TRANSATLANTIC BLUES by Wilfrid Sheed

TRANSATLANTIC BLUES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

As admirers of People Will Always Be Kind and Max Jamison well know, Wilfrid Sheed has an unrivaled arsenal of perceiving lances and comic stink bombs at his disposal; but all those weapons can't quite force us to surrender to his latest, and most patently autobiographical, self-examiner, Monty (nÉ Pendrid) Chatworth. A cross between David Frost, Alistair Cooke, and Edward R. Murrow, Catholic and 50-ish Chatworth is television's Mr. Integrity, yet he has this need, on airplanes especially, to confess--to ""Father Sony,"" his cassette recorder--and Transatlantic Blues is almost entirely devoted to recollections of his transatlantic adolescence. Born terribly English, then jolted to America by his gentleman-spy father's WW II assignment, Chatworth is forever out of place: a ""limey prick"" to his mid-Atlantic schoolmates, a ""solemn American hick, with his Bible and his four-square penis"" on his two return stretches in England. So the usual growing pains--sexual stumbles, religious fever, parental fallibility, sibling friction--are aggravated by Chatworth's rootlessness, and he compensates by becoming a master poseur, adapting accent and attitude to the moment and the company. ""At thirteen, I am already an emotional whore. . . ,"" perfect training for a television commentator. An intriguing dilemma, but, in Monty's jazzy, self-dramatizing, self-deprecating, first-and-third-person ""dithyramb,"" it has no emotional grounding, little dramatic momentum. And, whereas Sheed made three-ring circuses of the political and journalistic worlds that surrounded the heroes of People. . . and Max Jamison, the TV connection here isn't much more than a gimmick, a tease to keep us tuned in while Chatworth collects personae, women (three forgettable liaisons), and mea culpas. Sheed's transatlantic identity crisis (like Chatworth, he emigrated as a boy, returned to Oxford) might have been translated into a thoughtful non-fiction memoir, but, embodied in shifty, shiny Monty Chatworth, it arrives as a minor disappointment, a mildly entertaining wheeze: in Monty's own self-observing words, ""desolately cute.

Pub Date: Jan. 23rd, 1977
Publisher: Dutton