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Publisher's Summary

An intimate portrait of a marriage intertwined with a meditation on reality TV that reveals surprising connections and the meaning of an authentic life. A Vintage original.

In Lucas Mann's trademark vein - fiercely intelligent, self-deprecating, brilliantly observed, idiosyncratic, personal, funny, and infuriating - Captive Audience is an appreciation of reality television wrapped inside a love letter to his wife, with whom he shares the guilty pleasure of watching "real" people bare their souls in search of celebrity.

Captive Audience resides at the intersection of popular culture with the personal; the exhibitionist impulse, with the schadenfreude of the vicarious, and in confronting some of our most suspect impulses achieves a heightened sense of what it means to live an authentic life and what it means to love a person.

©2018 Lucas Mann (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“If Mann doesn't quite elevate reality TV to an art form - and that’s unlikely his intention - he makes a persuasive argument for readers to sit up and take notice. The cultural implications are perhaps more potent than we’d like to believe. An immensely captivating consideration of reality TV and a moving reflection on marriage.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“I’m an ardent admirer of Lucas Mann’s work. Captive Audience shows us how to do ‘media criticism’ the right way or rather the wrong way, the more electric and exciting way: The target is never out there; it’s in here. A galvanizing, illuminating, and nervy book.” (David Shields, author of Other People and Reality Hunger)

“Exuberantly intelligent and thoughtfully romantic, Captive Audience is an ode to two of America’s favorite pastimes: falling in love, and watching ourselves on TV. With uncommon insight and humor, Lucas Mann weaves a textile of analysis, feeling, and good old-fashioned voyeurism that not only captivates but entertains.” (Alexandra Kleeman, author of You Too Can Have a Body like Mine)

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What a way to alienate your "audience"

Within 5 minutes I knew the author must have an MFA. I was 100% sure because it’s that kind of writing. I googled. Yep, MFA. I almost stopped there. Then it got worse, he switched to the second person. You, you, you, you. Had I known that, I would never have gotten this book. It’s a letter to his wife, a very literary memoir/meditation on reality TV, and very literary academic writing. The three do not work together.

I’d’ve preferred a straight memoir in the first person or a less literary academic book about reality TV—not a letter to his wife. The “you” was an insurmountable issue for me and I had absolutely zero interest in his wife or any story that had to do with her because we as the reader are excluded by the fact that it’s addressed to her. He doesn’t have to fill in any blanks for her, but as the reader, I was completely unmoored. I had very little idea when and where this took place, who his wife was (I’m not sure he ever names her, though I confess I was lulled to sleep more than once by the author’s monotone narration. The upside is that he reads very fast.), etc.

The book was very fractured. Even within chapters it felt like vignettes. Yes, there were some through-lines (the author’s self-loathing was one of them, the “gaze” was another), but nothing seemed to hang together very well—my utter annoyance (and falling asleep) may have prevented me from feeling like the book was in any way cohesive, but I doubt it.

It’s too bad because there were some little chunks now and then that were very interesting (none of which included “you”), such as the parts when he’s teaching, the parts about the Kardashians, which surprised me because I have never watched that show and have no interest in it. Most of the shows Mann is obsessed with I’ve never seen but his thoughts, analysis, description of them were usually the most interesting part of the book if he didn’t go too far off into lovely, lyrical, literary language land. But unfortunately, a lot of the time he did.

I should give it more stars because Mann can really write and analyze. Those who like more "experimental" forms of writing and lovely language will probably quite like the book.

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