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Sleeping with Strangers: How the Movies Shaped Desire (Hardcover)
On Our Shelves Now
From the celebrated film critic and author of The Biographical Dictionary of Film, an original, seductive account of sexuality in the movies and of how actors and actresses on screen have fed our desire.
Film can make us want things we can not have. But, while sometimes rapturous, the interaction of onscreen beauty and private desire speaks to a crisis in American culture, one that pits delusions of male supremacy against feminist awakening and the spirit of gay resistance. Combining criticism, his encyclopedic knowledge of film history, and memoir, David Thomson examines how film has found the fault lines in traditional masculinity and helped to point the way past it toward a more nuanced understanding of what it means to be a person desiring others. Ranging from advertising to pornography, Rudolph Valentino to Moonlight, Rock Hudson to Call Me By Your Name, Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant to Phantom Thread, Thomson shows us the art and the artists we love under a new light. He illuminates the way in which film as art, entertainment, and business has been a polite cover for a kind of erotic séance. And he makes us see how the way we watch our movies is a kind of training for how we try to live.
About the Author
DAVID THOMSON is the author of The Biographical Dictionary of Film, Moments That Made the Movies, and the pioneering novel Suspects, which was peopled with characters from film.
“More original insights, provocative asides and thought-inducing speculations than several volumes of a less talented writer’s efforts . . . Thomson, a stylist extraordinaire, has written an unaccountable and irresistible book. He reminds us that in a world of increasing sham, movies have the virtue of being instructive, occasionally enlightening shams—to embrace or ignore, as the case may be, but always full of bright dreams, dark visions and glittering possibilities.” —Daphne Merkin, The New York Times Book Review
“Mr. Thomson is the finest film critic at work today . . . [He] is never more bracingly irreverent and disorderly—and funny—than when he sets about subverting the pieties attaching to ‘manly films.’” —John Banville, The Wall Street Journal
“A fearless, personal, revealing and wildly original account . . . a brand new way of looking at movie history—and a brutally frank one, too . . . This, I think, is Thomson’s most powerful book and one of the smartest ever written about sex and the movies.” —Jeff Simon, The Buffalo News
“Literate, frank, and sometimes graphic—another essential volume from an essential writer.” —Kirkus (starred review)
“[Thomson] has been called the greatest living writer about film . . . [He] is at his best when he’s mining . . . hidden veins of meaning, noticing a detail in a familiar film that helps you see the movie in a new way.” —Dana Stevens, The Atlantic
“Unfailingly provocative. Thomson is pretty much a walking encyclopedia of film history, and this is the kind of subject he can really sink his teeth into. Fascinating and illuminating.” —Booklist
“Thomson deploys his encyclopedic knowledge of film so genially and dexterously that readers who are movie aficionados will want to rewatch their favorites through his eyes.” —Publishers Weekly
“A typically concentrated paragraph of David Thomson offers more fervent ideas and intellectual sustenance than many—most?—books. Sleeping With Strangers is a pinwheel of delight revolving around the variegated signals of sexuality and gender identification communicated by the movies and the figures inhabiting them. Thomson makes the two-dimensions of the movies three-dimensional, and you don't have to wear those ridiculous glasses.” —Scott Eyman, author of John Wayne: Life and Legend
“David Thomson never fails to dazzle me with his striking, original, and evocative prose. The man has never had a clichéd thought. His splendid and wonderfully idiosyncratic writing about film is always fascinating, always backlit with love and devotion. Sleeping with Strangers is a beautiful, mysterious book, both learned and wickedly entertaining. It is an intimate, passionate interrogation (and celebration) of how cinema has shaped our erotic imaginations and, ultimately, both our secret and public expressions of desire.” —Dana Spiotta, author of Eat the Document
“Move over darling film books and make room for another irresistible beauty from David Thomson. No writer makes better love to his subject." —Patrick McGilligan, author of Young Orson: The Years of Luck and Genius on the Path to Citizen Kane