Of Don Draper and Dante

 You taught me hour by hour / How man makes himself eternal – Inferno: XV 83-82

Don Draper reading Dante's Inferno on the beach. (Apparently, classics of western thought was the go-to reading before the invention of people magazine.)Every time I watch Mad Men, wearing a fedora seems like an excellent idea.  Sadly (or thankfully) Amy has informed me, in her wonderful Idaho bluntness, “Yea . . . no. That really wouldn’t work on you.  You’d look kinda ridiculous.”  Still, if anyone could bring back the fedora, it’s Don Draper.  Mad Men fans may recall that Season 6 opens with the camera slowly panning over the supine body of Don’s young wife, Megan, lolling on the beach in Hawaii.  Next to her, Don holds The Inferno (book 1 of Dante’s Divine Comedy) while the voiceover (Don) reads the opening lines:  When I had journeyed half of our life’s way, I found myself within a shadowed forest, for I had lost the path that does not stray.   A moment later, Megan pops up with a fruity drink.  It’s actually a little jarring.  Knowing that The Inferno is about Dante’s journey through hell, I half expect her eyeballs to start spinning or something equally creepy.   No such plans in the script.  Instead, we see Don living what appears to be an idyllic life.

Leaving aside the (fair) question of who reads The Inferno while relaxing on a beach, we can assume that the writers are using the text for a reason.  At this stage in the story, Don is a successful, named partner at a New York advertising firm.  He’s very good at his job – creative, tough, brilliant, confident and a genius in ‘the pitch,’ the point at which he is selling an advertising plan to the C-level managers of a company.  True, he’s had what might be generously described as rough patches in life, but now he appears to be at the top of his game and is in Hawaii with his (some would consider ) beautiful wife.  Is Don now lost, even though all the trappings of his life seem to indicate he has succeeded brilliantly?  Possibly.  We don’t get a sense that Don has, in any sense, found his ‘true north.’  His various vices, particularly infidelity, plague him.  There’s a foreboding to the episode.  Something’s off.  And the writers, using a sledgehammer of foreshadowing with lines from The Inferno, alert us to the possibility that all is not well. Continue reading

Being Princely

The fate of our times is characterized by rationalization and intellectualization, and, above all, by the ‘disenchantment of the world.’  Max Weber

“Look,” I said in exasperation to my two little anarchists in training, ages 6 & 4, “This isn’t a democracy . . . it’s a benevolent dictatorship.”

This sort of thing actually buys me some time as they noodle over the new words.   Really.   New words might mean there’s a treat somewhere in the equation.  “Benevolent” could very well be a new flavor of ice-cream, so they paused and waited for an explanation.

302690_10150296614656361_1087186_n“That means I’m king and you’re not.”

My youngest immediately lost interest.  He doesn’t like words like “not” or “no.”  His older brother, insatiably curious, furrowed his brow and asked:

“Well, if you’re king, what’s mamma?”

Potentially treacherous ground.  “Well, I guess she’s queen,” I replied.

“Does that mean you’re her boss?”

“BAHAHAHA . . . . no, no, no.  Nope.   Actually, we kinda lead in different areas, in different ways.”  I started losing him.  “Anyway, it means we share power.  But you know what else that means?”  I asked.


“It means you are princes.  And you know what princes do?”

Continue reading