The Martini, Explained

Mob Experts on The Sopranos, Week 4

The Martini, Explained

Mob Experts on The Sopranos, Week 4

The Martini, Explained
Talking television.
March 29 2004 2:29 PM

Mob Experts on The Sopranos, Week 4

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Dear Jerry,

You are a tough guy, obviously. This subject does that to people. And it certainly is a jungle out there. But your hard-hitting suggestion that I am a "suck-up" to some of the show's creators because I say nice things about them has the unwitting effect of making you sound very 5 feet 2. Of course I met people on the set who did not impress me favorably. Who they are is none of your business. I did not appear on The Sopranos as a journalist and I am not writing about The Sopranos as a journalist. I have absolutely no intention of  wounding or betraying the splendid folks who invited me on this delightful ride on a show that I adored long before I was asked to participate in it. You may have heard that journalistic ethics are not the only ethics there are. About the linguistic interest of Lon Gisland you are absolutely right. But I see no point in starting that conversation until you get over what was done to Feech.

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Dear Jeff,

1) Glad you asked: The martini is the last shot of a shoot, after which work is over and the customary depredations of the artistic life may resume. It was cheap of me to use the term as if I have known what it means for more than 20 minutes. A useful lesson, I plead contritely, in the distinction between knowingness and knowledge. (Note that I could have continued to play the knowingness game by explaining it to you this way: "The martini, of course, is ..." You will be familiar with that particular device for intimidating readers from the work of many distinguished writers.)

2) I appreciate the magnitude of your desire for Carmela Soprano and also your preference for thinking only the best of God's children. But I expect nothing big from this woman. No, she doesn't have to wear a wire. She has only to stop taking Tony's money, and give up the house and the pool, and file for a divorce. She is not the first unhappy wife in history, as she is about to learn from Flaubert. Her repeated fantasies of life with a decent, hardworking man perform the function that fantasies usually do: They squander the energy that is required for a change and thereby tighten the grip of reality. They are a sexy sort of bad faith. Hating Tony is her way of loving Tony.

3) I have no idea whether Tony's successful conspiracy against Feech violated the rules, but I would caution against falling for the fiction that gangster activity is rule-regulated activity. It is until it isn't. The romance of the mob portrays them as scrupulous in their own way. One of the accomplishments of The Sopranos is to puncture this romance by showing how regularly the low deeds of these men defy their high words. Rules, after all, are instructions for restraint, and these creeps do not have much tolerance for the postponement of gratification.

Gentlemen, it's been a pleasure. If there's ever anything you can do for me, don't hesitate to call.

Leon

Leon Wieseltier is the literary editor of the New Republic.