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Category: Fiction
Publisher: McClelland and Stewart 1994
Format: Trade Paperback, 320 pgs.
On Sale Date: July 1994
Book Description
Human Amusements

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.


Review Quotes
"Human Amusements, Wayne Johnston's wise, funny and touching forth novel, about a family more radically transfigured by television than most, demonstrates an unusually thorough and clear-headed understanding of the evolving family/TV dynamic...Would that TV itself were more often as astute, responsible or concerned as this book it has inspired." -- The Globe and Mail

"A novel you won't want to put down...it's a painful, bittersweet read." -- Chronicle-Herald

"This bittersweet novel touches the funny bone and the heart." -- The Edmonton Journal

"Funny, eccentric, and touching...it leaves us nostalgic for a kinder, gentler, mediascape, and the life that went with it." -- The Toronto Star

"Wherever [Johnston's] fictions unfold, his deepest setting is the family, his distinctive skill the creation of those small, significant events that accumulate toward eruptions and landslides few families manage to escape." -- Canadian Literature

"The most subtle and complex picture of violence in the name of love and crossed purposes that Johnston has yet drawn." -- Books in Canada

Copyright 2006 Wayne Johnston