With his debut novel, All My Friends Are Superheroes
, Andrew Kaufman officially enters the ranks of Not Your Mother's Can Lit. Like other young Canadian writers who have turned their backs on the tired subjects of forgotten history and family sagas, Kaufman writes not what will sell but what he knows: the mediascape and pop culture. A weird hybrid of fable, urban angst, and comic geekdom, All My Friends Are Superheroes
is a light-hearted novel that skewers literary pretensions as much as our banal world of office drones and boring, meaningless lives. It follows the tale of Tom, who is trying to find a way to make his wife notice him again before she moves from Toronto to Vancouver and out of his life forever. While this is hardly an original plot, Kaufman makes it new with a few twists: Tom's wife doesn't notice him because she's been hypnotized into thinking he's invisible, and the urban scenesters who populate the novel all have super powers.
In fact, everybody in Tom's world has a super power--everybody but Tom, that is. However, these powers are for the most part useless, more neuroses than anything else. There's the Perfectionist, who is obsessed with making things orderly; the Businessman, who can assess people's worth just by looking at them; the Couch Surfer, who can survive extreme poverty; and many more. Think Sheila Heti meets Jim Munroe. At a slim 112 pages, All My Friends Are Superheroes is more of a romp through the culture of young urban professionals and our society's accumulated personality disorders than it is a comprehensive or meaningful examination of any serious issues. But Kaufman makes it clear that his goal isn't to write literature with a capital "L"; it's to make literature fun again. And we all know there's nothing more fun than superheroes. --Peter Darbyshire
We have here a very short tale, probably less than 30,000 words, however the laughs are plentiful. One has to suspend disbelief and accept the narrators statement that There are 249 superheroes in the City of Toronto. . . None of them have secret identities. Very few wear costumes. Tom, our narrator, is married to the Perfectionist, whose superpower is an ability to will things to be orderly. On their wedding day, a bad superhero, Hypno, hypnotizes the Perfectionist to believe Tom is invisible. Thinking Tom has disappeared the Perfectionist is heartbroken and six months later decides to fly to Vancouver to start life anew. Tom occupies the empty seat beside her and he has until the landing in Vancouver to convince her he is there or he will lose her forever. A decent premise, however it is imperative that, by whatever means, Tom solve his own problem. This doesnt happen which makes for a real letdown at the end. The positive aspect of the story is Toms descriptions of the superheroes. For instance, The Couch Surfer: Empowered with the ability to sustain life and limb without a job, steady companion or permanent place of residence. . . is not only able to withstand long periods of acute poverty but is also able to nutritionally sustain himself on only handfuls of breakfast cereals, slices of dry bread and condiments. Mysteriously always has cigarettes. The standup comedy aspect of the descriptions of the superheroes is worth a quick glance. W.P. Kinsella
(Books in Canada)
-- Books in Canada