Two frustrated journalists decide that what the world needs is another vacuous magazine.
Can a book have a sense of fun and not be utterly, abysmally shallow at the same time? In this trifle from Entertainment Weekly scribe Rebecca Ascher-Walsh and Fortune editor Erik Torkells (the pair who make up the pseudonymous Tosh), the answer is a resounding no. Ascher-Walsh and Torkells’s stand-ins are Sam, who writes Hollywood profiles for an entertainment rag and Tom, the gay lifestyles editor at Profit magazine. He is chafing at the strictures of his job; she just got fired after false rumors circulated that she canoodled with Russell Crowe at a Hollywood party. Since this is not so much a novel as journalistic wish-fulfillment, the two of them dream up Bite, a high-calorie glossy magazine about, well, the usual celebrity/food/sex/fashion stuff, but even fluffier than what you’re accustomed to. Unfortunately, it takes Tosh far too long to get to this point, readers having to be assaulted first with pages and pages of Sam and Tom’s faux fabulous lives and wearying affairs of the heart. Once the magazine itself gets cranked up and a few more characters pop in to run the thing, the narrative picks up a bit of steam. But because there are seemingly no impediments to these bright young things—every article idea they throw at each other is proclaimed wonderful, and pretty much nothing stands in their way—there’s also precious little drama. What finally becomes so obnoxious is the arrogant pretense that its characters are doing something radical or even vaguely original, as though newsstands were filled with dowdy, gray-type journals on foreign affairs: “Even women’s fashion magazines were so serious—if Harper’s Bazaar ran one more piece about AIDS in Africa . . . Tom was going to puke.”
Strains so hard to be fun! sexy! cool! that it ends up being none of the above.