I always compile a holiday reading list, and this year I’ve gotten through two volumes of writer Toby Young’s misadventures as a freelance journalist. How To Lose Friends and Alientate People is absolutely full of great freelance writing advice. No, scratch that. It’s an operator’s manual on how to screw yourself out of a magazine gig and become a total social pariah in your field.
I love this book. Young goes from assignment to assignment, making every possible bad move and ill-advised burst of activity. Want to learn how to do it wrong? This book is tops on every leve. How Toby Young could allow himself to be so…naked in these pages is mind-boggling. Even as you read the book, you admire him for being able to capture every ounce of shame he endured as he pinballs from one youthful cock-up to the next.
Now I’m nearly finished with Young’s follow-up, The Sound of No Hands Clapping, which is every bit as cringe-making as the first. I applaud Toby Young for having the courage to be THAT GUY for all the rest of us journos, freelance scribblers and wanna-be script writers. These books have filled my holiday with some much needed schadenfruede, without the guilt. If you are even remotely interested in what it’s like to write for a New York magazine (Young’s list of gigs included Vanity Fair) or doing a screenplay for Hollywood, these two books are required reading. Just don’t try these pages anywhere you have to read QUIETLY.