— Captive Audience —
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.
“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