David Thomson

The Observer as Hero
March 21, 2005

ISHERWOOD: A LIFE REVEALED By Peter Parker (Random House, 815 pp., $39.95)  “FIX” IS A WORD FOR OUR time, blunt and secretive, yet promising transformation. If the “fix” is in, don’t we all suffer because of it? When the World Series of 1919 was “fixed,” the game needed Babe Ruth in order to recover. But if we have a bad knee or a car that won’t start, it is a mercy if someone says they can “fix” it for us. That treatment—we hope—doesn’t involve a cheating fix. It must be a true case of repair or restoration.

The Hero Worshipper
November 05, 2001

Fire By Sebastian Junger (W.W. Norton, 224 pp., $24.95) There is a point in Hemingway's Death in the Afternoon where the old lady turns on the writer and asks: "How is it, young man, that you talk so much and write so long about these bullfights and yet are not a bullfighter yourself?" The writer admits that he did try it once or twice—on bulls with blunted horns.

Miracles and Melancholy
March 31, 1986

Astaire Dancing: The Musical Films by W John Mueller (Knopf, 448 pp., $45) Sinatra: My Father By Nancy Sinatra (Doubleday, 340pp., $50) One mercy of living between 1930 and 1960, if you took notice, was the good fortune of having the show put on by Astaire and Frank Sinatra. Not that their worth erased in 1960, when they started to move toward saloon chairs, golf, and more humdrum ways of passing their tune.  You can still see The Gay Divorcee, “Puttin’ on the Ritz” from Blue Skies, or Silk Stockings; and you can listen to In the Wee Small Hours, Songs for Swingin’ Lovers, or Only the Lonely.