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Television Paperback – March 1, 2007

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press; 3rd edition (March 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1564783723
  • ISBN-13: 978-1564783721
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #682,550 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"I quit watching television." Thus begins this amusing, absurdist seventh novel by Toussaint (The Bathroom; Monsieur), in which an academic on sabbatical in Berlin struggles to shut off his set, only to become hyper-attuned to the medium's pervasiveness. With his pregnant girlfriend and son off to Italy on vacation, the unnamed narrator is free to devote himself to his monograph on Titian. Or so he believes, but he is distracted by doing nothing ("Doing nothing, contrary to what people rather simplistically imagine, is a thing that requires method and discipline") and exhausted by watching the French Open ("I was no longer physically up to five sets of tennis"), finally realizing that he must give up television. This doesn't help him make much progress on his monograph, but it does give him time to muse on his nonviewing: he reads the television listings, watches himself in the reflection of the darkened screen and realizes that Titian's initials are T.V. To read Toussaint's episodic, curiously mesmerizing tale is like channel surfing, as the narrator moves from precise descriptions of the "lacquered pedestal" on which the television sits to slapstick scenes of everyday life. Like a good producer, Toussaint knows when to roll the credits, and his short novel integrates sharp insight with gentle humor.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Toussaint's humor is always welcome, especially in contrast to the seriousness of most recent French literature. Here his protagonist is in Berlin on a grant to write a monograph about Titian's German connections, but he is continually distracted by television. While his pregnant wife and child are traveling in Italy, he stops watching, but then begins to view the world as an ongoing TV show in which he half-participates. Neighbors ask him to water their plants while they are away, and he neglects the plants for weeks. His few interactions with others--including a naked walk through a clothing-optional park with his grant donor and Dutch writer Cees Nooteboom--are truncated, almost soundless, and entered unwillingly. He loosens his conception of "working" to the point where anything, including swimming laps, is considered valid, as long as he is thinking about his project. Toussaint's speaker's tone throughout is charmingly flat, with bursts of drollery, making this an easily digested but memorable walk through contemporary life. Max Winter
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ken Miller on July 21, 2005
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.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Taoist on March 30, 2006
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.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Debra Hamel VINE VOICE on September 6, 2008
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.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By G. Dawson on August 14, 2008
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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