How To Lose Friends & Alienate People Paperback – 18 Jul 2002
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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 alternate Paperback edition.
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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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
It is a little bit hard to feel sorry for Toby Young. He goes to America to try out his dream job working at Vanity Fair, and finds out it is not all he thought it would be. Reading this book confirms how shallow 'fashionable' culture really is and was, for me, a window into the lives of some pretty empty people. Rather than actually doing something usefull, the staff of VF and the parasitic circle that orbits celebrities spend all their time perpetuating the myth that there is something special about them.
Toby realises this and consequently doesn't fit in. Instead of rising to the top of the heap as a hard-hitting hack, Young sinks without trace and is reduced to writing for an American version of Loaded on the effects of wigs when out on the pull. Having failed professionally, he does find love, unsurprisiingly with an English girl, and comes home. End of story. Not quite 'Down and Out in Paris and London'.
But its not all as simple as that. There are some interesting mini-essays on the differences between the UK and American class systems and a tear-jerking retelling of his mother's death, so you do feel you may have learnt something or grown a little by reading this book.
Good stuff before bed or on the bus and if you're British it will reaffirm that that is much better than being American.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
There was a lot of this stuff around at the beginning of the century - something to do about Tony Blair and not being beholden to the Tory party methinks... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Dan Smith
I read this book a few years ago, after leaving university. You read it, at such a time of life, wondering how this person of mediocre talents and writing ability got himself to... Read morePublished 11 months ago by J A R P
Funny, self deprecating and utterly unself conscious . Toby Young states that his first reaction on seeing Tom cruise in the flesh was to genuflect. HilariousPublished 12 months ago by Elljaygee
Pros: The only redeeming chapters that are worth reading are the first and the last, where the author describes the challenges he has with his parents and then how he overcomes... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Mr. A. Shah
Young is often very unlikable in this memoir. His language makes his Oxbridge background clear. Discusses the intricacies of working in a New York office and is quite critical of... Read morePublished on 29 Jun. 2014 by John Scott Hardie
Really enjoyed Tobys experiences in New York well worth a read.. I must watch the DVD as well. It was easily read and very amusingPublished on 16 Dec. 2013 by A. M. Malloy