In its glossy, semaphoric style, its tendency to invoke rather than unravel this or that issue, the way it uses a certain visual allure to blind rather than to enlighten, Mad Men reminds you of nothing so much as a successful advertisement. Indeed, the great irony of Mad Men may be that it functions the way that ads function, rather than the way that serious drama functions: it’s suggestive rather than discursive, juxtaposing some potent pictures and words and hoping you’ll make the connection. And yet, as we know, the best ads tap into deep currents of emotion. As much as I disliked the show, I did find myself persisting. Why?
—Daniel Mendelsohn in his essay, The Mad Men Account, included in the new collection, Waiting for the Barbarians. The questions of why we continue to watch bad t.v. shows is one common to many. And Mendelsohn as critic is guide par excellence to answer this and similar questions on topics that range from Pop to Classical culture, and some that turn out to be a mix of the two.