All the way back in the fifth episode, “5G,” of Mad Men, a young Kenneth Cosgrove (Aaron Staton) elicits jealousy from his co-workers Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) and Paul Kinsey (Michael Gladis) by managing to get a short story called “Tapping A Maple On A Cold Vermont Morning” into The Atlantic Monthly. Now, Cosgrove has elicited the same ire among non-fictional characters who have probably been trying to land a place in the literary rag for months, even years.
It would be one thing if the story was technically good, instead of something out of the James Franco school of literature, but the narrative reads like a boring attempt at emulating the style of Salinger with its misery-tinged descriptions of everyday life. Blatantly ripping off other famous writers (e.g. Hemingway when the line “gradually then suddenly” is used), this Cosgrove fellow would never be published in the real world were it not for the bathetic canonization of Mad Men as it comes to an end.
And then, of course, there is his overt reference to Sterling Cooper with the “natural” implementation of Lucky Strike into the story as his main character notes, “I found myself… wishing for a cigarette. Something toasted. There are few things as smooth, I couldn’t help but remember, as a Lucky Strike.” Real subtle, Ken, real subtle. The nods to Sterling Cooper continue with, “The heat, day after day, would warm and soften the sap, making it more pliant, more easily yielding to our desires—as if, I thought with a chuckle, it had availed itself of Secor laxatives. Fitz held the compass in an outstretched arm, eyes narrowed toward the hovering needle. It shook like a Relax-a-cizor.”
Other name checks throughout include Right Guard deodorant, Belle Jolie lipstick, Bethlehem Steel, Cartwright Aluminum, Liberty Capital and Mencken’s Department Store. With so many accounts to reference, the story quickly devolves into a long list of dick-sucked clients. And yet, to pay tribute to Mad Men instead of writers with palpable aspirations, The Atlantic has perhaps caused the death of another thousand dreams among copywriters biding their time for a big break.