By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Your last three novels — Shear, Europaand now Destiny — have been, on one level anyway, explorations of the minds of men in states of extreme tension, obsession, crisis — just short of a crackup, in other words. What is it about these states of mind that makes them particularly fertile territory for the novelist in your opinion?
See above. I suppose all my stories, first to last, are dramas of decision, impossible decision, where the criteria for choice are simply not available, where action will ultimately be an acting out. So you frequently see people doing, for good or evil, something quite different from what they had planned. It’s exciting. Much of my writing can be enjoyed as a comedy at the expense of the ethos of management and the presumption of those who claim to know what is good and what is bad. It’s supposed to be funny, hectic stuff.
A lot of people who would be willing to read earlier novels of yours, such as Tongues of Flame or Home Thoughts, might not relish the challenge of getting through the long, syntactically complicated sentences in Europa and Destiny. What have you gained by writing in this more overtly cerebral style?
And vice versa perhaps. But let’s not exaggerate the change. All these books are novels of voice, and the voice is getting older and more intense. Wittier too, I hope, certainly stronger. In Europa and Destiny you have a pair of minds so fearful of breakdown that they try to impose order in reasoned articulated sentences, only to find other, unwanted thoughts constantly cutting in, invading. Once you’ve got the hang of it, it’s a far easier and faster read than, say, Faulkner or Pynchon, and, I hope, equally exhilarating. “Fizzing with a wild crackpot energy” was the comment I most enjoyed about Destiny. Otherwise, the truth is you write the books you’d like to read if only they were around. And I want a book to be absolutely drenched with mental activity. I want to be seduced into the most extreme awareness.
Europa was described by one feminist publisher in England as “an atrocious piece of penis waving” and got some flak generally for being “misogynistic.” I also understand that an early (unpublished) novel of yours, Leo’s Fire, narrated by a young black man, was picked up by an agent on the assumption that you yourself were black, and then hurriedly dropped when it was discovered that you weren’t. To what extent does “the personal is political” school of thought have an effect on creativity, and how much do you think authors worry about it privately?
The dear lady in question is notoriously invited to the Booker awards program because she can be relied upon to make wildly provocative remarks. Clearly she hadn’t read the book. Sales shot up. It’s hard, it seems to me, for a man or woman to come out of an intense relationship without having a moment here or there of rage toward the opposite sex. The shipwreck may have mostly to do with the helmsman (woman!), but you blame it on the rock. Are we not to be allowed to dramatize that?
In general, I don’t give a toss (as the English say) about this silly sort of criticism. As for “creativity” in general, it will look after itself, it doesn’t need me to worry for it.
What are you working on now?
I have this policy of trying to develop a form and style over two books, and then pushing on. So I’m now involved in a hellishly complicated third-person, action-packed plot which is, as it were, intensely contaminated by the style of Europa and Destiny — to generate a constant sense of lost control. Control, it seems to me, is the myth that underwrites most contemporary narrative, most of all the movie. The plot? The hero is a judge. But it’s not a court-case book. The setting, somewhere, sometime in England. The first sentence which set the whole thought process going: “There is no life without a double life, and yet one wearies.” That should be enough.
Tim Parks will read fromDestiny at Dutton’s Brentwood on Friday, April 28, at 7 p.m., and at Borders Books, 1414 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica, on Sunday, April 30, at 2 p.m. He’ll take part in the panel“Dysfunctional Families, Functional Fiction” at theLos Angeles Times Festival of Books on Saturday, April 29, at 10:30 a.m. Readers curious to learn more about Parks’ work can visit his Web site at www.timparks.com.Destiny | By TIM PARKS | ARCADE PUBLISHING | 249 pages | $25