Hopefully, nobody will mind my jumping in late in the week as well. I read the previous posts with interest because out of all the books I've read for the LBC so far, I think Television is my favorite. The posts this week have been great, and they've touched on some elements of the book that hadn't occurred to me, providing much food for thought. But we haven't yet discussed our narrator and protagonist beyond Sam's comments that, like other Toussaint heroes he is "detached, emotionally muted, static."
To me though, the hero of Television was this and much more. As I read the book I slotted it away in my mental library alongside several books that share comic heroes who are more than a little pathetic. Our hero reminded me most of Jim Dixon from Kingsley Amis' Lucky Jim, but I also saw in him Tommy Wilhelm from Saul Bellow's Seize the Day, and even in his more brooding moments, Binx Bolling from Walker Percy's The Moviegoer. To be honest, I saw the narrator's decision to quit watching television as a smoke screen to distract us and himself from his lack of ambition. Of course, as books like Television and Lucky Jim show, to those of us stuck in a work- and results-obsessed culture, a novel about a charmingly inept hero who manages to skate by in life with little effort is pure escapism and a delight to read.
What was most interesting to me, when comparing Television to other books in the hapless male protagonist genre, is the lack of consequences for this book's hero. I chalked it up to a European thing - the Continent in particular since Lucky Jim shows us how uptight Jolly Old England is. If I may generalize, were this same narrator stuck in an American book his actions would be fraught with consequences and people passing judgement. Tommy Wilhelm elicits disgust from his father, while Jim Dixon strives mightily to avoid the disapproval of his colleagues and students, but for our hero, these concerns barely enter his mind, and his loving Delon never chides him for his slacking.
I don't know what we as readers are supposed to make of this man who, though ostensibly under pressure to complete his study of Titan Vecellio, leads such a blissful, meandering life. The copy on the back of the book described him as an anti-hero, but in his ability to not get wrapped up in the expectations placed on him, he was my hero.