How to Lose Friends & Alienate People
10 journalers for this copy...
Perhaps the best definition of Toby comes from Graydon Carter, the Editor in Chief at Vanity Fair. After Toby gets sued by the Evans, Graydon calls him:
"You're not frightened are ya?"
"Actually, I'm quite enjoying it"
"I bet ya are, ya little fuck".
That's exactly what Toby is: a little fuck. He knows it, he mopes about it for about 1.2 seconds, and then he honestly admits this is how he likes himself. Just for that he's got my vote.
Toby suffers from what he describes as "negative charisma". He does have a knack for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong person. He is fascinated and awe-struck by celebrities and at the same time knows better than that. This book narrates the five years he spent in New York, first as an editor at Vanity Fair, then as a free-lancer. He arrives in the US dreaming of following in the footsteps of the greatest American journalists of the old Vanity Fair, who were dissolute, alcoholized, but absolutely brilliant, of independent minds and with a tell-it-like-it-is mentality (I wonder how TY feels nowadays about American journalistic integrity, given what we have been seeing in the recent past). What he discovered is that Vanity Fair had turned into a glossy tabloid with soulless journalism.
I wasn't totally sold on Toby right away. When i first started reading the book, i was somewhat taken aback by the shallow tone. After all, Toby depicts himself in the prologue as nothing but a party crasher. But soon enough i realized this guy could write, and do it very, very well. After a while, i developed a lot of sympathy for him, because in a way he and i suffer from the same malady: we can't stand people who take themselves too seriously. The Vanity Fair crowd, for example, was convinced that their sixth sense allows them to detect upcoming style trends. It does not occur to them that they dictate those trends. Toby could see that, but was appalled at The-Emperor-has-no-Clothes syndrome that prevailed at the magazine. Of course, his pointing out these facts to his coworkers and to his boss made him a pariah.
This book, to me, had a perfect balance of fluffy and brainy parts. The fluff is all the talk about Toby's misadventures and exploits. His entire stay is punctuated by the friendship-rivalry he has with Alex de Silva, who achieves everything that Toby desires (fame, fortune, sex with supermodels, etc). In fact, Toby jokes that instead of Cupid, he is followed by Stupid, an angel who always manages to strike people next to him with good luck arrows (this reminds me of an old friend. She dated three men in a row who ended up marrying the very next woman they dated. My friend joked that she should start a business). But a part of Toby is very juvenile, especially when he is in touch with other men, like his only pal coworker, Chris Lawrence. They spend the time discussing the huge racks on so-and-so, etc. I am not particularly sensitive about that attitude, and in fact i find it rather amusing, and a refreshing change of air against the politically-correct world we live in (more about that later). Toby completely redeems himself in this regard when he falls in love at the end of the book (my least favorite part).
The brainy stuff is fascinating. He compares the NY dating scene with Victorian England and Jane Austen's novels, and goes to town describing the hypocrisy of certain women who rather than upholding what would be honest feminist concepts, search for a mate with strong material and social status qualifications.
Toby spent some time in Harvard in the late 80s, the birth of the Politically Correct movement, and expounds on the desert-like intellectual environment he had to endure, at such odds with his concept of the American mind. It was only after he read Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America that he started to understand the reasons for the dogmatic and complacent climate of the times (which sadly have been perpetuated to present times).
Perhaps the most controversial piece of brainy commentary is the one about the cultural differences between American and English society when it comes to social status. In America, we use a meritocracy system: your worth is reflected by your achievements. In England, your status is based on who your parents are, so you are less likely to be judged harshly when your chips are down. Granted, this is not an ideal system either, as the British Empire has not always taken this benevolent approach wherever they've gone around the world, but there's something to be said about the emphasis that we in America place on personal achievement and what this represents.
One rare thing is that this book has an index, which i loved and proved to be very useful.
I am dying to use my favorite quote of the book: "He is all broadcast and no reception". I know a few people that fit that description.
This is a book that on its anthropological commentary alone would be worth to put on an Ex-pat BookRing. If culturally you are not an American, but you live/d here, i bet you are going to agree with a lot of what Toby has to say.
I am taking some artistic license and calling this a BookLoop, because it is not a ring (i don't want it back). It is a Ray, but a special ray in that i would like the book to go to the UK, and then back to the US (to my buddy Apolonia), therefore making a sort of loop or U-turn.
If you could keep the book for a maximum of 4 weeks, that would be great. If you think it's going to take you longer to read it, pleasepleaseplease make an entry indicating that.
sdkelley - Kansas (intl OK) - MAILED FEBRUARY 7
Kali297 - South Carolina (intl OK)
TheBowieFollies - New York (intl OK)
ajsmom - BC, Canada (intl OK)
billhookbabe - UK (intl if needed)
LyzzyBee - UK (intl OK)
k00kaburra - California
Apolonia - Massachussetts (This will be a surprise RABCK for Apolonia: please PM me for her address)
This book evoked a lot of different feelings from me. When I first started it, it seemed like a male version of The Devil Wears Prada. I was looking forward funny insights into the glossy mag world. Then, Toby seemed to lose focus. His thoughts seemed to flow straight from his brain to paper with very little organization.
