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Human Amusementsby Wayne Johnston
Synopses & Reviews
Offering further evidence of his astounding range as a novelist, the bestselling author of The Colony of Unrequited Dreams and The Navigator of New York crafts a hilarious and moving paean to the dawn of the television age. Henry Prendergast grew up on television—not merely watching it, but starring in the wildly popular childrens show “Rumpus Room.” Cast in the roles of Bee Good and Bee Bad by his mother Audrey, the shows creator, Henry came of age along with the new medium—one that would soon propel his family out Torontos middle-class life and into the tabloids.
Henrys father Peter, a would-be novelist, refuses to have any part in his wifes burgeoning television empire, but commits himself instead to the task of being a walking, talking—mostly scathing—reminder of the familys “humble beginnings.” Then, on the heels of Rumpus Room, Audrey dreams up The Philo Farnsworth Show, loosely based on the life story of the young teen credited with inventing the tube and starring Henry in the lead role. Rapidly amassing a cult-like following of “Philosophers,” the show challenges the Prendergasts anew. Forced into increasing isolation by a fervent media, they must work harder than ever to not let success get the best of them.
Wayne Johnston's fourth novel - and the only one to be set outside Newfoundland - is a hilarious send-up of television's early days, capturing all the nostalgia and innocence of the time.
It is the late 1950s and in lower middle-class Toronto, Audrey Prendergast, whose love for her family blinds her to all else, sees the new medium of television as the only means of climbing the social ladder. And climb it the Prendergasts begin to do when Audrey launches a children's show called Rumpus Room, starring herself as Miss Mary and her young son Henry as Bee Good/Bee Bad. When the program becomes an overnight sensation, and the Prendergasts' world begins to change, much to the chagrin of Audrey's husband, Peter, family comedian and would-be novelist. Determined to keep his family anchored in reality, Peter refuses to have anything to do with Rumpus Room and throws all his energy into writing his novel and doing an almost non-stop and hilarious commentary on modern culture.
When Audrey's second television series - the Philo Farnsworth Show - becomes a huge success, things begin to break down. Based on the real-life inventor of the television set, the show becomes a kind of camp classic, attracting a group of fanatic followers who call themselves "Philosophers" and more or less worship the teenage Henry. Sorrow and comedy mingle and blend as the Prendergasts struggle to retain their innocence and love for one another in the maelstrom of their changing lives.
About the Author
Wayne Johnston is the author of several novels, including The Colony of Unrequited Dreams and The Divine Ryans, and the memoir Baltimores Mansion. He was born and raised in Newfoundland and now lives in Toronto.
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