When I was a bookseller the phrase ‘gift edition’ was enough to bring me out in a rash. It usually meant a non-book, dressed up in frills and spangles, meant to catch the eye at the till point in the way that sweeties do in the supermarket. They also served as desperation presents on Christmas Eve. However, when I saw Andrew Kaufman’s name attached to one I had to overcome my inner cynic – Kaufman is the author of the quirkily eccentric The Tiny Wife which I’d read and loved. The book on offer from the lovely Telegram Books was a 10th anniversary gift edition of Kaufman’s first book All My Friends are Superheroes and it arrived devoid of all fancy-schmancy packaging. Some of you may know it already. No longer a bookseller 10 years ago, I’d missed Superheroes the first time around but it’s one of those word-of-mouth bestsellers and deservedly so. It’s about Tom all of whose friends has a particular skill or trait that they not only excel at but eclipse everyone else in the world. Tom’s married to The Perfectionist but at their wedding her jealous ex hypnotised her so that she can no longer see his rival. Many months and cigarettes later, Perf has packed up all their stuff and caught a plane to Vancouver to make a new home. Tom has a ticket, too – he’s sitting next to her and knows that he must make her see him before the plane lands. Not going to tell you the ending, obviously. Suffice to say it’s a sweet, endearing and at times very funny testament to love. Interspersed with Tom and Perf’s story are thumbnail sketches of superheroes, from The Sloth to The Projectionist. It’s a lovely little book but I’m afraid the extra 10th anniversary superheroes felt a bit of an add-on for me, although fans of the original edition may disagree. James Nunn’s perky illustrations are a joy – you can see for yourself here.
I’m going to take a deep breath, now, and get back to Ms Tartt