Captive Audience (Vintage)
An intimate portrait of a marriage intertwined with a mediation on reality TV and what it means to live an authentic life.
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.
Praise for Captive Audience
“I was initially drawn to Captive Audience’s smashing critical analysis and savvy pop culture apologies, but what I ended up cherishing most of all is this book’s vivid portraiture. Mann has writtevn a soulful recounting of not just a decade of watching reality TV as it has evolved past entertainment into something more complex, public, and even sinister, but a story of doing so alongside another person—a beloved life partner, nonetheless, with whom his shared reality also evolves and deepens. Who could have imagined that one of the most evocative love stories I’ve read in ages would be mixed into heady investigations of Joe Millionzaire, COPS, and Vanderpump Rules?”—Elena Passarello, author of Animals Strike Curious Poses
“Over and over again, while reading Captive Audience, I was struck by Lucas Mann’s refusal to be satisfied by the insights that might satisfy another writer. Instead, he questions each of these insights: digs under it, complicates it, wonders why he felt inspired to utter it, wonders if its opposite might be just as true. The idea of epiphany makes him restless, but this restlessness is a gift to the rest of us. And running like a passionate ribbon through all of his ferocious questioning—about authenticity, presence, self-awareness and self-possession—is an unapologetic love story, full of the daily performances and unexpected grace of reality itself.”—Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams
“This is book is about what it means to see and be seen. And more: it is about what it means to see and be seen in love. Lucas Mann always writes openly, even ecstatically, at the boundaries of the essay form. Captive Audience offers the pleasure of reading all these things: memoir, lucid cultural analysis, TV Guide, journalism, and, most of all, glorious love letters hurting with shared joys and naked vulnerability.”—Amitava Kumar, author of Immigrant, Montana
“There is no cultural critic in America like Lucas Mann. Perhaps that’s because he turns on the television and sees what you don’t—in the vulgar and striving world of reality television, he finds beauty and heart in the ambition that drove these over-tanned and underfed people to perform for us—and that brought us in to watch. Mann’s voice is filled with empathy, irony, and a tenderness that will make you laugh and then ache, sometimes within the span of a single, perfectly constructed sentence. Captive Audience is the definitive book on the aging but perennially renewed genre of reality TV, and there isn’t an author alive who could have written it better.”—Kristen Radtke, author of Imagine Only Wanting This
“Lucas Mann's Captive Audience is brilliant. From his funny, poignant ruminations on trashy TV to his quest to truly know his wife and to see himself through her eyes, Mann has deftly created a new kind of entertainment: a relationship that's as addictive to witness as the best kinds of reality television, only real.” —Lindsay Hunter, author of Eat Only When You're Hungry
“Epistolary writing is custom-made for immodesty and oversharing, the kinds of filter-less self-display, as Lucas Mann shows us, that we happen to want from reality TV stars. But in this epistle to his wife, Mann explores their shared enthusiasm for reality television and proves there is insight and virtue to be found in examining the desire to be seen. He gets closer to that dimension of intimacy and love, in fact, than any spotlight-seeker yet who has beguiled us from our most private screens.” —Gregory Pardlo, author of Air Traffic and Digest
Lucas Mann was born in New York City and received his MFA from the University of Iowa. He is the author of Lord Fear and Class A: Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere. His latest book, Captive Audience, will be published in the US by Vintage in May 2018. His essays have appeared in Guernica, BuzzFeed, Slate, and The Kenyon Review, among others. He teaches creative writing at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth and lives in Providence, Rhode Island with his wife. More at www.lucasmann.com.
photo by Piquant Photo
Joy Press has been writing about TV for more than fifteen years. In the 2000s, she was the chief television critic at The Village Voice. She later served as entertainment editor of Salon and then as an editor at the Los Angeles Times, where in addition to commissioning television coverage, she wrote and reported features on the medium. She has contributed to publications such as New York Magazine, The New York Times, Slate, Vogue, Salon, and The Guardian. She lives in Los Angeles.