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...it would be possible to rearrange his life, if only he were someone else...,
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This review is from: Adultery and Other Diversions (Paperback)
Adultery, versus "the long-haul mechanics of marriage" is the subject which tops and tails this very engaging series of short essays. "Literary essays" said one review, "with all the clarity and sensual detail of great fiction." And I would definitely concur. The touch is light, but not without deeper elements. In his essay on Adultery Parks says: "I suppose what fascinates me about divorce is how tied up it is with our loss, our intelligent loss, of any sense of direction, of any supposed system of values that might be worth more than our own immediate apprehension of whether we are happy or not. We are not ignorant enough to live well, too arrogant to let old conventions decide things for us. Put it another way: for many, and especially for men, I think, who do not bear children and do not breast-feed them afterwards, the only thing that is immediately felt to be sacred, the only meaningful intensity, or the last illusion, is passion."
In another essay, entitled "Rancour," Parks looks back on his early writing years when publication was hard to come by and partly through the lens of an encounter with V S Naipaul, he looks back on his hero-worship of Henry Green and Samuel Beckett. Why is it, he asks, that writing is a phenomenon galvanised by anger. "One day I shall bury you all" he thinks as he leaves the scene of yet another gentle but nonetheless unmistakably discouraging critique at the hands of his nice lady tutor. The seat of this rancour is unmistakably self-seeking, yet forgiveable, far more than the divinity which cannot conceive of a world where his genius would remain unrecognised (as Parks remarks re: V S Naipaul's vapid serenity "few divinities bother to go on manifesting themselves once their supremity is established").
But art is coercive - it rearranges our mental space, imposes a vision. Art is liberating - and it periodically frees us from all previous alliances to take up a new preoccupation. But it is not just one man or woman making the world in his/her own image. It is a vast undertaking to add more than the smallest parenthesis to its rancourous, unsettled and unsettling whole. Still - we go on trying, picking over the dung-heap, ever hopeful.