Not many people can write books about their professional misadventures that become international bestsellers, let alone are turned it into a film starring Hollywood heavyweights Kirsten Dunst and Jeff Bridges. Yet Toby Young (46), the author of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People -which tells of his hilarious experience as a Vanity Fair contributor in New York- managed to do so. As well as being a journalist, author, play writer, TV presenter and father of four, the Oxford and Harvard graduate has recently been campaigning to set up a free school in Acton (where he lives), thus following in the steps of his famous political activist father, creator of the word “meritocracy” and founder of the Open University. Here, he reveals a few traits of his personality…
My defining character trait: Small man complex.
The trait I most deplore in myself: My height.
The trait I am most proud of in myself: One mood, all the time (i.e., I am a man).
If I could change something in the way I look: Six-inch heels.
The quality I appreciate most in a man: I find myself strangely drawn to men who are smaller than me.
The quality I appreciate most in a woman: Tolerance.
My definition of friendship: “The Thousandth Man”, by Rudyard Kipling.
My definition of love: All that remains of us … no, wait, that’s worms.
My definition of beauty: Venus crossed with a monkey.
Faults in others or myself that I am most likely to forgive: Lateness.
My favourite hobby: Gardening.
The values I try to live by: “Pessimism of the intelligence, optimism of the will”, Romain Rolland.
My idea of happiness: The first glass of wine after putting the children to bed.
My most beautiful memory: Sex on a beach.
My greatest fear: Suffocating in a collapsed tunnel.
What really makes me angry: False piety.
What I wanted to be when I was a kid: An actor.
If I was an animal, I would be: Mike Tyson.
My favourite book: David Copperfield (Charles Dickens).
My Favourite Film: His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks).
My favourite song: Viva Las Vegas (Elvis Presley).
What I love most in the world: My wife and children.
The person I most admire: Larry David.
My most treasured possession: Intellectual freedom.
My favourite place in the world: Cornwall’s north coast.
My biggest achievement so far: Writing an international bestseller.
My biggest regret: Not having had more sex.
How I would like to die: In an act of reckless derring-do.
How I would like to be remembered: As the author of a great book.
My current state of mind: Defiant.
My motto: “Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid” (Goethe).