How to Lose Friends and Alienate People
by Toby Young
This infamous “memoir” is funny and entertaining but not brilliantly written. Young repeats himself endlessly and uses too many quotes from philosophers and sociologists in an attempt to make himself sound intelligent. I’m sure he is, but that isn’t the way to convey it. He also rails on quite a bit about his slightly famous titled father, which gets tedious.
What this book does provide, and this is probably the basis for its success, is a satisfyingly glib insight into the more glamorous side of the media. He drops many a household name, giving away all sorts of details you can only assume no-one agreed to in advance. As a journalist who readily admits that he wasn’t suitable for the job he was given at Vanity Fair, Young’s viewpoint and experiences are accessible and even likeable, despite the title.
Apparently, if you want to know which friends he actually lost by writing this, you have to read the sequel, The Sound of No Hands Clapping, but I am not at all tempted. Young has a lot of fans, and maybe their ardour and hype had raised my expectations unnaturally high but, though I have no problem with the “loser” premise, I just didn’t think was very good.
Published 2002 by Abacus
by Catherine Sanderson
Having been a fan of the blog for years it’s not a huge surprise that I loved this book. It was the first blog I ever read and opened up a whole new world to me. Now the book has filled in many of the blanks that were necessarily kept out of the blog at the time.
I will add that, had I not read the blog, I very much doubt I would have been attracted to this book. I am not a fan of chick lit with all those pink covers and hapless heroines. That was a phase I went through as a teenager and even then I knew that the books were rubbish. This book is being marketed as chick lit and it does have some things in common with that genre – loveable heroine, an emphasis on the romances in her life, an easy-to-read style, approachable sense of humour. However, Petite Anglaise also deals with some serious, painful, life-altering events (and I don’t mean getting married) and a quick scan through the comments on Amazon proves that lovers of chick-lit are not the right market. Not to mention that it’s very well written.
For those who don’t know the background, Catherine Sanderson started the blog Petite Anglaise in 2004, documenting life as an Englishwoman living in Paris with her French partner and their baby daughter. As her relationship began to fall apart the writing became both more serious and more enticing, laced as it was with intense emotion. She eventually left her partner for a man she met through her blog and the story became one of the effort to be a good parent to her toddler while in the passionate throes of a new relationship. In 2006, Catherine was dumped and fired in a short space of time. Her employer cited her blog as the reason for firing her. Having taken great care to keep her real name, line of work and indeed any detail about that side of her life out of the blog, Catherine took her former employer to court claiming unfair dismissal and won.
Obviously much more has happened to Catherine since that day, but this is where the book ends and it is a suitable full stop. She is now a full-time writer and in 2009 announced that she was no longer going to blog, except for updates about her books. Her writing was always so good that you felt this was where she should end up and I look forward to reading more of her output.
Published 2009 by Penguin