Toby Young, Author . Da Capo $24 (368p) ISBN 978-0-306-81188-3

The appeal of journalist Young's memoir is his willingness to skewer himself as savagely as he does his acquaintances and colleagues. The self-portrait is rarely flattering and sometimes repellent, but carries a startling ring of truth. Young targets Manhattan's superficial social scene and gives a slashing insider's view of Vanity Fair and its parent company, Condé Nast. Consumed with the desire to be "somebody," Young is hired by editor Graydon Carter and unwittingly offends everyone he seeks to impress. He learns that journalists must have "a plausible manner, rat-like cunning and a little literary ability," and he encounters a caste system so rigid that if an important editor trips and falls, etiquette dictates to leave her on the floor and walk on, rather than offer assistance or directly address her. Young's description of his efforts to crash Oscar parties is an appallingly accurate picture of wannabes whose identity depends on the celebrities they cultivate. He's amusingly perceptive in his analyses of women whose motive for marrying prominent men is to impress other women; this jealousy is brilliantly summed up by Gore Vidal's comment, "Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little." British-born Young, who has also been fired from the Times of London and the Guardian, paints Carter as a fascinatingly complex individual, capable of devastating employees or helping them face dire health problems. He also includes intriguing profiles of power couple Tina Brown and Harry Evans, and Sex and the City creator Candace Bushnell. What keeps readers on Young's side is his courage to keep fighting, even when confronted by publicist Peggy Siegal's withering line, "I have no respect for writers. They never make money. They're like poor people looking in the windows." Agent, Emma Parry. (July 4)

Forecast:This truthful, unsweetened study of how success can elevate, corrupt and destroy should sell strongly, especially in Gotham.

Reviewed on: 06/10/2002
Release date: 07/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction


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