Tim Park writes about Dickens, Chekhov, Virginia Woolf, D. H. Lawrence, and more contemporary writers like Alice Munro. In these 37 short essays, Tim Park writes about the market forces that are changing what books get published and which don’t. Park explores the vanishing literary styles and the unintended effects of translation. A generation ago, literary criticism was a powerful force in determining reading tastes. Today, Park argues, literary criticism is a dying art form. Few people read literary criticism today, and fewer are affected by critical pronouncements–positive or negative. It’s all marketing in the publishing industry now. If you’re interested in serious fiction, Where I’m Reading From provides an accurate and disheartening picture of the literary landscape. GRADE: B+
Part I: The World Around the Book 1
1. Do We Need Stories? 3
2. Why Finish Books? 9
3. E-books are for Grown-ups 15
4. Does Copyright Matter? 19
5. The Dull New Global Novel 25
6. Reading It Wrong 29
7. Why Readers Disagree 35
8. Where I’m Reading From 41
Part II: The Book in the World 47
1. What’s Wrong with the Nobel? 49
2. A Game without Rules 55
3. Most Favored Nations 61
4. Writing Adrift in the World 67
5. Art That Stays Home 73
6. Writing without Style 81
7. Literature and Bureaucracy 89
8. In the Chloroformed Sanctuary 95
9. Writers into Saints 101
Part III: The Writer’s World 107
1. The Writer’s Job 109
2. Writing to Win 117
3. Does Money Make Us Write Better? 123
4. Fear and Courage 129
5. To Tell and Not to Tell 137

1. Stupid Questions 143
2. The Chattering Mind 149
3. Trapped inside the Novel 155
4. Changing Our Stories 161
5. Writing to Death 167
Part IV: Writing across worlds 173
1. ‘Are You the Tim Parks Who…?’ 175
2. Ugly Americans Abroad 181
3. Your English Is Showing 189
4. Learning to Speak American 195
5. In Praise of the Language Police 201
6. Translating in the Dark 207
7. Listening for the Jabberwock 213
8. In the Wilds of Leopardi 219
9. Echoes from the Gloom 227
10. My Novel, Their Culture 233


  1. Dan

    He’s right of course. More and more the world of Publishing is shaped not by “Major Critics” but be publicly-appointed Taste-makers like you, George.

    1. george Post author

      Dan, when I think of “Taste-Maker” I’m thinking of some guy brewing custom coffees! I’m not trying to influence anyone with my blog. I’m just sharing my reactions to books, movies, music CDs, etc. People can react anyway they want.

    2. wolf

      I’d call our George an influencer! 🙂
      That there just too many books written is an obvious problem – especially now that it’s much easier to write on your computer and to publish.
      So I’ve given up long ago to try to read all “important” books – I rely on friends’ advice.

      Totally OT re the problems with wordpress:
      I am a reader on several other wordpress sites which are more or less organised. So I know that wp can do much more, especially concerning the handling of comments.
      A few examples:
      New comments are marked, you get their number displayed and when you browse they appear on a yellow background.
      Answers to your comments are handled similarly.
      In a sidebar you see all the authors of the latest comments and the titles of the latest blog entries by the author.
      In addition you can define/list other sources which you believe to be relevant for you and your followers.
      Though I don’t know of course whether you have to pay for these features …

      1. george Post author

        Wolf, because WORDPRESS acts up so frequently, I use the minimal set of features. It’s too frustrating to deal with WORDPRESS antics at times.

  2. Jeff Meyerson

    May be depressing but it sounds interesting to me. And I agree with Dan that George is one of our Major Taste-Makers!

  3. Jeff Meyerson

    Books and what we’re reading was one of the topics discussed with my cousin Nancy this week in Connecticut. She is the only person I know who has more books on her Kindle than I do, but she has over 1,000! (I am in the 500s.) She recommended Kristin Hannah’s last two books, especially THE GREAT ALONE, set in Alaska, by the way. And I was able to recommend some mystery series to her husband Jerry.

  4. Steve Oerkfitz

    I saw an interview with him. He hates genre fiction apparently so I’m not sure how much I would like this.

    1. george Post author

      Steve, I think Tim Park mourns the decline (and maybe death) of traditional Literature. Genre novels would be a poor substitute for a guy like Park. Of course, I love genre fiction!

  5. Rick Robinson

    You, or the books’ author, say “literary criticism is a dying art form.” I have never considered literary criticism as an art form, nor any type of criticism. As for the book in general, perhaps interesting bits, but not something I’d take the time to read.

    1. george Post author

      Rick, like you I never really considered literary criticism as an art form, but early in the 20th Century there was a whole culture of criticism: magazines and journals and literary speakers. But radio, TV, and the Internet brought that all down. Literary criticism now is an academic pursuit.

  6. wolf

    rather OT but interesting – maybe you haven’t seen this yet:
    Nicole Rudick wrote a critical essay on a collection of famous female SF authors:
    The Future Is Female!: 25 Classic Science Fiction Stories by Women, from Pulp Pioneers to Ursula K. Le Guin
    edited by Lisa Yaszek
    Of course we know most of the authors – Leigh Brackett, C L Moore, Kate Wilhelm etc.
    The editor of the collection is Lisa Yaszek, a professor of science fiction at Georgia Tech.
    Didn’t know that this kind of academic exists – sounds really good:
    Professor of science fiction … 🙂

    1. Todd Mason

      Some professors of sf are better than other ones. I’ve corresponded with Yaszek, pointed out a few errors in the Library of America’s promotional materials, and she seems sensible and glad to know where things go wonky (in the bad sense of that term).

      I had a really bad young professor of sf at my first university, so dropped out of his course after the first week and joined a planetary astronomy class taught by world-class astronomer David Morrison, who snorted at the notion of an sf class (didn’t like that much) and, like most physicists, wanted his lecture over as early as possible in the day, so it was an 8am class (I liked that even less, as I was a commuting student from a bottlenecked drive away).

  7. Todd Mason

    I assume Alice Munro’s fantasy is Not Genre by his lights?

    Critics still matter as much as they ever did in terms of helping not inherently popular books along. Critics never did much to help Jackie Susann or Harold Robbins or even James Michener hit the bestseller lists, and there was little reason for them to do so…they were pretty terrible writers.

    And, happily, even the doctored NEW YORK TIMES bestseller lists, and presumably some of the others (I’ve not encountered as many complaints about PUBLISHERS WEEKLY’s) didn’t actually stop anyone from reading anything they wanted…even if they also didn’t help any number of serious writers in whatever genre (since no fiction escapes genre) along as much as they should.

    1. george Post author

      Todd, Alice Munro slides in–after all she won a Nobel Prize–but Park doesn’t think much of the current “literary” stable of writers.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *