Destiny

Tim Parks, Author Arcade Publishing $24.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-55970-517-2
Reading this stunning tour de force from the prolific Parks (Europa, etc.) is like riding an out-of-control roller coaster through the dark caverns of a delusional brain. The news of his schizophrenic son Marco's suicide in a clinic near Turin sends ex-foreign correspondent Christopher Burton into a tailspin. As he and his Italian wife travel back to Italy from London, the teeming fragments of Burton's consciousness recoil from the reality of Marco's death, and he frantically ruminates about his 30-year marriage, fulminating against his wife for her theatricality and flirtatiousness, and for the rancor, fury and bitterness she has displayed toward him. Slowly, some facts emerge: Burton has behaved deceitfully toward his family; he has quit his job because he's possessed by the monomaniacal idea that he will write a ""monumental"" book, ""an extraordinary achievement"" that will prove that character is destiny and that national character is predetermined as well; and he and his wife used Marco as a pawn: ""We drove him mad."" Most of Burton's inchoate thoughts are highly inappropriate: he obsesses about an interview he plans to conduct, the day of Marco's funeral, with ex-prime minister Giulio Andriotti, who was indicted for criminal acts while in office. As Burton's stream of consciousness approaches disintegration, he finally admits truths about himself and his behavior in what becomes a deeply affecting portrait of a man in mental anguish. Parks's skill in constructing his headlong narrative plunges readers into Burton's mind; this is, after all, a more or less universal portrait of human relationships, fueled by tumultuous emotions, devious motivations, clashing egos and love-starved hearts. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/10/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
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