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. (June) FYI: Half of Dalkey Archives' May issue of the Review of Contemporary Fiction will be devoted to essays on White.
Reviewed on: 06/01/1998 Release date: 06/01/1998 Genre: Fiction