SELLEVISION by Augusten Burroughs


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A first novel that tries for the fierce bite of satire but ends up with not much more than nasty little nibbles at the familiar.

Pity the talent on the shop-at-home channel dubbed—yes—Sellevision. During the “Toys for Tots” segment of Slumber Sunday Sundown, gay, lonesome Max inadvertently exposes himself in front of 60 million kids and their parents and loses his job—and any possibility of another. On-air person Peggy Jean Smythe, meanwhile, is a clueless, churchy mother, the oldest of whose three sons would rather play with C-4 than Silly Putty because of issues he has with mother dear. When she's bundled off ranting to detox and rehab for 30 days to get in touch with her addiction to Valium and alcohol, her much deprived husband takes up with Nikki, the almost 16-year-old Lolita from next door whose issues are a whole lot more fun—not to mention kinky—than Peggy Jean's. Then there's Leigh, who is having an affair with married boss Howard Toast, who shows no signs of leaving his own wife. Until, that is, Leigh, after consulting with already-exposed Max, exposes Toast on air and gets him fired and kicked out of his wife's house—whereupon Leigh becomes a feminist icon and much-sought-after talk show guest. And then there's Bebe, Sellevision's most successful host, who finds Mr. Right through a personal ad she puts on the Internet—except that he just might turn out to be the long-lost brother her mother put up for adoption before she was born.

Et cetera. The concept of mid-tier celebrities on the nation's hottest shopping channel may have enormous possibilities, but greater wit and sophistication than Burroughs seems able to summon—so far—are needed to raise this outing from the banalities of soap and silliness to the power of real satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-312-26772-X
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2000


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