TV MAN by Rodrick Bradley


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Harry Keller is a TV repairman living in a California boarding-house anti choking from lack of hope: ""He howled at a streetlamp: 'Jesus god, it's my goddamn birthday, you know that?.' His arms closed around emptiness and he kissed the dark."" Smitten with a stripper-dancer named Kitty, Harry pulls the first stick-up of his life in order to buy a car and woo Kitty with a little class. She, a loser in her own right, plays along, choosing to believe that Harry, rather than the poor shnook he is, is a kidnapper. Harry, eager to please, becomes a kidnapper, then: he snatches a young girl, a senator's daughter named Alice. On the lam, Alice falls in love with Harry, while Kitty eventually drops off and returns to her old drug-dealing boyfriend, who immediately makes hay of the situation by going to Harry's mountain hideout and taping the TV repairman-turned-desperado's story for television. Thus: a lie that has become an unwieldy, unworkable reality takes one more turn and becomes a meaningless media event. This accordion of plot, bellowed by characters made white as sheets by disaffection, would be a tough play even for experienced novelists; novice Bradley can pull and push no steady tune from it at all. Action junctures are all rushed and blurred; a grunion-run beach scene is lifted, still struggling, from The Last Tycoon; we get no reason to believe the characters like each other any more than we like them--which is hardly at all. Some effective brown fog is blown over these outcasts, true, but more than atmosphere is needed--and Bradley isn't able to provide it. A maladroit, though interestingly ambitious, first novel.

Pub Date: Jan. 19th, 1980
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston