Famed for its lush production and razor-sharp dialogue, Mad Men ran for seven series, picking up multiple plaudits at every turn.
Weiner has now turned his attention to writing fiction of a different variety: a novel, although perhaps novella would be more accurate as Heather, The Totality comes in at a slender 134 pages.
It tells two stories in parallel.
The first involves a couple, Mark and Karen Breakstone, affluent New Yorkers who marry “a little later in life”.
They seem pushed together by shared social aspiration and convenience as much as any feelings.
She likes the fact that “he had the potential to be rich” while he “thought he would never tire of having sex with her and took that thought very seriously and knew they would marry”.
They move into an apartment on Park Avenue and have a daughter, Heather, who becomes an all-consuming obsession.
From babyhood, Heather is astonishingly beautiful. She is also blessed with a profound empathy that gives her the ability to reduce strangers to tears at the age of just five.
Karen and Mark compete for her attention, their relationship sours and Heather begins to resent her parents and their “disease of wealth”.
Running alongside this is the story of Bobby Klasky, a construction worker who was born into abuse and poverty.
After a neglected childhood, he drifts between jobs, harbouring violent rape and murder fantasies.
As their stories unfurl, it’s clear that Heather and Bobby’s lives are set to converge with devastating consequences.
The novel’s brevity invests the tale with tension as Weiner moves the plot along at a startling pace with years passing in a couple of paragraphs.
Everything builds towards the denouement. But the ending is unconvincing and falls flat.
This is not helped by the sparse writing style, littered with random capitalisations and almost entirely free of dialogue, while the aloof and waspish narration becomes a bit repetitive.
The characters, especially the women, are underdeveloped.
Karen is absurdly shallow. She fixates on the idea of marrying someone handsome as “it’d be an unbearable compromise to stare at an ugly face every day and worry about her future children’s orthodontia”.
And Heather’s “complex empathy” is never fully developed or explained other than by lapsing into a cliché about her repressed emotions: “The world must never see the melancholy that lived just under her smile.”
Full of tension and pace, this is a thought-provoking examination of how parenthood can undermine a marriage.
But a tale that should be harrowing and haunting loses its way, lacking the heart and soul of Weiner’s most famous creation.