Click here to read the story in its entirety on The New Yorker webpage. Tim Parks' "Vespa" was originally published in the October 5, 2015 issue of The New Yorker.

October 5, 2015I always like to see Tim Parks’ essays and criticism show up here and there, but so far I’ve never been a bit fan of his fiction. Perhaps this week’s story will change all of that.

As always, please join the conversation by sharing your thoughts on “Vespa” below.

To get us started, here are Adrienne’s initial thoughts:


Now, everyone knows I am annoyingly cheerful and supportive of authors’ stories, but this one drove me nuts! But as I am not a lamabaster by nature, I will limit myself to five points.

  1. The title is just two words about an object in the story, albeit a central object, but without creativity and excitement for the tale at hand.
  2. The writing feels like a well-proofread first or second draft. I had to check to see who the author was and if he had anything else to his credit warranting a New Yorker placement. The story does not unfold. It tumbles and jerks.
  3. The characters are clichés — well-drawn clichés, but still. Exotic adolescent lover, privileged young man, distant parents in the midst of divorce, something with an engine that gives a young man his freedom (usually a car, but . . .) the bullheaded police officer. Even down to the female nude model in Mark’s art class. And why is she even there? She doesn’t need to be. Sure, there are connections made to her feelings and Mark’s later, but other methods could have been used. Or at the very least, this choice could have been more skillful.
  4. The themes are universal. But here they are forced and tried into a very predictable and clumsy story. Details abound, but they seem out of sync, heavy, trite. Even reading the interview with Parks was like listening to a high school English class: adolescence feeling quite brilliant.
  5. I didn’t care about Vespas before reading this story and I care even less now.
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