More than 20 publishers rejected the
manuscript for "The Sleeping Father." But one small independent publisher,
Soft Skull Press, decided to take a chance. Since then, "The Sleeping
Father" has earned critical praise, won the 2004 Independent Publishers
Award for fiction in 2004 and been part of the "The Today Show Book Club."
In April it will receive one more
distinction: the town of Norwalk will kick off its first "One Book, One
Community" celebration with "The Sleeping Father."
"The success of my book is almost
making me revise my glass-is-half-full-of-air outlook on life," says
Sharpe, assistant professor of English.
This is Sharpe's third published book
and, so far, his most successful. More than 30,000 copies have been sold
since its release in October 2003.
The "Sleeping Father" is a dark comedy
about Bernard, a divorced father of two teenage children, who accidentally
takes two incompatible antidepressant medications and lapses into a coma.
When he comes out of it, his son and daughter attempt to rehabilitate him.
"The Sleeping Father combines family
drama and social satire with elements of the wacky teen caper, all couched
in finely-tuned language that is a pleasure to read," says William Stowe,
the Benjamin Waite Professor of English Language in the English
Department. "It stands out for its clarity, and it's up-to-date and
playfully postmodern without being self-important or obscure."
When writing "The Sleeping Father,"
Sharpe wanted to understand the enormous change in American mental
healthcare, which he says now relies much more heavily on
psychopharmaceuticals than it did even ten years ago.
Sharpe adds that a The New York Times
report indicated 120 million Americans took antidepressants in 2002.
"I know a lot of people who have been
substantially helped by antidepressants, and even therapist friends of
mine who favor the talking cure say some of their patients are too
depressed to talk without the pills," Sharpe says. "But still, if half the
country's taking them, I think we can safely say they're over prescribed."
Characters in "The Sleeping Father"
have a comic bent, but Sharpe says they are decidedly realistic.
"The book is always humane," he says.
"The characters may sometimes behave like figures out of a comic book or a
laugh-track sitcom, but they are fully developed and elicit caring not
Sharpe, who joined the English
Department last September, said some of his most profound influences have
not been writers but people working in other fields. James Ensor, Julius
Hemphill, Marlon Brando, and Violeta Parra, among others, have inspired
Sharpe wrote his first story when he
was 10 years old about a bulldog who was a construction worker.
"It was hard to write that first story
and it's been hard to write every story since then," he says. "So why do I
still do this? Because the career as an international supermodel didn't
Sharpe will also make a presentation
about "The Sleeping Father" during a luncheon at the Norwalk "Festival of
Words" on April 9 at Norwalk Community College.
Sharpe's first book, "Stories from the
Tube" is a collection of 10 short stories based on TV advertisements. His
first novel, "Nothing is Terrible," is loosely based on "Jane Eyre" and
set in the late 20th century in New York City.