Death by Leisure: A Cautionary Tale

Death by Leisure: A Cautionary Tale

by Chris Ayres
     
 

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In Death by Leisure, the hilariously inept antihero of War Reporting for Cowards returns from the Iraqi marshlands to the Hollywood Hills, where he proceeds to embed himself in America's bubble economy-just as it's about to explode. Before long he's drinking foie gras pi�a coladas, smearing caviar in strange places, and borrowing seven-digit sums from grinning

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Overview

In Death by Leisure, the hilariously inept antihero of War Reporting for Cowards returns from the Iraqi marshlands to the Hollywood Hills, where he proceeds to embed himself in America's bubble economy-just as it's about to explode. Before long he's drinking foie gras pi�a coladas, smearing caviar in strange places, and borrowing seven-digit sums from grinning mortgage salesmen, all while trying to meet women by selling furniture on Craigslist. This is a shamelessly honest, savagely funny memoir (Ayres's encounter with Michael Jackson on a date-from-hell is not to be missed) that chronicles the runaway aspirations of a generation-and the carnage that followed.

Editorial Reviews

Janet Maslin
Fast and funny, Death by Leisure has the high spirits of a chick book, because its author is interested in chick-lit things: dates, celebrities, vanity and shopping. But it is also a tale of real woe…Global climate change and the collapse of the American home market should not be conflated as easily as they are here, in a gonzo-style book with topics skittering from $1-per-blackhead California facials to the ravages of Hurricane Katrina. But Mr. Ayres somehow manages to cram all these elements into his wild-eyed American adventure. His unifying thread is self-deprecation.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Upon return from embedded duty in Iraq with a marines unit, Ayres, a British journalist, chronicles his brief visit to Los Angeles, the land of glam and glitz. This gonzo-influenced volume opens with Ayres (War Reporting for Cowards) getting the sultry once-over from a beauty in a white bikini at poolside, and everything goes wacky and downhill from there with a bogus assignment to cover singer Michael Jackson, his Neverland estate and his sleepovers. Ayres marvels at the perpetually sunny weather of "the sci-fi metropolis," and the Tinseltown crowd of "Beverly Hill princesses, plum-cheeked hedonists, journalists with notebooks and bad breath, fleets of android publicists, the rich, the very rich." Ayres makes note of this life of excess, eco disasters and obsession with physical perfection. Producing a topsy-turvy carnival ride of a book, Ayres knows how to find the laughs and fantasy in this accomplished satire of Los Angeles. (Feb.)

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Library Journal

Ayres (War Reporting for Cowards) fancies himself the consummate outsider as a British journalist now living in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, what is supposed to be his witty and self-deprecating look at his life in LA is instead a chore to get through, offering outdated cultural insights (people post sex ads on Craigslist), obvious political observations (the Chinese government owns American bonds), and tired Los Angeles stereotypes (everyone eats alfalfa sprouts). Ayres does not live in the leisure economy, as implied. Instead, he maxes out his credit cards, leases a car he cannot afford, and buys an overpriced home with an overwhelming sense of guilt rather than enjoyment. Instead of a window on life in the leisure economy, Ayres shows us what it's like to be debt-ridden in Los Angeles during the housing bubble and subsequent crash. Ayres wants us to see him as funny and tragic, but he just comes across as tragic. Not recommended.
—Manya Shorr

Kirkus Reviews
After a nine-day stint in Iraq, London Times correspondent Ayres (War Reporting for Cowards, 2005) finds himself embedded in Los Angeles. Taking up residence at "the Leisureplex," aka the Park Wellington apartments, just a block off the Sunset Strip, the author gradually learned the rules of his new environment, from valet parking ("I thought I was being carjacked") to nightclub protocols ("getting into places like the Whiskey Bar is a lot easier when you're with a good-looking girl in tight jeans"). He soon succumbed to the affluence and decadence he was sent to cover. Barely able to make rent, he found himself in the "Desperate Period." A new plasma TV seemed to be the cure, but his deepening financial stresses caused an attack of acute acne: "Not the harmless, splat-your-bathroom-mirror variety, but the infected, biological-warfare-victim variety." Despite this handicap, he was able to enchant women with embellishments about his "tour" in Iraq, getting in over his head after enticing supermodel Courage Macleod. In vignette after glib vignette, Ayres casts about in a sea of paparazzi, nightclubs, dermatologists and dissipation, never getting more than skin-deep into his subject matter. Of course, detailing Hollywood's skin-deep lifestyle could be the entire point of this book. With a morsel of truth that summarizes the whole of his baptism by fire, the author attends a party and proclaims, "These days in Hollywood, parties aren't social occasions, they're marketing opportunities. They're all about the spectacle of extreme consumption, designed to encourage the rest of us to follow suit."Entertaining memoir from a not-so-innocent abroad. Agent: George Lucas/Inkwell Management

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802143655
Publisher:
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
02/02/2010
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
With dry British wit, [Ayres] skewers American greed, L.A. life, and his own endless romantic foibles. . . . Somehow, Ayres knew the fall was coming and kept going anyway. So did we.” —Time

“Ayres was born to write this book . . . [He is] the perfect chronicler of this imperfect age.” —Los Angeles Times

“Fast and funny . . . Global climate change and the collapse of the American home market should not be conflated as easily as they are here, in a gonzo-style book with topics skittering from $1-per-blackhead California facials to the ravages of Hurricane Katrina. But Mr. Ayres somehow manages to cram all these elements into his wild-eyed American adventure.” —The New York Times

“Hilarious . . . What makes it more than merely clever is the way Ayres turns his own romantic insecurity and material aspiration into a stinging, if sympathetic, indictment of mindless consumption. Yes, we’re destroying the planet, he seems to say, but can we help it, given how pathetic we are? And anyone who can make us laugh at that must be a genius.” —Booklist

“A topsy-turvy carnival ride of a book . . . Ayres knows how to find the laughs and fantasy in this accomplished satire.” —Publishers Weekly

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