Kirkus Reviews QR Code


by Curtis White

Pub Date: June 21st, 1998
ISBN: 1-56478-189-5
Publisher: Dalkey Archive

The unstoppable White (Anarcho-Hindu, 1995, etc., etc.) offers a —novel— about the depravities of television culture that’s as much idea-collage as plain narrative—a sometimes declamatory but most often brilliant thought-book about the great wasteland. There is a story-premise of sorts, slim but full enough of possibilities for White: A man is sunk into a grimy sofa in front of a TV, one daughter walking back and forth in front of him (he doesn—t notice her), another talking nonstop to no one in particular, and a son—later, the book’s narrator—tossing marshmallows into his mouth behind the sofa. —[My] father has been in a cataleptic trance before the T.V. since November of 1963,— he announces, and it’s hard to tell afterward whether this man-boy is caught up more intensely in oedipal rage (—. . . a little boy . . . needs to kill that father himself in order that he may grow up strong and true—) or in a desolation of abandonment and a wish to —find— and get recognition from his father (—Remember, my father had not spoken to me since I was an infant—). Both themes, contradictory or not, are woven into parodies of Combat (—father— is a German bridge to be blown up), Highway Patrol (—People don—t kill, fathers do—), Maverick, Have Gun—Will Travel, and Sea Hunt (—it was I who drove my father away. He hated me—). White’s send-up of Paladin lets him range through great swaths of hyperbolic sex, satire, and psychology (—. . . patricide. Yes, one day Hey Boy and I will take our revenge—), while elsewhere the ruinously depressing banality of the TV culture (of —life-on-T.V.—) is touched on in ominous and recurrent brush- strokes——The outside has disappeared. See there, nothing in the distance but a flat buzzing,— or —my father was in his recliner, aimed toward the T.V. . . . — Intellectual pyrotechnics about America, mass audiences, and the emptiness inside.