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Where I'm Reading From: The Changing World of Books

de Tim Parks

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2261191,232 (3.51)18
"Why do we need fiction? Why do books need to be printed on paper, copyrighted, read to the finish? Why should a group of aging Swedish men determine what "world" literature is best? Do books change anything? Did they use to? 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 internationally acclaimed novelist and critic Tim Parks ranges over a lifetime of critical reading--from Leopardi, Dickens and Chekhov, to Woolf, Lawrence and Bernhard, and on to contemporary work by Jonathan Franzen, Peter Stamm, and many others--to overturn many of our long-held assumptions about literature and its purpose. Taking the form of thirty-eight interlocking essays, Where I'm Reading From examines the rise of the "global" novel and the disappearance of literary styles that do not travel; the changing vocation of the writer today; the increasingly paradoxical effects of translation; the shifting expectations we bring to fiction; the growing stasis of literary criticism; and the problematic relationship between writers' lives and their work. In the end 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. "--… (mais)
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I do like reading books about books and reading, and in this collection of essays and articles drawn from the New York Review of Books, Tim Parks, extolls the virtues of reading, asks why we hate the books our friends love and tries to fathom just how a Nobel prize winner is selected. Other questions that he considers include: why finish books, the dull new global novel, what the writers job actually is and can we learn to speak American.

All of these thing are interesting questions about a variety of subjects on reading, writing and awards, and Parks is not afraid to be provocative in answering them. He advocates rethinking the purpose of a book, what it is for, why we read it and the perils of the homogenisation of languages and the slide towards one world culture. He puts his strong opinions in a short, to the point essay style making it easy to dip into and to find a particular point he was making. I have only read An Italian Education by him so far and sadly wasn’t aware that he was a novelist as well as a translator, critic and professor of literature. He is quite well placed to make these observations and he draws on his skills to write these articles. Sadly thought there were flaws; whilst some were amusing and easy to read, others were very academic, esoteric and dry to read, which is a shame as some of the articles were superb. 3.5 stars overall. ( )
  PDCRead | Apr 6, 2020 |
Nu weet ik hoe het komt dat ik zo teleurgesteld was door Parks’ vorige book ‘De kunst van het moorden’. Dat is op hetzelfde moment geschreven als dit boek, en het is duidelijk dat hij al zijn creatieve vermogens in dit voorliggend boek heeft geïnvesteerd. Op zich is dit niet meer dan een losse verzameling korte essays over literatuur, de boekenwereld, het fenomeen van lezen en van schrijven, en ook de bijzondere activiteit van het vertalen. Maar Parks geeft een briljant inzicht in wat er de laatste jaren in die branche veranderd is, en aan het veranderen is: de technologische evoluties, de globalisering, het e-readen, de andere omgang van auteurs met lezers via sociale media en literaire evenementen, enzovoort. In die zin drukt de ondertitel (“de veranderende wereld van het boek”) veel beter de geest van dit boek uit. Wat ook opvalt: Parks is echt niet te beroerd om heilige huisjes omver te stoten. E-reading bijvoorbeeld is voor hem absoluut niet de doodzonde waarvoor het onder boekenliefhebbers wordt gehouden. En hij gaat ook uitgebreid in op de bedoelde en onbedoelde gevolgen van globalisatie voor de literaire markt, zonder zich over voor en tegen uit te spreken. In die zin is dit boekje veel meer de moeite dan dat curieuze, charlatan-achtige essayboek van de Italiaanse schrijver Allessandro Barcicco, “De barbaren” dat zo op handen wordt gehouden, maar absoluut geen steek houdt (zie mijn review). Parks is en blijft zonder meer mijn favoriete schrijver van het moment, en met dit boek bewijst hij eens te meer dat hij die reputatie echt verdient. ( )
2 vote bookomaniac | May 7, 2019 |
Ι started writing this review, a day after I started reading Tim Parks book, because there were so many thoughts in my head, so many questions I didn't even know I had.

