Cover Illustration by Nick Ward
Here’s the news: nearly 10 years after the publication of my first book, Stoning the Devil, Flame Books of Scotland (a new press – their website will be up within a couple of weeks) are going to publish my second, the satire Our Parent Who Art in Heaven, in late March 2022. Writers customarily preface such announcements with apologies for their ‘shameless self-promotion’ but I won’t. There’s none of that here. I don’t expect this novel to make me rich or famous, and I don’t even want that. I do want the novel to reach an audience, because in its no doubt modest way, I think it’s important.
What’s it about then? Here’s the blurb on the back cover:
Welshman Huw Lloyd Jones’ life seems perfect: he teaches Creative Writing at a charming college in the American South, and is happy with Miranda, his beautiful wife. But then he discovers that his despotic boss, Frida Shamburger, has it in for him, and Miranda’s love is more tenuous than he supposed. Huw must fight to save his job and marriage. But can a middle-aged white man survive in the woke jungle of academia? And with a manipulative psychiatrist and a women’s empowerment guru encouraging Miranda to be more independent, will the couple’s love prevail?
With his debut novel, Powell proves himself a worthy successor to the masters of classic British satire. Besides being laugh-out-loud funny, it also gives the thoughtful reader much to ponder on the roles of freedom and love in the politically correct world, where speech, thought, and even the emotions are under constant surveillance, and the penalty for transgressions may be the summary loss of career, friends, love, or indeed a sanction more extreme still…
In other words, it’s what we Brits call a ‘piss-take’ of academia in general, and Creative Writing programs in particular – their recent abandonment of literature and creativity in favour of political activism, which is usually fuelled by petty-minded, misunderstood ‘progressivism’, where the academics are not too bright, or by their cowardice, compliance, and submission, when they do understand what’s happening. (Obviously I’m over-simplifying. I’m aware that not all writers in academia fall into those two categories. But most do.) In the time-honoured British tradition of Evelyn Waugh, Aldous Huxley, Kingsley and Martin Amis, the humour is ‘savage’, particularly by American standards. But necessary, in my view.
Right now, when cancel culture is rampant, and media personalities and politicians justify the suppression of free speech, this novel dares to do what no other I have seen in recent years has done. Am I blowing my own trumpet? No. I’m making no claims for its quality. Whether it’s funny, thought-provoking, and the characters are engaging, as I hope, you must decide. But it cocks a snook at the literary and academic Establishment, I can say. Thanks to Flame Books for taking a chance on it.