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
For the full list of books visit vintageminis.co.uk
Also in the Vintage Minis series:
Swimming by Roger Deakin
Motherhood by Helen Simpson
Work by Joseph Heller
Liberty by Virginia Woolf
In Extremis is one of the most implacable, but also one of the funniest, novels about death and family you will ever read.
Thomas knows there is something he needs to say to his mother before she dies. But will he reach her in time? And will he have the courage to say what he couldn’t say before? His phone is buzzing, his mind is racing, and he can’t concentrate on the significance of what is happening. Should he try to solve his friend’s family crisis? Should he reconsider his separation from his wife? Why does he feel so utterly confused and paralysed?
In his most exhilarating book to date, Tim Parks explores how profoundly our present identity is rooted in our family past. Can we ever really change?
‘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.
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.
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…
‘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 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
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
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.
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.
Bedevilled by a crippling condition which nobody could explain or relieve, he confronts hard truths about the relationship between the mind and the body, the hectic modern world and his life as a writer.
Teach Us To Sit Still is the visceral, thought-provoking and improbably entertaining story of Tim Parks' quest to overcome ill health.
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.
One of Britain's outstanding novelists, Tim Parks is also a provocative, entertaining and accomplished essayist. This new collection's title is drawn from D. H. Lawrence's fundamental belligerence, and how all the significant relationships in his life, including those with his readers and critics, were characterised by intense intimacy and ferocious conflict.
Elsewhere there are literary essays on tension and conflict in the work of Beckett or Hardy, Bernhard and Dostoevsky, amongs others. Parks is also known for his acerbic chronicles of Italian life and here are essays on Mussolini, Machiavelli and the Medici.
Besides discussing questions of history, politics and literature, The Fighter also takes on that most serious tussle: World Cup football.
Tim Parks's novels include Tongues of Flame, which won the Somerset Maugham and Betty Trask Awards, Loving Roger, which won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, Cara Massimina, and Mimi's Ghost. His non-fiction work includes the bestselling Italian Neighbours and An Italian Education. His ninth novel Europa was shortlisted for the 1997 Booker Prize. Tim Parks lives in Italy.