Magazine article The Spectator

Very High Dudgeon

Magazine article The Spectator

Very High Dudgeon

Article excerpt

CLEAVER by Tim Parks Harvill/Secker, £16.99, pp. 316, ISBN 0436205610 . £13.59 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655

Harold Cleaver is a middle-aged man at the pinnacle of his career. A 'celebrity-journalist, broadcaster and documentary film-maker', he has just interviewed the President of the United States, and asked him some pretty searching questions. This interview has earned Cleaver wide acclaim. Unfortunately, his professional success is overshadowed by a personal crisis. His eldest son Alex has written a book, titled Under His Shadow, which has received a good deal of publicity. The book is a cruel assassination of Cleaver's character. It mocks his vanity, lampoons his egotism and viciously attacks his pomposity. Cleaver is horrified. He goes into a monumental sulk, and abruptly takes off for the Alps to lick his wounds in as remote a spot as he can find. He is alternately disgusted with himself and outraged by his son. Parks's novel is an account of Harold Cleaver's first month in the mountains, and an examination of what took him there.

Cleaver is a man sick of himself, and sick of modern life. His sudden desire to live in an isolated mountain cabin is a craving to rediscover his natural self. He is bored of maintaining the self-conscious personality he presents to a television audience. He wants to respond naturally to his circumstances. 'The culture . . . of the South Tyrol need not be analysed, ironised, criticised or eulogised, ' he tells himself as he sets off for Gatwick. …

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