Hung up on hang-ups

Posted on February 1, 2006

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By Susan Tomaselli

“If you get hung up on everybody else’s hang-ups, then the whole world’s going to be nothing more than one huge gallows.”
– Richard Brautigan

Regular Torontian guy Tom feels a little out of sorts. In the city where there are 249 superheroes, most of whom share the first name ‘The’, and many sketched here, Tom isn’t one of them. But that’s not the problem. The problem is that Tom is invisible to his wife The Perfectionist, and has been since their nuptials were exchanged six months ago, when her evil ex Hypno convinced her that she is unable to see her new husband. Tom remains invisible only to her, but he must employ the help of her friends to win her back or lose her forever.

The story, told in flashback on Tom’s journey as he accompanies Perf from Toronto to Vancouver in a last ditch attempt to make her see him, introduces the reader to the superheroes and their powers. Except they aren’t of the crime-fighting variety, very few of them wear costumes, and their powers are of little use to anyone including themselves (Tom’s best friend The Amphibian can’t think of a use for his superpower – the ability to live underwater – so works as a motorcycle courier instead.)

Much of the character of the book is defined through the Kaufman’s sharp obeservations of the heroes, everyday people whose names stem from the “single phrase or image” that defines them, and while they have little to do with the narrative drive of the plot, it’s worth mentioning a few to give you a flavour of the book: The Couch Surfer, “empowered with the ability to sustain life and limb without a job, steady companion, or permanent place of residence – and can be found roaming from couch to couch of friends’ apartments all across the city,” and despite a lack of money or employment, always manages to have a stash of cigarettes; The Seeker, who “knows how to get anywhere from any place, even if he’s never been there before”; Mr Opportunity who goes knocking on people’s doors, “you’d be surprised how few get answered”; The Frog-Kisser, “blessed with the ability to transform geeks into winners”; the anal Mistress Cleanasyougo, “the most powerful superhero of all, the one everyone wishes they were.”

Though the book is essentially a clever one-liner, Kaufman delivers it well. All My Friends Are Superheroes is an addictive, brisk, wonderfully inventive and funny piece of work, and despite being a tale of love, it’s not at all sickly.

All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman
Telegram Books
111 Pages

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Posted in: Reading