Monday, February 26, 2007
The Sleeping Father by Matthew Sharpe
I was pretty charmed by this quirky novel about a father who goes into a coma and the teenage kids who run astray during his big sleep. When I teach workshop, I sometimes ask the class if they feel the writing in hand is meant to be realist--in other words are we supposed to believe this could happen--as a first step in discussing a piece. And lately in published work I'm noticing a fair amount of not-exactly-realist but also not-fantastical fiction. It's not magic realism because the laws of physics don't get broken, and yet through stylistic tricks, the writer seems to be winking at the reader while having his teenage slacker character draw magic marker sideburns on his coma-dad. It's an interesting idea--using style as a means of getting away with extreme coincidences and pretty crazy characters. And usually it's cued by a line toward the start of the fiction that makes you think--ah, we're in strange waters here. It's less definite in this novel--though perhaps the title suggests the tone enough to give readers their first hint. But it's really a couple of chapters in when you realize this is no Salingeresque coming of age. It's more Vonnegutesque but here on Earth.