Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi David Eddie's 'Chump Change'

By Thane Kenny

NOVEMBER 8, 1999: 

Chump Change by David Eddie (Riverhead Books), paper, $13

It's disconcerting to open a book and by page two realize, "Oh crap, this is about me!" There's a comfortable sense of familiarity, which is tempered by judgmental scrutiny and premonition. Such was the case for me with David Eddie's first novel, Chump Change, a slice of life, first-person narrative following the trials of David Henry, a confident though unproven young writer who abandons a lucrative but mundane New York life and returns home to Toronto. As the pages turned, the parallels grew, and by the time David has taken to writing book reviews for extra cash, I lost sight of the line separating lit from life, and read on simply to discover what would happen to me next.

Shortly after arriving in Toronto, David's life becomes an hysterical blur of old friends, bad jobs, hangovers, bill collectors, semi-psychotic relationships and the impatient expectation of inevitable literary fame. The storyline -- à la "Seinfeld" -- is about nothing, but it's a nonstop flood of nothing, hidden behind a front of demented characters, riotous situations, random biting sarcasm and comic misanthropy. If it's depth you seek, then don't look here. You'll close the back cover not with an enlightened soul but with a gut sore from laughing. Life-altering profundity was neither David Eddie's goal, nor his result.

That said, the author misses few chances to express his world view, slipping in a steady flow of double- barreled philosophies. In recounting the breakup with his girlfriend, he describes the "necessary fiction" of telling her that the separation is only temporary as a "crucial illusion when the truth [is] impossible to face," and by the same rationale explains man's creation of heaven and hell, all in the same breath. Or consider his reasoning why a friend rather than family retrieves him from the airport: "It's funny, isn't it, how God chooses bodies that all look alike for families, but seems to choose the souls almost at random?" The author manages this deft balance between madness and message well, but one passage stands out: "Books are essentially an affirming medium: they affirm your seemingly unique experience."

Most anyone will find this a fun weekend read, but a few will be laughing as they feel the words twisting like a knife between their ribs.

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