Sparling, Ken 1959-

views updated

Sparling, Ken 1959-


Born 1959, in Canada; married; wife's name Mary; children: Mark, Stephen.


Home—Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada. Office—Marketing and Communications, Toronto Public Library, 789 Yonge St., Toronto, Ontario M2N 5N9, Canada.


Writer, editor, and librarian. North York Public Library, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, librarian; Gutter Press Publications, Toronto, editor.



Dad Says He Saw You at the Mall, Knopf (New York, NY), 1996.

Hush Up and Listen Stinky Poo Butt, self-published, 2000.

[untitled], Pedlar Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2003.

For Those Whom God Has Blessed with Fingers, Pedlar Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2005.


Michael Schumacher: Living on the Limit, Warwick Publishing (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1999.

Jacques Villeneuve, Warwick Publishing (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1999.

Venus and Serena Williams, Warwick Publishing (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2000.

Jeff Gordon, Warwick Publishing (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2001.

Contributor of short stories to The Quarterly, New York Tyrant, and Land-Grant College Review. Former fiction editor of Blood & Aphorisms.


Ken Sparling, a writer, editor, and communications officer at the Toronto Public Library, is the author of Dad Says He Saw You at the Mall, [untitled], and other experimental works. "In a market ruled by long, historical fiction tomes, he keeps putting out slim, fragmented—some might call them postmodern—anti-narrative ‘novels,’" observed Micah Toub in Quill & Quire. "In fact, Sparling may just be one of the least careerist authors working in Canada today."

In his debut work, Dad Says He Saw You at the Mall, Sparling serves as both author and subject, examining the minutia of everyday life. According to Eye Weekly contributor Hal Niedzviecki, Sparling's prose "subverts traditional narrative. This novel has no plot, only a series of sprawling observations focused around the narrator's relationship with his wife and son. The family does things that almost every family does, but Sparling relives these events as if they were singular, revealing experiments concerning the nature of suburban existence." "The voice is ‘minimalist,’ but not flat," observed Elimae Web site contributor B. Renner. "Sparling's narration is sly, affecting, laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes in the same paragraph."

Sparling's self-published work Hush Up and Listen Stinky Poo Butt, assembled with duct tape and the shells of abandoned library books, also concerns the life of a suburban husband and father. "Stinky Poo is about being caught in the middle of things," Niedzviecki wrote in This Magazine. "It's about stasis, about denial and acceptance, about a new way to live life to the absolute limit—not through extreme adventure, but through extreme mundanity." [untitled] features only Sparling's name and the publisher's logo on its cover. "This novel doesn't seem to have limitations," Andy Devine commented on the Elimae Web site. "It isn't limited by plot or by character description. The next word in the sentence could be any word, the next sentence any sentence."

Like the author's previous works, For Those Whom God Has Blessed with Fingers employs a nonlinear narrative. "Without the force of forward linear progression, reading becomes a quieter, slower, more visceral activity," noted Rebecca Silver Slayter on the Web site. "And in For Those Whom God Has Blessed with Fingers, what remains, beyond the detritus of narrative convention, is a lovely, graceful, and sometimes savage thing."

Sparling told CA: "I started writing because, when I was a child, people seemed never to hear me when I spoke to them, but they sometimes paid attention to what I wrote.

"I think music has a big influence on what I write—all kinds of music from folk/roots to prog[ressive] rock to ‘Over the Rainbow.’ When I write, I seem to be trying to drive away the meaning of individual words in order to come upon a deeper (more felt?) meaning, the way music sometimes does (at least for me).

"Of all my books, I most love Hush Up and Listen Stinky Poo Butt. Besides having the power to startle and delight me when I go back and browse through it, the book pleases me because I wrote it, laid it out, and bound it myself, with the help of a few good people: my friend and editor, Derek McCormack; my wife, Mary, who sewed the pages of the book; and my sons, Mark and Stephen, who made the cover art."



Books in Canada, October, 1996, review of Dad Says He Saw You at the Mall, p. 40; summer, 2003, Nathan Whitlock, "Twisting One's Own Arm to Write Fiction," review of [untitled], p. 3.

Canadian Literature, spring, 1999, review of Dad Says He Saw You at the Mall, p. 161.

Canadian Review of Materials, June 9, 2000, review of Michael Schumacher: Living on the Limit.

Eye Weekly, April 25, 1996, Hal Niedzviecki, review of Dad Says He Saw You at the Mall.

Library Journal, March 1, 1996, review of Dad Says He Saw You at the Mall, p. 106.

Publishers Weekly, January 29, 1996, review of Dad Says He Saw You at the Mall, p. 85.

Quill & Quire, April, 1996, Ann Ireland, review of Dad Says He Saw You at the Mall, p. 30; March, 1999, review of Michael Schumacher, p. 58; November, 2005, Micah Toub, "Breaking Every Rule."

This Magazine, May-June, 2001, Nal Niedzviecki, "Anti-novelist: Ken Sparling Is Faced with an Interesting Dilemma," pp. 13-15


Elimae, (April 20, 2007), B. Renner, review of Dad Says He Saw You at the Mall, and Andy Devine, review of [untitled]., (April 20, 2007), Rebecca Silver Slayter, review of For Those Whom God Has Blessed with Fingers.

TDR: The Danforth Review Online, (May 14, 2007), Michael Bryson, "TDR Interview: Ken Sparling."

About this article

Sparling, Ken 1959-

Updated About content Print Article