Literature | Humour | Romance | Sci-Fi-Fantasy

All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman, Book Review

Andrew Kaufman’s debut novella All My Friends Are Superheroes was originally published in 1999.

Andrew Kaufman All My Friends Are SuperheroesAll My Friends Are Superheroes Synopsis

All Tom’s friends really are superheroes. Tom even married a superhero, the Perfectionist. But at their wedding the Perfectionist is hypnotized by her ex, Hypno, to believe that Tom is invisible. Nothing he does can make her see him.

Six months later the Perfectionist is sure that Tom has abandoned her, so she’s moving to Vancouver. She’ll use her superpower to leave all the heartbreak behind. With no idea that Tom’s beside her, she boards the plane. Tom has until they touch down to convince her he’s there, or he loses her forever…

A wonderful and heartbreakingly funny tribute to love.

**The special 10th Anniversary edition of All My Friends Are Superheroes features new chapters profiling 32 brand new superheroes such as Stress-bunny’s League of Losers, Hypno’s Short-term Relationships, Former Roommates of the Perfectionist and many more.

(SAQI Books)

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BOOK REVIEW

Adoration is really the only way to describe my feelings towards the first of Andrew Kaufman’s titles that I read, The Tiny Wife (2010). So it was with high expectations that I approached his debut title, first published almost a decade beforehand, All My Friends Are Superheroes.

One of the many charming things about this novella is Kaufman’s interpretation of superheroes.

The final stage of finding your superhero name is accepting how little difference it really makes. Okay, there’s this thing you can do, a thing you can do like no other person on the planet. That makes you special, but being special really doesn’t mean anything. You still have to get dressed in the morning. Your shoelaces still break. Your lover will still leave you if you don’t treat her right.

The gist, we learn through clever metaphor within metaphor, is that a superhero’s powers are only beneficial in specific circumstances (indeed some will more often than not feel like a curse) and they often pertain to how others ‘see’ or ‘relate’ to you. But benefit can be derived if these talents are considered in the right light, in the right context or from a particular perspective. To grossly oversimplify, what Kaufman offers up is a nuanced ‘glass half full’ analogy.

Fantastically sweet

The way Kaufman contextualises the fantastical within the mundane is highly engaging and often moving. This story is sweet like a cupcake. It is easy to see why it attained cult status.

The Frog-Kisser: Blessed with the ability to transform geeks into winners, she is cursed with the reality that once she enables this transformation, the origin of her initial attraction is gone.

Despite its enviable charm and cleverness, this edition in particular (with its addition of “32 brand new superheroes”) did not live up to my expectations.

All My Friends Are Super Heroes breaks into smithereens a rule I hold dear, that ‘more is less’. Just because you might like cupcakes topped with rainbow sprinkles, chocolate flakes, gummy bears and toffee shards, etc you really should not put all those toppings on a single cupcake. What is at first refreshing begins leaning towards trite; so sweet it has the potential to give some readers the equivalent of diabetic shock. It is likely I would have preferred the original.

Andrew Kaufman’s maturation as a writer in the decade between the publication of All My Friends Are Superheroes and The Tiny Wife is clear to me. The latter, while exploring similar themes does so more selectively, in a more comprehensive manner to a much deeper level – the impact more profound.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 3.5 / 5  — Overall 3.75

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Genre: Literature, Humour, Romance, Fantasy

About the Author, Andrew Kaufman

Andrew Kaufman was born in the town of Wingham Ontario, Canada. This is the same town Alice Munroe was born in, making him the second best writer from a town of 3,000. He is a descendant from a long line of librarians and accountants. All My Friends Are Superheroes has been translated into Italian, French, Norwegian, German, Korean, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, Catalan, Swedish and Turkish. His other works include The Waterpoof Bible (Telegram), The Tiny Wife, and Born Weird. He is also a film-maker, radio producer and a regular contributor to the McSweeney’s website.