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"What I wanted after college was a job and my own apartment, but what I needed was a good comeuppance, and that’s what I got."
When Dave Itzkoff graduated from Princeton in 1998–the first member of his family to earn a college degree–he expected to be rewarded with a career, and a life, that mattered. Instead, he ended up convinced that he was selling the entire institution of manhood down the river.
After a series of personal and professional experiences stripped him of any lingering sense of entitlement, Itzkoff found himself working as an editor at Maxim, the pugnacious frontrunner in a new breed of men’s periodicals dubbed "lad magazines." There, he was initiated into a culture of heavily retouched girlie pictorials, dirty jokes, disingenuous sex advice, and shopping guides for expensive electronic gadgetry. And as Maxim continued its inexorable rise to become the most successful men’s magazine in modern publishing history, Itzkoff was left wondering what his work–and his life–really meant.
Lads is the hilarious, heartbreaking story of Dave Itzkoff's efforts to define himself as a man while working at a magazine that was purveying a vision of young manhood–a state of perpetual adolescence–that was seductive to all but viable for none. Lads takes us deep inside one young man’s struggle with identity, responsibility, and sexuality, in an unsparingly candid account of how men really relate to one another, as fathers and sons, as employers and employees, as colleagues and friends.
Lads is trenchant. Lads is perceptive. Lads is alarmingly funny. This is an unforgettable debut from a young writer of astounding talent.
After graduating from Princeton in 1998, Itzkoff entered the world of lad magazines, first at Details and then at Maxim. His book's central irony is that at the center of the hot babes filled men's mag world, one of its editors can't get no satisfaction. So much of Itzkoff's time in New York is spent being teased, led on and rejected by neurotic women that the book sometimes resembles an ode to onanism. It's fantastic gallows humor; even in the bleakest scene an attempted suicide Itzkoff maintains his satirical flair, marveling that drugstores allow crying, inebriated customers to buy as many bottles of sleeping pills as they can carry. But beyond the pleasures and pains of reading a glint-eyed insider's account of the publishing world and its denizens, this is a more universal story of a troubled father-son relationship. Itzkoff's dad is a manic-depressive furrier struggling to stay straight and sane after a decades-long cocaine addiction. Itzkoff eventually leaves Maxim and reconciles with his father the move from lads to dad a sign of a late-but-redemptive maturity. Unlike with MAD or National Lampoon, there are arguably few things of lasting value that have come out of Maxim's success so far, but Itzkoff may be the exception.