DAD SAYS HE SAW YOU AT THE MALL by Ken Sparling

DAD SAYS HE SAW YOU AT THE MALL

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Toronto-based Sparling's debut is a short, elliptic, school-of-depression chronicle of married life that never quite convinces the reader of its reason for being. The teller of this sometimes briefly captivating non-story, one learns early on, is named Ken Sparling--a seeming declaration that author Ken Spading is going to pick at that irony-laden meeting point between the fictional and the real: a plan that offers slender hook on which to hang a tale. Ken Sparling is 36, lives in Ontario, works in a public library (he drove a bus before that), has a wife named Tutti, a preschool son named Sammy. The daily life of these three--breakfast, meals, TV, going to work, using the car, going to bed--fills these slender and often rather dismal pages, while underneath, it seems, there lurks a profound angst the cause of which, nevertheless, remains unclear. Sparling's despair may be the result of his parents' divorce when he was a boy, though tiny glimpses of said parents give the reader little foundation for understanding and less for empathy, while Spading goes on insisting that he's in pain (""Listen, how much more of this do you think I can take?""). Whether Tutti and he stay together isn't spelled out, but Sparling's book-long tone of self-pity on the way to this irresolution can sometimes be amusing as literary satire (""You want the weather? Watch the weather network. Okay? I am not the fucking weatherman"") and sometimes enticing as to its aesthetic implications (""I wanted to tell the truth. But you try telling the truth. Just try it sometime""), though just as often it remains predominantly adolescent and dismissive. ""The universe keeps striking the same note,"" Spading declares in a revealing philosophic moment. ""I suddenly realize there has only ever been one note."" Fiction, in all, that's trying hard to be serious, but isn't yet energized by the substantive power of a real subject.

Pub Date: March 24th, 1996
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Knopf