Sellevisionby Augusten Burroughs
Darkly funny and gleefully mean-spirited, Sellevision explores greed, obsession and third tier celebrity, in the world of a fictional home shopping network.
Welcome to the troubled world of Sellevision, America's premier retail broadcasting network. When Max Andrews, the much-loved and handsome (lonely and gay) host of "Slumber Sunday Sundown" accidentally/i>… See more details below
Darkly funny and gleefully mean-spirited, Sellevision explores greed, obsession and third tier celebrity, in the world of a fictional home shopping network.
Welcome to the troubled world of Sellevision, America's premier retail broadcasting network. When Max Andrews, the much-loved and handsome (lonely and gay) host of "Slumber Sunday Sundown" accidentally exposes himself in front of twenty million kids and their parents during a "Toys for Tots" segment, Sellevision faces its first big scandal. As Max fails to find a job in television, another host, the popular and perky Peggy Jean Smythe is receiving sinister emails about her appearance from a stalker. Popping pills and drinking heavily, she fails to notice that her husband is spending a lot of time with the very young babysitter who lives next door. Then there's Leigh, whose affair with Sellevision boss Howard Toast is going nowhere, until she exposes him on air; and Bebe, Sellevision's star host, who finds Mr. Right through the Internet--if she can just stop her shopping addiction from taking over.
This gleeful satire of America's 24-hour, shop-till-you-drop culture lacks the depth and razor-sharp wit of Burrough's more established works (Running with Scissors, Magical Thinking, etc.), but the audio's colorful characters, brought skillfully to life by Miles, ensure that it's an entertaining ride. Initially, the choice of a female narrator surprises—since the story opens with Sellevision host Max Andrews getting booted from his position after accidentally exposing his penis during a "Toys for Tots" shopping segment. But as the audio meanders through the lives of hosts Peggy Jean Smythe, Trish Mission, Leigh Bushmore and Bebe Friedman, it becomes clear that Miles is well suited to the task. She adopts an appropriately prissy tone for the devout Peggy Jean while at the same time playing up the sleaziness of Peggy's husband, who's on a mission to seduce the nubile teen next door. Miles also does a fine job capturing Bebe's New York twang, mile-a-minute chatter and spontaneous laughter. Although Burroughs's characters often seem as disposable as the RemoteControLotion and Moisture-Whik Panties sold on Sellevision, this audio, like a good soap opera, still manages to hook listeners. A Picador paperback (Reviews, July 31, 2000). (Dec.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.60(d)
Read an Excerpt
"You exposed your penis on national television, Max. Whatam I supposed to do?"
"I didn't expose it, Howard, it just sort of peeked out."
"It `peeked out' during the Toys for Tots segment in front oftwenty million viewers, many of whom were, not surprisingly,children. It's twenty-four hours later and we're still receivingfaxes. The phone lines were so jammed last night that no onecould get through to place orders. Plus I've got every mother inthe country threatening child-abuse lawsuits."
Howard Toast, the executive producer of the SellevisionRetail Broadcasting Network, glared at the show host who wassitting in a black leather chair on the opposite side of his largeglass desk. Behind Max and facing Howard, a bank of televisionmonitors silently played live broadcasts of Sellevision, QVC,and the Home Shopping Network as well as broadcasts fromthe other three "B-class" networks.
Howard leaned forward and said quietly, "Jesus fuckingChrist, Maxwell. This isn't the Playboy channel, it's Sellevision."
Max ran his fingers through his hair, a nervous habit. "Look,I was wearing a bathrobe, it was Slumber Sunday Sundown. Wewere all wearing bathrobes."
Howard's normally placid, waspy features contorted withfrustration. A vein on his temple pulsed. "Max, the other hostsweren't naked under their bathrobes. It's justwell, there's noexcuseseven-year-old children and their mothers justshouldnot know that you're uncircumcised." He took four Advil fromthe bottle on his desk and washed them down with cold coffee."I mean, this could be worse than that Cuban raft-boy thing."
