Thursday, June 27, 2013

More literary Mad Men

Another season of Mad Men has come and gone, and I thought it time to update the list of books (and poems, and other reading material) sighted or discussed in seasons 5 and 6.

(The list of books that had screen time in seasons 1 thru 4 is here.)

  • Trumbo, Dalton: Johnny Got His Gun (S05E01)
  • Leary, Timothy: The Psychedelic Experience (S05E06)
  • Malamud, Bernard: The Fixer (S05E07)
  • Plath, Sylvia: Lady Lazarus (S05E08)
  • Pynchon, Thomas: The Crying of Lot 49 (S05E08)
  • Shelley, Percy Byshe: Ozymandias (S05E09)
  • Alexander, Lloyd: The Black Cauldron (S05E09)
  • Francis, Dick: Odds Against (S05E09)
  • Brown, Margaret Wise: Goodnight Moon (S05E11)
  • Dante: The Inferno (S06E01)
  • McMurtry, Larry: The Last Picture Show (S06E07)
  • Levin, Ira: Rosemary's Baby (S06E08)
  • Massie, Robert K.: Nicholas and Alexandra (S06E11)
  • Mad Magazine: Sept 1968, no. 121 (S06E11)

A shoutout also to Hitler — "That's what they said about Mein Kampf, kid's got talent." (S05E03)

Ralph Waldo Emerson belongs on the list, but not a specific title, just the general idea of him (S06E07).

Season 6 also saw references to Edgar Allan Poe and William Wordsworth, and Don's kids watching The Prisoner (not a book, I know, but it has literary qualities and I'll take this reference as an excuse to rewatch it).

(I'd had the feeling that scenes of people reading has slowed down, but listing them out here, that appears not to be the case at all.)

One episode of season 5 featured original fiction by account exec Kenny Cosgrove (S05E05). He refers to his short story, "The Woman Who Laid an Egg and Then Gave It Away," and we're treated to an excerpt of "The Man with the Miniature Orchestra." He describes "The Punishment of X4":

"There's this bridge between these two planets and thousands of humans travel on it every day, and there's this robot who does maintenance on the bridge. One day he removes a bolt, the bridge collapses, and everyone dies."

"There's more to it than that," a nervous Cosgrove tells the hushed room. Don pushes for further details: Why does the robot destroy the bridge? "Because he's a robot," Ken answers, clearly encouraged by Don's interest. "Those people tell him what to do and he doesn't have the power to make any decisions, except he can decide whether that bolt's on or off."

What have I missed? (This more complete list includes books seen of shelves, but we all know that just because a book is sitting there doesn't mean it's been cracked.)

I have a passing acquaintance with many of Mad Men's books, but I haven't read many. I've read Plath and Shelley, and Johnny Got His Gun seriously affected me as a teenager. I don't think I'll be reading Dante's Inferno on the beach this summer, but The Crying of Lot 49 and Rosemary's Baby are more intriguing than ever. Are you still reading along with Mad Men?

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