Alexander McCall Smith

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What are key points in "No Place to Park" by Alexander McCall Smith?

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"No Place to Park" is a short story by Alexander McCall Smith. It begins by describing a panel on crime fiction at a writers' festival in Western Australia. The story comments on the popularity of depictions of grisly murders in fiction despite the rarity and horror of these types of crimes in real life.

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One note—or idea—that comes to mind when thinking of "No Place to Park" is metafiction. Metafiction is a complicated term. Generally, it refers to writing about writing. It’s when an author uses fiction to make the reader aware that they themselves are reading fiction.

Of course, Alexander McCall Smith’s story centers on a writer of crime fiction. As it so happens, Smith has published a prolific amount of crime fiction. You might be familiar with his No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books (there are at least twenty of them). You could contend that the story is a way for Smith to address some of the issues and concerns of crime-fiction writers and crime-fiction readers.

The story also allows Smith to discuss the ways in which crime stories might be fostered. Remember, George Harris, the main character, gets the idea for a murder mystery about surfing because someone he slightly knew died while surfing a few months ago.

That brings me to another note on Smith’s short story: reality. The story seems to address the gap between crime fiction and real life. The surfer was not actually murdered by people. The surfer was killed by a shark. You could also contend that the surfer isn’t real at all. Really, the surfer is a made-up character in Smith’s short story.

The gulf between reality and crime novels is emphasized right away in the first paragraph. Smith describes the readers as “people who would never commit murder, not in their wildest dreams.” He points out that these people would not “mix” with murderers either. You might want to note what Smith’s observation says about readers of crime fiction. Perhaps it allows them to picture things that they wouldn’t do in reality.

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The short story "No Place to Park" by Alexander McCall Smith is an example of a popular and talented crime writer taking an ironic, tongue-in-cheek look at his craft, his genre, and his fans. It begins at a crime panel at a writer's festival in Australia, a place where fervent fans of murder mysteries come together to hear well-known writers discuss their work. Smith clarifies that although these readers love the gruesome details in murder mysteries, they are not the type of people that would consort with criminals or commit murders. This is the first irony that he presents.

A local critic throws out a challenge to the writers, claiming that they focus too much on grisly murders. He suggests that they should instead come up with a plot about something more mundane, such as parking violations. He means it in jest, but one of the writers, George Harris, takes it seriously. As an avid surfer, he has been contemplating a murder novel in which the killer of a surfer simulates a shark attack, but he feels that the story is not working. Instead, he decides to see what he can do with the parking violations idea.

This is an instance of a writer poking fun and at the same time offering insight into the age-old question of where ideas are found. The surfing murder idea is more ingenious and straightforward, while the parking ticket idea seems more mundane but at the same time challenging.

To add verisimilitude to his story, Harris arranges to follow one of the parking police as he makes his rounds. It turns out, though, that while looking for parking offenders, he and the officer he is with expose a pair of murderers. This is another irony: a murder mystery writer, while attempting to write about a gentler subject, uncovers a murder.

The story's final irony is when Harris is killed in the same way that he envisioned the victim would be murdered in his proposed novel about surfing.

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“No Place to Park” is a short story written by Alexander McCall Smith which depicts a crime panel at a writers' festival in Western Australia.

There is an immediate distinction made between the panelists, who are obsessed with brutal crimes, and criminals, who actually commit these heinous acts. While the panelists love the crime genre and have dedicated their lives to describing murders in granular detail, they do not have the ability to commit crimes like these in their real lives.

There is also commentary around the fact that while crimes span a wide array of actions, like “fraud and theft and extortion,” everyone seems to be obsessed with the worst crime, murder. Murders are actually very rare compared to the litany of other crimes, but murders are drastically overrepresented in the crime genre, which speaks to the fascination with the act of murder on the part of the panelists.

There is also insightful commentary on the fact that the vast majority of the murders written about include highly graphic and sensationalized murders, which reflect an extremely low percentage of real-life murders. People are drawn to the worst possible outcome or the most extravagant scenario when engaging with this genre and are not interested in learning about the facts and details behind the most common real murders.

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In "No Place to Park" by Alexander McCall Smith, who is telling the story?

Alexander McCall Smith's “No Place to Park” is a crime story about a crime author writing a crime story. The author in question, George Harris, has decided to write a crime story about traffic violations in an effort to escape a genre in which murder is impossible to avoid. Harris finds that art imitates life when, while researching for his book, he shadows a traffic cop. With the utmost seriousness, the traffic officer takes Harris through several ticketable offenses. However, Harris can’t escape murder even while researching the smallest of crimes. When an illegally parked car makes a speedy getaway, Harris and the officer quickly spot a dead body stowed under the spot where the car was just parked.

The short story takes place in the third person, meaning that the narrator is not one specific character who speaks from his or her personal experience. However, the narrative centers on the experiences of author George Harris. The story opens up with a revelation that he has at a writer’s conference. The narrative then explores his relationship with his girlfriend, Frizzie, and follows him on his creative journey as he begins his newest book. While Harris isn’t the narrator per se, the reader experiences the story from his point of view.

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What are important quotes from the short story "No Place to Park" by Alexander McCall Smith?

"No Place to Park" is a short story about one crime writer's endeavors to write a different type of crime story. Ironically, as he tries to write a non-violent crime story, he himself dies a violent death. One of the main themes in the story is the theme of violence, and so the four quotations I have listed below are quotations pertaining to violence.

They were a group bound together by a fascination with the gory details of behaviors in which they themselves would never engage.

This first quotation refers to the people who, at the beginning of the story, are attending a writers' festival. The quotation is important because it highlights the peculiar human predilection for wanting to experience violence vicariously. This predilection is described as a "fascination," implying that people like to experience violence vicariously because it is so alien to their own lives—and because it is, to most people, so beyond the realms of what they can imagine doing themselves.

It could not be graphic enough for them.

This second quotation is important because it points to the idea that people have become desensitized to violence. The quotation describes the demand of the readers at the writers' festival for increasingly graphic violence. This quotation suggests that there is no imaginable limit to the violence that they like to read about.

The knife would have a number of serrations along the edge, each carefully honed to the shape of a shark's tooth, in order to leave just the right wounds for the coroner to come to the inevitable conclusion—death by shark attack.

In this third quotation, the protagonist, a writer named George, describes his idea for a story, that idea being that a murder might be carried out to look like a shark attack. This is an important quotation because it foreshadows George's own violent death at the end of the story.

His heart gave a lurch as he caught a glimpse of something in the water. He peered into the depths. ... He searched the water. A flash of metal, from down below it seemed. Impossible, he thought. Impossible. I told nobody.

This fourth quotation describes George, on his surfboard out at sea, just before he is murdered—seemingly in the same way as he imagined for the character in his story, as outlined in the previous quotation. This fourth quotation is important because it suggests that the violence George was trying to avoid was in fact inescapable. There is also a suggestion that George is, in a sense, a victim of his own violent imagination. Indeed, he becomes a victim of an act of violence which he himself thought up.

Read metaphorically, the moral of the story might be that we are all in some sense victims of our own acts of violence.

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