One of America's great storytellers, Matthew Weiner, creator of Mad Men, will chat with novelist Martin Amis, author of the critically acclaimed novel Lionel Asbo: State of England, in Los Angeles on Friday, September 21.
The world of Mad Men, America in the 1960's, is flush with money, promise and opportunity. Everyone seems to have a shot at a better life -- and for those who are marginalized, then marches on Washington and in the South ensue. Social revolution and evolution is around every corner and at every desk. Change is electric. The situation in Lionel Asbo: State of England, is not quite the same. The time is the here and now in England, cities are rotting, schools are crumbling, and the moral center of the universe has eroded. Opportunity and change are fueled by lottery jackpots. Two different trajectories, only 50 years apart. Mad Men is pretty serious stuff, except when it's not-- and Lionel Asbo is shockingly, savagely funny.
Mad Men's Season 5 ended at the beginning of the summer, with no fixed Season 6 start date to assuage diehard fans. This season of Mad Men was arguably some of the best television ever. Critics and members of the Television Academy agree, and nominated Mad Men for 17 Emmy® Awards. It seems like that's a nomination for almost every category. That's because Matthew Weiner, the creator of Mad Men, is a very literary guy. We see the ghosts of F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Cheever, Richard Yates and Allen Ginsberg, to name only a handful, lurking in the background of our Don Draper. Upon closer examination, we'd find so many more literary influences buried just below the surface. Mad Men is a most reflective examination of the American condition. It is revelatory, in recreating not only an American time and place, but comes with the gift of focused perspective, great literary tradition and an attention to detail that evoke genuine feeling along with memory and understanding.
We've established that Matthew Weiner, the television genius behind Mad Men, pays homage to novelists who have defined the American experience. Martin Amis novels clearly define the British experience, and his new book , Lionel Asbo: State of England, notes, on steroids, the decline of contemporary civilized society. Amis' newest novel is hilarious and unsettling -- as it takes on, well, the state of England. The main characters are not ones likely to be invited to dinners at the British Consul or Residence -- they'd be the people the security team would try to politely dismiss. When politeness fails, as it always does in Lionel Asbo's case, the fun begins. (Asbo actually stands for Anti-Social Behaviour Order.) A hardened convict by the time he was three years old, Lionel feeds and waters his pet pitbulls with six-packs of strong lager, Tobasco sauce, and similarly nutritious meals. He stands up for the dignity of his family name by doling out painful lessons to the young teenagers who sleep with his 37-year-old mother. And he attempts to teach his ward and teenage nephew, Des, street life, which Des would rather avoid at all costs. Des is a romantic -- a bookish sort who likes to read the news beyond the nudie pictures in the tabloids. Lionel Asbo: State of England, tells the parallel stories of Lionel and Des -- as Lionel wins a huge lottery jackpot while in prison (again), and Des just tries to get on with his life reading books. But despite his new-found wealth, the kind of wealth that only seemed possible during the 1980's, Lionel doesn't really evolve into the sort of person that 140 Million Sterling might suggest. That's great news for fiction. But not so great for Lionel or his hapless nephew, Des. Lionel Asbo is really the funniest dystopic take on the British social landscape we've seen in years.
Matthew Weiner honors, pays homage to and is creating his own, American literary tradition. Martin Amis represents the best of contemporary British literature -- serious, hilarious, unsettling and provocative. Unsettling. Provocative. Words that apply to Mad Men for every episode. Hilarious occasionally.
Writers Bloc presents Martin Amis with Matthew Weiner at the Writers Guild Theater this Friday, September 21, 7:30 p.m. For more information on this most thrilling international literary event, visit writersblocpresents.com.