William S. Burroughs and Don Draper

William S. Burroughs and Don Draper

May 12, 2010 11:17 pm 1 comment

William S. Burroughs

Don Draper

Nancy Mattoon writes on the similarities and differences between William S. Burroughs and the fictional character Don Draper from AMC’s Mad Men:

Insiders wanting out, outsiders wanting in. Flamboyantly embracing the outlaw life, desperately seeking status. Life on the junk, life selling junk. Creating a nightmarish truth, concocting a glamorous lie. Writing to save your soul, selling your soul to write. Spectacularly surrendering to the siren song of smack, self-medicating with scotch and soda to maintain the social surface. The psychotic outlaw-addict and the man in the gray flannel suit. Both hell bent on that great American pastime: reinvention. But the artistry of the addict betrays the poetry in his soul. And the Marlboro Man has a cancer at his core. Neither Burroughs/Lee nor Don Draper can escape the one thing they’re trying to outrun: themselves. As William Faulkner put it,”the past isn’t dead, it’s not even past.” Or to quote Dr. Buckaroo Banzai, “No matter where you go, there you are.”

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1 Comment

  • No wonder WSB is my favorite writer, & Mad Men is my favorite TV show (the only one I regularly watch & collect). Another connection between WSB & DD is the surreal, sinister fact that WSB’s maternal uncle was none other than Ivy Lee (1877-1934), who was one of the first practitioners of public relations & who wrote what is considered the first press release, an opportunity to head off public opinion @ the pass. Among his clients were the Rockefellers, whose public image he polished after striking coal miners were shot & killed @ a mine they owned. Toward the end of his life he was being investigated for his work with Nazi Germany & the I.G. Farben Co.

    I appreciate the insightful comparisons that Nancy Mattoon makes between WSB & DD, & she notes the fundamental difference between them: DD is hiding secrets, & falling for the mirages he is so successfully, seductively selling. WSB hid nothing in his work or life, & not only didn’t buy into the images being peddled by the likes of DD but devoted his life & work to exposing & subverting them:

    “…Listen all you boards syndicates and governments of the earth. And you powers behind what filth deals consummated in what lavatory to take what is not yours. To sell the ground from unborn feet forever…”

    WSB maintained an appearance that threw a curve @ fans & foes alike, well-mannered & conservatively dressed. But he was always himself, all the way.

    Bravo, Ms. Mattoon!

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