Matthew Weiner on The Art of Writing Mad Men: The Paris Review Interview


This week­end, AMC aired episode 7 of Mad Men’s final sea­son. The show will now take a break, until episodes 8–14 hit the air­waves ear­ly next year. Before you turn your atten­tion else­where, you may want to spend some time with the Paris Review’s big inter­view with Matthew Wein­er, the cre­ator of Mad Men. The inter­view cov­ers a lot of ground.

We learn that Wein­er is a par­tic­u­lar fan of John Cheev­er. “[W]ith John Cheev­er, I rec­og­nized myself in the voice of the nar­ra­tor.” “Cheev­er holds my atten­tion more than any oth­er writer. He is in every aspect of Mad Men, start­ing with the fact that Don lives in Ossin­ing on Bul­let Park Road.” (Find the Paris Review’s 1976 inter­view with Cheev­er here.)

We also dis­cov­er that Wein­er stud­ied poet­ry in col­lege with Christo­pher Reeve’s father, Frank Reeve, and there were a cou­ple of years when Wein­er con­sid­ered T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land “the most inter­est­ing thing in the world.”

Then the con­ver­sa­tion turns to Mad Men, where Wein­er reveals what’s at the heart of the show: “I’ve always said this is a show about becom­ing white. That’s the def­i­n­i­tion of suc­cess in America—becoming a WASP. A WASP male.” “Don Drap­er knows he’s poor, very much in the mod­el of [Lee] Iacoc­ca or [Sam] Wal­ton, who came out of the Great Depres­sion, out of real­ly hum­ble begin­nings. Or like Con­rad Hilton, on the show. These men don’t take no for an answer, they build these big busi­ness­es, these empires, but real­ly it’s all based on fail­ure, inse­cu­ri­ty, and an iden­ti­ty mod­eled on some abstract ide­al of white pow­er.”

Wein­er has lots more to say, includ­ing about his days writ­ing for The Sopra­nos. Read the com­plete inter­view here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

T.S. Eliot Reads His Mod­ernist Mas­ter­pieces “The Waste Land” and “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

Gay Talese: Drink­ing at New York Times Put Mad Men to Shame

The Paris Review Inter­views Now Online

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