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Dave Itzkoff ’98 (Earl Wilson)

New book: Cocaine’s Son: A Memoir, by Dave Itzkoff ’98 (Villard)

The author: A culture reporter for The New York Times and the lead contributor to its ArtsBeat blog, Itzkoff wrote his first memoir, Lads (2004), about the behind-the-scenes goings on at men’s magazines and his work experiences at Details and Maxim. In his new memoir, he delves into his relationship with his father, who was addicted to cocaine for the first 25 years of Itzkoff’s life, and explores the anger, guilt, forgiveness, and love between them.
The book: A fur merchant, Itzkoff’s father struggled with drug addition while raising two children in New York. Itzkoff shares the confusion, arguments, and twists and turns of their relationship — from Itzkoff’s feeling the sting of an absent father and his parents’ fights, to episodes when his father would confess his sexual anxieties and a time when Itzkoff had to rescue his father (strung out on cocaine) from a flophouse in the New York. Itzkoff also describes his own drug use and loneliness in college. Eventually, father and son entered therapy and travelled together so Itzkoff could learn more about his father’s past. Ultimately, with Itzkoff’s marriage, the author seems to come to a new understanding of his father.
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Opening lines:
“He was such an elusive and transient figure that for the first eight years of my life I seem to have believed my father was the product of my imagination. The adult world that I traveled through was populated almost exclusively by women: there were the teachers who trained me on the multiplication tables, the state capitals, and the three branches of government; … the babysitters, nannies, and housecleaners … There was my sister, who came into existence two years after me; a pair of fragile but living grandmothers, sundry aunts, great-aunts, and cousins. And there was Mom, who sat above them all on this pyramidal structure of progesterone. But there was only one Dad, or so I was told.”
Reviews: Publishers Weekly called Itzkoff a “talented writer. … His prose proves both entertaining and sensitive enough to make this a worthy addition to the recent array of addiction-based memoirs.” The New York Times wrote, “Unsurprisingly, although his primary impulse in writing this book seems to be a genuine attempt to understand his father, you also begin to sense Itzkoff’s need to break free of the constructions of his past and place himself at the center of his own story.”