Young, Toby 1963-
YOUNG, Toby 1963-
Born October 17, 1963, in Olney, Buckinghamshire, England; son of Michael Dunlop (author; founder of Open University) and Sasha (Moorsom) Young; married, July 21, 2001; wife's name, Caroline; children: Sasha. Education: Brasenose College, Oxford, B.A. (with honors), 1986; attended Harvard University, 1987-88, and Trinity College, Cambridge, 1988-90.
Journalist. Observer, London, England, feature writer, 1985-86; Times, London, news trainee, 1986-87; Mail on Sunday, London, feature writer, 1987; Sunday Telegraph, London, profile writer, 1990-91; Guardian, London, film critic, 1991-92; Modern Review, London, cofounder and editor, 1991-95; Vanity Fair, New York, NY, contributing editor, 1995-98; New York Press New York, writer; Gear, staff writer, 1998-99; Gentlemen's Quarterly, London, contributing editor; New York Times, columnist, 1998; Spectator-, columnist, 1999, drama critic; ES Magazine, restaurant critic. Harvard University, teaching fellow, 1987.
Named Young Journalist of the Year, British Press Association, 1986; Fulbright-Hays award, 1987; British Academy award, 1988; Trinity College fellowship, 1988-90.
How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (memoir), Little, Brown (London, England), 2001, Da Capo Press (Cambridge, MA), 2002.
Contributor to The Oxford Myth, Weidenfeld & Nicholson (London, England), 1987.
How to Lose Friends and Alienate People was adapted for audio (abridged; four cassettes), read by Young, Brilliance Audio, and adapted for the stage by Young and Tim Fountain.
Toby Young is a British journalist whose memoir, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, is a tell-all of his failed attempt to take Manhattan. Vanessa Friedman wrote in the London Guardian that "Fleet Street hacks who have always dreamed of cracking New York but have never had an invite will feel really, really good about their escape after reading Young's tales of the vacuous celebrity worship that is an apparent fact of life in the land of Oprah."
Young came to Gotham with a ready-made resumé. His distinguished father was the creator of the Open University and author of The Rise of the Meritocracy, and Young himself had an excellent record at Oxford, a year at Harvard, was the founder of a successful London magazine, and was well published. But it wasn't enough to conquer the Condé Nast empire.
Young went to work as a contributing editor at Vanity Fair in 1995, under editor-in-chief Graydon Carter, and spent the next several years annoying celebrities (and being admonished by Carter for it), lusting after beautiful women, and boosting his alcohol intake. Unaware of the social graces he should have been observing, Young's gaffes included questioning Mel Gibson as to what he had against the British on the night Braveheart won five Oscars, and asking Nathan Lane if he was gay. For "Take our Daughters to Work Day," he hired a stripper to show up at the Vanity Fair offices. Carter eventually fired Young, who then wrote for a free paper called the New York Press. It was there that he first wrote of his fall from grace at Vanity Fair. When Carter read the piece, he remarked that "If Toby had written like this when he was working for me, I never would have fired him."
Lorne Manly wrote in the New York Times Book Review that in his book, Young "rails against the insularity and phoniness of the glossy magazine lifestyle, even as he lusts after all the trappings that come with it." Janet Maslin commented in the New York Times that Young "is a rogue Englishman, proud of having induced both Robert Maxwell and Harold Evans to threaten legal action against him. Smart as he is … he loves playing the noxious clown."
"Part of the sport of reading this book is to identify Young's specific pathology," wrote John Homans for New York. "Alcoholism is definitely indicated. But Young accurately observes that drinking to excess can (the Christopher Hitchens model) enhance a career, though not (the Anthony Haden-Guest model) necessarily. In his great public self-immolation that was the closing of the Modern Review, coeditor Julie Burchill got closer to the truth when she called him a spoiled child."
An interviewer for Publishers Weekly asked Young if the alcoholism he describes might have been avoided but for the pressures of his New York experience. Young said probably not, but added, "I would never have stopped drinking if I hadn't come to New York. When the British go to America … they get completely infected by the self-improvement ethic. They join gyms, stop drinking, start eating healthily. You think when you first arrive that your cynical British attitude will withstand the puritanical political correctness, but in fact it infects you within six months."
Burchill reviewed How to Lose Friends and Alienate People in the Spectator, noting that "people have always hated Toby, and they've fastened on lots of handy alibis—his presumed politics, his undeniable pushiness, his sometimes regrettable taste in neckwear. But they've actually hated him, even if they couldn't admit it to themselves, for his talent; despite his nine-year-old's handwriting and spelling to match, he is a natural writer, supple, sinuous, and seditious, with a knack of combining gravitas and playfulness in a ceaselessly fresh and surprising way."
In his memoir, Young laments the passing of the New York journalist of the past, "a harum-scarum roustabout whose status is 'somewhere between a whore and a bartender,'" and who Young says "has been replaced by a clean and sober careerist with a summer house in the Hamptons."
Salon.com critic Michelle Goldberg stated, "That innocence works for the book, making it a kind of parable of the American media world during the last six or seven years, with all its market-driven credulousness, slavering celebrity obsession, and smug sense of entitlement. Young's insight is about the way the American myth of total class mobility and equal, endless opportunity—apotheosized in the anointing of the famous—justifies 'abhorrent levels of inequality' and ensures that anyone who's not materially successful will be viewed as defective."
Goldberg commented that "in escaping this world, Young achieves a kind of salvation." Goldberg called Young "part of a cultural backlash against the garish plutocratic values of the 1990s." She continued, saying that How to Lose Friends and Alienate People "attacks the entire cultural and intellectual milieu that Vanity Fair and magazines like it are a part of. Young imagines himself a beer-swilling, coke-snorting lad mag Tocqueville, and occasionally, that's just what he is."
A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that "the self-portrait is rarely flattering and sometimes repellant, but carries a startling ring of truth.… What keeps readers on Young's side is his courage to keep fighting."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Young, Toby, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, Little, Brown (London, England), 2001, Da Capo Press (Cambridge, MA), 2002.
Guardian (London, England), November 17, 2001, Vanessa Friedman, review of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People.
Insight on the News, June 24, 2002, Robert Stacy McCain, review of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, p. 29.
New Statesman, June 17, 1988, Clive Davis, review of The Oxford Myth, p. 42; October 29, 2001, William Georgiades, review of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, p. 54.
New York, July 22, 2002, John Homans, review of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People.
New York Times, July 11, 2002, Janet Maslin, review of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, p. B8.
New York Times Book Review, August 11, 2002, Lorne Manly, review of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, p. 4.
Publishers Weekly, June 10, 2002, review of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, p. 52, interview with Young, p. 53.
Spectator, November 3, 2001, Julie Burchill, review of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, p. 53.
Time International, November 19, 2001, Lauren Goldstein, review of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, p. 70.
Toby Young Home Page,http://www.tobyyoung.co.uk (September 9, 2003).