A new way of writing lives

A new way of writing lives The British writer Tony Parker was born 25 June 1923 into a comfortable middle-class family, and educated at a public school in England.  Parker was an atheist, a devoted socialist and a pacifist, and once said in an interview with Paul Thompson that he never wanted to be a writer (Thompson 1994, pp. 64-73). At the outbreak of World War II Parker registered as a Conscientious Objector: he was granted a “Conditional Exemption,” and sent to work in the coal mines. In his interview with Thompson, Parker said, “I’d never understood what the problems of poor people were, or the working-class people, but living with and working with the miners gave me that kind of strong socialist belief”—“the feeling of social injustice”—that was not politically motivated (Thompson 1994, p.  64).

That Parker did become a writer probably resulted from his keen sense of social responsibility, and circumstance. Greatly disturbed by the hanging of Derek Bentley in 1953, in his desire to help fight against what he saw as social injustice, Parker went to the Howard League and became a prison visitor (Thompson 1994, p. 65). At an annual conference for prison visitors Parker had a chance encounter with Paul Stephenson, a BBC Radio producer, and that led to a broadcast of his tape-recorded interview with a serial offender. Shortly afterwards, he was contacted by a publisher who asked if he would write a book about the prisoner. Parker told Thompson he wrote the book, his first— “The Courage of his Convictions … an extension, really, of the radio interview”—and every book thereafter using the method taught to him by the radio producer: “Take the [interview] questions out, and try to make it into a consecutive piece” (Thompson 1994, p. 65)

Works cited

Thompson, Paul.”Tony Parker: Writer and Historian interviewed by Paul Thompson.”  Oral History Vol. 22: No. 2. 25th Anniversary Issue (Autumn, 1994)). 64-73. Web. 3 Aug. 2010.  http://www.jstor.org/stable/40179366

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2 Responses to A new way of writing lives

  1. Hugh Craig says:

    That’s interesting that there was such a strong social-justice motivation for Parker. Good to be reminded that writing can be in the service of those who are usually invisible and unheard.


    • digipixijo says:

      Hugh, Thank you, you are my first response. I must say that blogging is a vastly different experience to writing a paper.
      So, more over the coming weeks on how Parker’s works reflect his sense of social responsibility towards both his subjects and his readers, and on how through attempting to honour both his principles and his art, he inadvertently created a new genre, the literary docu-memoir form: Also on how this type of writing–which relies on the subject’s use of a language of their own making as a way of expressing themselves when trying to make sense of their experience for themselves and the person they are talking to (it is a dialogic form and much more I think,)–provides a direct connection to readers.


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