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This review is taken from PN Review 63, Volume 15 Number 1, September - October 1988.

EXAMINING THE ORDINARY Tim Parks, Loving Roger (Heinemann) £9.95;
Kenneth Parry, Tysoe's Room (Loxwood Stoneleigh) £5.95

Tim Parks' first novel, Tongues of Flame, was an entertaining if somewhat brittle account of the irruption of the extraordinary into a context defined largely in terms of its ordinariness; Loving Roger, a detailed chronicle of the doomed relationship between Anna, an attractive but unsophisticated typist, and Roger, a self-engrossed wouldbe writer, is a rather more earnest enterprise, but again one in which the concept of the ordinary is subjected to particularly close scrutiny.

Parks has set himself an obvious problem by using the representative of the ordinary, Anna, as his narrator: although as even her ungenerous and hypercritical lover is forced to acknowledge, she is at times capable of the intuitive perceptions of one who has a 'secret door onto life', she is poorly equipped to analyse and articulate the experiences she undergoes; these therefore find expression in the novel in forms marked at best by a certain homely wit and directness, and at worst by a shop-soiled tawdriness which reflects her habitual reading of second-rate romantic fiction. What is remarkable here is Parks' refusal to set up any patronizingly ironic distance between himself as author and his naïve narrator: an observation such as 'death couldn't make life absurd if you managed to make a go of it with someone you loved', which arguably goes some way towards reinforcing Roger's sneering assertion that she has been conditioned by the trash she reads, nevertheless takes on, in the context of the novel as a whole, an authority ...


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