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Portrait of the Artist As a Young Weiner

  • 9/16/09 at 3:45 PM
Portrait of the Artist As a Young Weiner

Photo: Getty Images

Check out this interesting profile of Mad Men creator Matt Weiner from something called the Good Men project. It's basically an account of his intellectual development, starting as a wannabe poet and gender-studies scholar at Wesleyan. (What is the deal with Wesleyan, by the way? Joss Whedon went there, too. Is it the Hogwarts of Male Feminism? Was Michael Bay the Lucius Malfoy of the bunch?)

I love this passage about Weiner's poetry tutelage at the knee of Christopher Reeve's professor dad:

Although Weiner wrote poetry daily at Wesleyan, he couldn't convince faculty members that his work was good enough to get into a class. Finally, he took his poems to Professor of Letters Franklin Reeve, father of Christopher, for an independent study. Their first meeting was rocky. Reeve found much to criticize, but he was also amused by Weiner's sense of irony.

"Matt never quite fit," Reeve said in a phone interview. "He had a spunky original streak that meant his writing wasn't successful the way others were. He was determined to reinvent the wheel in a wonderful way, which made him a stimulating and rewarding student to work with."

Reeve agreed to take Weiner on in the spring of his sophomore year. They continued working together throughout his junior year and then on his senior thesis for the College of Letters. For Weiner, Reeve was a larger-than-life figure, handsome and robust. He lived in Vermont and split logs. "He had been Robert Frost's translator in Russia, so I always suspected he was some sort of spy. He was a romantic in the best sense of the word and I loved him for that."

"He made me understand that my writing came from inside. It was embarrassing to expose myself, but he was the first to tell me, 'That is good! When you embarrass yourself, you're engaging the audience; you're being honest.'" Like his teacher Suzy Moser, Reeve gave Weiner license to be himself as an artist. In fact, he demanded it.

Weiner never believed Reeve had a high opinion of him. "I always thought I disappointed him in some way," he says. When told what Reeve said, Weiner responds with a shocked, "Really?"


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