The Virgin debuts today.

The Virgin debuts today.
Twenty men meet a 26-year-old virgin and compete for her affections—and her virginity—on the new reality series The Virgin, which debuts today. Except it’s not on TV: “The Virgin” is a new novel by Erik Barmack, with lots of words and no pictures. Despite its remarkable similarities to the reality of unscripted TV, and to another reality show debuting this week (The Bachelorette, ahem), The Virgin is a work of fiction. Still, Erik Barmack’s debut knows reality TV well, and takes us behind the scenes into a world where producers pick the clothes for the cast and conduct heavy-handed OTFs (“on the fly” interviews) during which the cast must speak in the “Precious Present” tense. Producers rename cast members and the executive producer even threatens the cast: “If you line-cross [by talking to the crew], I’ll mess with your story line. In other words, I’ll make you look like an asshole.”

The story is narrated by one of the virgin’s suitors, a man (Joseph Erin Braun) who decides, with the help of a friend, to construct an identity (“Jeb Brown”) solely for the show. It’s an intriguing set-up that becomes more complex once he meets the mysterious Virgin herself. In addition to the engaging story, Barmack gives us an examination of masculinity, identity, and celebrity. Most of all, though, despite its satirical bent and over-the-top caricatures, “The Virgin” is a work that gives us a fully formed perspective about the creation of reality television that we’ve not yet seen. This first-hand account of living in a house with strangers and cameras everywhere lets us experience reality TV from the inside. Even if it is fiction, it’s definitely pulled from reality, sort of like reality TV itself.
+ also: Read the first chapter.

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