Mad Men Carousel, penned by Matt Zoller Seitz, who previously explored the oeuvre of filmmaker Wes Anderson in The Wes Anderson Collection and its follow-up on The Grand Budapest Hotel, presents itself as a complete critical companion to the series, dealing blow-by-blow deconstructions of each of the show’s 92 episodes.
Be warned: Mad Men Carousel is not an ad men book.
Surprisingly, the thick volume is a far cry from Seitz’s earlier publications, which were more akin to coffee table books. The Wes Anderson works examined every cinematic aspect of the films, and included insert essays by costume designers, interviews with actors, and shot-by-shot commentaries done with the help of Anderson’s longtime cinematographer Robert Yeoman. On the other hand, Mad Men Carousel is extremely bare on a visual level; a small percentage of the actual book is devoted to emblematic illustrations by Max Dalton (images from the book that have surfaced on the Internet include the Kodak Carousel from the first season finale, a man’s shadow forming the outline of a noose, and details of the historically faithful urban backdrops featured on the show) while the rest of the pages contain stacks of uninterrupted text. The strongest visual of the book appears to be the cover, a meta-reference to the pitch that plays namesake to the book.
Many of the essays found in the volume are essentially Seitz’s weekly show recaps on Vulture.com. Though the author originally began writing his essays by the time of the show’s fourth season, Seitz fills the gap by producing brand new essays to accompany seasons one to three. The book also includes additional notes and tidbits on the show’s locations and objects; a comprehensive timeline that plots crucial events in American history against the show’s progression; and poems by Martha Orton.
It is much less a book that is designed to attract readers than it is a book that is meant for viewers already searching for a substantive guide. Make no mistake, Mad Men Carousel is deep and a must-have for any die-hard Mad Men fan. But there’s very little to stoke the desires of those who aren’t fans. Don’t read before, but after.