Tobias Parker - front cover


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Terry Tarnoff


Nothing makes much sense in Tobias Parker’s life. He walks an ever-tightening circle through San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood, where foxes fall out of trees, parachutes drop from the skies and mysterious boxes appear unannounced. Tobias is determined to fulfill his family’s curious thousand year destiny, but the obstacles seem insurmountable. Is there anyone out there to help him?

When screenwriter Tobias Parker discovers that every family on Earth is here to accomplish a particular task, he becomes determined to fulfill his family’s destiny. He learns that a unique battle is passed through the generations from father to son and mother to daughter, and that once the mission is fulfilled the family takes its place in a kind of celestial jigsaw puzzle. As Tobias embarks on his quest, his life becomes a breathless whirlwind which throws Hollywood, a misbegotten romance, and an arcane religious artifact into a roiling stew. His topsy-turvy, existential journey takes him to some hilarious highs, devastating lows, and leads him to ponder a whole bagful of thought-provoking ideas. In the end, Tobias discovers his family’s profound destiny and learns not only the meaning of his own life but also provides a big clue for the rest of us as well.



“The Thousand Year Journey of Tobias Parker is the North Beach equivalent of the Great American novel, which is to say the quintessence of the American dream, seen through the ever-twisting kaleidoscope of Terry Tarnoff, one of San Francisco’s brilliant dweller’s on the threshold of bohemia. This exquisitely observed novel brings out the beautiful and the bizarre of the numinous neighborhood that straddles the celestial and the earthly. Follow Tobias on his mystical and often cosmically humorous journey to find his destiny, and you just might catch a glimpse of your own in the neon-lit prose of this remarkable novel.”
– Phil Cousineau, author of The Book of Roads and host of the PBS television series, Global Spirit

“Someone once described San Francisco as the ‘Beatnik Preserve,’ which was true for decades, particularly in North Beach where the Bohemian wilderness ran from hill to hill, street to street, alley to alley. Then gentrification took over and pushed the bohemians into hidden wildlife corridors. Terry Tarnoff knows those corridors well and, happily, keeps his book, The Thousand Year Journey of Tobias Parker, within them. Like the street life of North Beach and Telegraph Hill, the book is grounded in reality, while reaching simultaneously into the fantastic—into the mystic. Knowing the neighborhood as I do, it was fun to follow Tarnoff’s alterations of its characters and places. But the book doesn’t require such knowledge—just the yearning for a creative story whose turns, like the neighborhood’s old alleys, bring one surprise after another.”
– Mark Bittner, author of The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

“The Thousand Year Journey of Tobias Parker is a tour de force. Hilariously funny, thoughtful and multi-dimensional, it’s a roller coaster ride up and down San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill and around Washington Square, fueled by a Hollywood action-adventure retelling of Wagner’s biblical opera, Parsifal. Evoking the likes of Confederacy of Dunces sprinkled with Ask The Dust,our raving hero in this case, Tobias Parker, the prolific screenwriter, also brings to mind the movie hero Barton Fink, as Tarnoff deeply mines what he knows, for laughs, romance and a little enlightenment on the side.”
– Jody Weiner, author of Prisoners of Truth

“The great Polish poet, Czeslaw Milosz famously said, ‘When a writer is born into a family, the family is finished.’ In Terry Tarnoff’s brightly colored hilarious novel, The Thousand Year Journey of Tobias Parker, we witness an extended line of DNA imploding in a failed screenwriter’s mind. Tobias Parker is the ultimate lone wolf, dismembered from society, he functions as a caretaker of a set of ramshackle cottages overlooking San Francisco. By day he roams the hills of North Beach, like the lost son of Kerouac and Ginsberg, attracting a panoply of characters worthy of a Fellini circus. By night his mind folds in on itself as he examines his insides. On his last gasp of inspiration, he somehow hooks up with a transplanted legendary English literary agent who rules Beverly Hills. Bobby Littman, whose clients had included David Niven and Ken Russell, takes Tobias under his wing and promises him a “go” picture if he can translate the story of an obscure religious relic which held sway over both Hitler and Eisenhower into a Hollywood action script. Thus begins Tobias’ serpentine odyssey through the depths and heights of an existential dilemma — how to combine artistic nuance with the demands of a commercial endeavor. However, events soon overtake him as he wrestles with almost every emotion under the sun. Smitten with a condition in which he “sees” all sound as exploding colors and burdened with an attraction to an aloof East German waitress, the complications which arise from his research for the screenplay gather an amalgam of strange denizens of North Beach into a whirlwind of events that cascade from one unpredictable outcome to another. As Tobias is being sucked into a larger story with seemingly fateful implications which could affect mankind itself, we see the world through his eyes — it’s a delightful intellectual soup, a stream of consciousness which distills everyday reality into a series of convoluted yet wonderfully logical philosophical observations that only a stridently original mind could conceive. There is laugh-out-loud humor which rings true in almost every line. As a reader, one feels inside the mind of a razor-sharp genius character who, while constantly misfiring with the outside environment, has an alluring nobility of purpose and a startlingly frank self-awareness. His effort to leave a writer’s impression on the world and complete his family’s destiny, creates an overwhelming empathy with his quest to untangle the bizarre twists his life has taken. As things come together and fall apart, Tobias’ story hurls toward a climax that is so spectacularly perfect that it will knock your socks off. Terry Tarnoff writes sentences that burgeon into paragraphs with internal rhythms and that dance off the page in twisting, labyrinthian melodies redolent of Henry Miller’s musical cadences. The Thousand Year Journey of Tobias Parker is a revelation that spills from page to page in a joyous song. Stephen Weinberg, the theoretical physicist, wrote ‘The effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things that lifts human life above the level of farce, and gives it some of the grace of tragedy.’ Terry Tarnoff has done all of this in his novel.”
– Michael Danzig, screenwriter

“After reading The Bone Man of Benares, many of us hoped to hear more tales of adventure from Terry Tarnoff. He has done it again with his customary gusto and we don’t need to worry about waiting for The Thousand Year Journey of Tobias Parker to be made into a film because when reading this delightful new book, you feel you have a front row seat and are already in the movie itself. Terry Tarnoff has the gift of making the reader feel that he or she is part of the story. This is the gift of great story tellers.”
David Amram, author of Off Beat: Collaborating with Jack Kerouac