My Review of Ken Sparling’s Dad Says He Saw You at the Mall

My review of Ken Sparling’s Dad Says He Saw You at the Mall is in the December issue of The Collagist. Here’s an excerpt:

You could call this book minimalist as its clipped, emotionally-stripped sentences (where all but the most essential details are sandblasted away) mirror the various masters of the form, from Beckett to Gordon Lish’s famed coterie (Lish was Sparling’s editor at Knopf) and beyond. Sparling’s prose is characterized by its economy and innuendo, its eschewal of detailed description and exposition, its obliqueness, all of which is used to construct a vivid portrait of suburban malaise. But while certainly beguiling to describe it in this way, it would not get you any closer to the heart of this book, that is, its troubled narrator, who, in a fragmentary manner, through a series of fractured anecdotes, observations, rants, and meditations, inhabits your thinking, makes you complicit in his actions.

And you could make the mistake of thinking that the book’s collage of banalities and philosophical reflections never really coheres into a sum greater than its parts. In fact, Dad Says He Saw You at the Mall is a “fractal” narrative, and, to borrow heavily from Alice Fulton’s extraordinary essay, “Fractal Amplifications: Writing in Three Dimensions,” every line in Sparling’s novel contains the same complexity as the larger piece from which it’s derived. It’s comprised of infinite nesting patterns. Digression, disruption, disintegration are privileged over any conventional notions of continuity. And it exists in a paradoxical space of movement and stasis.

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