At Little Star we consider Tim Parks one of the central writers of the age. His novels—Europa, for instance, and Destiny and Cleaver—forge new literary constructions around narrators who are, on the one hand, intelligent and controlling and, on the other, unstable, revelatory, and self-discovering. His criticism for The New York Review of Books and the London Review of Books has been vital to defining a vigorous modernist aesthetic of the present. His occasional writings for the New York Review blog have reinvigorated (with another NYRB blog regular, Charles Simic) the venerable European feuilleton tradition, with its voice of a literary wanderer, opining with deceptive lightness on the matters of the day. And his ground-breaking memoir Teach Us To Sit Still carried literary reflection on the ancient mind-body problem into startling interior territory.
We’ve been fortunate to publish lots of his work in Little Star (see below) and hope we’ll do more, but for now our attention is mobilized by his highly original, stealthily appearing new book, The Novel: A Survivor Skill. In it he tosses aside the authorial armor once belittled by new critics as the intentional and affective fallacies—the argument that literary meanings transcend human relations between author and reader. In The Novel Parks defiantly writes that literature absolutely proceeds from specific human beings and is received by other human beings who respond, not only with our critical intelligence but also with emotions, fears, prejudices, needs, yearnings, fantasies, intuitions, affinities. His analysis addresses many of the writers central to our time from the question of how we respond to them as a vital human relation.
We feature a dip into The Novel in Little Star Weekly this week. Its introduction, in which we imagine real-life encounters with Joyce, Dickens, Hardy, and Lawrence, appeared on The New Yorker web site last month.
And if this leaves you wanting more, here is other work by Tim Parks from Little Star, some of which we’ll open up as a weekly special as the week unfolds.