The ****ing Awesome Ken Sparling

  • Activity Being Procrastinated: Nothing!  The grammar is done! (And I’m not checking my business e-mail until Monday night, damn it.)
  • Music In My Head: Carousel – Iron and Wine
  • Tea: blueberry and peach, poured from a Massive Teapot
  • Books Being Read: Book.  I’m serious: that’s the title.

On Thursday night, I missed my subway stop.  I had to get off at the next one and go back to Union.  But I was okay with that.  I missed the stop because I was reading.

One of the writing groups I belong to is, well, deteriorating (read: bloody well decaying), so I’ve stopped arranging for workshops and such things that depend on people attending.  I’ve decided that for a while I’ll just go to readings and other writerly things that are already organised, and I post these on our meeting site.  If people want to join me, I’m quite happy for the company.

This week, I went to a reading arranged by Pedlar Press.  Stan Dragland and Ken Sparling were reading; I’d heard of Stan Dragland but never read anything of his, but I figured it would get me out of the house – and out of February – for a couple of hours.

Stan Dragland was good.

Ken Sparling was better.  Much better.  ****ing outstanding.

I’d never heard of him before.

So Beth Follett (the publisher) got up to introduce the two authors, and she made mention of how difficult it is to get Ken Sparling to do a reading.  She also said that he wrote the blurb for the back of his new book, and that the blurb is nothing but a few words deriding “villains” who insist on summarising a book.  I liked the guy already.

So Stan Dragland did his stuff: he’s smooth and funny and very talented in the art of writing.  I enjoyed listening to the story, but it didn’t make me want to hunt down and devour the book.  It wasn’t jaw-dropping and awesome.

Ken Spalding read second.  He was obviously nervous, but he took a few swigs of water and got right with the reading.  He read very slowly – very slowly, and almost monotonously – but the words were accurate and concise, and the slow speech fit in nicely with his writing style.  Without tone, he made the sentences do the work, made the words create the emphasis.  It was utterly brilliant.

Hart House library, with Cathy-and-Heathcliff windows


The reading was held in Hart House library, which is the sort of room that highly appeals to my sense of why-the-hell-must-I-live-in-this-century.  I enjoyed the atmosphere when Stan was reading, and completely ignored it when Ken was reading.  In fact, if I’d been able to do without the lipreading, I’d have closed my eyes and just immersed myself in his voice.

I didn’t care what the books cost; I knew I’d be getting meself some of Ken’s writing.  I needed it.

Turns out they had a “sale”.  I emptied out my wallet, but didn’t have enough for all of his books.  I had to make a decision.  It was hard, but I chose two:

Book and still a book


I had to get Book (that was the one he read from) because I would expire if I didn’t get the rest of the story.  I also got the one with no title because… well, you just have to read a book that has no title.  It’s not called Untitled, it just has no title.  On the spine, the author’s name and the publisher are written in black, but that’s it.

I was reading the book without a title when I missed my subway stop.  It has the most jaw-dropping and awesome words on the pages.  I’m not going to try and define them: they work kind of like Hemingway’s six-word story.

  • I’d like to see my mother locked up.  But someplace nice.  With flowers.  And good food.  And furniture. (p. 146)
  • The air drops down.  Carves you into something new.  Steals your skin.  Unsheathes you.  Leaves your brown hat trembling. (p. 163)
  • He fell into those lips.  He’s still there.  The sun will be up.  He won’t know about this moon. (p. 172)

When I bought the books, I was told I was welcome to get the author to sign them.  I looked over at Ken, but he was surrounded by three people and completely petrified.  I really don’t care about getting an author’s signature (and don’t understand it, either), so I decided to spare him.  Instead, I would share him with the world.

Can you borrow the books?  Hell, no.  Keep your hands off them.  They’re mine.  Buy your own.

I’m halfway through Book.  So far, it’s just as incredible as the untitled book.  Pasha Malla wrote the blurb on the back:

Reading Ken Sparling is a bit like those first few days with new eyeglasses.  At first you’re disoriented; the world reels in an unfamiliar way.  But then things start to look a little sharper, a little more defined.  You see that the tops of tree aren’t just big globs of green, but that each individual leaf trembles on its own, in its own way.  It’s a new way of seeing, and some of the most perceptive, original, brilliant and touching writing you will come across, in Canada or anywhere.  Read Book, and get ready to be changed.

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