Sold on ‘Sellevision’

Jan 272010
Authors: Savannah King

Most of the time, when an author steps out of his or her usual genre, it is expected that whatever they write will simply not be quite as good as their usual product.

Augusten Burroughs, who is most famous for autobiographies that document his insane childhood, has managed to defy this stereotype with his only novel, “Sellevision.”

Skipping around from character to character, “Sellevision” documents the lives of several hosts who work for a home shopping network in the form of pure satire.

There are four main characters whose lives each make up a subplot that weaves into one large, demented story.

Through their lives, Burroughs focuses on the sheer amount of insane media hype that surrounds trivial details, and pokes fun at the illicit or just plain stupid activities of everyday life.

Affairs, compulsive consumerism, Internet dating, even the porn industry are brought up and ridiculed. Absolutely nothing is too taboo.

While not one of his award-winning biographies, this novel is still classic Burroughs: mean-spirited and sarcastic, as well as disturbing and pointed enough to make you squirm ever so slightly.

However, this time the scathing comments are no longer directed at Burroughs’ own life, but at the reader’s.

His commentary rings true for most people –– okay, maybe not the porn industry part, but everyone can relate to being sabotaged by a friend or family member, to overspending on crap they don’t need, to falling in love with someone unattainable.

Burroughs just blows it so out of proportion that readers can’t help but notice the flaws these people have, while probably ignoring some similar ones that happen during most people’s daily life.

Commence the squirming.

The amount of self that a reader will see in this novel is disturbing and ridiculous. No one likes looking in the mirror, but Burroughs is rather insistent about that.

Not that he condemns such behavior. Interestingly enough, he seems to take a wicked delight in the shallow workings of everyday people.

This makes for an interesting dichotomy: A book that reveals the nasty inner workings of society, but has a strangely accepting and positive outlook on it.

After all, whether we want to admit it or not, we all enjoy a little bit of mean humor in our lives.

Book reviewer Savannah King can be reached at

 Posted by at 5:44 pm

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