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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