Novel of the week: Mother for Dinner by Shalom Auslander
Auslander risks offending readers with a satire about cannibals being a ‘persecuted minority’
Shalom Auslander’s last novel, Hope: A Tragedy, featured a “foul-mouthed and geriatric Anne Frank” among its characters, said Sam Leith in The Guardian. In his latest work, he again risks offending readers with a satire about cannibals being a “persecuted minority”. Seventh Seltzer is a New York publisher who belongs to a dwindling band of “Cannibal-Americans”. Having “married out” of his tribe, he no longer participates in family rituals. Yet when his mother summons him to her deathbed, hoping he’ll give her the traditional send-off – for which she has been fattening herself up – his cannibalistic instincts reassert themselves.
Auslander can be a brilliantly funny writer, said Claire Lowdon in The Sunday Times. Yet as a satire on identity politics, Mother for Dinner is too removed from reality to be effective: it is seriously “overcooked”. On the contrary, its “conceit is inspired, ideally situated on the threshold between dream and reality”, said Richard Godwin in The Times. Retaining the “propulsion of true farce right to the end”, this is Auslander’s most satisfying novel yet.
Picador 272pp £16.99; The Week Bookshop £13.99
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