Tim Parks on how to be a better reader

Last year I interviewed Margaret Atwood about “the role” of the writer. No such thing she informed me. So we talked about the “non-role.” Combatative she is. Just like Tim Parks. He talks with me here about the other end of the spectrum, the reader. How to be a better one. I want him to be prescriptive, he won’t be. But he does provide a lot of excellent insights, despite the resistence.

Tim is an author, essayist, and translator. He was born in Manchester in 1954, grew up in London, and studied at Cambridge and Harvard. Not sure where or if he graduated from anywhere, but no matter. He’s written 19 novels including Europa, Destiny, and most recently Hotel Milano, plus numerous works of non-fiction, including Where I’m Reading From, which we reference during our conversation. He’s a regular contributor to the London Review of Books and the New York Review of Books. Aside from his own writing he has translated works by Moravia, Pavese, Calvino, Machiavelli and Leopardi from Italian into English.

He’s a very astute reader. A best practitioner I’d say, which makes him eligible to be a Biblio File podcast guest – given that our mission is to interview the best in the world of books. I invited him to talk about how “best” to go about reading a book. We talk about Borges’s essays – notably one on James Joyce’s perfect reader; an author’s manner of addressing the reader, what the reader brings to the text, having an open attitude about what you read; Thomas Hardy; D.H. Lawrence as one of Hardy’s best readers; Mortimer Adler; being argumentative, and more.

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