Books

Out of My Head

Tim Parks

Adventures in cutting-edge ideas about consciousness, from bestselling non-fiction writer Tim Parks.

Hardly a day goes by without some discussion about whether computers can be conscious, whether our universe is some kind of simulation, whether mind is a unique quality of human beings or spread out across the universe like butter on bread. Most philosophers believe that our experience is locked inside our skulls, an unreliable representation of a quite different reality outside. Colour, smell and sound, they tell us, occur only in our heads. Yet when neuroscientists look inside our brains to see what’s going on, they find only billions of neurons exchanging electrical impulses and releasing chemical substances.

Out of My Head tells the gripping, highly personal, often surprisingly funny, story of Tim Parks' quest to discover more about this fascinating topic. It frames complex metaphysical considerations and technical laboratory experiments in terms we can all understand. Above all, it invites us to see space, time, colour and smell, sounds and sensations in an entirely new way. The world will feel more real after reading it.

In Extremis

Tim Parks

Thomas needs to speak to his mother before she dies.

But he's set to give a talk to a conference of physiotherapists in the Netherlands; if he leaves now will he get to her deathbed in time?

Will he be able to say what he couldn't say before? He can't concentrate on what is happening now: his mind won't sit still. Should he try to solve his friend's marital crisis? Should he reconsider his separation from his own wife? And why does he need to pee again?

In Extremis is Tim Parks's masterwork: a darkly hilarious and deadly serious novel about infidelity, mortality and the frailties of the human body.

Calm

Tim Parks

How do we find calm in our frantic modern world? Tim Parks – lifelong sceptic of all things spiritual - finds himself on a Buddhist meditation retreat trying to answer this very question. With brutal honesty and dry wit, he recounts his journey from disbelief to something approaching inner peace and tackles one of the great mysteries of our time – how to survive in this modern age.

Selected from the book Teach us to Sit Still by Tim Parks

VINTAGE MINIS: GREAT MINDS. BIG IDEAS. LITTLE BOOKS.

A series of short books by the world’s greatest writers on the experiences that make us human

Also in the Vintage Minis series:
Swimming by Roger Deakin
Motherhood by Helen Simpson
Work by Joseph Heller
Liberty by Virginia Woolf

Thomas and Mary

Tim Parks

Somehow it seemed to him the only thing that would really solve the problem would be to return to the sea and find the old ring with their names and the wedding date engraved inside, in 22-carat gold, and put it on again and then the world would magically return to what it had been before. Many years before.

This did not happen.

Thomas and Mary have been married for thirty years. They have two children, a dog, a house in the suburbs. But after years of drifting apart, things – finally – come to a head.

In this love story in reverse, Tim Parks recounts what happens when youthful devotion has long given way to dog walking, separate bed times, and tensions over who left the fridge door open.

Lurching from comedy to tragedy, via dependence, cold re-examination, tenderness and betrayal, Thomas and Mary is a fiercely intimate chronicle of a marriage – capturing the offshoots of pain sent through an entire family, when the couple at its heart decide it’s all over.

Where I'm Reading From

Tim Parks

Should you finish every book you start?

How has your family influenced the way you read?

What is literary style?

How is the Nobel Prize like the World Cup?

Why do you hate the book your friend likes?

Is writing really just like any other job?

What happens to your brain when you read a good book?

As a novelist, translator and critic, Tim Parks is well-placed to investigate any questions we have about books and reading. In this collection of lively and provocative pieces he talks about what readers want from books and how to look at the literature we encounter in a new light.

These pieces were originally published as columns in the New York Review of Books.

