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How to Lose Friends and Alienate People
by TOBY YOUNG
ISBN 0316857912 / 9780316857918 / 0-316-85791-2
Publisher LITTLE, BROWN
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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 [via]