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Try to Tell the Story: A Memoir

David Thomson, Author
David Thomson, Author . Knopf $23.95 (214p) ISBN 978-0-375-41213-4
Reviewed on: 11/03/2008
Release date: 02/01/2009
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Film historian and novelist Thomson (The New Biographical Dictionary of Film ; Suspects ) looks back at his childhood and teen years, beginning with hazy memories of frosty mornings, air-raid shelters in wartime London, fear of bombs and the evacuation of children to the countryside. When the war ended, boys played in bombed-out buildings where staircases stopped in midair: “The living rooms were exposed to the night air, but sometimes suggested that the residents had just left for the moment, like stage sets waiting for the next act.” An only child born in 1941, Thomson talked with an imaginary sister, Sally, as he progressed from reading comic books to listening to BBC dramatizations on the “matchless medium” of radio. Probing personal defeats and triumphs, he reflects on his four years of speech therapy: “Stammering is a silly little thing. It won't kill you, but it'll change the course of your life.” In the heart of this haunting, eloquent memoir, as might be expected, he gets rhapsodic when recalling the films that left an indelible impression on him: Red River , Meet Me in St. Louis , Citizen Kane , East of Eden . While following a film critic in the making, we also see the changing cultural landscape of the 1940s and 1950s through his eyes. (Feb.)

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