The rest of the book for me was a see-saw betwen humor & rambling. It was very easy for me to see how he lost friends and alienated people. I felt alienated and I have never met the guy!!
All and all, it was a mediocre book, in my opinion. Yet at the same time I felt compelled to finish, so that says something for his writing.
On a humorous note - at the same time that I was reading this book, a woman named Toby Young helped an inmate escape from Lansing Prison in neighboring Kansas. I am pretty sure that she lost friends & alienated people as well!! LOL
I will pass this on to the next reader once I get an address!
Thanks again for sharing, GG!
I'm in the middle of another promise but the reading should go fast & I hope to be well into "How to Lose...." soon.
Clever and candid to the nth degree, he has great insight into his masochistic/self-defeating behavior. And his (sour grapes?) insight into the high gloss of the media world made for absorbing reading.
I mailed this to the next in line -- TheBowieFollies -- today. Enjoy!
(this was very cathartic to rant about!)
Although uneven at times and far too reminiscent of the superiour " A heartbreaking work of staggering genius," this has won me over for its realism and surrealism. There is truth in jest and jest in truth.
Toby Young is quite perspicacious regarding the psyche of the typical New Yorker. This book really inspires me to get back to Liverpool
Cheers to Miss Glo, it was a lovely deviation for me to read this, I just suffered an injury during a tap routine, and this lifted my spirits
I will be posting this week to AJSMOM in the great white North
ETA: Omigoodness, this book has been on my wishlist for AGES and I don't even remember why I put it there. But having started the book, I can say I now know! Ajsdad and I have been subscribers of Vanity Fair for about two years, enjoying the fluff and the less-than-fluff content (my brain stretches slightly more than reading People I suppose). This book is hilarious for taking the piss out of a glossy empire that clearly takes itself much too seriously. I will see how I feel at the end...(I'm only about 30 pages in).
So while I appreciate Toby Young's commentaries on the class difference between England and America (and specifically London and New York City), I think you could find those parallels anywhere.
I thought he was pretty funny - self-depreciating when he deserved it (he doesn't paint a pretty picture of himself, does he?) - and very self-aware. I liked that he was a fan, but that he wanted to be more like Alex and not be a fan, but really, he couldn't help himself. That seems true of most regular human beings, I imagine. (I once told a TV star I really liked his show as I served him popcorn in my polyester uniform, LOL).
I found at times he could have used a better editor, but on the whole, the book was a laugh. I haven't given up my Vanity Fair subscription yet. And I had bookmarked a page where he commented on VF being slightly more brainfood than People, which I found ironic given my first JE, but I lost it.
I have contacted the next on the list for an address and will have this out as soon as I hear back! Cheers, GG for sending this out.
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
Sent to billhookbabe via air mail this morning.
Shame Toby didn't find what he was looking for but glad for him that he grew up at least a bit. His self centred sorry for himself attitude grated with me throughout the book, I think I may have given up on NY a lot earlier.
Although I didn't really enjoy this one, I think I learnt something so it was not a loss. Thanks for the ring GG, I will send it on as soon as I have LyzzyBee's address.
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
It's interesting that this has aroused so much detailed comment - so often I join rings that have a sentence or two for each JE. I didn't like the guy but I thought it was a fun read - he repeated himself a little and yes, got a bit woolly in the middle, but in the main it's pretty well-done and a good expose of the lives of a particular sector of society. His comments on the idea of the meritocracy are interesting, but I think he gets a bit holier-than-thou, while feeding off the edges of their lives (he gets peeved when someone insults his dad, having made great mirth out of insulting lots of other people/sectors of society. He was like a little boy, out to shock with rude words and willy-waving, and like another reader, I wasn't that interested in his sudden finding of love - how long will that last, I wonder.
Well an interesting read and I'm glad I had it on a ring and didn't buy it!
I am PM'ing k00kaburra now and should be able to post it out on Monday, after the UK BookCrossing Unconvention which I am helping to organise (eeps!)
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
Posting to k00kaburra today.
I'm really sorry, but I'm going to have to send this surface mail. I have just been helping organise the Unconvention in the UK, and apart from the expenses of that, of course books to send out have been piling up - so too many books, not enough money. They dont usually take too long to California and, again, I apologise for the delay.
This was not to be - the guy just kept sinking deeper and deeper into his self-made mess and as the book rolled on, Young became less and less likeable. He made interesting points (I thought the lines drawn between Austen's society and New York City were fantastic) but spent too much time feeling sorry for himself.
By the time he left that poor Lena stranded in the street my interest in his well being had clocked out for the story. He was a jerk - a remorseful jerk, sure, but a jerk nonetheless! - and deserved what he got. Falling in love with Caroline later seemed so contrived, like he just needed a positive note to end the story with. No wonder the poor girl thought he was proposing just to have something to say at his farewell party! It wouldn't surprise me at all if that is all there was.
Fantastic title - OK story. He just seemed so shallow and gossipy (as did most of the people he encountered!) that it was hard to care about his fate.
This will be on its way to Apolonia once I get her address.
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
Mailed the book on to its (temporary?) final destination. :)