Painting Death

Tim Parks

From the bestselling author of Italian Ways and Italian Neighbours comes a darkly comic new novel of murder in Veronese high society

Morris Duckworth has a dark past. Having married and murdered his way into a wealthy Italian family he has now become a respected member of Veronese business life. But it’s not enough. He comes up with a plan to put on the most exciting art exhibition of the decade, based on a subject close to his heart: killing. But as Morris meets stiff resistance from the director the museum, everything starts to unravel around him. His children are rebelling, his mistress is asking for more than he wants to give, his wife is increasingly attached to her ageing confessor, and worst of all it’s getting harder and harder to ignore the ghosts that swirl around him, and the skeletons rattling in every cupboard…

Italian Ways

Tim Parks

‘All Italy is here’ Sunday Times
From the bestselling author of Italian Neighbours, An Italian Education and A Season with Verona
Longlisted for the Dolman Travel Book Award

In 1981 Tim Parks moved from England to Italy and spent the next thirty years alongside hundreds of thousands of Italians on his adopted country’s vast, various and ever-changing networks of trains.

Through memorable encounters with ordinary Italians – conductors and ticket collectors, priests and prostitutes, scholars and lovers, gypsies and immigrants – Tim Parks captures what makes Italian life distinctive. He explores how trains helped build Italy and how the railways reflect Italians’ sense of themselves from Garibaldi to Mussolini to Berlusconi and beyond.

Sex is Forbidden

Tim Parks

Sex is forbidden at the Dasgupta Institute. So what is the sparkling, magnetically attractive Beth Marriot doing here? Beth is fighting demons: a catastrophic series of events has undermined all prospect of happiness. Trauma leaves her no alternative but to bury herself in the austere asceticism of a community that wakes at 4am, doesn't permit eye contact, let alone speech, and keeps men and women strictly segregated. But the curious self dies hard. Conflicted and wayward, Beth stumbles on a diary and cannot keep away from it, or the man who wrote it.

Originally published with the title The Server

Family Planning

Tim Parks

Raymond is mad, clever, manipulative and totally out of his parents' control. The other children are lying low, though still inextricably attached to their father's purse-strings. Amidst hilarious misunderstandings and poignant inadequacies, six well-meaning people relentlessly engineer their own and their loved ones' downfall.

Shear

Tim Parks

An English geologist working on a Mediterranean island becomes embroiled in a nightmare web of deceit, corruption, lust and tragedy in Tim Parks' mesmeric story of a man whose life will be shattered like the fatal fragment of stone that obsesses him.

Goodness

Tim Parks

George Crawley has finally got his life running along satisfyingly straight lines. Having made a success of his career and saved his faltering marriage, he is secure in the belief that he is master of his own destiny. Then comes the tragic blow - fate presents him with an apparently insoluble problem. Except that the word 'insoluble' just isn't part of the man's vocabulary. George will stop at nothing, nothing, to get his life back on the rails again.

Home Thoughts

Tim Parks

Julia has left home. She has gone to Italy. She has left her lover, her job, her flat, the closely-knit group of friends who meant so much to her. Why? And the motley group of ex-pats she finds in Verona, the Oxbridge brigade, the revolutionary Scot, the cool Canadian, the feminist Flossy - why do they find it so impossible to return home, as if their very identities depend somehow on this thousand-mile displacement? Centred around a love story full of twists, turns and revelations, Home Thoughts explores a world of lost directions, wavering commitments and misplaced ambitions as Julia's adventurous departure confronts her more mercilessly than ever with the problem of what on earth she is to do with her life.

Adultery And Other Diversions

Tim Parks

'An invigorating discussion of general ills, this collection of autobiographical essays ranges over adultery and parenthood, ghosts and gods, fiction and football. Living in Italy seems to sharpen the author's prose and make him even more cleverly English. A splendid volume of fascinating belles-lettres'. Mail on Sunday.

Hell And Back

Tim Parks

In Hell and Back, Tim Parks reminds us just how exciting the essay form can be - turning his attention to classic authors like Dante, Borges and Leopardi, as well as various contemporary writers including Vikram Seth, W.G. Sebald and Salman Rushdie.

Stop What You're Doing And Read This!

