I was beginning to get irritated by the subjectivity of the first chapter of The Novel: A Survival Skill: The Literary Agenda, and the start of the second where the author talks about meeting JM Coetzee, but then he starts to dissect the biographical fallacy, and I wonder if he is intentionally writing in a personal and subjective manner, sprinkling ‘I’ throughout the pages. Biographical fallacy: we shouldn’t interpret literature in relation to the author’s personal life. Parks writes, “Imagination works on material that is available.” As an author, and particularly since writing more creative works of fiction, I re-read my work wondering just how much of me it exposes.
And Parks’ book weaves in and out of the personal: a chapter about Joyce is followed by a chapter where, ‘The publisher of this book has asked me to include a section on my own writing, to put myself in the picture. I do this with reluctance.’ The penultimate chapter on Dickens is possibly one of the most interesting parts of the book, full of details about Dickens’ personal life, and possible drivers for his plots. Parks concludes that we cannot judge a book or provide any ‘pecking order of writers’ because, as readers, our reactions are conditioned by our backgrounds too.
I’m still unsure. This is a book that is good in parts.