Cleaver by Tim Parks

Cleaver by Tim Parks

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Cleaver by Tim Parks

The book I selected to read was Cleaver by Tim parks. I was in the library looking
for a fiction novel and this cover struck me as very interesting. I took the book off the
shelf and read the back of it. I saw that it had many good reviews so I decided to give it a
Tim Parks is the author of thirteen novels including Europa (1997) which was
listed for the Booker Prize, Destiny (1999), Judge Savage (2003) and Rapids (2005). His
most recent novel is Cleaver (2006), and his most recent publication The Fighter, a
collection of literary essays. He has written three non-fiction stories of life in northern
Italy. He studied at Cambridge and Harvard and in 1981 moved to Verona where he still
lives with his Italian wife and three children.
Tim Parks was born in Manchester, England in 1954. He teaches literary

translation at IULM University Milan and has written about local life in the Veneto in

Italian Neighbours (1992) and An Italian Education (1996). He has translated works by

several Italian writers, including Alberto Moravia, Italo Calvino, Antonio Tabucchi and

Roberto Calasso. He has twice won the John Florio Prize for translation..

Tim Parks' many essays and occasional stories, mostly published in the New

Yorker and the New York Review of Books are collected in Adultery and Other

Diversions (1998) and Hell and Back: Essays (2001). A Season with Verona (2002), is a

story of a season spent following the Italian football club Hellas Verona and an extended

essay on the joys of collective illusion. Judge Savage (2003), is the story of

Crown Court Judge, Daniel Savage, who, even as he presides over the fate of others, is

witnessing his own life unravel. In 2005, Tim Parks published Rapids. A Novel (2005);

Medici Money (2005), a new history of the Medici family; and a new collection of short

fiction, Talking About It (2005). His latest novel is Cleaver (2006).
Cleaver’s own presidential moment has more of the feel of a fairy tale. “I put it to
you, Mr.

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President,” he says in front of 50 million viewers. That you have simply allowed
your agenda to be driven by a series of tired old debates and conveniently polarizing
conflicts. ... Or do you think that in a democracy it’s inevitable that the successful
politician will be no more than a choirmaster for the loudest chorus. Let me get this
straight, replies the nettled world leader. I am my own man. Mr. President, smirks
Cleaver, you have just used two cliches, one right after the other. A robot could be
programmed to give better answers than that.” Kapow! Global cheering ensues.”
The irony of Cleaver’s “disappearance,” is that it makes him horribly present to
himself. “How can one be so fat and have cold feet?” he thought, contemplating his own
extremities. Cleaver has a huge ego in relief, and in a new landscape. His mind surges,
interior monologue, slipping between tenses and locations to the rhythm of Cleaver’s
greatness which turns out to be rather to his surprise, not the immediate injury of his
son’s book but a deeper pain altogether.
Nonetheless, Cleaver can’t get the book out of his head: “My father ... was the
supreme master of digression.” “My father always argued out loud with the television.”
“My father was as utterly incapable of leaving any woman alone as he was utterly,
absolutely and irremediably incapable of turning down any offer of food or drink or
cigarettes.” “Under His Shadow” is not so much a book within a book. Cleaver’s
thoughts are like the revenge of consciousness itself. Parks has complete mastery of this
Cleaver,Parks’s seventh novel, is a work of dense artistry and intelligence. It is also
extremely funny. The only false note, oddly enough, is that famous interview. Not the
idea of it as Cleaver takes down the president, so he is taken down by his son, but the
language. “Let me put it to you, Mr. President, that you understand freedom only in the
negative sense of freedom from chains.” Would any interviewer be so showy? Phrasing
his questions plainly even as if the presidential pinpoints him like two beams converging
on a target. Well, it’s another of Cleaver’s offenses, which he must be punished with
big humiliations, toe to toe with power.
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