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Try to Tell the Story
February 3 2009
From one of our most celebrated film critics and historians now comes a beautifully written memoir about his first eighteen years, growing up as an only child in south London in the midforties and late fifties. Told with elegance and restraint, partly from the point of view of a child, partly from that of an adult, it is the story of a lonely, stammering boy cared for by a matriarchy of his mother, grandmother, and an upstairs tenant, Miss Davis, to which he adds an imaginary sister, Sally. At the heart of this story is David Thomsons profound sadness at being abandoned by a cold and distant father who visits only on weekends and keeps, as Thomson later discovers, another household.Thomson gives a vivid picture of London in the aftermath of the war, whether it is his grandmother bringing him to a street corner to see Churchill or the bombed-out houses that still smelled of acrid smoke where, though forbidden, he played. Movies became his great escape, and the worlds revealed in Henry V, Red River, The Third Man, and Citizen Kane were part of his rich imaginative life, one that gained him a scholarship to public and eventually film school. And though his father could never tell his son he loved him, he spent the first part of vacations with him and he came back most weekends, taking Thomson to everything from boxing to cricket matches. But as Thomson admits, I am still, years after his death, bewildered and pained by my father, and trying to love himor find his love for me.Try to Tell the Story is a haunting and unsentimental look at the fragility of family relationships, a memoir of growing up in the absence of a full-time father, with movies and sports heroes as ones only touchstones.
About the Author
David Thomson, author of Have You Seen . . . ? and The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, is a regular contributor to The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times, Movieline, The New Republic, and Salon. He lives in San Francisco.
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