Max wiped his hands on his slacks. "Look, I'm sorry, it wasan accident. I already told you, Miguel knocked my latte overonto my lap in the dressing room while he was doing mymakeup. What was I supposed to do, wear soaking wet boxers?C'mon, man, I had less than four minutes before I had to go onair, I had no choice."
Howard straightened the stapler on his desk. "You shouldhave borrowed Miguel's underwear," he said angrily.
"Miguel is Hispanic. He doesn't wear underwear. Besides,that's a disgusting thought, even if he did."
"Not as disgusting as showing your dick to families all acrossAmerica while they're sitting down to eat dinner."
Max rolled his eyes. "Jesus, Howard, you make it sound likeI did it on purpose. Like I'm some kind of exhibitionist orsomething."
Howard leaned back in his chair, sighed, and looked up atthe ceiling. There was a silence between them, and Maxglanced over at the executive golf-putting toy in the corner ofthe office. Howard leaned forward and placed both hands onthe desk, palms up, like he had nothing left to offer. "Max, I'mvery sorry this had to happen, but if I put you back on air, I'lllose my job, the station will be boycottedas it is, you're justlucky your penis didn't make the cover of USA Today."
Max leaned in, blinking. "So what are you telling me? You'resaying, what, that I'm fired? Is that what you're telling me?"
Howard nodded his head solemnly. "Yes, Max, I'm afraidwe're going to have to let you go. There's no way we can let youback on the air after this, just no way."
Max's hands flew up. "I can't believe you're firing me overthis."
"I'm sorry, Max, I really am. I've got a few friends over atQVC and the Home Shopping Network, I could give them acall, see if they're looking for anybody. But you might have tostart off doing the overnight. And if worse comes to worst,there's always"he shifted his gaze toward one of the televisionmonitors that was currently displaying an electric egg scrambler"theE-Z Shop Channel."
"I can't fucking believe this," Max said, slumping in hischair, letting his mouth fall open.
"Max, America's premier retail broadcasting network simplycannot be associated with a controversy of this ... magnitude."
"Oh, well, gee, I guess I should take that as a compliment,"Max said sarcastically.
"It's not funny, Maxwell. It's sad, is what it is. It's very sadthat you were so careless. You're a good host. But you crossed aline and, well, there are consequences."
Max left the office, mortified as security personnel accompaniedhim while he collected the possessions in his office, andthen escorted him out of the building like a sex offender.
Peggy Jean Smythe sat in her office, reading an E-mail aviewer had sent her. Because of her high-profile time slots asa Sellevision host, she received dozens of E-mails each day. Shenormally responded with a standard forwarded thank-you letter.But if an E-mail was particularly flattering she would sometimesrespond personally with one or two lines.
The reason viewers loved Peggy Jean was because theycould relate to her. She often spoke of her three boys, "four ifyou count my hubby." She was a "working mom" and a goodChristian woman who often hosted Jewelry of Faith programs,which featured crucifix cufflinks and Star of David money clips,both of which she presented with equal pride. She was attractiveblondhair worn in a short but full style, blue eyes, fairskin. Her roundish face seemed approachable and trustworthy.She was highly polished, yet friendly and accessible. Peggy Jeanknew all of this to be true, because she had seen the consumerresearch. In fact, she had personally attended many of the focusgroups.
"Peggy Jean, did you hear? About Max, I mean?" Amandaasked, standing in Peggy Jean's doorway.
Peggy Jean turned dramatically in her chair to face theyoung woman. "Of course I heard, and I think it's exactly theright thing to do."
"You don't think it's a little too severe? I mean, just droppinghim like that?" asked the associate producer.
Peggy Jean smiled the exact smile she often wore for viewerswhile hosting a vacuum-cleaner showcase or one of themonthly Easy Wear 18K Gold specials. She touched the lapelof her jacket. "Well, of course I'm sorry for Max, as I would befor any human being facing an adverse situation. But when Godcloses a door, Amanda, He opens a window." Peggy Jean lookedup at the suspended ceiling. "He must have other plans in storefor our Max." Then the smile was gone. "And now, Amanda, ifyou don't mind ... I have an awful lot to do."
