How to Lose Friends & Alienate People

by Toby Young | Biographies & Memoirs |
ISBN: 030681188x Global Overview for this book
Registered by GorgeousGlo on 10/7/2005
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10 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by GorgeousGlo on Friday, October 07, 2005
I bought this book on the merits of its title alone. I had no idea of what the subject matter was. What a surprise!

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.



Journal Entry 2 by GorgeousGlo on Sunday, January 29, 2006
BookLoop #3.

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.

Shipping order:

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)


Journal Entry 3 by sdkelley on Tuesday, February 14, 2006
I received this today!!! I have a book and a half in front of it, and then I will be on top of it. Thanks so much for sharing, GorgeousGlo!

Journal Entry 4 by sdkelley on Friday, March 10, 2006
First of all, thanks to GorgeousGlo for sharing this book!!

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!

Journal Entry 5 by Kali297 from Greer, South Carolina USA on Friday, March 17, 2006
Arrived today -- St. Patrick's Day (with a handwritten card and shamrock stickers). :-)
I'm in the middle of another promise but the reading should go fast & I hope to be well into "How to Lose...." soon.
Thanks!

Journal Entry 6 by Kali297 from Greer, South Carolina USA on Tuesday, April 04, 2006
GorgeousGlo has written a dynamite review, and I fully agree with everything she says, but much less enthusiastically. The psychology of the author was particularly interesting, even when parts of his book faltered. Toby Young seems to be a classic example of arrested development, as outlined in Freud's model of the psychosexual stages of development (in Young's case, he seemed to have become fixated on the Genital Stage, which occurs during adolescence). Young is quite knowledgeable--and quite comfortable--with this theory. He seems to be a rabid disciple of Freud's and quotes him freely and frequently. In his first meeting with Caroline, a young woman to whom he would eventually become engaged, he is struck by her resemblance to his mother. In falling in love with Caroline, he intellectualizes his feelings (as is his habit) by citing the Freudian theory that the woman we fall in love with "...reminds us of our mothers..." and becomes a "mother surrogate" while all the "libidinal longing we had for our mothers, long since repressed, returns with an overwhelming force." His idealized view of his over-achieving mother and father (the latter of which he calls a "minor immortal") may have laid the unfirm foundation for his adolescent adulation of celebrities and also has some nice little Freudian parallels as well. According to theory, if an adolescent remains fixated on the genital stage, and particularly on the phallic stage (when a young child has sexual feelings for his mother), his development will be troubled as he struggles with further repression and defenses. Moreover, if judgmental parents emphasize moralistic aspects of behavior, it is likely to complicate the situation. Young felt that he could never measure up, just as the adult children of A-list celebs feel they can never measure up. When he finished writing the book and let his father read it, his father "...was nice about it -- 'very funny' -- but not particularly enthusiastic. 'Why not write a more serious book?'" In the Freudian model, parents who say, for instance, "A well-bred person doesn't do such and such...." only create obsessive-compulsive defenses that are intended to distance the person from uncomfortable emotional material, just as Young had distanced himself all his life, even if that meant through alcoholic oblivion, in his case. He is stuck in the lonely, "loser" persona of a young teen defining failure as not being in the "in crowd." As he stated, "I hadn't turned into Superman. I was still Clark Kent."
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!






Journal Entry 7 by TheBowieFollies from Brooklyn, New York USA on Friday, April 14, 2006
This came today and how befitting a brit in new york who alienates people, cor, I could have written this myself! I have been anticipating this one as it could very well be my life! Gorgeous one cheers for letting me participate and kali a befitting name you are a veritable goddess and I appreciate your accolades and all I can say is ibid, right back at ya ducky...I will be back ever so soon to deconstruct as I am delving, as we speak...until then...

Journal Entry 8 by TheBowieFollies from Brooklyn, New York USA on Monday, April 17, 2006
"How to lose friends, and where to bury them," is a Carnegian turn of phrase, that I orginated many moons ago, never realising how prescient it would be! If anyone on this here green earth, can relate to such a comedy of terrors, it would be your humble narrator. Why, I have lived this life of Toby Young, I have confronted such disillusionment, albeit it is the realm of theatre in which I speak of, as opposed to the literary world. (Conde NAsty, how aptly parodised.) The legions of people he has associated with, the utter solipsists that they are, don't half remind me of some of the producers and impressarios I unfortunately had the misfortune of encompassing in NYC, these noveau riche, aimless, ignoble sycophants. Cleverly disguised sycophants ..Yes they are all among us! Hence,I could not help but feel vicariously a certain sort of simpatique with Mr Young. It is social Darwinism in this rotten apple, New York, when at its worst, has about all the charm of Lord Lucan! The taste of this is bittersweet, but in the end Toby Young is never truly defeated, and I am sure he is having a proper giggle all the way to the building society et al.

