PW: Lads began as a New York Press cover story, right?
The New York Press story was written right after I left Maxim and it was, therefore, more of an all-encompassing rant. The book involves more of my life outside of publishing and is, I think, more reflective.
Why did you leave Maxim?
Both Felix Dennis [Maxim's publisher] and Mark Golin [its former editor] had an idea about how to make the magazine accessible and funny at the beginning. But through imitation and imitation of itself, that got lost somewhere. Now it is just parroting the same dirty jokes. But it has gotten even more aggressive, at times sexist and even racist, and is championing a kind of philistinism that [Dennis and the current editor] seem to be proud of.
Was Maxim a victim of its own success?
Maxim tried a lot of different things and finally arrived at what would produce the most copies sold. They didn't want to take a risk that would result in losing a single reader. It is a fundamental impossibility to have a magazine that is anarchic and yet formulaic. Those can't coincide.
In Lads, did you try to display the kind of satirical sensibility you felt Maxim never really lived up to?
It was one of the fundamental ironies. Here I am working at a magazine that is supposed to be redefining the way men can engage each other. But all these things are happening in my own life, and I didn't have an outlet for them.
Why a memoir as opposed to, say, a thinly veiled fictional account?
When you write a roman à clef, there is a tendency on the part of the reader to wonder how much of this is true, how much invented. I didn't want my life to turn into a guessing game. Also, there are two really well-known publishing industry roman à clefs—The Bell Jar and The Devil Wears Prada—and one of them is one of the greatest works of American letters and one is not. And I'll leave it up to you to decide which is which.
How is your father's health [part of Lads chronicles Itzkoff's father's recovery from depression and drug addiction]?
His health is doing much better, thank you.
How's his health going to be after this book is published?
[Laughs] I told him early on that he'd play a big part in the story. But it wasn't until I did a reading a year ago that he understood how big. I read the chapter "Free Pork," which is the story of his overdose. My whole family enjoyed it, but none more so than my father. I gave him a copy of the completed manuscript on a Saturday morning, and he'd finished it by Sunday night, which is incredible because at this point in his life he doesn't read anything but the New York Post. He's telling all his friends to buy the book.
Any improvements in your romantic life?
Honestly, if I talk about it too much now, I'm probably just going to start crying.
Will this book help?
That wasn't the intent. I don't know how female readers will engage this book. I certainly read some other books this year that I felt were just guys trying to make it known they were on the market, 300-page personal ads. I hope this doesn't fall into that category.