Amanda shrugged. "Sure, I understand. I didn't mean to disturbyou."
Peggy Jean returned her attention to the computer screen,listening to make sure Amanda actually had left. Then, almostbiting the tip of her manicure, but stopping herself, Peggy Jeanread the alarming E-mail for the third time:
To: PG_Smythe@Sellevision.comFr: Zoe@ProviderNet.comSubject: Hi There!!
Hi Peggy Jean!
How exciting to be able to write you! I am a loyal Sellevision fanand have ordered everything from Crock Pots to jewelry. I am sopleased with the quality of the countless items I have purchasedfrom Sellevision.
Peggy Jean, my ears always perk up when I hear your voice onSellevision. You are my favorite host. You are so professional andfriendly, and I just love your hair!!
Speaking of hair, I just want to tell you this, woman to woman:Peggy Jean, I have noticed many times in close-up pictures howvery hairy your earlobes are. When I first noticed, it was a bit of ashock to see a beautiful earring on your ear, surrounded by all thosehairs, which on my large-screen TV were each almost the size of aVienna sausage!!
I wonder if you have considered using the Lady Songbird WaxingHair Removal System that I have seen on Sellevision. It seemsa painless, quick and easy way for you to be even more beautifulthan you already are.
I bumped into (really!!) my friend Susan at the supermarket andwe got to talking, you know, just catch-up stuff. Anyway, I mentionedSellevision for some reason, I forget why. And before long,we were talking about the show and our favorite hosts and shesaid the very same thing I'm telling you now!!! Isn't that a hoot!(LOL) She said, "She's a very hairy lady." We both had a goodchuckle out of it, but PLEASE understand it wasn't a chuckle ATyou personally.
Well, I've talked on and on, so I'll stop here. May God bless youand your family. And you have my very best wishes.
Peggy Jean pulled a small key from the inside pocket of herfuchsia DKNY blazer and unlocked the file cabinet beneath herdesk. The drawer contained emergency nylons, a spare pair ofsimple black pumps, a few sets of earrings that could easilycoordinate with most any outfit, and her purse. She pulled outher purse and removed her compact, peering into the smallmirror, angling her head as much to the side as she could. Shedidn't see any hairs. But then, this was a small mirror, held at adistance. It certainly wasn't a macro shot from Camera One.
If there were, in fact, long blond hairs on her earlobes thatwere so obvious on camera as to be the subject of a fan's E-mail,Peggy Jean knew she would have to have them removed beforegoing on air at four P.M. Yet, whom could she ask? If she did, infact, have the hairs, whomever she asked would surely gossipmentionto somebody else, "Peggy Jean has hairy earlobes"andword could easily spread all the way to her executiveproducer, Howard. The idea of being called into the refined,forty-five-year-old's office and being verbally confronted aboutthe earlobe hairs, having to explain that the situation had beenremediedwell, it was just unthinkable.
Peggy Jean remembered there was a large magnifying mirrorin makeup, and that it was illuminated by a ring of small,round bulbs. Surely makeup would be empty now, between thehosts' shift change. Instinctively, she reached for the tube ofLancôme moisturizer on her desk and squeezed a dime-sizeddollop onto the back of her hand. Then she quickly rubbed herhands together until they were soft and fragrant. Feminine.
She placed her purse back into the file cabinet, locked it, andpocketed the key. Leaving her office, she turned left and continueddown the hall, passing Trish Mission along the way.
"Peggy Jean, you look wonderful, I love that jacket," Trishsaid, gently taking the cuff of the blazer between her thumb andforefinger, admiring the softness of the fabric.
"Well, thank you, I'm glad you like it. This is the first timeI've worn it in public. Took a little field trip to New York lastSaturday with the hubby, and picked this up at Bloomingdale's."
Trish gave Peggy Jean a friendly nod. "Well, the color is justwonderful on you, it looks great with your eyes." And with that,Trish wished Peggy Jean good luck on that afternoon's GemFest and continued down the hall.
