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Manny Rayner's book reviews

I love reviewing books - have been doing it at Goodreads, but considering moving here.

Currently reading

The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence For Evolution
Richard Dawkins
R in Action
Robert Kabacoff
Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies
Douglas R. Hofstadter
McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture
Harold McGee
Epistemic Dimensions of Personhood
Simon Evnine
Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning (Information Science and Statistics)
Christopher M. Bishop
Relativity, Thermodynamics and Cosmology
Richard C. Tolman
The Cambridge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition
Julia Herschensohn, Martha Young-Scholten

Lili Regarde Trop La Télé

Lili Regarde Trop La Télé - Dominique de Saint Mars, Serge Bloch
Other people who enjoyed The Shallows may well go for this book. Lili is suffering from media addiction, though in this case it's TV rather than the Internet. On the first page, we see her sitting alone, glued to the boob tube. Dad comes in looking sleepy.

"It's the middle of the fucking night!" he just about manages not to say.

"This is a really good wildlife program..." says Lili, but she's made to go to bed. Next morning they all tease her, but she doesn't care. She goes off to school to talk soaps with Clara, her best friend. Clara understands her!

But Lili's on a downward spiral. Pretty soon, she can't play with Clara any more - she's always looking at the TV out of the corner of her eye. And then she says she can't meet her at all, because she'll miss a program. Clara's upset by this, but even more worried than she's upset.

It gets worse and worse. Matters come to a head when Mom goes out, leaving Lili alone in the house.

"Remember I'm expecting a parcel!" she says as she leaves. "Make sure that you open the door when the mailman calls!" But Lili's now a square-eyed addict. She doesn't react when the doorbell rings. She doesn't react when the mailman calls their phone from his mobile. She doesn't even react when the dog pees on the rug!

Mom comes home and freaks out. She's going to take drastic action. But Lili, desperate to preserve some self-respect, comes up with a brilliant plan.

"TV isn't all bad!" she says confidently. "You can learn a lot from documentaries. I'll show you."

"Oh yeah?" says Mom. Lili goes off and borrows Valentine's camcorder. She and Max whisper and giggle. The parents can't figure out what's going on, but at least Lili isn't watching TV all the time now - there's clearly an upside to it.

The reader can see the idea taking shape. Mom and Dad are sitting drowsily on the sofa, half-watching a movie. Max feeds them leading questions, while Lili films everything from behind a curtain. Soon they have a bunch of good footage. They go back to Valentine's place, where her father has promised to help with the editing.

The next day, Mom and Dad find the kids glued to the TV again.

"So what are you watching now?" asks Mom, completely falling for the trap.

"It's an, ah, rather special documentary..." says Lili. And there are the parents, virtually asleep but unable to tear themselves from the TV, while Max asks them why they aren't going to bed.

Dad isn't sure he likes it, and is about to get mad. Lili's totally in charge of the situation.

"It's not just directed against you, it's against ourselves as well!" she says. (Do French eight year olds really talk like this??) She holds all the trumps, and the parents have to admit she's won. But then Dad realises that he's not completely out of resources.

"Maybe you could lend us the camcorder when you're finished with it?" he asks with a satanic grin. Evidently inter-generational reasing in Lili's household is about to move to a new level. It's a typically cute ending!