'All my Friends are Superheroes', by Andrew Kaufman

Last week i bumped into a marvellous little gem of scarcely 100 pages. Handy when you’ve got a free afternoon to spend and are in for some good laughs (btw this kind of situation generally is called ‘holiday’: other parts of the year you’ll see that a. you don’t have a free afternoon to spend and/or b. you aren’t in for some good laughs).

But holiday it is, my friends! And the fun already begins on the back cover, where it is written, about the author i’d never heard of: “Andrew Kaufman was born in the town of Wingham, Ontario, Canada, the birthplace of Alice Munro, making him the second best writer from a town of three thousand.” Now that’s what i call catching my attention. Laugh number one was born. I’m still enjoying the sentence, actually. (Is it Andrew Kaufman himself who brewed it, or some smart guy or girl at this small editing firm, Telegram (London)? Anyway, it’s a great appetizer.)

Then, the opening sequence says it all:

“Tom and the Perfectionist sit in the designated waiting area of Gate 23, Terminal 2, Lester B. Pearson International Airport. It’s 10:13 am. Tom watches the Perfectionist check the address on her carry-on luggage. She tugs the tag. It’s the third time she’s done this. She looks around the airport lounge. There are more people than seats. She can’t figure out why no one has taken the empty chair to her right.”

The thing now is: the chair to her right isn’t empty at all. Tom is sitting in it. But the Perfectionist can’t see him. He’s invisible to her. Since their wedding night, six months ago, he’s been trying to convince her he isn’t: he has made phone calls and sent faxes, telegrams, e-mails. Mutual friends have tried to convince her Tom isn’t invisible. All in vain.

There’s another Canadian writer, Sheila Heti, testifying: “Somebody should write to Mr Kaufman and thank him for his tender heart. I expect this story will replace boxes of chocolates and flowers in courting rituals to come.” So, all you lovers out there: what are you waiting for?

You’ll have a great time reading this wonderful and heartbreakingly funny tribute to love, and double even when reading it to your beloved. Maybe you did just offer her this box of Belgian chocolates, maybe a hazelnut one just came to melt upon her lips. Maybe she’ll be melting too while you’re reading Superheroes to her. Maybe, licking her lips she’ll allow you to have a taste too. Triple, no: quadruple fun. The meltdown will be complete.

(Andrew Kaufman, ‘All my friends are superheroes’, originally published by Coach House Books, Canada, 2003. Published by Telegram, UK, in 2006.)

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