Lads: A Memoir of Manhood
By Dave Itzkoff (Villard, 277 pages)

A few questions raised by Dave Itzkoff's account of his years in the bowels of lite porn, starlet puffery and gadget advice that is Maxim magazine: Why are so many Ivy Leaguers required to produce a magazine so fiercely moronic? Why must the author detail the locations, frequency and preferred technique for his many onanisms? And why, despite the conventional wisdom that those under 50 have no business writing "memoirs" is Lads so fun, insufferable and touching all within a span of 50 pages? The answers are manifold. Itzkoff is an undeniably funny writer who's also a self-loathing, self-absorbed malcontent coming to terms with his recovering coke-addict father and a lonely life in a self-important, backbiting industry in a self-important, backbiting town.

After graduating from Princeton, he lands a gig as assistant to the editor of Details: the metrosexual house organ before metrosexuality officially existed. He's quickly promoted and then snatched by an editor friend to work at Maxim. When he's riffing about the absurdities of the publishing industry, he's at his finest. But when he turns inward, the scope goes from bitter social critique to embittered whining. Can't get laid, blah, blah; women like the Brits in the art department and not me, boo hoo; I can't find love (at 24!). Cry me an inlet!

It's hard to say if Lads says all that much about "lad mags." Is it surprising that editorial meetings are spent fretting over which young tart might be willing to doff her clothes for the cover? Is it shocking that the wall separating the publication's editorial and business sides is not as rock solid as the one between church and state? For anyone who spends half a minute pondering these questions, the answer is no. For the rest, it's "who cares?" Lads fails on so many levels, but it does introduce a hilariously angry voice who will hopefully go on to write about subjects more profound than the next publication he leaves in a huff of righteous indignation.

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