From Publishers Weekly
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.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
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 Sparling 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 Sparling 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,'' Sparling 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. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.