Thursday, March 22, 2007

Toby Young, be foolish, be happy

The correct, safe response when asked to contemplate Toby Young is probably to hold no opinions whatsoever about the man. After all, he seems to have constructed a public identity for himself that thrives on attention, and he doesn't give a toss whether that's expressed as love or hate. Pretending he's a figment of one's own imagination may be feasible, except that he's clearly a figment of his own, so he'd take this imitation as being a sincerely ironic form of flattery.

But, damn it, I just can't help myself. I first encountered his name when he was a member of the cabal that produced my favourite magazine of all time, the Modern Review. After his falling-out with La Burchill, he decamped to NYC and reinvented himself as a sort of journalistic Clouseau, getting himself crossed off all the best guest-lists and driving his bosses to near-derangement. Then, on returning to London, he fell in with Boris Johnson's Spectator crowd, reinventing himself as a neo-fogeyish scourge of PC and the liberal left (this from the son of the man who wrote the 1945 Labour Party manifesto). It was in this latter incarnation, as the Speccie's theatre critic, that he committed his most heinous sin, when he suggested that Zoe Wanamaker is not sexy, which surely makes him either blind, witless, a eunuch, a repressed homosexual or a devotee of our old buddy L Brent Bozell.

So, pretty much a downward trajectory so far. But events of the last few days have made me reconsider TY (not that TY) yet again. First of all, he was subjected to a brutal evisceration by Paul MacInnes of the Guardian. According to MacInnes, Young had turned the recent spate of murders of black teenagers in London into a quasi-racist rant in the Evening Standard. And, on the basis of MacInnes's quotations, this seemed to be the case.

But then began the redemption of Toby Young. Not only did he prove himself to be one of the few hacks with the balls to stick up for himself in the public arena of a comments box (rather than the letters page of a paper, or via a quiet word with the editor in the Groucho), but he also posted the original version of his piece on his own site. The uncut version suffered from a couple of lame jokes, but was rather different from the hysterical, glad-to-be-bourgeois drivel that the Standard subbing machine had turned it into. It seems to be a wry love song to all that's great about 21st-century, multi-cultural London; an attitude that seems alien to the Standard's mindset of reflex paranoia. I'm now starting to reconsider that peculiar I-survived-the-tornado-and-ended-up-in-Claridge's piece that gave us all such amusement a few months ago. Maybe that author too had her words twisted to fit the smug, vile world-view that infests every tendril of the Mail group. But if so, she didn't have the guts to come out fighting.

Toby Young, I never thought I'd say this, but you seem like a decent chap again. Although, to be fair, the best old-media response to the murders was by Martin Samuel, in The Times.

First I have kind words for Toby Young, then I say nice things about the Murdoch press. It's the heatstroke, I tells ya...

16 comments:

Annie said...

I will be back to read your post properly after work - but my initial response is

Nooo! Did you have to?

I was eating breakfast.

Billy said...

Well, well, well. So Toby Young lives in the Bush. I shall look out for him at one of the many multi-cultural resturants on the Uxbridge Road.

rivergirlie said...

i kind of doubt that it matters to toby young what people say about him - as long as they're saying something. everything i've read by him or about him fails to makes sense unless i consider it in that context. nothing wrong with that, of course - it's just that it places a slightly different filter on the way i perceive him, in as much as it's always about the singer not the song.

Tim Footman said...

Annie: Sorry, but he doesn't look that great with his kit on either.

Billy: Oh, don't encourage him. If you do see him, pretend you haven't. Or just mistake him for William Hague.

Hello, rivergirlie! I think TY's the journalistic equivalent of Steve Coogan. Whatever he does, whatever he says, it's always about him. As you say, singer not song. In this case, Jimmy Somerville.

Billy said...

He does look like William Hague! I think I might shout "Toby, I hear you're a racist now" in a Father Ted style.

Spinsterella said...

I liked that bit in his book where he shows up to work in NYC thinking he's looking super-cool and his editor shouts at him:

"What the fuck are you wearing?"

Not a great first day.

Still, he is a bit of a chunt but having read his CiF responses I've almost been won round.

Spinsterella said...

What's a chunt?

Sorry. I did, obviously, mean 'cunt'.

Murph said...

The lengths some people will go to to promote their books!

Tim Footman said...

Do that Billy. He'll write a wryly self-deprecating article about it.

Spin, are you being a silly thwat?

I know, Murph. Fortunately, my book's a little larger than his.

dh said...

At ease or at attention?

rockmother said...

Chunt - cross between a chump and a cunt

Don't you think Toby Young looks like William Hague? I don't like his style much - almost on a par with other 'writer' Nirpal Dhaliwal. Don't get me started!

Spinsterella said...

Having actually read his original article now...I have to say I do think the Guardian chap had a point.

THe first half of it is fist-in-mouth cringe-worthy so by the time he starts making sense you're already ready to slap him.

St. Anthony said...

Didn't Will Self once throw him into a fireplace (there wasn't a roaring fire at the time ... some might think unfortunately) for being a "noisome little tick"?
Of course, there are those who might find being manhandled so by Mr Self a pleasureable experience ... but I couldn't possibly comment.

llewtrah said...

A figment of his own imagination = I think therefore I am?

RoMo - we have a really bad swear word in the factory - if you combine c*nt and b*stard you get custard. This is our worst ever word along with mustard (munter and b*stard).

*s in words cos I'm in the office.

Billy said...

Maybe Toby will turn up here and make a wry comment or two.

Annie said...

I was with Martin Samuel up until
'some might rail against an education system that delivers so many with such an absence of social responsibility'
That's right, blame the teachers...