Friday, June 21, 2002

Just finished How to Lose Friends and Alienate People by Toby Young.

It's an everday tale of a "high flying" British journalist trying to make it in New York, and getting fired from every place he works. Or even freelances for. Or is it?

There's no denying this is a very readable, gossipy book, perfect for the tube, but it won't change your life.There are some fatal flaws in his book, though.

Toby regularly refers to his "bedsit" in Shepherds Bush. Now, I've been to Toby's three bedroom - I think - maisonette at the cheap end of Shepherd's Bush, and it's not a bedsit. It's actually a nice flat in a shit location. Why does Toby want to imply that he's some kind of down and out when he's patently not?

There's an insistence throughout the book on using ridicuous names for drugs. I don't know anyone, outside of a Jay McInerney novel who talks about Bolivian Marching Powder, and it has an inference that he's not exactly experienced. Though I suspect he is.

It reminds me of when I was travelling in Laos with M who was desperate to get hold of some common-or-garden hash. In Van Vieng, he went down to the market everyday, looking clean-cute and off-duty policeman-like. No-one would sell him drugs. On the fourth day, I took pity on him, and as soon as I got into the market people were falling over themselves to sell me stuff. The lady doth protest too much. Or Toby does.

The book reads not unlike a contemporaneous record of cock-ups. "It was around noon on 16 February 1998 that I discovered.." Seems to me, that one sure way to piss people off is to keep accurate notes of everything they say, coupled with copies of all correspondence. Toby comes across not so much as global-journalist-type but wide-eyed kid open mouthed at the excess of the Conde Nasties. And they say it's a global village.

Without wishing to give away the denoument, the redeeming feature of How to Lose Friends is that it's basically a love story. And that Toby sees the world as his parents knew it was all along. It's Catcher in the Rye for the Gap-clothed generation.

Oh, and the best bit? The insights into uptown New Yorker's phrases and fables. I think there's a Little Book in that, somewhere.

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