Thursday, April 26, 2018
Books

What's Jane Maas reading?

Nightstand

Jane Maas

In her new book, Mad Women, Maas, 80, shares her view of life on Madison Avenue in the 1960s, a.k.a. Don Draper's time. (Yes, there truly was lots of chain smoking, liquor drinking and hot sex going on in the 1960s American workplace.) Hired by David Ogilvy (Confessions of an Ad Man) as a copywriter in 1964, Maas was the first woman assigned to the blue-chip American Express account. She left Ogilvy & Mather 12 years later as a creative director and vice president and went on to conceive the "I Love NY'' tourism campaign.

In one of the book's final chapters, she asks the question, "Have You Really Come Such a Long Way Baby?'' And her answer is mixed. She stresses that women need to do a better job helping each other. "Women are lousy mentors,'' she writes. "We say we are giving the newbies a helping hand, but our hearts are not in it. . . . The most successful women in our business, the ones who rival men, don't have time to mentor. And besides, there's a little undercurrent of feeling that says, "I've made it on my own; why should you expect to be carried?"

What's on your nightstand?

Ann Patchett's Bel Canto. It's wonderful, but it's not a new plot. Chaucer did it. You take a group of desperate people and put them together in forced togetherness and see what happens and how they interact. It is so beautifully written. I also have The Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier, and I'm about to start Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. Mantel has a new one out, and I wanted to read this one first. And also, now that my book is done, and I've recaptured some time for the joy of reading, I'm rereading Philip Roth's Ghost Writer. I read it first 15 years ago.

Why are you rereading Roth?

He writes like an angel. It's an extraordinary sensibility he has, and if you read the last few pages of his Everyman, when he talks about his hero swimming, and for every one of us who have swum in the ocean and come home after a long day swimming as a teenager, with sunburn and a tired body smelling like salt, you realize that Philip makes you say, yes, yes, I am there in that moment.

Piper Castillo, Times staff writer, can be reached at [email protected]

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