Aug 2011 by D. Bowtell
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic of its kind
Toby Young has written a wonderfully funny but thoughtful memoir of his time at Conde Nast as a contributing editor at Vanity Fair during the last five years of the nineties. Read more
Published on 6 July 2011 by CraggyDVD
5.0 out of 5 stars Really enjoyed this - unexpectedly
I wasn't expecting a great deal from this book for some reason, but I found it thoroughly enjoyable and accessible. Read more
Published on 26 Feb 2011 by M.B.
1.0 out of 5 stars Kindle prices is a rip off
OK - this is a great book, but there is something VERY wrong when the Kindle edition is more expensive than the paperback (both prices were discounted off the list price). Read more
Published on 4 Nov 2010 by I. J. Matthews
5.0 out of 5 stars Toby Young - A Very Gifted Prat
This book is very funny, very informative and a valuable and interesting insight into life in the New York/Conde Naste scene in the 90's. Read more
Published on 10 Oct 2009 by missy-b
5.0 out of 5 stars PG Wodehouse
Is this man being the Englishman of our time ?
He looks like something from the Lord of the Rings and has the energy of 10. Read more
Published on 8 Mar 2009 by Mr. N. Bonsor
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly Thoughtful
I bought this book as I wanted a light read and a bit of cheering up. In some respects it failed to deliver this but did deliver an unexpectedly thought provoking read. Read more
Published on 12 Feb 2009 by Michael Kilbride
3.0 out of 5 stars Some stories are best kept fictional...
This book is about this British author's experience in making a career in journalism in New York, having landed his "dream job" of working for Vanity Fair, and how he completely... Read more
Published on 8 Jan 2009 by O. Cheng
3.0 out of 5 stars Over-hyped
This book is funny and entertaining but not brilliantly written. Toby Young repeats himself endlessly and uses too many quotes from philosophers and sociologists in an attempt to... Read more
Published on 2 Dec 2008 by Kate Gardner
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