Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Enough Titles for a 'Mad Men' Book Club?

After watching the latest episode of Mad Men, I think it would be an interesting project to put together a list of titles of books that are referenced on the show, the way folks do with Lost.

Mad Men is so tightly crafted that certainly, if a book is featured (so that you can read the title), or characters mention it, it must have some sort of significance to the greater plot, right? Or maybe I'm reading too much into these things. Anyway . . .

During "The Jet Set" episode, the William Faulkner novel The Sound and The Fury received some prominent attention. Having not read it (yes, I'm hanging my head in shame), I looked it up online and came across this synopsis from C-SPAN as part of its American Writers series:

"Set in Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County, Miss., in the early 20th century, the novel describes the decay and fall of the aristocratic Compson family, and, implicitly, of an entire social order, from four different points of view."

Hmm. Sound like it could be applied to the decay and fall of the folks at Sterling Cooper? At Don Draper's life?

Earlier this season, Betty Draper was seen reading, Ship of Fools, by Katherine Anne Porter. An excerpt from eNotes says of the book about an ocean voyage:

"Ship of Fools is notable for its pessimistic view of the human condition. In particular, the Germans are portrayed in a harshly negative light. They are mostly anti-Semitic and contemptuous of races other than their own, with an arrogant sense of their own superiority. Critics have remarked on how accurately Porter conveyed the German mentality on the eve of the rise of Nazism. However, the other characters, with few exceptions, are unsavory also. The one Jew on the ship is filled with hatred for all Gentiles; the Spanish, who are members of a dancing troupe, are presented as amoral thieves, pimps and prostitutes. There is little genuine human love present in the novel, although there is much comedy and satire."

In season two's premiere, Don read and then mailed a book of poems, Meditations in an Emergency by Frank O'Hara to someone. At the end of the episode, you hear Don's voice-over reading a part of the poem, "Mayakovsky" (from National Post):

"Now I am quietly waiting
for the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting, and modern.
The country is gray and
brown and white in trees,
snows and skies of laughter
always diminishing, less funny
not just darker, not just gray.
It may be the coldest day of
the year, what does he think of
that? I mean, what do I? And if I do
perhaps I am myself again."

In season one, Don was seen reading Leon Uris' Exodus (in the primo episode "Babylon") and The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe. In July, New York Magazine ran a piece examining what books were pictured on Don Draper's bookshelf, including The Hidden Persuaders and Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, although I don't recall any scenes of any characters reading those books.

If you put all these titles together, you could form a reading log for a Mad Men book club. Not only could you analyze the books, you could analyze them for how they apply (or don't apply) to the themes and characters in Mad Men.

Any titles I missed? Please add them in the comments section below. If I get a comprehensive list, I may indeed start a Mad Men book club.


Josh_Hanson said...

Unfortunately, Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead is pretty central.

Meredith O'Brien said...

That's right! Didn't Bert Cooper mention that book?

p.b. said...

Lady Chatterly's Lover? Obvious reference to pre-Civil Rights era?

Meredith said...

p.b. -- Another good catch. That'd spice up the Mad Men reading list, wouldn't it?

Genevieve said...

Wasn't it Rand's Atlas Shrugged? Which actually said a lot about Bert's character, and how he would react to Pete's revelation about Dick/Don.

cheap viagra said...

I think this is a good idea because we like to find different releases, and more if that's related with the great Mad Men series, thanks for it, I think it'll be perfect.m10m