Sellevision, by Augusten Burroughs

Seven stars

Welcome to Sellevision! In an era when all your shopping can be done from your couch comes the premiere retail shopping network, complete with its collection of on-air personalities. Each host has their own personal story and collection of foibles, some of which Burroughs develops into vignettes, amusing the reader as he spins tribulations out of the most vapid situations. From the host whose live crotch cameo cost him his job to the woman who thought she could secure a position at Sellevision by sleeping with the boss, there is nothing that Burroughs considers out of bounds, allowing these hosts to stumble along and find their own ways. With any celebrity comes a collection of fans who become obsessed, some to the point of writing and pointing out minute flaws that might best be addressed before the next on-air appearance, which can only push some to the brink of insanity, as is depicted by another host, though she can barely see the forest for the trees. Burroughs seeks to personify those who make their living in front of the camera, even if the depths of their celebrity comes from speaking about the latest earrings or bangles. In this poignant poke at the faux-drama and importance of on-air shopping, Burroughs delivers something to cut the tension out of any busy day.

Having recently discovered Augusten Burroughs, I was drawn first to his memoir trilogy, which opened my eyes to the pains and struggles the author faced. However, in the third volume, there is much mention of this book, his first experiment into the world of published writing. The attentive reader who has also tackled the memoirs will see parallels from Burroughs’ life in this story, with some of the same humour he offered in that personal writing. There is no doubt that Burroughs thumbs his nose and mocks on-air shopping, but it is equally apparent that he wants to tell a story of a collection of people who must face their own issues and process things in their own manner. With wonderful characters and zany humour, Burroughs offers the reader a break from the heavier reading out there or the NYT acclaimed novels while adding his own flavour to the lighter side of life.

Kudos, Mr. Burroughs for this look into the life of those whose greatest worry is pancake foundation and missed director cues.