By: Stewart Parker
Parker’s poignant autobiographical novel is the story of an amputee enveloped in its mood of numbed trauma. The writing is masterful, the dialogue witty, full of finesse and immersive description.
Belfast gets under the reader’s skin and is an essential contributor to the heaviness at the novel’s heart. There’s a sense that everybody plays their part in a group effort to rise above the pervasive melancholy of the city and find some human happiness that they can share.
Tosh, a nineteen-year old amputee, Parker’s alter-ego, refuses to strip back the layers of social performance for those of his friends who would like to know him well. He is a detached observer, unable to step into the pool of shared meanings people mutually create. It is not out of contempt that he is unable to invest in social interaction, it is due to the trauma of his mutilated body, his mutilated self.
This remarkable posthumously discovered work, written between 1971 and 1974, brings the skills Parker acquired writing for stage to aid his prose: plainspoken and stoical in tone, the emotion seeps through. The writing is vivid, the descriptions of pain and discomfort wholly authoritative. Hopdance is a beautiful, sincere, personal testament by a true artist, edited and framed by his biographer Marilynn Richtarik — a wondrous ‘lost treasure’ of literature.