Dad Says He Saw You at the Mall

Ken Sparling, Author Alfred A. Knopf $21 (0p) ISBN 978-0-679-42658-5
The title of this minimalist collage hints at two banalities: the first is the soul-smothering kind against which the fictional Ken Sparling, the character and narrator, battles by splicing daily incidents, surreal little anecdotes, erotic fantasies and anxiety-laden daydreams; the second is the kind that Sparling, the author, doesn't quite evade as his first novel ultimately succumbs to its own two-dimensionality. The author is a Toronto librarian and an editor for Gutter Press; his narrator works on a computer terminal in a Canadian library, where he obsesses over Tutti, his couch potato of a wife, whose life seems to revolve around television, Hollywood hunks and food fetishes. The narrator's overriding concern is his infant son, Sammy. Yet, while he repeatedly declares his great love for the boy and muses on the rewards and frustrations of fatherhood, he is too self-absorbed to communicate that love effectively. And while the fictional Sparling relives the trauma of his parents' divorce when he was six and reminisces about his mother, father and stepmother, we never come to understand his feelings about them. Sparling is at his best when riffing on the desperate search for meaning, the mind's waywardness or our inability to feel. In sometimes stunning images, he celebrates language as a source of renewal. But when it stands alone, naked amidst a rubble of pop-culture references and weary irony, this argument that language is handmaiden to the reinvention of the self sounds like it comes from an author who doth protest too much. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 04/29/1996
Release date: 05/01/1996
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 978-0-517-19377-8
Ebook - 155 pages - 978-1-4804-3482-0
Paperback - 166 pages - 978-0-9830263-8-9
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