'Chris Eaton, A Biography' where Eaton tracks down all who share his common name

Chris Eaton, A Biography
By Chris Eaton

Everyone ego surfs. The act of putting one’s name into a search engine is a measure of self-worth—proof you are important enough to be carved out of the Internet’s chaos by way of a Google algorithm. Blessed with a common name, Chris Eaton (the New Brunswick-born author and musician who does a pretty trippy version of Justin Timberlake’s SexyBack) uses the lives of other very real Chris Eatons as narrative fodder for a novel about his many namesakes.

There’s Chris Eaton the politician, the maker of Star Wars figurines, the tortured experimental musician, the Cure-obsessed weird kid, the 18th-century orphan, the wrestler. Chris Eaton is gay, straight, male, female, dead, alive, an enduring success at life, an abject failure. They are tied together only by name and by Chris Eaton’s beautifully overstuffed prose.

Nabokov could write about his back porch and make it interesting; Chris Eaton does much the same with his fellow Chris Eatons. On Chris Eaton, the portrait artist: “He could not picture being the only one wearing a seat belt and Tony being tossed neatly out the window as the van did its first flip, as if God had just reached in and yanked him out like a tissue, couldn’t recall Conrad’s head striking the passenger headrest, his nose driven sideways across his face, snapping like one of those plastic cases that kept cassette tapes high enough to see in the stacks previously made for LPs, couldn’t even fathom the steering wheel meeting Phil’s ribs, driving them into his bladder and eventually causing an infection that would prevent him from having kids and ruin his first marriage.”

Nestled in these marvelous, car-crash-worthy run-ons are dead-stop morsels of succinctness: “Sports, especially televised sports, were the lotteries of the chronically poor, on that level of social strata that exists beneath hope.” Ahh. You don’t read Chris Eaton: A Biography so much as surrender yourself to Chris Eaton’s barrage of effortless digression.

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