cover image The TV Sutras

The TV Sutras

Dodie Bellamy. Ugly Duckling Presse (SPD, dist.), $18 trade paper (236p) ISBN 978-1-937027-39-1

In this immersive ritual, Bellamy (Cunt Norton) melds meditation and television in order to combat “a crisis of urban bombardment,” offering commentary and guidance to the men, women, and products of the boob tube. Bellamy’s anonymous, disembodied treatment of commercial advertising stands among her best work, bristling with the cool, insidious language of consumerism as the sales pitch is separated from the product: “Who says you have to have 12 periods a year on the pill?” asks a birth control ad, anticipating a “Montage of young women repeating, ‘Who says.’ ” Bellamy’s aphoristic sutras venture into unpredictable territory, like the tampon ad that spurs a comment of “Think of all the friends you’ve fallen out with.” Occasionally, Bellamy’s commentaries can feel too assured of their pronouncements, veering into rhetoric one might find on the underside of a bottle cap: “Take in the glory of each breath,” she writes, “its preciousness.” But this shortcoming is overpowered by the book’s closing piece, “Cultured”; a fascinating tour through Bellamy’s “days in a cult,” conversations about art with her husband, and her personal arguments for “new age” sloganizing as a significant form for the sutra to adopt. The book’s two halves would seem to be as different as TV and meditation, but Bellamy somehow makes it work. (May)