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WRITER GETS BACK BETWEEN COVERS AFTER TUBE GETS BLOWN.

Byline: Larry Tritten

I could tell by the look on the TV repairman's face that the prognosis was not good. I took a deep breath and said, ``What seems to be the problem?''

``It's the picture tube,'' he said, and laid a sympathetic hand on the brow of the Trinitron. ``It's shot.''

``Oh,'' I said, and for the next few seconds the single syllable was like a rickety suspension bridge upon which my wavering aplomb shuddered. My suspicion was confirmed. An electronic coronary.

A familiar scene from old movies replayed in my mind: a doctor unwrapping gauze bandages from a nervous patient's eyes: Will I see again? ``How . . . much does a picture tube cost?'' I asked uneasily.

The repairman quoted a figure, and I took half a step backward from its psychic impact. Organ transplants, of course, are not cheap.

``Well, I'll think it over . . .'' I saw him to the door, then came back and stood looking at the mute screen where comedians did shtick, lovers quarreled, cars careered, newscasters discoursed, uniformed titans clashed on playing fields, anthropomorphic animals capered and hucksters vended everything from dog food to diamond necklaces, all in vibrant Sonycolor.

I thought of the iridescent plumage of the NBC peacock, the dazzling MTV logos and the efficacy with which a Sony translates the old three-strip Technicolor to bring to brightly chromatic life the color of Marilyn Monroe's hair, the varied hues of Carmen Miranda's tutti frutti hat, the Wyoming sky in ``Shane'' and so on.

Crossing the room to a book shelf, I took down a mint-condition paperback copy of Larry McMurtry's ``Streets of Laredo.'' I'd bought it after the conclusion of the TV miniseries adaptation of the novel.

I remembered thinking that reading it would be slightly perverse - crossbreeding the literary experience with my video-incarnated memories of its TV adaptation.

It would constitute a not-very-resolute attempt to get back to the joy of reading in lieu of watching too much TV. In any case, my plan to read the book had been undermined by some other miniseries. As a writer, it bothered me to think of what short shrift I'd been giving the print culture since the Sony made its debut.

I remembered bringing the set home years ago and removing it from its box on the living room floor. I remembered calling the set an ``electronic fireplace'' and curling up in front of its iridescent flame for hours at a time.

But then I remembered some other things: the heady bouquet of a vintage book, the pleasant irritation of getting good black print all over my fingertips while reading, the satisfying heft of a substantial volume, the pleasure of generating my own imagery without the help of Norman Lear, CBS or TNT.

And I remembered another scene from an old movie (``Surprise Package'') - David Niven charging across a room to deftly kick out the screen of a TV set.

There were also the images of Wendy O. Williams taking apart a TV set with a sledgehammer in accompaniment to a Plasmatics song. And the very first music video programmed on MTV - the Buggles' ``Video Killed the Radio Star.''

Of course, I realized, the dichotomy need not be characterized in terms of Aristotelian logic - either television or print. This or that.

There is room in the culture for both TV warranties and Ex Libris stickers, for cable TV and book stores, for video rental shops and book clubs. One can by turns play the part of Couch Potato or Book Worm.

Our sensibilities shouldn't be harnessed by any one mode of perception. It's the contrasts of experience that make life interesting.

I turned off the TV set and put McMurtry's book back on the shelf, then took down another book, one whose characters hadn't been cast by a Hollywood director and televised into my consciousness.

The texture of the cover had an almost voluptuous feel. With the book in hand, I went into the kitchen to find something to eat.

I would get a new television set . . . later. In the meantime, I'd never eaten a TV dinner while reading Robert Frost, and I thought the experience might be interesting.
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Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:VIEWPOINT
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 20, 1997
Words:694
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