Last Sunday marked the season premier of Mad Men. I liked it. I didn't love it, but I liked it. It set the stage for the season. I love that the water balloons and dialog came from something real. I was living and working in Chicago in 1966. I was told once not to fraternize with a bus boy (black) who was part of a catering crew. About 5 years later, I was told that it was against museum (Field Museum) policy not to promote secretaries "above their station." (My immediate boss, a woman, wanted me to fill the vacant assistant position.) And I have to admit, part of my enjoyment of the show comes from knowing how upside down their world is going to turn within a very few years.
Young and younger people today have no idea what it was like in the late 50's, early 60's. I don't mean that they are ignorant of the facts. I'm certain most of us here went to school and know some of our cultural history. But I think it takes something like Mad Men to give us all a glimpse and a reminder of the realities of the times.
was published in 1955. Its heroine begins in the '30's, but the novel will end very close to our Mad Men timeline. Marjorie rebels against traditional models of social and religious behavior expected by New York Jewish families in the 1950s.
, published in 1956. I actually got hold of a copy when it came out in paperback and smuggled it to high school with me. Sad to say, at the time I was mainly interested in the sex. The larger issues of hypocrisy, social inequities and class privilege were lost to me at the time. Surely I would see them today.
, published right on our timeline, 1966. Another novel of three women who could step right onto the set of Mad Men.
. Published in 1952. Some of the intrigue of Mad Men, for me, is watching the invisible insist on their reality.
. Most of us I think already know this novel. Did you realize it was published in 1960? Did you know these were facts of life only 52 years ago?
1966 is to us what 1920 was to people in 1966. Much has changed in that time, but there are disturbing ways in which I think the melody lingers on.