Joshua Nomen-Mutatio's Reviews > The Sleeping Father

The Sleeping Father by Matthew Sharpe
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's review
Sep 27, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction

I discovered Matthew Sharpe, one of many underappreciated novelists swirling around a sea of undue obscurity, through Krok's DFW-comparison-raising review of You Were Wrong. Based on my trust of Krok's taste in the fine arts and my largely reflexive adherence to DFW-comparisons, I had to check it out. I quickly purchased You Were Wrong and devoured it one night while getting pretty tanked and jacked up on Irish whiskey infused coffee. Soon after this doubly intoxicating experience, I purchased the rest of Sharpe's output and tore through all three remaining novels and a short story collection rather quickly. I documented my love of one of these books so far, but haven't given any thoughts on the others yet, despite a thorough enjoyment of all of them, until now.

The Sleeping Father falls in line with a form and style of storytelling that is now very, painfully, recognizable, to the point of cliché-and-anti-cliché-backlash in the realm of so-called independent films: The Quirky Disfunctional Family Drama (QDFD). The last of these sort of films I was able to enjoy without succumbing to kneejerk backlash was The Royal Tenenbaums way back in the heady daze of 2002. Since then, with Little Miss Sunshine being a glaring example, this basic form has become more of a bottom-line-padding commodity and less of an authentic artform, and has given birth to a long, pathetically unself-aware lineage of poorly Xeroxed derivations. However, despite reading this in 2010, I was able to look beyond the fact that good things eventually become bad cliches and simply appreciate this book as the sad-funny-compelling story that it is. The fact that it was written in the early Aughties (i.e., 2000's) made it feel more forgivable than were it written after the further passé-solidification of the QDFD form and having already read and really enjoyed Sharpe's work, which, of course, primed me with a positive inclination before even reading the opening sentence.

The story mainly revolves around a single family that is more troubled than quirky, but some quirk remains. The titular father is in a coma, the son does some typical and untypical stuff with drugs and sex, the daughter similarly with religion rather than drugs, the dad's flawed but highly sympathetic, et cetera. Despite some QDFD tropes, I still found myself really engaged and caring about the fate of the characters. There's plenty of death-anxiety tension sewn into the narrative fabric, something I tend to find compelling, even if the method of delivery isn't surrounded by a perfectly flawless execution.

Sharpe's writing remains pretty top-notch throughout, as with all of his work, and the only real flaws here are the occasional tiny swells of what feels like an overindulgence in the QDFD details. I'd recommend any of his other novels over this one, but calling this a relatively flawed book when held up to the others is still a huge compliment.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Ian (new) - added it

Ian "Marvin" Zabala-Graye This is enough of a recommendation for me, even if it's not his best. Thanks.

message 2: by Nate D (new)

Nate D Ha, yes! I was not so into Little Miss Sunshine either, and no one around me could understand why. Nonetheless, this does sound intriguing.

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Matthew Sharpe deserves a much larger readership than he'll ever realistically get. I'd love to see more of my fellow GR pals check his sheeeit out.

message 4: by Cait (new) - added it

Cait Poytress Which would you recommend starting with? I have You Were Wrong, Jamestown, and this one.

message 5: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Oct 12, 2014 10:03AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio I guess I'd say (now very late to respond) to start with You Were Wrong and then go onto Jamestown. His first book, a short stories collection, Stories From The Tube and another early novel, Nothing is Wrong, are both also worth checking out as well.

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