A comprehensive look at a multifaceted modern man of letters
Described by the late poet and essayist Joseph Brodsky as "the best British author writing today," Tim Parks is as prolific a journalist, critic, and translator as he is a novelist. In Understanding Tim Parks, Gillian Fenwick explores Parks's body of work and maintains that Parks is the epitome of the modern man of letters.
The novels that Parks set in his English homeland—such as Loving Roger, Home Thoughts, and Family Planning—are complex texts treading between tragedy and comedy. Fenwick asserts that Parks's heroes and heroines are real people who make readers empathize with them and their indecision.
Parks's writing crosses genres as well as international boundaries. Fenwick argues that Parks's Italian sojourn of the past twenty years has brought a richness to his work. Wanting no part of saccharine treatments of la dolce vita, Parks has in Italian Neighbours and An Italian Education described ordinary, at times frustrating, life in Italy with a touch of cynicism. Parks establishes himself as an "Englishman in Verona"—he sees his home country with an increased objectivity but is not quite fully assimilated into his new country. At the same time, his time in Italy has allowed him a much broader, European perspective: his novels Shear and Europa, which are set on the Continent and feature characters of several European nationalities, capture his enlarged European scope.
From Parks's novels and nonfiction books to his translations and journalism, Fenwick reckons with Parks's full literary range and sheds light on the work of a versatile English writer whose international recognition is steadily growing.
Gillian Fenwick is an assistant professor of English at the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada. She is the author of George Orwell: A Bibliography and Leslie Stephen's Life in Letters: A Bibliographical Study. Fenwick lives in Toronto.