NEW YORK — What do “Wanderlust,” “My Old Man” and “Lads” have in common? Nothing, except that their authors — Michael Clinton, Amy Sohn and Dave Itzkoff, respectively — all work in the magazine industry. Here’s what they had to say about their books and their inspirations. — Jeff Bercovici and Sara James
This story first appeared in the September 24, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Michael Clinton, Hearst Magazines’ executive vice president and an amateur explorer and photographer, shares his travel essays and personal photographs in “Wanderlust: One Hundred Countries, A Personal Journey.” The book hits stores the second week of October.
WWD: You’ve been to 100 countries and seven continents. What have you learned?
Michael Clinton: Perspective, appreciation, patience, tolerance. No matter where you are, a small island in Fiji, or the streets of Cuzco, Peru, we all have similarities as people. We all have the same things we look for in our lives.
WWD: What do you look for in a traveling companion?
MC: They have to be adventurous. They have to go with the flow. They have to be able to enjoy the unexpected — that’s what happens when you go to places like Bhutan.
WWD: What’s the most unexpected event you’ve had to deal with on your travels?
MC: We were on a boat on the Mekong Delta, and we came to a border checkpoint. Our papers were fine, but they wouldn’t let the boat through. We ended up hiring a local fisherman who took us three miles upriver to Phnom Penh.
WWD: Sounds like a J. Peterman anecdote. Do you ever get comparisons to the “Seinfeld” character?
MC: All the time.
WWD: What’s next?
MC: 101, 102 [countries]…Next year, I’ll be going to the Baltic States, Latvia, Estonia. In the near future, New Guinea. When you’re lucky enough to find a lifelong passion and it continues to sustain you, why stop?
Amy Sohn writes the biweekly column “Naked City,” about sex and relationships, for New York magazine. Its frequency will increase to weekly beginning Oct. 11. “My Old Man,” her second novel, is about a female rabbinical school dropout who falls in love with an older man.
WWD: The copy on your book’s dust jacket compares you with Philip Roth. Is that a comparison you would encourage?
Amy Sohn: Who do you think writes that copy? Philip Roth is a genius and much more talented than I am, but I think the reason for the comparison is my book deals with a dysfunctional Jewish family and there’s a lot of over-the-top sex comedy and a very intense father-daughter relationship, so a couple of reviewers have talked about “Portnoy’s Complaint.”
WWD: Have any reviewers used the dreaded term “chick lit”?
AS: I’ve been asked a lot about chick lit. I tried hard with this book to make sure it would reach a male audience as well as female, but you can’t reject the female audience because women buy a lot of books. The reason so many writers cringe at being called chick lit is because so many of those books have happy endings, or make it seem that once you find a man your life is perfect. This definitely isn’t that type of book.
WWD: You’ve been writing “Naked City” for three years. Are you starting to run low on material?
AS: I keep thinking I am going to run out of ideas and it just never seems to happen. People are constantly giving me suggestions. There’s no dearth of horrible relationship stories in New York City.
WWD: If you fought a cage match with Candace Bushnell, who would win?
AS: I think I would because I train at a boxing gym.
“Lads: A Memoir of Manhood” is a pathetically funny tell-all about Dave Itzkoff’s days as an editor at Maxim and Details (which at the time was a unit of Condé Nast, part of Advance Publications Inc., parent of WWD). Itzkoff is now an associate editor at Spin.
WWD: Why did you write your book as a memoir instead of changing a few names and calling it a roman à clef, as everyone else seems to do?
Dave Itzkoff: The roman à clef format has been beaten into the ground. It was done really well once when it was called “The Bell Jar.” Then it was done slightly differently, let’s say, when it was called “The Devil Wears Prada.” Between those two paragons of the genre there’s no reason to go back to it. Also, the particular story I’m trying to tell is very much grounded in reality and what’s happening right now, and there seemed to be no point in trying to tell that if everything’s fake.
WWD: Speaking of “The Devil Wears Prada,” does it bother you to be described as another Lauren Weisberger, but with better legs?
DI: It puts an obligation on me to have to live up to that. I’m worried about having to afford the Nair. But if I could equal those sales, I’d be flattered.
WWD: Now that you’ve written a tell-all, do your co-workers wait until you leave the room to do their gossiping?
DI: It’s a fair question, but everybody at the magazine was well aware of what I was doing, even before I started writing the book. I think they understand pretty well that there are universes of difference between Maxim and Spin.
WWD: You’ve been pretty critical of Maxim and its ilk. But why shouldn’t men have the same right as women to read brainless magazines?
DI: One doesn’t really justify the other. There was a time only a few decades ago when the women’s magazines were not just respectable but really prestigious. It’s kind of shaming to think that they’ve squandered that away so quickly. For the longest time I think the men’s market resisted that impulse. In a sense, the floodgates have opened now. The problem is not just that Maxim is a bad magazine, but that so many other competitors would try to imitate its badness.