July 7, 1999

“Chump Change” by David Eddie

Reviewed by Mark Lindquist
Special to The Seattle Times

“I am a failure,” begins David Eddie’s narrator, David Henry. Though it is risky to assume a first novel is autobiographical just because first novels often are, it’s a safe bet here.

Eddie has pointedly adopted the autobiographical tradition, and the publisher’s promotional materials play it up: Both author and narrator graduated from the Columbia School of Journalism, both were letters clerks for Newsweek, both moved to Toronto and worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation – though, in a nod to Henry Miller, the CBC is called the Cosmodemonic Broadcasting Corporation.

Also included in the promotional package is a glossy card labeled “My Manifesto, by David Eddie.” “My motto is: drink up, do what your nature prompts you to do, say what’s on your mind; then, the next day, phone – or in extreme cases, write – and apologize. I guess that’s what `Chump Change’ really is: a form of apology for my behavior thus far.”

This 230-page attempt to atone tracks the narrator’s career arc from gleeful loser to struggling free-lancer to prosperous TV writer and back to gleeful loser.

On the road mess traveled, Henry drinks whenever possible, has perplexing sexual relationships, and talks, talks, talks. His rant targets include minimalist writers, which is ironic because Henry/Eddie could benefit from reading a few books written with nuance and control.

Henry is remarkably undisciplined with his life, and Eddie is remarkably undisciplined with his prose.

Still, this is an engaging read because of Eddie’s relentless energy, honesty and wit. He is someone you would want to have a drink with.

I only hope he sobers up long enough to write a second novel. Tip to the author: you should never add ice to Lagavulin, but just a measured splash of water.


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