Thursday, 25 July 2013

People of the Streets

"Nobody", People of the Streets chapter 5. Illustration by Anthony Colbert

Tony Parker, a writer who could illuminate the individuality of ordinary people's voices in his pioneering books composed of recorded conversations. A technique that was hailed back in the '60s as the only new literary art form, and which has inspired generations of oral historians, sociologists, dramatists and documentary makers - but a name which has sadly slipped out of public consciousness.
For me, Tony Parker was a legendary figure. We met only once, ironically when I had the opportunity to interview him in public. A softly spoken man, who skillfully comforted my nerves with a warm, and knowing, smile. But talking about himself, was not what Parker did very much. He was the ‘Great Listener’ who always regarded himself as the ‘blackboard for people to write on’. When he died in 1996, Tony Parker had left a remarkable body of work, but just snippets of information about his own life.
In the first of a series of posts about the books of Tony Parker  - I present 'People of the Streets', which is perhaps one of the least known of his works. 
I managed to find online a cheap second-hand copy of the American hardback edition - and was touched to see this following dedication within, signed in 1970 by 'Judy' to 'Shel':

dustjacket, first edition, Bobbs-Merrill Co. USA, 1968

Tony Parker was born in Southport in 1923. His father was a bookseller, and after working as a coal miner during WW2 (he was a Conscientious Objector) , Parker would take up a job as a publisher’s representative. Later it was in book form that his most lasting work would appear - but it was radio, and learning how to interview for a microphone, that got him started...

"If someone will listen, people will talk..."

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