Was it Peggy Jean's imagination, or had Trish taken a quicklook at her earlobes?
Trish was one of the "emerging" hosts of Sellevision. Hergrowing popularity was propelling her from the overnight slotwhere new hosts were groomedpresenting a Fashion Clearanceor various kitchen implementsto the spot she currentlyoccupied that, although varying, included the occasional primetimeappearance, most notably her recent trip to Londonwhere she hosted a British Bonanza.
How soon before the aging (thirty-eightish) hostess with apossible superfluous hair condition was replaced by the muchyounger, more beautiful, and fully waxed Trish Mission? Therewas a prized-racehorse quality about Trish that unsettled PeggyJean. Tall, blond, and ambitious, Trish seemed to be growingmore and more successful out of sheer entitlement.
Makeup was, thankfully, empty. Peggy Jean walked directlyover to the small round mirror that sat on one of the dressingtables. She pressed a button on the side that caused the bulbs toflicker momentarily, then illuminate. She peered at her reflection,moving her ear as close to the mirror as possible, using thegleaming Frosted Cappuccino-painted nail of her index fingerto move the lobe into the light. There they were: tiny hairs,faint and almost unnoticeable unless one were actively lookingfor them in an illuminated magnifying mirror, as she was doingat that moment.
Amanda, having noticed the light, paused and stood in thedoorway, watching Peggy Jean examine her ear. "Peggy Jean?"she asked, concerned. "Is something the matter with your ear?"
* * *
Heading west on I-92, Max drove mostly in the passing lane,averaging a speed of seventy miles per hour. His favoriteCDthe original cast recording of Rentsat unplayed in hisfive-CD changer. "Stupid, stupid, fuck, fuck," was the mantrahe repeated aloud to himself as he headed toward the WoodlandsMall to see if he could obtain a certain Beanie Babynamed Peanuts for his almost-seven-year-old niece. As much asthe Woodlands Mall was the exact last place Max wanted to be(Jake's Joint, a bar, being the first), he simply had no choice. Hisniece's birthday was the day after tomorrow and he had beenunsuccessful locating the elusive plush toy on the Internet.Now he was forced to shop the old-fashioned way: in person.
Don, the Good Morning Show host and father of a fourteen-year-oldgirl, had told Max that the Toys R Us at the WoodlandsMall had a very extensive Beanie Baby selection. "That,"he had said to Max, "would be your best betand I'm sayingthis as the father of a girl who wouldn't speak to me for a fullweek after I gave her Snort the Bull with that little red tag cutoff." After wishing Max good luck in his search, Don hadwarned "Oh, and whatever you dodon't cut that stupid littletag off. It's all about the tag."
WOODLANDS MALL, NEXT EXIT, read the sign. "To think,unemployed ... me?" Max said to the windshield. As he crossedover into the far-right lane, he resisted the temptation to aimthe steering wheel into the cement guardrail, causing his top-heavyFord Explorer to careen over the embankment, explodeinto flames, and kill him instantly. Instead, he decelerated downthe exit ramp and wondered, What if I'm reduced to doing trafficreports? On radio?
At four in the afternoon on a Wednesday, the Toys R Us wasthankfully empty. Cold, electronic renditions of children'ssongs played over the store's speakers: "The Itsy Bitsy Spider,""Old McDonald Had a Farm," even, oddly, "Kumbayah."Every few minutes, the Muzak was replaced with a loud chorusof children singing the haunting Toys R Us advertising jingle,"I don't want to grow up, I'm a Toys R Us Kid ..." The store, asvast as a warehouse, was piled to the ceilings with urinatingdolls, bikes, puzzles, Lego sets, action figures, colorful balls,teddy bears implanted with microchips that enabled them toshake hands, Just Like Mommy cell phones, board games, plasticmachine guns, two-pound bags of M&Ms, and inflatablepool creatures. Max stalked the aisles, looking for the BeanieBabies, never more thankful for his homosexuality and thechild-free life that went along with it.
