Books by Wilfrid Sheed

Released: July 3, 2007

"More flat than sharp."
The masters of American popular song sit for a series of often-flawed profiles. Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 1995

Prolific novelist and critic Sheed recounts his winning battles with polio, cancer, and what he calls ``addiction- depression'' in this lucid, gently humorous memoir. Like William Styron, Sheed (My Life as a Fan, 1993, etc.) suffered clinical depression instigated by a dependence on alcohol (and, in Sheed's case, pills). Unlike Darkness Visible, Styron's harrowing account of the descent into madness, Sheed's reckoning emphasizes recovery more than illness—the joyful daylight of health after the dark night of disease. For Sheed, a childhood- polio survivor who contends that ``suffering carries its own antidote,'' the battle royal is against addiction and depression; in comparison, cancer and polio seem mere tests of his considerable, gruff will. That will and his healthy respect for the strength ordinary mortals summon in life-threatening circumstances are severely tried by attempts to kick sleeping pills. Sheed chafes at the one-disease-fits-all absolutism and AA platitudes espoused at a Betty Fordstyle rehab center. A man of redoubtable bonhomie, he rejects the call to abandon the old, good life—a wise choice, since desire to recapture that joie de vivre (sans booze and pills) is his strongest motivation for recovering. Seeking a ``simple physical explanation'' for the deterioration of mind and body, Sheed finds only ``airy-fairy'' talk on his rounds of MDs and shrinks. The appalling ignorance and indifference he encounters from doctors (he avoids prostate surgery only after a second opinion pinpoints Prozac as the source of a bladder problem; the first doctor never bothered to ask about medication) push Sheed to fashion his own vocabulary for describing his illness. Along the way he decries the culture of victimization America embraces, replacing it with a vision of ordinary people capable of ``latent heroism.'' Sheed's plainspoken, self-deprecating memoir forges a realistic but hopeful record of addiction-depression's long arc that may well serve those suffering from it. Read full book review >
MY LIFE AS A FAN by Wilfrid Sheed
Released: June 1, 1993

The prolific Sheed (Baseball and Lesser Sports, 1991, and many others) on his childhood love of baseball, pitched with typical Sheedian wit and warmth. As a kid, Sheed had the baseball bug bad. This makes him no different from any American sandlot Johnny—except that Sheed was a British boy, tossed across the Atlantic at the age of nine in the initial throes of WW II. Moreover, any sports interest at all was a decided oddity in his ``egghead'' family. So when, in 1941, he discovered America's pastime, it became something of an obsession, a fetishistic frenzy of statistics and idolatries. His baseball heart grew larger as he aged: At first caught by the miserable Philadelphia Athletics, it expanded to take in the St. Louis Cardinals' Gas House Gang (Dizzy and Daffy Dean, et al.) and then the wacky, benighted Brooklyn Dodgers, rooting for which Sheed likens to taking ``the losing side in the Thirty Years War'' (a cross that Sheed carried until the ``diabolical'' Walter O'Malley heisted the Dodgers to California in 1958). Sheed enthuses about Leo Duroucher (``the name of his game was Uproar''); the ``miracle'' of Ted Williams; the fat bat of Jimmy Foxx. Quirky truths tumble out: that ``the teams that break your heart are the ones that play in funny stadiums'' (Cubs, Red Sox); that the advent of the slider was the ``Great Divide'' between the ancient and modern eras, a Rubicon that Williams and Musial crossed with ease but that ruined DiMaggio; that, truth be told, a 12-year-old understands baseball to its depths, and adult insight adds nothing to the mix. A true fan, with eyes wandering now and then to football (but ``football was work, like plowing snow; baseball was play'') and other sports, yet ever faithful to ``the perfect game, the one they play in heaven.'' Read full book review >
Released: June 5, 1991

Thirty years' worth of Sheed's shining sports essays, harvested from sources as diverse as The New York Review of Books and TV Guide. As the title indicates, about half of the nearly 40 pieces here deal with the author's first love, baseball, with several more devoted to sportswriting and a few covering football, cricket, golf, tennis, soccer, and boxing—including ``The Anti- Boxer Revolution,'' Sheed's reasoned defense of that sport (``Danger and beauty are not incompatible''). Throughout—in essays on the baseball strike of 1980, Ted Williams and Jackie Robinson, the Hall of Fame (put in Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose, Sheed argues), Howard Cosell (this roasting subtitled ``A Riddle Wrapped Up in a So-Called, Self-Appointed Enigma''), violence in football- -the author's good-humored, critically astute caring for sports persuades you of the truth of his introductory comment: ``Baseball and other sports are alternatives to life, stories we tell ourselves to take our minds off life but also to add something to it, as art does.'' And as Sheed's artful sportswriting does, too. Read full book review >