When I began my new job, I started spending more time in the car driving to work. I realized I needed to maximize all possible reading time in order to have a hope of finishing my 100 books in 2014. The solution? Audiobooks. Listening to a book on CD is a very different reading experience than visually reading a printed book or e-book. I can’t flip ahead, or even get spoiled by accidentally reading further along on the page. I’m at the mercy of the pace of the narrator, but it’s a great way to challenge my brain to pay attention a little differently.
I chose Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad by Brett Martin as my first audiobook experiment because it caught my eye on the audiobook cart at the library. I was going on a drive to Arkansas the next day and I wanted to be prepared for the drive with listening material. Last year I read Alan Sepinwall’s The Revolution Was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever, a book on the same topic. I loved reading the stories behind such popular TV shows, even ones I had never watched (and never plan to watch, like the Sopranos) and was interested to learn more from Difficult Men.
Where The Revolution Was Televised explored the background of a number of tv shows, Difficult Men focused specifically on the male creators and showrunners of tv dramas from what Martin calls the Third Golden Age of television. Martin writes about the complicated lives of tv writers like David Chase, David Simon, Ed Burns, David Milch, and Alan Ball and the stories they all told through their shows. Needless to say, a lot of drama went into making all of their dramas.
I really like reading about television. I also enjoy watching television, just not the television this book talks about. I haven’t seen The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, or Breaking Bad. I don’t really plan on watching any of those shows, except maybe The Wire. I just don’t have the emotional space to watch all those dark, upsetting dramas. I don’t need to watch hours of those shows to know it would be too much for me. But reading about those shows and how they were created? That I can do: reading about these shows doesn’t have the same emotional weight and I learn so much about the creative process. Also, many of these shows have become such pop cultural touchstones that I want to have a rudimentary knowledge of their stories. Listening to Difficult Men was an excellent way to learn more.
Difficult Men, Brett Martin, 4-stars, tv history