By October 6, 2008 0 Comments Read More →

Toby Young: Tripping over His Own Low Standards

In New York Magazine, Justin Shubow documents some striking similarities between Toby Young’s How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (2002) and John Tierney’s New York Times Magazine story, “Masochism Central” (1996). For example:

Tierney: “350 Madison … has been called, among other things, the Palace of Pulchritude; the two men’s stores flanking the entrance, Brooks Brothers and Paul Stuart, have been compared to sentinels at the Temple of Aphrodite.”

Young: “There were so many beautiful girls at 350 it was sometimes named the ‘Palace of Pulchritude.’ I’d even heard the two men’s clothing shops that flanked the building on either side — Brooks Brothers and Paul Stewart [sic] — referred to as ‘sentinels at the Temple of Aphrodite.'”

Young did footnote Tierney’s article on a nearby page, but gave no indication that these words in particular were Tierney’s. Contacted for comment, Young offered a quotable defense:

“I don’t think it’s a sort of mealy-mouthed or weasely defense to say that the standard that British journalists are expected to hold themselves to are not as high as the standards that some American journalists hold,” he explained. “We’re a little less precious about this kind of thing.”

However, notes Shubow, in 2006, the British Young seemed quite content to hold a young American to a somewhat higher standard. Remember Kaavya Viswanathan?

“The thing that amazes me about cases like hers is why the authors don’t bother to put what they’ve lifted from other sources in their own words. I mean, even when I copied out large chunks from text books in my school essays I knew enough to do that.”

Maybe Young’s less precious than he used to be.

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About the Author:

Keir Graff is the editor of Booklist Online and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix.

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