White blends intellectual acumen, brusque lyricism, and a cartoony flair for character into a prose that is equal parts cultural critique, personal essay and fictional narrative....An admirable success. --
Boston Book Review
Not to be mistaken for 'TV Guide', White's ("Anarcho-Hindu: The Damned", "Weird Book of Fate") witty collection does revolve around a night of TV viewing, but these 1950s serials have never been seen on prime time, thanks to their adult content, their black humor and their tendency to trap the narrator's father inside them. In "Combat," Dad's a bridge; in "Dotto" (a quiz show like the "$64,000 Question"), he's a cheating contestant; in "Sea Hunt," he's a missing diver. Reminiscent of the technique employed by Robert Coover in "A Night at the Movies", the stories move between the audience, in this case, the family of a boy named Curtis White and the demented, autonomous television set. Of course, the detritus of conformist 1950s popular culture has been preferred fodder for satirists since R. Crumb. That's the one problem with this virtuosic spoof. Although the satire is on target, it is very familiar, not least from today's TV: even the lamest shows have learned to make ironic reference to their own stereotypes. White is at his best when he balances riffs on, say, the 'Kitchen Debate' between Nixon and Khrushchev with his own fictionalized autobiography, bringing pathos to what would otherwise amount to shooting fictional fish (or, perhaps, plastic ducks) in a barrel. FYI: Half of Dalkey Archives' May issue of the 'Review of Contemporary Fiction' will be devoted to essays on White.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Is it real, is it vicarious, or is it "Memories of My Father Watching TV"? As in his previous fiction ("Anarcho-Hindu", "The Idea of Home", "Metaphysics in the Midwest", "Fiction Collective Five", 1995), White explores the vapidity, contradictions, and perversity of life in suburbia. Father constantly watches TV, Mother creates meals as bland and artificial as TV programs, and the three kids vie for nonexistent parental attention through obsessive rituals. The metafictional "action" shifts between domestic stasis and the shows of the time ('Combat', 'Highway Patrol', 'Bonanza', 'Maverick', etc.). Fantasy sequences combine both, such as Father's participation in a quiz show scandal. White mines nuggets of social criticism: "There was the usual pretty girl...whose function was to escort contestants to the stage and to confuse sexual and commodity lust." Like White's earlier work, this is of inconsistent quality, but is often insightful and delightful. Recommended for medium to large academic and public libraries. Jim Dwyer, California State Univ. Lib., Chico
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 flatbuzzing, or my father was in his recliner, aimed toward the T.V." Intellectual pyrotechnics about America, mass audiences, and the emptiness inside.