Q&A with Toby
Young. The people in your media neighborhood.
CAROLINE CALLAHAN| People
can love or hate Toby Young, but its difficult to deny that hes
achieved his primary goal of getting attention from mediaphiles, gossipmongers
and the general public. His book, How
To Lose Friends And Alienate People, (which came out in the U.K. over
a year ago) was published in the U.S. in July and was reviewed in almost every
publication imaginable. But weve been wondering what hes up to ever
since we heard his story is being adapted into a play which will be hitting
Londons West End this coming April.
So, what are you up
to these days? I'm the theatre critic of The Spectator and the restaurant critic
of The Evening Standard Magazine.
What is the extent
of your involvement in the forthcoming play based on your book? At the moment, the plan is for me and another writer, Tim Fountain, to write
and perform it. Tim wrote Resident Alien and The Puppetry of the Penis,
but I've never done anything like this before. We're going to open it in the
West End next April and then bring it to New York in June. I daresay that by
the time it arrives in New York I'll have been replaced by someone better looking.
Have you ever acted
[Not since] I was 12.
Since FilmFour (the
company that optioned How To Lose Friends and Alienate People) folded,
have you gotten anyone else to adapt your book to the big screen? I did a movie deal with FilmFour last May, whereby they optioned my book
and hired me to adapt it, and about two months later the company went belly-up.
But the parent company, Channel 4, still wants to do it and I'm planning to
start work on the screenplay over the holidays.
More recently, I was
hired by Studio Canal to work on a film version of Men Are From Mars, Women
Are From Venus and I'm about to conclude a deal with a Hollywood studio
to write something else. I'm quite excited about the prospect of becoming a
screenwriter. That way, I can move back to America, and when my efforts to make
it in Hollywood come to nothing I can write a sequel to How to Lose Friends...
about screwing up on the West Coast.
What was it like being
photographed in your birthday suit? When the picture was printed in the New York Observer I was back
in London and a friend rang up to tell me what it looked like. "Two words,"
he said. "George Costanza."
Any forthcoming books
that we should be aware of? I'm working on a proposal for a novel which is going to be a dystopian satire
set in the future like George Orwell's 1984. It's about the moment when
the disenfranchised masses turn on the celebrity class. The storming-of-the-Bastille
moment is going to be when the looky-loos outside the Kodak Theater during the
Academy Awards storm past the police barricades and start lynching A-list movie
stars on live TV. When I say it's going to be set in the future, I mean in 10-15
years time. I don't think this moment is too far off.
What advice would
you offer to a young, aspiring journalist trying to get started in New York? Join the right AA group.
And elsewhere? Start drinking. That way, when you get to New York you'll have a good excuse
for joining AA and won't seem like a shameless hustler.
Are there any Conde
Nasties whom you actually admire? Believe it or not, I have a great deal of respect for the fact-checking
departments at the various magazines. That's where all the frustrated playwrights
and aspiring novelists are.
Magazines you love
to read? The New Yorker.
Have you always prided
yourself as a master of self-deprecation? I wouldn't describe myself as a master of anything.
Favorite books? Pride & Prejudice, David Copperfield, Scoop, Lucky
Jim, and Bonfire of the Vanities.
holes in New York? Marylou's, Elaine's, Don Hill's.
What has been the
worst repercussion of publishing How To Lose Friends and Alienate People? Acquired Situational Narcissism. [Asked to expand on this disorder, Mr.
Young said "I'd prefer not to. People can look it up if they're curious.
It's in the DMD."]
Who are some journalists
you actually admire, and why? Tom Wolfe, Christopher Hitchens and James Wolcott. I like the fact that
they're beholden to no one.
Does your wife Caroline
ever get annoyed with your antics? She's been pretty good about everything up to now but she did draw the line
when I was asked if I wanted to be on Celebrity Big Brother.
On a scale of 1-10,
how happy are you to be home [in London]? 6.5
What do you miss most
about New York? Take-out sushi.
Current Abode: A two-story Victorian house in West London.
Caroline Callahan is a freelance writer living in New York.