Parkinson, T(erry) L(ee) 1949–1993
Parkinson, T(erry) L(ee) 1949–1993
PERSONAL: Born 1949, in OH; died of AIDS, January, 7, 1993.
The Man Upstairs (horror novel), Dutton (New York, NY), 1991.
Contributor of short fiction to periodicals, including Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Semiotexte SF. Contributor to anthologies, including Full Spectrum, I Shudder at Your Touch, and Shadows.
SIDELIGHTS: Novelist and short-story writer T. L. Parkinson was the author of works in which "characters are noticeably removed from their lives," according to a contributor to the St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost, and Gothic Writers. Characters frequently move through Parkinson's stories in a somnambulistic state, weaving abruptly in and out of reality and the dream world. As they fight to survive in this state, their personalities fragment and fall apart.
Parkinson's short story "Sleep" is emblematic of the atmosphere the author creates, evocative of the unfocused zone between wakefulness and sleep. Marcia, the protagonist, is a narcoleptic, and Parkinson tells the story in a "fragmented style that intermixes dream, waking, and the juncture between sleep and wakefulness so closely as to be barely distinguishable," the St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost, and Gothic Writers essayist wrote. Marcia is overwhelmed by her experiences in any state of awareness, and at story's end she is hospitalized with little hope of improvement.
A deep sexual element is also characteristic of Parkinson's work. In the short story "Mistaken Identity," Francine is assaulted and raped. Unexpectedly, the attack brings back memories of an ex-husband divorced many years ago, and thoughts of the passion they used to share. Fueled by this longing for her departed husband, Francine begins to anticipate the rapist's return, convinced that he will not kill her as he has three other victims. "Parkinson often tells of those who are insecure to begin with and who, in the course of the story, confront the very experiences, always internalized, that do most to damage their already weak psyches," the St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost, and Gothic Writers contributor added.
Parkinson's only published novel, The Man Upstairs was praised as "a minor masterpiece of latter-day dark American surrealism" by the St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost, and Gothic Writers critic. Narrator Michael West, newly divorced, takes an apartment in an exclusive building. He easily makes friends with people of both sexes while readjusting to single life. When the couple above him moves out, they are replaced by the darkly charismatic Dr. Paul Marks, whose personality serves to draw together most of the residents. The noises coming from Marks's apartment alert West that the doctor is also sexually adventurous, and as time goes on, West even climbs up on West's balcony to spy on him. As West develops an obsession with mirrors and his appearance, observant friends note that he is beginning to look more and more like Marks. After a sexual encounter with Marks, West becomes increasingly aware of his own transformation.
A Publishers Weekly reviewer remarked that The Man Upstairs is "sufficiently well crafted to keep the reader guessing" if the force behind the book's events is "supernatural or supernuts." A. M. B. Amantia, writing in Library Journal, observed that the novel is "permeated with atmosphere" and a sense of "oppressive foreboding" that leads to an inevitable "grim conclusion."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost, and Gothic Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1998.
Lambda Book Report, January, 1993, review of The Man Upstairs, p. 43.
Library Journal, August, 1991, A. M. B. Amantia, review of The Man Upstairs, p. 147.
Publishers Weekly, July 5, 1991, review of The Man Upstairs, p. 58; August 24, 1992, review of The Man Upstairs, p. 77.