(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
Happy Easter...

Journal Entry 9 by TheBowieFollies from Brooklyn, New York USA on Thursday, April 20, 2006
This book is as of the 20th of April en route to Canada...hope you enjoy it Ajsmom ;o)

Journal Entry 10 by ajsmom from Quesnel, British Columbia Canada on Friday, April 28, 2006
Book received today, along with a lovely note from BowieFollies, the tap-dancing-Brit! Will get to it asap.

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).

Journal Entry 11 by ajsmom from Quesnel, British Columbia Canada on Sunday, April 30, 2006
I would agree with the other comments made here in general. I had been thinking about adding something about how seriously the Americans take themselves as opposed to the Brits (and Canadians too), but I think I will narrow that down to how seriously "the celebrity class" take themselves. I own a small business and deal with all types of people, with all types of incomes. The most obnoxious, least-friendly, "here, hold this while I shop" customers are always the wealthiest. Always. There is no joking with these people - and this is a small town! It ain't NYC, baby!! *somewhat sarcastic grin* *also some rolling of the eyes*

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.

Released 14 yrs ago (5/4/2006 UTC) at Sent by mail in A fellow BookCrosser, A RABCK -- Controlled Releases

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Sent to billhookbabe via air mail this morning.

Journal Entry 13 by billhookbabe on Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Received in the mail today, will read within the next two weeks,
Cheers

Journal Entry 14 by billhookbabe on Saturday, June 03, 2006
This isn't what I thought it would be. I thought it would be a one hundred and one ways to LF and AP. However it was much more than this and quite frankly I was shocked at the behind the scenes manoevering and activities that go on. I have never read VF bus presume that other mags like Hello have similar backgrounds.

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.


Released 14 yrs ago (6/4/2006 UTC) at Controlled Release in Controlled Release, A Bookcrossing member -- Controlled Releases

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Sending off in the morning. Released for the 2006 Keep them Moving Challenge run by guinaveve

Journal Entry 16 by LyzzyBee from Birmingham, West Midlands United Kingdom on Friday, June 09, 2006
Received today - thank you. This looks great! I just have half my current read to go and I can get on to this one...

Journal Entry 17 by LyzzyBee from Birmingham, West Midlands United Kingdom on Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Oops - I have had this longer than I usually have rings, but I have been on holiday in the meantime and I don't like to take ring books away in case something happens to them.

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!)

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.

Journal Entry 19 by k00kaburra from San Jose, California USA on Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Caught it - and I'm greatly looking forward to gobbling this book up!

Journal Entry 20 by k00kaburra from San Jose, California USA on Sunday, August 27, 2006
The book was fun and a bit fluffy, but the momentum that started the story rolling couldn't hold it up all the way to the end. Having grown up on the Hollywood formula, I kept expecting Toby's misfortunes to have a serendipitous change for the better and he would suddenly become a top editor at one of Vanity Fair's rivals.
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.

Journal Entry 21 by k00kaburra at Media Mail in Fellow Bookcrosser, A Book Relay -- Controlled Releases on Monday, September 11, 2006

Released 14 yrs ago (9/11/2006 UTC) at Media Mail in Fellow Bookcrosser, A Book Relay -- Controlled Releases

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Mailed the book on to its (temporary?) final destination. :)

Journal Entry 22 by Apolonia from Lynn, Massachusetts USA on Tuesday, September 19, 2006
What a great surprise!! I love that the book is so well travelled.It is actually in very good condition for all the travelling its done. I will make sure to pass it along as soon as I'm done. Thanks so much GeorgousGlo!!!

Journal Entry 23 by Apolonia from Lynn, Massachusetts USA on Tuesday, December 12, 2006
I somehow ended up with two copies of this book, so I am passing this on to Cinnamon-Girl as part of a relay.

Enjoy!!!

Journal Entry 24 by Cinnamon-Girl from Newnan, Georgia USA on Monday, February 05, 2007
Received in the mail this past weekend - thanks very much!

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