You’ve got male

In no particular order, a few questions raised by Dave Itzkoff’s account of his tour of duty in the bowels of light porn, starlet puffery and gadget advice that is Maxim magazine: Why does it take a phalanx of Ivy League alumni to produce a magazine so fiercely moronic? Why does the author find it necessary to detail the locations, frequency and preferred technique for his many onanisms? Why should we care that an insecure 24-year-old magazine editor can’t get laid? And why, despite the conventional wisdom that those under the age of 50 (much less 25) have no business writing “memoirs,” is Lads: A Memoir of Manhood so fun and then insufferable?

The answers are manifold. Itzkoff is an undeniably funny, angry, talented writer who should flee the cliquish New York media world as soon as possible. It might open him up or just give him something else to complain about. Who knows? But in Lads, he comes off as a self-loathing, self-absorbed young man who’s coming to terms with his drug-addicted father and the loneliness of life in a self-important, back-biting industry in a self-important, back-biting town.

After Itzkoff graduates from Princeton, his detested Ivy League “connections” land him a gig as assistant to the editor of Details, the metrosexual house organ before metrosexuals officially existed. Over a period of two years, he’s promoted and then raided by an editor friend (Princeton, of course) at Maxim, a men’s (read: T&A) mag and industry phenom launched in Britain and brought to the United States with great success in 1997.

When he’s riffing about publishing, Itzkoff (nicknamed Bitchkoff) is at his finest. Here’s his take on magazine launch parties: “a custom by which a magazine spends large sums of money in hopes of obtaining free publicity; where celebrities are invited to tacitly endorse a periodical they would never appear in, let alone read; where a publication attempts to introduce readers to the lifestyle it purveys by excluding them from it.”

But when he turns inward, the scope goes from bitter social critique to bitter whining. Can’t get laid … blah, blah. Women like the Brits in the art department and not me … boohoo. I can’t find love (at 24!). My editor is a lazy no-show with all of two ideas … wahhh, wahhh.

You get the picture.

It’s hard to say if Lads says all that much about “lad magazines.” I mean, is it really surprising that editorial meetings are spent desperately 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 side is not as stolid as the one between church and state?

For anyone who’s spent half a minute pondering these questions, the answer is no. For the rest, it’s probably “Who cares?” It’s a magazine about celebrities, beer and booty, not The Washington Post.

More disturbing, though, is the notion that the author is really suffering at his job. Serving two-and-a-half years at a publication that’s beneath one’s intelligence might not be fun, but it’s not like the Tet Offensive.

If it accomplishes anything, Lads excels at a courageous confessional in the author’s troubled relationship with his father. And it introduces a compelling, at times hilarious voice who will probably, hopefully, go on to write books on subjects more profound than the next employer he leaves in a huff of righteous indignation.