Tag: Mad Men

Difficult Men by Brett Martin

Posted October 14, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 0 Comments

Difficult Men by Brett MartinTitle: Difficult Men (Goodreads)
Author: Brett Martin
Published: Faber & Faber, 2013
Pages: 320
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

In the Third Golden Age of television (as Brett Martin calls it) things have changed drastically. With the rise of cable television, channels like HBO, Showtime and so on, are able to push the boundaries not afforded to network TV. Shows like The Sopranos, The Wire and Mad Men allowed the writers to offer something more complex or unpredictable. This saw the rise of the difficult men, characters like Tony Soprano (The Sopranos), Walter White (Breaking Bad) and Don Draper (Mad Men) offered a character study never seen before by viewers.

Brett Martin’s book Difficult Men looks at the stories behind some of the greatest shows of our time, mainly focusing on The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, The Wire and Mad Men. This is a deeper look into the evolution of modern story telling. The male protagonist within the Third Golden Age tends to be an enigma; complex, impulsive and so much more real. The type of characters that frustrates you with their mistakes but you can’t help but continuously watching.

The problem with this book is that it makes me want to watch all these shows. I have only gotten through half of The Sopranos and I haven’t found the time to try The Wire or Treme. All these shows look really great but finding time to binge watch them has become a real problem. I love reading about pop-culture and how it changes over the years and Difficult Men gave me everything I wanted. I enjoyed the insider information and the stories behind the stories. I can only hope that this evolution will start to extend toward better female leads. I would like to see the same treatment the Third Golden Age of television has give  to men offered to woman as well.

What I enjoy about these types of shows is not that the men are difficult but the way they tackle real issues and treat the protagonist as a real and flawed human being. They can explore ideas of life and death, love and sexuality, addiction, race and violence and the protagonist often struggles or makes mistakes. They often evolve as characters but it doesn’t mean they grow, there are times when I think Don Draper (Mad Men) or Hank Moody (Californication) have finally grown as a person but there is often slip ups or a spanner thrown into the mix, this makes for compelling television but also feels more real.

A huge section of Difficult Men is devoted to The Sopranos and James Gandolfini which is worth checking out. Gandolfini, in his own right, wasn’t a stereotypical leading man and there was a big exploration into his mental state. Playing the role of Tony Soprano was a very taxing role and what made James Gandolfini great at the job is how he didn’t act the role, he became the character. This ended taking a huge toll on his psychological wellbeing and this raises some interesting thoughts about the effect a role has on the actor.

Fans of television, pop culture or these shows in general will enjoy this book but I think a look into the psychological effect on the people involved will make this something to sit up and take notice. Hollywood is a complex industry and the effects can be damaging; all you have to do is walk down Hollywood Boulevard to see how it effects people. I am a big fan of the ground breaking changes these shows made towards the television industry but I didn’t realise the side effects. Brett Martin did a good job going behind the scenes and getting the back story.


My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff

Posted May 17, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 4 Comments

My Salinger Year by Joanna RakoffTitle: My Salinger Year (Goodreads)
Author: Joanna Rakoff
Published: Bloomsbury Circus, 2014
Pages: 272
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

When Joanna Rakoff takes her first bookish job for a New York literary agency in 1996 it was like stepping back in time. As an office girl, her job was to type up correspondences, answer the phones and whatever else needed to be done. However there was one strict rule, ‘never give out Jerry’s address or phone number’. Given the time she automatically thought Jerry Seinfeld but soon learned that the Jerry they were referring to was J.D. Salinger.

This memoir is a unique look at not only at how old-fashion the publishing world can be but at J.D. Salinger himself. Joanna Rakoff takes an almost outside view at Salinger as she spends time responding to all of the iconic author’s correspondences. Salinger is an author that has cut himself off from the world and Joanna had to inform all correspondences that their requests cannot be fulfilled; J.D. doesn’t give interviews and doesn’t want to read any of the mail.

My Salinger Year reminded me of Mad Men; while this was a memoir, the whole literary agency was like stepping into the past. The publishing world was running like they are still in the 1960’s, which gave this memoir both a quirky feel to it and exposes the reality of just how old-fashioned this industry can be. Then you have Joanna’s life outside her job, which reminds me very much of the New York literary scene that I love to read about, full of intellectuals, pseudo intellectuals and bohemian socialists. This scene is a lot of fun to read about; these are my kind of people and one of the reasons I read books about this literary scene.

Not only is there the memoir but also there is an element of literary criticism as a selection of books are analysed and discussed within the pages of this book. This changes things up slightly and I found it interesting to explore the works of Salinger in this kind of detail. I never really enjoyed The Catcher in the Rye when I read it but I struggle to find a reason for that. Holden was an unlikeable character that is always complaining about everything but this is not a reason to dislike the book. I’m always standing up for books with unlikeable characters, I feel like I may have misjudged the novel. Now that I have some more experience in critical reading I may need to pick up The Catcher in the Rye one more time.

Even if I don’t reread The Catcher in the Rye, I’m interested in the life of J.D. Salinger and will pick up a biography of this iconic author. I know there was a biopic/documentary about Salinger as well; I might have to check it out. He has really peaked my interest; the reclusiveness and introversion makes for a fascinating person. My Salinger Year is an interesting journey into the publishing world, the New York City literary scene and J.D. Salinger; I enjoyed reading this memoir and recommend anyone interested in these topics to check it out.


11/22/63 by Stephen King

Posted November 21, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Science Fiction / 5 Comments

11/22/63 by Stephen KingTitle: 11/22/63 (Goodreads)
Author: Stephen King
Published: Scribner, 2011
Pages: 849
Genres: Science Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Jake is a recently divorced high school teacher who finds himself time traveling to 1958. Fascinated by the chance to live his life in what feels like a much simpler time without mobile phones and the internet, Jake decides to live a life that transgresses all the normal rules. He makes his home in 1958, gets a job he enjoys, falls in love with the beautiful librarian and tries to live the ultimate American dream. But he is also obsessed with making the world right, most importantly trying to stop a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. But does Jake know just how much the world would change if he stops the Kennedy assassination?

I’ll be honest with you, I’ve not read much by Stephen King before, two books in fact (one of those was On Writing). I went into this book expecting a novel about time travel and the effects of changing the past would have. I also expected some weird plot with supernatural or horror elements but that’s just what I expect from King. What I got was something a lot different; this was more of a “what if?” novel. King explores his own thoughts of alternate history and time travel but he doesn’t really stop with that.

Possibly the most unexpected part of this novel was the character building and living life in the late fifties and sixties. King does an interesting job at telling a story of living in the era but in his own unique way by making the protagonist feel out of his element. The whole idea of living life in a time you are not from and finding someone in that time that could possibly be your soul mate. That was not what I thought King would write about but he did a great job building a memorable story around what he wanted to talk about.

Sure, some people are going to want him to skip all the normal life stuff and get to the time travel and alternate history aspects but I found it enjoyable leading up to it. It’s no Mad Men with the characters and life in the sixties but I did enjoy reading it. It’s a huge book and it could have been trimmed but if I was the one to take out elements I probably would have taken out the time travel. Then the book wouldn’t have worked as well.

I’m very interested in that time period, but I would have either preferred a more Mad Men style novel or more noir style with the war on organised crime and those dodgy back door deals made by the FBI. It did end out being a very interesting novel; it definitely surpassed my expectations and turned into a good read. Stephen King is a good story teller but there was not much to love about the prose and style but overall it was worth the read.