Why do some of us feel compelled to get through a book we hardly like, while others (like yours trully) give up once they realise that it is a waste of time?Why do we feel members of a greater community once we read a novel which is accompanied by world-wide success? And even feel guilty if we don't like it at all? How does our upbringing, or our family values influence our appreciation of this genre or that? Why do we tend to value foreign literature more than our own country's? Tim Parks tries to answer all these questions and many more.

There were moments when I lifted my eyes from the page to think on the issues examined in his essays. His language is simple, informative but not didactic. I had the feeling that I was participating in a discussion with a very eloquent and very friendly teacher, a colleague. Not to mention his excellent essay about the Nobels which convinced me as to the absurdity of having such a competition, in the first place.

There was, however, something that bothered me. Repetition. There is information that is mentioned so many times that it becomes tedious. E.g. the fact the he lives in Italy or that one book fair in France. Also, I found that the number of authors he focuses on is rather limited. We are forced to think of DeLillo, Roth, Faulkner, Borges, Hardy and Lawrence too many times, as if they are the epitome of Literature alone and nobody else. Well, no, they are not. This problem becomes much more obvious towards the end of the book.

Perhaps, this repetition is the trap that lays there for all teachers. We- and I'm speaking from personal experience, pleading guilty to the crime- tend to repeat things over and over again to help our students understand. Otherwise, you don't teach, you don't inform. You impose, you give a lecture that accomplishes nothing. So, I must conclude by saying that I wish I had a professor like Tim Parks in university.

( )
  AmaliaGavea | Jul 15, 2018 |
Every now and then, I like to read a book about non-fictional aspects of literature, e.g. what is literature and how or why do we read, etc.
Among other things, the author mentions that literature is far less international than we might think (or at least that's how I interpreted it) and is becoming increasingly uniform because of the force of English as the lingua franca of our time. Not only do authors write in English instead of their own language, their vocabulary is also adapted to American standards so that the larger group of readers will be able to understand. I think the author is right. Books written by authors from from smaller countries and especially from third world countries are far less likely to be published worldwide unless they tick all the boxes. An interesting book that made me think and that I will probably read again. ( )
  Trifolia | Mar 15, 2018 |
A collection of essays, originally published in the New York Review of Books, by Tim Park, an author, translator, and literary critic. Unsurprisingly, they're all about literature, writing, and translation. Some of the essays give the impression of having been written almost solely to be provocative, such as the ones considering whether e-books may be superior to print or challenging the novelists' familiar self-congratulatory assertion that "the world needs stories." But that's all right, as they are provocative in the right kind of way, I'd say: they make you think, and perhaps even re-think some of your basic assumptions.

Other essays are clearly about subjects he cares a lot about. Or rather, they're mostly about one subject he clearly cares a lot about, as he revisits it over and over: the idea that an increasing emphasis on literature as something that should have an international appeal (and, of course, sell in an international market) discourages authors from writing books that are very much products of their own environment and community, intended for an audience of people who share their own local culture. It's an issue worth considering, and Parks makes some good points about it, as well as having some interesting things to say about translation in this context. But the fact that it's an issue he keeps coming back to repeatedly in essays that were no doubt originally published months or years apart means that when one reads them all close together in collected form, the repetition does start to feel just a little tedious.

Rating: 3.5/5, but that's with me uncharitably docking it a half-star for feeling too repetitive. ( )
  bragan | Dec 12, 2017 |
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"Why do we need fiction? Why do books need to be printed on paper, copyrighted, read to the finish? Why should a group of aging Swedish men determine what "world" literature is best? Do books change anything? Did they use to? 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 internationally acclaimed novelist and critic Tim Parks ranges over a lifetime of critical reading--from Leopardi, Dickens and Chekhov, to Woolf, Lawrence and Bernhard, and on to contemporary work by Jonathan Franzen, Peter Stamm, and many others--to overturn many of our long-held assumptions about literature and its purpose. Taking the form of thirty-eight interlocking essays, Where I'm Reading From examines the rise of the "global" novel and the disappearance of literary styles that do not travel; the changing vocation of the writer today; the increasingly paradoxical effects of translation; the shifting expectations we bring to fiction; the growing stasis of literary criticism; and the problematic relationship between writers' lives and their work. In the end 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. "--

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