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Television Paperback – 1 Mar 2005

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press; Third edition (1 Mar. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1564783723
  • ISBN-13: 978-1564783721
  • Product Dimensions: 14.1 x 1.4 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 535,743 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


"Toussaint is an original and significant writer, whose fiction can be as engaging as it is surprising." --Times Literary Supplement

"Its studied neutrality turns out to conceal impressive intelligence, deep-seated metaphysical anxiety and real passion. The Bathroom is a powerful, sympathetic debut." --London Review of Books

"Darkly comic." --New York Times

About the Author

Jean-Philippe Toussaint is the author of seven novels, including The Bathroom and Monsieur, both of which have been published in English translation. His work has been compared to that of Samuel Beckett, Jacques Tati, Ivan Oblomov, and the films of Jim Jarmusch.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a very cool, detached but humorous account of a writer's complex and conflicted account with television. Very, very enjoyable.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great service and item. Cheers
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program) 4.1 out of 5 stars 4 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars hardly working 21 July 2005
By Ken Miller - Published on
Format: Paperback
Imagine: you are on sabbatical in Berlin, expecting to begin work on a monograph about the painter Titian. Your family is away on holiday. You've had it with television, and you've decided to give it up. But television is everywhere, as are its cousins: video monitors, surveillance cameras, etc. Such is the premise of this novel, Television, by Jean-Philippe Toussaint.

Like Toussaint's novels _Monsieur_ and _The Bathroom_, Television is about a rather pathetic everyman-sort of protagonist. He gives up television (or so we think?). He can't begin to get past the first two words of his Titian monograph. He hangs out with his friend John Dory. He visits an art museum. He swims at a nude beach. John Dory and the protagonist take an airplane ride over the city. His neighbors are away on holiday, and they would like him to water their houseplants. He can't quite remember to do that. Ostensibly on a plant-watering trip, he watches television in their home, and rationalizes that he never meant to give it up completely (what if the Olympic 100M dash were televised, and he wished to watch that 10 seconds of broadcast? should he deny himself that? a measly 10 seconds?).

Toussaint's protagonist seems very likeable, very anti-heroic, and very human: warts, foibles, and all. The musings on television (as passive entertainment, as constant companion, as whatever) are not tiresome at all. They are a welcome complement to the plot, such as it is. Among Toussaint's special gifts is a reserve, a distance that he places between himself and the actions of his characters and scenes. At the same time, the minutiae of those scenes are vividly realized.

_Television_ is very funny, and it is quite well written.

Toussaint has become one of my favorite novelists. Highly recommended.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Funny in parts, but it drags 6 Sept. 2008
By Debra Hamel - Published on
Format: Paperback
The protagonist and narrator of Jean-Philippe Toussaint's novella has decided to stop watching TV. On sabbatical in Berlin, and living off of grant money, Toussaint's unnamed antihero is supposed to be working on a book--a monograph having to do with Titian and Charles V. Television, distracting as it is, must go. But the narrator's continued interest in TV, whatever his noble intentions, runs through the rest of the narrative. Still, the book isn't so much about television and its pull as it about the protagonist's continued procrastination, even with the TV off, his literary paralysis. In the course of the summer, plagued by doubts about whether to refer to the painter as "Titian" or "le Titain" in his book, he manages to write only two words: "When Musset." He is inordinately pleased with them.

Toussaint's book is amusing at times, as when the writer runs into the man who gave him his grant money at a nude beach. And Toussaint writes very well about his narrator's failure to write:

"Sitting on the couch in the living room, I then began to muse on the little problem that had been occupying my mind on and off for what would soon be three weeks, which is to say the name I should give Titian in my monograph, and I tried to console myself for not having made a definitive choice by observing that, paradoxically, what would truly have justified the accusation of avoiding my work and enjoying an easy summer in Berlin would surely have been settling straight down to write without fully considering the question of the artist's name, and that in fact I had every reason to be pleased with myself for having, in a spirit of scholarly scrupulousness and perfectionism, maintained myself for nearly three weeks in a state of perpetual readiness to write, without taking the easy way out and actually doing so."

The best and funniest part of the book by far, however, is the drama connected with the narrator's agreement to water his neighbors' plants while they're away, a task he sees to with the assiduity he applies to his writing.

But for the most part the book drags, with a great number of episodes that don't seem to have much point to them except to underline that the narrator still isn't writing (e.g., the flight around Berlin, the trip to a museum). The book is short, but I found myself wishing it was shorter, or that a larger percentage of it had to do with watering plants.

-- Debra Hamel
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars VERY entertaining 30 Mar. 2006
By Taoist - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book is a lot of fun to read, and the English translation, while I can't vouch for faithfulness to the original, is very good. If anything, a translation enhances the sense of seeing the story through a telescopic lens, as we are, as is the narrator himself. His musings on how television is the enemy of thought are a delight, while at the same time his obsession with television never ends. Many other parts are laugh out loud funny. Less than 200 pages, not too much heavy lifting. Of course we never hear about that Titian paper, whether it's completed, but that's ok.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 4.5 out of 5: An everyday, mundane, and delightfully humorous life 14 Aug. 2008
By G. Dawson - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is an amusing novella about a man on a sabbatical in Berlin, hoping to work on his "monograph" about Titan, who gives up watching television. The book demonstrates the pervasiveness of television in society. A wry glimpse into an everyday, mundane, and delightfully humorous life, which is unrecognized by the narrator. Delightful if a bit frothy.
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