The second memoir by The Times journalist Chris Ayres is one of those books, in the mould of Toby Young's, in which a callow British journalist tries to make it in America: part anthropological study of LA, part self-deprecating comic misadventure. He blags his way into Michael Jackson's 40th birthday party but is chased away by Mike Tyson's entourage. He goes to a red- carpet gala, but the only tuxedo left in town is two sizes too small for him. He also tries by ever more desperate means to woo an improbably well-connected supermodel, despite the fact that he's pale, poor, and has been left permanently scarred by acne and a middle-class British upbringing.
Death by Leisure is offered to us as "A Cautionary Tale", in which the frightening personal debts Ayres mounts up in his effort to maintain an LA lifestyle are equated with the twin costs to the world economy and the environment caused by the very excessive and vulgar consumption he wants part of. Where it goes wrong is in not making enough of a distinction between the two issues, one of which is of global significance while the other is of no importance at all.