Last month I began Shalom Auslander’s new novel, Hope: A Tragedy. However, I put the book aside for a few weeks and then forgot what I had read. So this weekend I started the novel over, and I’m glad I did. Auslander is good writer with a wonderful sense of humor. I read his first book, Beware of God: Stories, a few years ago, and I thought his fiction was pretty good. So far, Hope is turning out to be even better than his short-story collection, and the premise is what has captured my attention. From what I’ve read so far, up to page 62, it’s the story of Solomon Kugel, a neurotic urbanite who moves with his wife and small son to an nondescript farming community. As the novel opens, and as he lies awake worrying about a a recent surge of arson in his community, Kugel hears some tapping in his attic and goes up to investigate. He expects to see rat turds, evidence that they are what has been causing the noise, but he discovers much to his surprise that an old woman is living in his attic. Making matters even more complicated, and even more hilarious, he learns that this woman is a Holocaust survivor…and what is more, she claims to be Anne Frank. She has a little living space in his attic, behind boxes that have been stored in the attic and have been arranged to shield her from discovery, and in her space she has a makeshift desk with a computer and printer. She’s in the midst of writing a novel, years in the making, and a literary exercise that she hopes will shadow her diaries (which, of course, have gained wide recognition despite her not actually being dead). Here is another Anne Frank narrative, one to stand alongside Philip Roth’s The Ghost Writer and perhaps Nathan Englander’s What We Talk about When We Talk about Anne Frank: Stories (I’m not sure about the latter, since I haven’t yet read it). Auslander’s novel definitely has me hooked, and I can’t wait to continue my reading so that I can find out how the Anne Frank angle plays out.
For great videos that preview the novel, check out the novel’s page on Amazon.com. Funny stuff!