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Bizarre and fantastic, The Grammar Architect is a string of artsy fantasies written in matter-of-fact prose. A cover of Thomas Hardy’s A Pair of Blue Eyes, it’s adolescent in content and outlook and delves into the insanities of a university art community. Each of Eaton’s characters is insular in his or her own way, obsessed with a different extreme of art. A novelist loses his mind cataloguing the components of a church tower (right down to the corpses in the catacombs and the garbage in the sewage tunnels); a soprano with overdeveloped throat muscles learns to splinter wood with her esophagus; a man named Tragedy transforms himself into a bicycle seat or a swan to seduce his 16-year-old daughter’s friends; Tragedy discovers the soprano is in love with his daughter and has her surgically altered into a machine from the shoulders up.

The reader is treated to unconventional (and inaccurate) musings on space and time travel, including an interesting theory of how the speed of light must be zero, and the requisite time machine. Unfortunately, the book contains not a single female character who is not defined by either her body, her sexuality, or her relationship to a man, which makes it hard to read. Eaton’s graceful ending offers some explanation for the book’s fantastical nature: “‘Is this the life you wanted? Settling into the predictability of the believable?’ Where, he asked, was the unrealistic bliss of the extraordinary? Where was the beauty? Was all life really without a compelling story?” (Sarah Nelson)

by Chris Eaton, $21.95, 287 pgs, Insomniac Press, 192 Spadina Ave., suite 403, Toronto, ON, M5T 2C2, insomniacpress.com

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