Lit Gloss

Toby Young's "How to Lose Friends and Alienate People"

By Steven Wells
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Sep. 10, 2008

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Toby Young's 2001 tragicomic memoir How to Lose Friends & Alienate People is The Devil Wears Prada crossed with Adventures in the Screen Trade by way of Tom Jones and The Diary of a Nobody. It's a story of incompetence, cupidity and failure you simply couldn't imagine being written by an American. Which is no doubt why Americans found it so charming, which is probably why it's been made into a movie in which the balding pig-nosed Brit Toby Young is played by balding, not-quite-as-pig-nosed Brit Simon Pegg of Sean of the Dead fame. Which is odd only for the fact that throughout the book Young whines about his resemblance to Philip Seymour Hoffman. But casting Hoffman to play Young would be like asking an elephant to stand on a ping-pong ball. How to Lose Friends is froth--but fascinating froth if you're obsessed with class (and who isn't?). In England nobody called Toby has ever slept under a bridge. Young is posh (but not very, very posh). After his meteoric rise in the (relatively) meritocratic cocaine blizzard that is Tony Blair's Cool Britannia (fun fact: Young's father coined the word "meritocracy"), journalist Young decamps to Vanity Fair magazine where he screws up royally, repeatedly and riotously--not least by hiring a strippergram on Take Our Daughters to Work Day--and utterly fails to adapt to the Victorian rigidity of the Manhattan class system. He gets sacked, thrashed, rejected, arrested and becomes an alcoholic. Then he marries the girl of his dreams and his life gets turned into a cool movie. The jammy posh bastard. I hate him.

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