Posts tagged Mad Men

Lived-in

People have been watching Perry Mason for decades.  I’m sure they’ve felt many things as they watched.  Probably most common was admiration for a legal system that doesn’t exist.  A brief stint in law school cured me of any delusion that Perry Mason represented actual lawyering.

But it doesn’t really matter.  I was too busy envying Perry and the rest of them to rhapsodize about the legal system.  All the men were decked out in suits.  They weren’t particularly handsome.  None of them would be mistaken for Don Draper.  Some were taller, some were shorter.  Some thinner, others heavier.  But they all wore suits.  They had shirts with double cuffs and links.  They all had neckties.  They all wore a handkerchief in their breast pocket.  

I was green with envy.  I can do all of those things.  I do all of those things.  I have several suits.  I have shirts with french cuffs; I have cuff links.  I have handkerchiefs.  I have white cotton that can be had for less than a dollar apiece.  I have silk in burgundy and navy with white polka dots.  And other patterns and colors.  I have dozens, if not hundreds, of ties.  I can wear any of these any time I want.  

But I can’t do what Perry Mason, and all the men on his show, did.  And I envy the bastards.  Every one of them in a suit.  As a matter of course.  No one saying how well they dress.  No one even noticing, really.  They just go about their business, fanciful though it was, in a suit and tie.

And I can’t do the same.  Not any more.  Wearing a suit is a conspicuous act.  Which doesn’t deter me.  I don’t mind if I stand out.  Because I’m not a twentysomething Maoist in denim and flip-flops.  I’m not a crusader for khaki mediocrity who treats every day as Casual Friday and looks like a middle-aged adolescent in cargo shorts and running shoes once work is over.  So I stand out.

I can live with that.  But I can never look like Perry and his compatriots.  Look over their suits.  Nothing fancy.  Sometimes slightly rumpled.  You wouldn’t dream of calling any of them a dandy.  No affectation.  Just the way men dressed.  Not just dressed.  Lived.  I can wear a suit or tie or any other item of clothing.  I can’t live in it.

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The 27th of May is so full of literary achievement, it ought to be a holiday.  Today is, most famously, the centennial of John Cheever.  While Cheever did not write crime fiction or noir, I’d like to think this blog supports great literature of all types.  Sometimes, I even read some of it.  If you’re a Mad Men fan, you will probably enjoy reading Cheever, one of the show’s influences.  But he also deserves to be read on his own terms.

I love short stories, and Cheever was a master of the form.  His 1978 anthology The Stories of John Cheever won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.  I’ll be curling up with my copy and rereading some of my favorites from Cheever’s collection.  If you are unfamiliar with Cheever’s stories, I urge you to rectify this.  "The Enormous Radio" is one of his best.  

But this day is not without noirish significance.  The father (or grandfather, or godfather, or maybe uncle-in-law) of hardboiled crime fiction, Dashiell Hammett, was born on 27 May 1894.  I could rhapsodize over Hammett, but if you’re reading this, you probably know all about him.  If you don’t, go pick up The Maltese Falcon.  Or Red Harvest.  Or The Thin Man.  Or The Glass Key, or The Dain Curse, or anything by Hammett.

Pulp scribe Leslie Charteris was born on the auspicious 27th day of May.  Charteris had his centennial five years ago, but his birthday still deserves a mention.  Charteris invented The Saint and wrote a great many of his early adventures before turning the series over to other authors (who ghostwrote subsequent episodes so that all Simon Templar’s escapades bear Charteris’ name).  I don’t think Charteris is the literary equivalent of either Cheever or Hammett, but he’s damned fun to read.

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This blog is not about nostalgia, per se.  Nonetheless, it is an important theme running through many posts.  You may not be surprised then, that my non-noir interests include Mad Men.  
Though Mad Men is not hardboiled, Jon Hamm would make a damn good P.I.  Really, just look at that picture.  Someone needs to cast him as one.  Until then, I offer this brief hardboiled “tribute” to the Mad Men milieu (i.e., advertising).  Shell Scott—Richard S. Prather’s hardboiled hero—remarks thus (from Joker in the Deck):
"I picked up one of the brochures.  It was advertising copy, and with a growing sense of revulsion I noted that it sang the virtues of a food for infants with a brand name ghastly to contemplate: ‘Da Da Baby Foods.’  It was actually named ‘Da Da,’ and there were several varieties—strained spinach, mashed okra, green-bean, mush, various fruity concoctions.  They all seemed pretty fruity to me, and for a brief moment I contemplated the advertising mind, imagined a dozen grown men listening intently while one of them said ‘Da Da.  Da Da?  Da Da?’”
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to watch the season premiere of Mad Men…

This blog is not about nostalgia, per se.  Nonetheless, it is an important theme running through many posts.  You may not be surprised then, that my non-noir interests include Mad Men.  

Though Mad Men is not hardboiled, Jon Hamm would make a damn good P.I.  Really, just look at that picture.  Someone needs to cast him as one.  Until then, I offer this brief hardboiled “tribute” to the Mad Men milieu (i.e., advertising).  Shell Scott—Richard S. Prather’s hardboiled hero—remarks thus (from Joker in the Deck):

"I picked up one of the brochures.  It was advertising copy, and with a growing sense of revulsion I noted that it sang the virtues of a food for infants with a brand name ghastly to contemplate: ‘Da Da Baby Foods.’  It was actually named ‘Da Da,’ and there were several varieties—strained spinach, mashed okra, green-bean, mush, various fruity concoctions.  They all seemed pretty fruity to me, and for a brief moment I contemplated the advertising mind, imagined a dozen grown men listening intently while one of them said ‘Da Da.  Da Da?  Da Da?’”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to watch the season premiere of Mad Men…

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Will Romola Garai be the next Christina Hendricks?
More importantly, is this noir?  I don’t really think so.  But it’s a darn good show.  It easily could have been a noirish, hardboiled spy thriller à la Graham Greene or Eric Ambler.  Think The Third Man diluted by Mad Men-style office politics and shenanigans.  
I love Mad Men, but there’s a reason they stick to Don Draper’s personal drama and haven’t made him a CIA plant.  Hell, James Bond (in the Ian Fleming novels, if not all of the movies) is a secret agent and still has rather hardboiled, pulp sensibilities.  I like this show, but wish they’d upped the noir factor a bit.  The two halves of The Hour—i.e., the Mad Men-wannabe office drama and the Cold War spy plot—are curiously bifurcated. 

Will Romola Garai be the next Christina Hendricks?

More importantly, is this noir?  I don’t really think so.  But it’s a darn good show.  It easily could have been a noirish, hardboiled spy thriller à la Graham Greene or Eric Ambler.  Think The Third Man diluted by Mad Men-style office politics and shenanigans. 

I love Mad Men, but there’s a reason they stick to Don Draper’s personal drama and haven’t made him a CIA plant.  Hell, James Bond (in the Ian Fleming novels, if not all of the movies) is a secret agent and still has rather hardboiled, pulp sensibilities.  I like this show, but wish they’d upped the noir factor a bit.  The two halves of The Hour—i.e., the Mad Men-wannabe office drama and the Cold War spy plot—are curiously bifurcated. 

9 notes