MY PILGRIM'S PROGRESS by George W.S. Trow

MY PILGRIM'S PROGRESS

Media Studies, 1950-1997
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A self-satisfied, arch tour of the weird and wacky world of Medialand. “Just try to avoid the aesthetic of the sitcom,” taunts former New Yorker columnist Trow (Within the Context of No Context, 1981, etc.). “The sitcom is fact, just as Napoleon was fact in 1804.” And sitcoms are now our lot the world around, no matter where we go—all because, Trow believes, the US led the victory in WWII, putting the American media’s stamp on the planet and making every corner of the globe safe for Jay Leno. Trow has for many books now sought to bring the frenetic pace of television into his prose, but perhaps not its emptiness, and in this book he wholly succeeds in bringing us both (—one wants this hyperactive quality of click, click, click, click, click to hold the attention, and the easiest way to get it is with violence; it’s hard to get it through dialogue, since most people don—t know how to write dialogue—). His ’studies” of television are little more than passing observations, with none of the sustained rigor of Michael Arlen or even Bill McKibben. When Trow is writing about other media, especially newspapers, he is much better; he explains very well, for instance, why newspaper editors choose to play stories the way they do, and how difficult it is for workaday journalists to develop stories—on, say, civil war in the Congo, or the collapse of public education’so that they have some meaning, with the appropriate background and subtexts, when editors constantly want to move on to the next scandal. But Trow spends altogether too much of this book likening televised golf tournaments to pornography and home-shopping networks to cocaine addiction, altogether too much time issuing McLuhanesque announcements like “Stupid television in the 1950s drove smart people crazy. In the future, smart television will drive simple people crazy.” Call it an informercial in search of a subject.

Pub Date: Jan. 12th, 1999
ISBN: 0-375-40134-2
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1998