“The book is about writers, who thought they would have to take private satisfaction in shit work, suddenly being given this opportunity to work with unfettered ambition. And you see them fall upon this like starving men.”
We kick off 2014 with a conversation with Brett Martin, author of Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad (The Penguin Press). We talk about TV’s third golden age and the outsized personalities that helped drive it, the utter uncanniness of Tony Soprano (and James Gandolfini), how the TV showrunner became the auteur of our age, how Breaking Bad may have ended the notion of “Trojan horse” shows, why Battlestar Galacticadidn’t make the cut in his book, why it’s so tough to end a novelistic TV show, and more!
“I seem to spend a lot of time being hectored by big ego’d men in my career. I anticipate a lot more of that.”
It’s an engaging conversation about the dominant narrative form of this century (at least in terms of ambition and scope), an exploration of the intersection of art and commerce, and a little bit of an inquiry into our age’s rush to consensus and its attendant need to declare something The Best Ever. Brett’s a terrific writer and has clearly thought long and hard about these topics.
About our Guest
Brett Martin is a correspondent for GQ. His work has appeared in Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Bon Appétit, Food & Wine and many other magazines, as well as on public radio’s This American Life. He has been included in the annual Best Food Writing anthology four times and won James Beard Journalism Awards in 2012 and 2013. Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad was published by The Penguin Press in July, 2013.
Credits: This episode’s music is TV Age by Joe Jackson. The conversation was recorded at the home of a friend of Peter on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded at home on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Brett Martin by me.