At the rear of the store, Max saw a huge display of BeanieBabies. Hundreds, maybe thousands, maybe millions of BeanieBabies to chose from. And all Max had to go on was a name:Peanut. No description, nothing. To locate Peanut, Max wouldhave to examine the name on every single little red tag.
Unless he asked the little girl who was standing at theBeanie Baby display along with her mother. Who better to askthan a child?
"Excuse me," Max said, approaching the little girl and hermother. The little girl spun around to look at the stranger talkingto her. "I bet you can help me. I'm looking for a particularBeanie Baby named"
The little girl's scream could be heard throughout the store,possibly the state. It was the sound of raw terror, as if Max werea ragged, scotch-stained Barney holding a machete. "It's him,Mommy, it's him, it's the pee-pee man from last night, make himgo away, make him go away," she cried, clinging to her motherand burying her face in the fabric of her mother's skirt.
"It's okay, sweetie, it's okay," the mother reassured. Then toMax, "I'm terribly sorry, she's not herself todayMadelinesaw"she whispered"a man's penis on the television lastnight and it really upset her."
Max stood dumbfounded, the shrillness of the little girl's crystabbing his eardrums.
The little girl continued to sob into her mother's skirt. "It'shim, Mommy, it's him." The mother examined Max moreclosely and a glint of recognition entered her eyes. She pointedat Max. "Oh my God, that really was you! You're Max Andrewsfrom Sellevision! That was your penis!"
A store detective appeared before the three of them. "Issomething the matter here?" he asked. "I'm in charge of security."
The little girl turned to the uniformed authority figure, andasked in awe, "Are you a policeman?"
The detective looked kindly at the girl, "No, honey. Well,sort of, I guess. I'm the police officer of the store, I suppose youcould say."
The little girl pointed at Max, then burst into tears again."He's a bad man, make him go away, I saw his thingie, heshowed me his thingie."
The detective immediately turned to Max and glared.
The mother tried to calm her little girl by bending downand stroking her head, repeating, "It's okay, sweetie, there'snothing to be afraid of, it's okay."
The detective gripped Max's elbow firmly. "You are in bigtrouble, mister."
"Hi, and welcome to Sellevision. I'm your host, Peggy JeanSmythe, and you're watching Gem Fest." A small listeningdevice, discreetly tucked into her left ear and hidden by herhair, allowed Peggy Jean's producer to communicate to herfrom Control Room 2 on the other side of the building. On thefloor in front of Peggy Jean were two large color monitors. Onewas a live-feed, displaying the exact scene that the rest of Americawas watching. The other monitor displayed the next scene,be it a long shot of the set, a close-up of the model who sat in achair off to the side, Peggy Jean herself, or simply a prerecorded"beauty shot" of the object she was presenting. At alltimes, there was a colored box on the left-hand side of thescreen that contained the name of the item, the item number,and the price, along with the Sellevision telephone number.The color of the box varied and could be coordinated with thetheme of the show. It could be yellow for the Good MorningShow, pink for a Hosiery Showcase, or blue for a Gem Fest.During the JFK Jr. Memorial Collection, the box was black.The Sellevision logo was always on the lower right-hand side ofthe screen, and never left.
At that moment, Peggy Jean was looking at the live-feedmonitor, a medium shot of herself sitting behind a glossy, tan-and-blackwooden table. Behind her was what appeared to bethe evening skyline of an anonymous city. The windows of the"buildings" were illuminated and there was even a small, roundmoon in the sky, along with a smattering of stars. Very urbanand upscale. The naked Barbie doll a key-grip had placed in oneof the windows went entirely unnoticed by the viewing public.
All the Sellevision sets were spectacularbeautifully designedand of the highest quality. The kitchen set was like acharming farmhouse kitchen, with a delightful view of treesthat could be seen through the window above the sink. Thetrees looked extraordinarily real, especially in the winter whenthe branches were covered with artificial snow by prop stylists.There was a bedroom set complete with dormer windows andwainscoting. And the living-room set had a working stonefireplace as well as an overstuffed sofa, comfortable chairs,and accent tableseverything a tasteful, upper-middle-classliving room might include, even a bookcase filled with color-coordinatedantique books. Sellevision was far superior to theother home-shopping networks and Peggy Jean felt proud tobe a part of it.
