Sunday, June 10, 2012

Book #28 - Mad Women

Book #28: Mad Women by Jane Maas
4/5 stars

This book, my 28th so far on my journey to 100 in a year, is the first nonfiction book of the bunch. I am not normally interested in nonfiction, which is why I didn't rate this book 5/5 stars, but it was nonetheless an interesting look into the 1960s-the present in terms of the real story behind Mad Men and how women were treated during this time.

For those unfamiliar with the TV show, Mad Men is about an advertising agency in the 1960s. It may sound oh so boring, but there are a lot of behind the scenes scandals that went on at the office. Also, there are historical nuggets within the show about this time period that I find interesting, and the fashion is awesome. =) Since I'm so interested in the show, when I noticed this book at a Barnes and Noble I immediately grabbed it and read the inside cover. I just snagged a copy from my local library and finished it in a few days.

Jane Maas, the author of this novel, was actually a "Mad Woman" as you might call her. The "mad" part refers to Madison Avenue where many of the ad agencies were located, and "mad men" was a real nickname for the men who worked there. Since the TV show Mad Men has gained popularity, Maas has been asked by many people who learn that she was a part of this seemingly glamorous world, how much of what is seen on the show is true? Did people really drink that much at the office? Were women treated badly? Were the parties that wild and crazy? What was really going on behind closed doors?

Maas answers all of these questions and more in her non-fiction book about her experiences as an ad woman, moving up the chain from a lowly secretary to copywriter, to creative director, and even a short stint at owning her own ad agency. The chapters have witty, interesting titles such as: "The Three Martini Lunch and Other Vices" and "Bang Bang, You're Dead (The Creative Revolution Kills)". Maas was a career woman AND a mother (something basically unheard of at the time) and was going around the clock between her job and duties as a wife and mother. It seems that she was treated better than most women of the time, mostly because her husband was wonderful to her. However, Maas shares stories from her past and interviews done more recently about what life was really like for women. Maas had to demand respect if she wanted it, and work twice as hard as her male coworkers. For a woman to move up into such high positions of power was practically unheard of. Most women were hired at ad agencies as secretaries, and left when they got married or became pregnant. Maas describes the obstacles she encountered both in college and after graduating and joining the workforce, yet not leaving for her family.

She also discusses different experiences with clients, both successful and horribly unfortunate. Fans of Mad Men will be somewhat familiar with the processes Maas and her team go through to get ads made. She also compares the TV show to real life, and clarifies what was real and what was not, though overall she is impressed with the accuracy of the hit show.

I enjoyed reading this book by Jane Maas. I've never been a huge non-fiction fan, mostly because this genre does not normally include books that keep you coming back for more and more until you devour it, as fiction does for me. However, Maas is a great storyteller and branches out in all directions to discuss many different areas of her life and what it was like mostly in the 60s and 70s, but eventually going all the way up to the present. I liked the perspective that the older Jane had looking back on her life from years ago. She tells her stories with brutal honesty, yet with the wisdom of someone who has learned a lot from her own life.

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