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All my Friends are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman

There are 249 superheroes in the city of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Tom is not one of them, but he had just got married to one – the Perfectionist – when her jealous ex, Hypno, hypnotised her into being completely unable to see or hear or otherwise respond to him. It certainly led to the wedding night Tom was least expecting – instead of the usual, he began to work out her new responses to him when he tried to touch her, such as hiccupping when he touched her head, spasms when he tried hand contact. Now, six months on, the Perfectionist is quitting the city for a new life. He is in the plane seat right next to her, hoping against hope to get what they had back…

All my Friends are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Almost as superlative as its characters, this lovely little breeze through life and love is like far too many relationships – charming, full of its own character, and too short.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 126 Date: October 2013
Publisher: Telegram Books
ISBN: 9781846591600

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Well, all right, there aren't really 249 superheroes in the city of Toronto. As the author of this brilliant but brief book says, all you have to do to become one is see the side of your nature that you do more superlatively than anyone else, and lo and behold, that is your superpower. Tom has dated them before the Perfectionist – there was the girl who announced all her pipe-dreams and yet did nothing, she soon vanished; there was TV Girl, who – well, you can probably guess what she had as a hobby. The Perfectionist had them before as well, and in fact they are in every facet of life, from the luckiest to the most wearisome. They are all in amongst us and we are all of them – except for the weird best friend Tom found clogging up the drain of a full swimming pool he was cleaning…

Adding to Andrew Kaufman's unique perspective on the dating scene as featured in these pages are thumb-nail biographies of lots more superheroes – many more than were in the book when first published ten years ago. It's a volume that's well worth the re-release, for it really can have the (super)power to delight. Flashbacks to earlier relationships, or the burgeoning one that led to Tom's marriage also break up the narrative, and they can be charming instances of lovely moments such as those we see in rom-coms that we are always hoping in vain to have the power to live out in real life, or they can be incredibly surreal – twice Tom's body gets opened up in bizarre fashion. Either way they build up the world as it is in these pages and it's a great world – one where an invisible boy can finally find an invisible girl, and more.

It's a great book too – Kaufman dripping tiny little morals and scenes in, such as a visit from a love salesman, who can provide countless realistic kinds, if not the one the aforementioned rom-com might end up dramatizing, or the real evocation of first-date anxiety. If I itemised all the odd bits of comedy – for example, the multitude of funny things that always happen on Wednesdays – it would end up as sounding too quirky for its own good, but it's not. It's a controlled inventiveness, and the result of that is really enjoyable. It's snappy, warm-hearted and very winsome. Now we know what Kaufman's superpower is…

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

With The Tiny Wife - which we also enjoyed - Kaufman is showing himself to be a master of the less-is-more brigade.

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