Why do we need fiction? Why do books need to be printed on paper, copyrighted, read to the finish? Do we read to challenge our vision of the world or to confirm it? Has novel writing turned into a job like any other? In Where I’m Reading From, the novelist and critic Tim Parks ranges over decades of critical reading—from Leopardi, Dickens, and Chekhov, to Virginia Woolf, D. H. Lawrence, and Thomas Bernhard, and on to contemporary work by Peter Stamm, Alice Munro, and many others—to upend our assumptions about literature and its purpose.
In thirty-seven interlocking essays, Where I’m Reading From examines the rise of the “international” novel and the disappearance of “national” literary styles; how market forces shape “serious” fiction; the unintended effects of translation; the growing stasis of literary criticism; and the problematic relationship between writers’ lives and their work. Through dazzling close readings and probing self-examination, Parks wonders whether writers—and readers—can escape the twin pressures of the new global system and the novel that has become its emblematic genre.
About the Author
Tim Parks has written seventeen novels, including Europa, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and most recently, Painting Death. He is the author of several works of non-fiction, including Italian Neighbors and Italian Ways. Parks has also translated the works of Alberto Moravia, Giacomo Leopardi, and Niccolò Machiavelli, among others, and he is a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books and the London Review of Books. He lives in Italy.
"Parks...seeks to puncture readers’ complacent assumptions about books and publishing in 37 pithy, discerning, adept, witty, and mischievously impertinent inquiries...Parks offers a tart assessment of the Nobel Prize, an intriguing discussion of literary style and what is lost in translation, and provocative forays into the complexities and mysteries of writing and reading, from the influence of “fear and courage” to the conflict between idealism and the need to earn money too—in the autobiographical title essay—what has shaped his literary hunger, perceptions, and preferences. Parks’ bold and subtle, passionate and clever musings on the history and future of books will elicit both umbrage and delight." —Booklist
Selected as one of Publishers Weekly's Top Ten Spring 2015 Literary Biographies, Essays & Criticism titles.
"In this lively collection of 37 essays, novelist and translator Parks, who is also one of the most eloquent and provocative critics, explores a range of topics in contemporary literature and publishing...As the character of the printed word and the nature of reading continue to change, Parks’s essays probe the positive and negative effects of these changes for our reading lives.” —Publishers Weekly
"Why do books matter? British novelist, essayist, translator, and critic Parks considers the current state of writing and reading in short, contemplative literary musings...'Do We Need Stories?' 'Why Finish Books?' 'What's Wrong with the Nobel?' 'Does Money Make Us Write Better?' Readers vexed by such questions will welcome Parks' thoughtful responses."–Kirkus
“Brilliantly skewers the pieties of the literary world.” —Lionel Shriver, Prospect Magazine
“Quietly incendiary.” —Tim Adams, The Observer
“He asks why people want to become writers and his wry and well-evidenced answers are ones that Dr. Johnson would have perfectly well recognized.” —John Mullan, The Guardian
“If by its end you still feel writing is the career for you, then don’t say you were not warned.” —Alan Taylor, Herald Scotland