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Mad Men Unbuttoned: A Romp Through 1960s America Paperback – July 20, 2010

4.1 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Entering its fourth season on July 25, AMC's critically acclaimed TV series Mad Men takes place on Madison Avenue during the early 1960s in the fictional Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce ad agency. Inspired by the TV series, L.A. freelance writer Vargas-Cooper launched a nicely designed and engaging blog, the Footnotes of Mad Men, to survey not only the show but also the real-world historical and cultural artifacts of that period. Now her attractive blog has been adapted into an equally attractive book. As Vargas-Cooper sees it, the series is "about the culture clash and contradictions that occurred during the twilight of the Eisenhower era, the great societal shake-up of the 1960s" and its impact on modern America. She focuses on advertising, design, films, literature, politics, sex, style, and the workplace in order to probe "the most dramatic cultural shift in the 20th century." She begins by detailing all the series' regular characters and then moves on to profile real-life ad man Leo Burnett (Tony the Tiger, the Pillsbury Doughboy, the Marlboro Man), followed by everything from skinny ties, condoms, John Cheever and Frank O'Hara to Jackie Kennedy's White House tour on CBS and The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. All are neatly linked with specific TV episodes, making this both an entertaining read and the definitive companion book for the series.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Well, maybe that romp in the subtitle is an exaggeration. In fact, this is a pretty quiet book, although its author is clearly an enthusiastic fan of the hit TV series Mad Men (she operates a Web site with the same name as the book), and the book is sure to appeal the show’s many devotees. Vargas-Cooper uses the show, about advertising executives in the 1960s, as sort of a portal into the decade, showing how television fiction reflects the era in which it’s set. She discusses some real-life advertising giants (Ogilvy, Burnett, Daniels), talks about social mores (particularly sex), and delves into pop culture (books, movies, etc.). The book is packed with information, and some proves quite fascinating; but readers who aren’t serious fans of the show may be put off by the bland prose and the distractingly large number of footnotes. A thoroughly enjoyable handbook, though, for anyone who wants more information about what Don Draper and his colleagues and friends smoked, drank, read, and talked about. --David Pitt
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Design; 1 edition (July 20, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061991007
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061991004
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,157,282 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kindle Customer VINE VOICE on July 27, 2010
Format: Paperback
Too many tv companion books offer little more than boring recaps of episodes with maybe some commentary of varying quality added.

This book is not like that, happily. Instead, we get short essays that are related to the episodes sometimes only tangentially, but illuminate the culture , current events, and aesthetics of the era " Mad Men " is set in.

Grouped by broad categories, these essays ( by multiple contributors) are quick and to the point, and cover many surprising topics. Some expand on small details of the show that you may have missed ( I know I did), or cover a major societal shift.

The book is a pleasure to look at- beautifully designed, with many full color photos and illustrations and a bold and simple overall look.

When I say this is a book that you'd never guess was an adaptation of a website, I mean that as a compliment.
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Format: Paperback
This is the smartest and the most fun of all the Mad Men books -- and it's also the most beautiful. Natasha Vargas-Cooper is obviously a fan, but she's also a terrific writer; and I am in awe at her success at finding the photos, ads and images that became the icons of the era. Her explanations of "How to be a Betty" and "Sex and the Single Girl" should become classics.
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Format: Paperback
When someone asks me what the TV show Mad Men is about (after hearing me rant on and on about its utter genius), I usually say something like: it's about the cultural shift of the 1960s, backed by the history of its time and the extremely pertinent New York advertising age. Natasha Vargas-Cooper says it a bit better:

"It's about the culture clash and contradictions that occurred during the twilight of the Eisenhower era, the great societal shake-up of the 1960s, and how that pressurized time in history formed modern America, its families, its consciousness, and its consumers."

It's because of that overwhelmingly detailed, yet spot on, prose that I was attracted to Vargas-Cooper's writing. Although an unauthorized guide to the show, it's a fantastic companion piece (and I highly Matt Weiner hiring her as a researcher for the show). Separated into different sections (The Ads and the Men Who Made Them; Style; Smoking, Drinking, and Drugging; etc...) the book delves deeper into everything the show represents, giving a grander understanding to each ad, each character trait, and each decorated home.

It's not just an ode to Mad Men - it's a cultural study of the time period (or, as the book says, "a romp through 1960s America"). It uses Mad Men as a backdrop to discuss what was really going on, from fashion to politics. Those who are intrigued by the age would be just as interested in the literary work.

The first chapter, which discussed actual advertising from that time period and the movers and shakers that made it happen, was actually my favorite. It overviewed the historic ad campaigns (Marlboro Man, Volkswagen Think Small, Western Union, etc), showing the actual ad and how it was thought up.
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Format: Paperback
There's some excellent material on advertising in the 1950s and 1960s and in other chapters the material is pretty good but in others it is superficial. The book seems to focus on a few things of obvious personal interest to the author but other material just seems to be put in because its expected... or ignored completely. Shouldn't there have been a section on history? The Cuban Missile Crisis? The 1960 election? Oh well. They wore pretty clothes.

Good illustrations but few captions. I still don't get the relevence of the 1947 photo from an American airbase.
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I enjoyed this book as much as I am the television series. I grew up in the sixties, so I am getting reacquainted with many parts of my childhood that I had long forgotten. The book is very entertaining, well written.
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I've been a fan of Natasha Vargas-Cooper's Web site and was looking forward with anticipation to Mad Men Unbuttoned. It casts intriguing light on the behind the scenes story of many aspects of the show, from flight attendants to the lives of housewives and models to literature. I'd recommend it for those who are interested in 1960s history, and who've been driven to Google by the references made by the characters. Just don't expect the book to be the definitive answer on these subjects. Some of the essays are a little sketchy and seem a bit cobbled together to pad the book. The Grace Kelly one in particular could have been more comprehensive. The Web site Basket of Kisses has analyzed the Betty Draper-Grace Kelly connection in a much more insightful way. Likewise, there's no question what Carla would be called in Westchester -- she's a "housekeeper." But aside from the quibbles, it's a fun read and it will be a good companion to Season 4.
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This book is just fine...if you're not a follower of Vargas-Cooper's website. Essentially, the book is the website in paperback form, as other reviewers have stated. While the book itself isn't bad, it's just pretty disappointing if you've read all the articles on the website. It does have some lovely images, but that's not enough to justify keeping the book for me. If you want a nice book to keep on your coffee table with condensed articles regarding show references, this is great. For me, I think I'll pass.
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