Reviews

One For My Baby by Tony Parsons

Roger Holland

Today's Tony Parsons writes like a sensitive new millennium New Man, but he's still the same old unreconstructed hack he ever was.


One for My Baby

Publisher: Touchstone
Length: 352
Price: $13.00
Author: Tony Parsons
US publication date: 2005-03
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
Women are commitment junkies. They are never satisfied. Commit yourself to 30 minutes and a woman expects you to stay all night. Commit to a night and a woman wants a relationship. Commit yourself to a relationship and pretty soon she expects you to leave your wife and kids.

It is incredibly difficult to get shot of a woman once you have knobbed her.
-- The old Tony Parsons

Today's Tony Parsons writes like a sensitive new millennium New Man, but he's still the same old unreconstructed hack he ever was. Of course, "hack" here is a word that means "a talented wordsmith who writes to eat and live, to fly first class and buy a second house in the country for cash", and there is no shame in that whatsoever. I just suspect Nick Hornby wishes he'd been able to patent his shtick before Parsons got his hands on it.

One For My Baby is the story of an unhappy and inadequate 30-something teacher who finds love in foreign parts, loses his love to tragedy and returns to the bosom of his family in London to find himself once more. Taking a job teaching English as a second language, he seeks solace in the beds of his students, watches his father ruin his own marriage, sees his grandmother succumb to cancer, and so on and so what?

Shunning the many opportunities, One For My Baby says precisely nothing about the nature of families or love. Despite the many protestations of the main character, Alfie Budd, about the depth of his love for his dead wife Rose, his desolation never quite rings true. Indeed, given the never-voiced joke about her name (Orson Welles must be spinning in his over-sized grave), it's tempting to think that Parsons is simply indulging in a little light wish-fulfillment.

Hell hath no fury like a first wife run to fat.
-- Parsons on Burchill

It must pain Parsons to know that his name will be forever coupled with that of Julie Burchill. Positioned as NME's "hip young gunslingers" at the precise moment of the punk rock explosion, the pair had the world at their feet. They wrote one book together -- the wonderful, spiteful obituary of rock'n'roll, The Boy Looked At Johnny, they married, they bred and they went their separate ways. Parsons kept the fruit of their union, and later parlayed his single-parent experiences into the international money-maker Man And Boy.

Touted as Parsons' third book, One For My Baby is no such thing. Even if we differentiate between the Man -- new, sensitive Parsons -- and the Boy -- the hip young loudmouth with opinions for sale, this work was still, in truth, his second shot at Hornby's chick-lit for men crown. One For My Baby was first published in 2001 and performed disappointingly, so a direct sequel to the break-through novel was commissioned -- Man And Wife. Now, One For My Baby is getting what the punk rock Parsons might have called a pointless re-release with a sweetly Stalinesque skew.

Parsons has actually written at least three more novels. It seems like it's always been his goal to see his books sell in millions in airports. When he left the NME, he wanted to be the rock 'n' roll Arthur Hailey. His '80s novels -- Platinum Logic, Limelight Blues, and Winners And Losers -- revealed a writer with mad bestseller skillz undermined by his need to retain his Captain Cool status. He wrote well, he was one of the earliest authors I can remember who structured their books for Hollywood, laying them out as if they were three parts screenplay to one part novel, but his plots labored because he was overly concerned with making trite political points and preserving his iconic self image.

Three strikes and out, he went back to what he does best -- personality journalism -- until he saw the opportunity to get a new kind of novel into the bookshops of the airports of the world.

So yes, One For My Baby is contrived and soulless. Yes, the story is little more than an opportunity for Parsons to combine his own holiday snaps with a few more family stories, that misogynistic wish-fulfillment and an inevitable Hollywood ending -- he still writes with a screenplay in mind. But this is still good workmanship. Parsons has a deft touch and a pleasant conversational first person voice. He knows how to offer opinions that strike chords, and he has an enviable knack with set pieces and neat one-liners. What he doesn't have is a believable story or a single rounded character. Frankly, no one in One For My Baby is as likeable or as believable as throwaway The Slab -- the biggest name in sports entertainment and proud author of Smell the Fear, He-Bitch.

I'd like to read more about The Slab. I couldn't care less about anyone else in One For My Baby. It's easy and enjoyable to read. It's fit for purpose. It will see you through a short haul flight or a day or two on the beach, but it says nothing to me about my life and I profoundly hope it says nothing to you about yours. In a few years time, I confidently expect to see Tony Parsons rebranded as the next James Patterson. No, really.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Music

Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.

Music

IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.

Music

Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.

Film

NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.

Music

The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.

Books

David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.