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As Sparky relates scenes from his past, they escalate in pathetic, comic scale from the believable romantic humiliation during “the whole puberty-adolescent episode” to wild tales of his service as an intelligence operative. In one lengthy narrative, he describes being assigned, though speaking no Russian, to spy while riding the Siberian railway. With a computer chip sewed in his underpants, he tries to fend off the nefarious attentions of a red-lipsticked Russian agent straight out of a James Bond movie

This breathless sequence pairs a kind of Catch-22 worldview with an Inspector Clouseau haplessness that’s hilarious. Did Sparky imagine it all? Does he really believe Tina Turner will show up at his party? Doesn’t seem to matter. Teetering between poignancy and farce, ultimately—and disappointingly—Sparky’s psyche doesn’t seem real but a clever comic construct. —Francine Russo

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