- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 6, 2011

Fantasy world

“Many popular entertainments, of course, capitalize on their appeal by means of marketing tie-ins, but the yearning for 'Mad Men' style seems different from the way in which, say, children who are hooked on the ‘Star Wars’ series yearn to own Darth Vader action dolls. The people who watch 'Mad Men' are, after all, adults - most of them between the ages of nineteen and forty-nine.

“This is to say that most of the people who are so addicted to the show are either younger adults, to whom its world represents, perhaps, an alluring historical fantasy of a time before the present era’s seemingly endless prohibitions against pleasures once taken for granted (casual sex, careless eating, excessive drinking, and incessant smoking); or younger baby boomers - people in their forties and early fifties who remember, barely, the show’s 1960s setting, attitudes, and look. For either audience, then, the show’s style is, essentially, symbolic: it represents fantasies, or memories, of significant potency.”

- Daniel Mendelsohn, writing on “The Mad Men Account,” in the Feb. 24 issue of the New York Review of Books

I like myself

“Media no longer seek to shape taste. They do not try to educate the public. And this is so in part because no one seems to know what literary and cultural education would consist of. What does make a book great, anyway? And the media have another reason for not trying to shape taste: It [angers] the readers. They feel insulted, condescended to; they feel dumb. And no one will pay you for making him feel dumb.

“Public entertainment generally works in just the opposite way - by making the consumer feel like a genius. Even the most august publications and broadcasts no longer attempt to shape taste. They merely seek to reflect it. They hold the cultural mirror up to the reader - what the reader likes, the writer and the editor like. They hold the mirror up and the reader and - what else can he do? - the reader falls in love. The common reader today is someone who has fallen in love, with himself.

“Narcissus looks into the book review and finds it good. Narcissus peers into Amazon’s top 100 and, lo, he feels the love. Nothing insults him; nothing pulls him away from that gorgeous smooth watery image below. The editor sells it to him cheap … the professor has other things to do.”

- Mark Edmundson, writing on “Narcissus Regards a Book,” on Jan. 30 at the Chronicle Review

Do it for love

“But I always say, you take George Lucas or Spielberg: They’re doing, in my mind, what they truly love. But what they truly love, zillions of people love, so they’re multimillionaires. I’m doing what I truly love, but the audience is way smaller. And Don Van Vliet was doing what he truly loved and the audience is hardly there at all.

“But it’s OK, because if you do anything that you don’t love for money or fame, you die. You can’t live doing that. It’s hollow. It’s a joke. So be thankful you’re able to do what you love. Don Van Vliet, when I talked to him, was a painter. And we would talk about painting. We would not talk about music at all.”

- David Lynch, as interviewed by Gustavo Turner, on Jan. 20 at the L.A. Weekly