"If you love amethyst, or maybe your birthday is in February,amethyst being the February birthstone, or you just lovethe comfort of lever-back earrings and the color purple and youare a woman who appreciates a real stone presence, my first itemjust might be for you."
The producers in the control room cut to a prerecordedbeauty shot of the trillion-cut amethyst lever-back earrings.
Then they cut back to Peggy Jean who was smiling andholding a wooden ruler, the earrings displayed on a black velvetstand before her. "This is item number J-0415 and they are ourtrillion-cut amethyst lever-back earrings, priced at a veryaffordable forty-nine ninety-five. I just want to give you ameasurement here," Peggy Jean said while she continued tosmile broadly, placing the ruler against one of the gemstoneearrings.
Cut to a macro shot, Camera One. On the monitor, PeggyJean's fingers were each larger than a loaf of Wonder Bread asshe positioned the ruler, displaying for the viewers at homethat, "This is gonna measure about, well, a little more thaneight-sixteenths of an inch across, and ..." She measured thevertical. "... about one inch from top to bottom." Her manicurewas absolutely flawless.
In her ear, Peggy Jean heard her producer saying, "Peggy,these sold out the last time they were presented which wason ... lemme see here, okay, back in October."
Cut to medium shot of Peggy Jean. "Now, I just want to letyou know, these earrings did sell out the last time they werepresented, and that was way back in October. So it's taken us agood seven months to get them back in stock." Peggy Jeanlooked deep into the camera. "Keep in mind, the reason for thisis because people actually have to go out and find the amethystin nature, so that's something to consider." Gently tapping thestone with the tip of her nail, she informed the viewers, "Theseare absolutely beautiful earrings and they have a total gemweight of just over three carats, so that's about one and a halfcarats per ear. And that's a lot of stone."
"Peggy, the rings are already moving, this could be a sellout,so push hard."
"Let me just tell you, these earrings are extremely populartonight. We could become very limited, so if you want theseearrings, I'm just warning you not to wait." A graphic appeared,counting the number of orders received. Quickly, it movedfrom 257 to over 500. The Teleprompter in front of Peggy Jeandisplayed: PHONE CALL. Marilyn ... New Mexico ... Purchased.
Excerpted from sellevision by AUGUSTEN BURROUGHS. Copyright © 2000 by Augusten Burroughs. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >
I absolutely loved this book! I was hesitant to purchase after reading some not-so-great reviews, but I had read/enjoyed three of Burroughs' books so I went for it. So glad I did! The storyline is hilarious and is full of twists that made my jaw drop. I also appreciated Burroughs giving us a conclusion in the end so we know where the characters are heading.
At first, I wasn't quite sure how I felt about this book... to me, the plot had a slower start. However, once it got going, I had a difficult time putting the book down!! The plot line, focused around a television shopping network, is hilarious. The characters are graphic and real, with sharp twists and turns. Although I didn't find this work as graphic or poignant as Running with Scissors, I definitely felt like this book left something of a lasting impression. If anything, it's a short, witty, and vivid read. I agree, it's not for the 'faint at heart', but if you're open-minded and willing to laugh out loud, you'll like this book.
OMG, this book is just funny, I could not stop laughing. I've enjoyed all this authors previous works and was on the fence about purchasing this one but I'm so glad I did you want a humorus book this is a must read for you then.
I enjoyed all his books. The only one I was up-in-the air about was Sellervision. Wasn't as good.
I picked up this Sellevision because of a review I read somewhere and I was expecting a very funny story. Well, I just did not appreciate this book one bit. To make fun of Christian people and violence in schools and all the sex was not to my taste at all. I did think that the book had some funny moments. But I didn't care for some of the language.