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Today's Inspiration

October 1, 2010
Mad Men Reading List | New York Public Library

Well, look at this! The NYPL has put out a full list of some of the books we’ve covered here in the past.

Here’s a tidbit we never put up about Ship of Fools, by the way:

This 1962 novel by Katherine Porter is a satire that traces the rise of Nazism and represents its message as a “ship of fools” allegory. The ship of fools allegory traces back as early as the 1494 poem by Sebastian Brant, entitled same. The concept is basically that of a ship full of deranged or otherwise affected lunatics, on a directionless voyage with no captain/leader. The ship also serves as a satiric foil to Noah’s Ark, or the Ark of Salvation (a name for the Catholic Church)

Here’s a depiction.

The Porter book depicts the passengers on a ship headed for Germany from Mexico in 1931. The travelers are not insane; they are of different races (Spanish, Mexican, Swedish, American, German) though, and their tensions grow as they travel together. Inherent racisms come out, and a lot of exploration of common assumptions of the time that seem insane by modern times. But average people allowed the Holocaust to take place, and this book explores how such average people come to “know” things that we would find lunacy. The work has been compared to Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain, which takes place in sanatorium, and the atmosphere of the ocean liner Porter’s characters are on is very much like a sanatorium — cramped, unprivate, sick. 

• footnote - by Natasha Simons

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