Adultery and Other Diversions

Tim Parks, Author Arcade Publishing $23.95 (172p) ISBN 978-1-55970-470-0
In this collection of 13 essays (three of which have appeared in the New Yorker), novelist Parks (author, most recently, of the Booker-shortlisted Europa) sets out to ""dramatize an intimate relation between reflections that are timeless and the ongoing stories of our lives."" His goal is to find personal meaning in concepts that had once been merely words for him. Thus, the pieces have titles such as ""Fidelity,"" ""Magic,"" ""Charity,"" ""Destiny,"" ""Conformity."" In ""Fidelity,"" Parks questions his preacher father's reasons for naming him after the seemingly innocuous St. Timothy (which means ""honoring God""). After some research, Parks realizes that the saint was, above all, a faithful friend to St. Paul--and that such faithfulness is not a quality to be underrated. Parks, a Brit who lives and works in Italy, wryly cogitates on more immediate issues in ""Europe,"" which details a 1993 trip with non-Italian colleagues and Italian students to the European Parliament in Strasbourg to protest Italy's unfair payment policy to non-Italian professors (inspiration perhaps for his novel Europa). What follows is a meditation on the European Community, which the author believes is a union that ""expands not by aggression but by surrender... [a] project conceived during the most exacting of hangovers."" In the title essay, an English friend contemplating divorce listens to his Italian shrink reason that, in Parks's words, ""only the wildest optimist would divorce in order to remarry, presuming that things would be better next time round."" In the final essay, ""Analogies,"" Parks compares the way Italian men view their mistresses with the way they root for their own soccer team: when things are going well, they stick with their beloved. Throughout the volume, Parks displays his usual wit and humor while not shying away from displays of bitterness, melancholy or even sentimentality. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/08/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
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