Is Don Draper an existential hero or a sex addict with a bullying complex? It’s hard to tell because even though he goes through major events, he doesn’t seem to change. The 60s are deepening as a crazy, unhinged decade and not only does he not want to be a part of it, he doesn’t even bother to rebel. Instead he remains a handsome man who always grows bored with his gorgeous wives and takes lovers. I have no idea what he sees in Sylvia besides a very attractive woman who looks great in vintage lingerie. She’s clearly not the most mature person he’s ever slept with. That would be Faye, the psychological researcher he saw after he left Betty. I also think Rachel, the Jewish owner of the department store from Season One, makes the list. She definitely would not have put up with his moody, staring over a glass of scotch moments.
In The Crash, Don takes some deadline speed and vitamins from a Dr Feelgood and it launches a raft of flashbacks to his childhood that is, um rich with incident and foreshadowing. Last episode, Don was still pitching The Great Depression while his colleagues are keeping up to date with Gilligan’s Island and the space race. (Hey, where ARE the astronauts?). In this episode, he hunts for an ad that shows a mother serving warm oatmeal to her son. Is this what he wants from Sylvia, who is the first mother he has had an affair with? Even dinosaurs need their mommies.
Not enough Joan on last night’s two-hour premiere of Season Six but that’s okay. We’ll definitely see more of the curvy queen later this year as Joanie navigates being a full partner of Sterling Cooper Draper and the coming hippie style where bras were for burning and not for over-flowing. Forget Don Draper meets Abbie Hoffman, Joan meets Twiggy - now that will be a culture shock.
Why the mixed reviews for Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan? I finished this delightful (and delightfully short) spy novel recently and loved it. The “rather gorgeous” Serena Frome recounts her time in the MI5 in the early 1970s and her mission to lure a promising young writer to publish a novel that will help the cause: beating back the Russians in the dreary years of the Cold War. It’s a smart love story of a young woman who is in over her clever head. I’ve never experienced 1970s England but boy does McEwan paint a picture: IRA bombings, miner strikes, three-day work weeks, gas rationing, cold offices and miserable flats where the only warmth is a cup of tea or your lover’s arms. (Is this why the English can resent Americans so? After all, we had two decades of growth and prosperity while England has the Swinging 60s for all of three or four years?)
Oddly enough, the American reviewers seem to hold their nose at this book. Either they wanted a repeat of his acclaimed Atonement or they ached for more John Le Caree spycraft or Jack Reacher thrills. Or maybe they are certain that deep down the CIA would never reach out to them to be a patsy for the cause. After all, the only thing worse than being duped is to not even be considered.
(Which cover do you like better - the dreamy, almost Christina’s World cover on the American edition or the Pretty Young Thing in a dark tunnel cover from the UK?)