Mark Haddon (and others)

In any 24 hours there might be sleeping, eating, kids, parents, friends, lovers, work, school, travel, deadlines, emails, phone calls, Facebook, Twitter, the news, the TV, Playstation, music, movies, sport, responsibilities, passions, desires, dreams.

Why should you stop what you're doing and read a book?

People have always needed stories. We need literature - novels, poetry - because we need to make sense of our lives, test our depths, understand our joys and discover what humans are capable of. Great books can provide companionship when we are lonely or peacefulness in the midst of an overcrowded daily life. Reading provides a unique kind of pleasure and no-one should live without it.

In the ten essays in this book some of our finest authors and passionate advocates from the worlds of science, publishing, technology and social enterprise tell us about the experience of reading, why access to books should never be taken forgranted, how reading transforms our brains, and how literature can save lives. In any 24 hours there are so many demands on your time and attention - make books one of them.

Carmen Callil Tim Parks
Nicholas Carr Michael Rosen
Jane Davis Zadie Smith
Mark Haddon Jeanette Winterson
Blake Morrison Dr Maryanne Wolf & Dr Mirit Barzillai

Cara Massimina

Tim Parks

Bored and broke, Morris Duckworth, an English teacher in Verona, stumbles on a plan for financial salvation – to marry Massimina, one of his lovelier students.

And if his intentions are frustrated by a suspicious, conservative family, is it any fault of his that the girl chooses to elope?

Obsessed by self-advancement and excitement, Morris’s dreams of blackmail, theft and murder plunge him deep into a chilling nightmare of deception and violence.

Mimi's Ghost

Tim Parks

Morris Duckworth can’t get over Mimi.

But maybe he should have thought of that before he murdered her and married her sister.

Now Mimi’s back as a ghost, and she seems to be suggesting the way to redemption for Morris. And if anybody should get in his charitable way, then so much the worse for them.

Loving Roger

Tim Parks

Tight and disturbing, Loving Roger begins with a dead body and a chilling question. Why has nice, ordinary, affectionate Anna picked up her kitchen knife and murdered the man she insists she loves?... This brief novel is a mordantly illuminating essay on the way love contains the seeds of vindictiveness and hatred'' Observer.

Teach Us to Sit Still

Tim Parks

How have the modern world, technology and our addiction to information changed who we are? What effect does it have on our relationships, minds and bodies? What can the simple act of sitting still teach us about ourselves?

When Tim Parks fails to find a cause for his crippling chronic pain, he turns to meditation. This is, however, not your average self-help book or conversion story; instead, it is a refreshingly honest and profoundly moving introspection of one writer and his quest to overcome the inner battle between mind and body. A revelatory read with delightful cultural and literary references, Teach us to Sit Still by Booker-shortlisted author Tim Parks examines how the philosophy of 'sit still, relax and stop worrying' can be profoundly life-altering.

Teach us to Sit Still made me laugh; it made me cry; and it made me seriously think about taking up Vispassana meditation’ The Times

Dreams Of Rivers And Seas

Tim Parks

For some time now, I have been plagued, perhaps blessed, by dreams of rivers and seas, dreams of water.

Just days after controversial anthropologist Albert James writes these elusive lines to his son John, he is dead. Abandoning his girlfriend in London, John flies to Delhi to join his mother in mourning. But the nature of his father's research and the circumstances of his death are far from clear and, on top of this, John must confront his mother's coolness, and the strangeness of the cremation ceremony that she has organised for his father.

No sooner is the body consigned to the flames than a journalist arrives, determined to write a biography of the dead man, and though his mother will have nothing to do with the project, she cannot keep away from the journalist.

Biography

Born in Manchester, Tim Parks grew up in London and studied at Cambridge and Harvard. He lives in Milan.

He is the acclaimed author of novels, non-fiction and essays, including Europa, In Extremis, A Season with Verona, Teach Us to Sit Still and Italian Ways. He has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize, won the Somerset Maugham Award, the Betty Trask Prize, the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, the John Florio Prize and the Italo Calvino Prize.