Shalom Auslander, Hope: A Tragedy
A gutsy book with a gutsy premise
The title of Shalom Auslander’s debut novel, Hope: A Tragedy, is as tersely comic as the prose it contains. If a previous book of short stories (Beware of God) suggested that the author might deserve a place within the hallowed tradition of literary Jewish pessimists, his newest effort confirms it. Hope , a gutsy book with a gutsy premise – begins when a man named Solomon Kugel hears tapping noises coming from his attic. Kugel follows the sounds and discovers a living, elderly Anne Frank residing in the uppermost reaches of his farmhouse in upstate New York. She’s working on a novel; what Kugel heard was the typewriter.
To this living arrangement, add one tyrannical hypochondriac of a mother, one semi-sympathetic wife and one toddler. Then stir. The result is a satire that transcends its clever conceit thanks to Auslander’s unmistakable voice. That voice, incidentally, is one that some listeners will recognize from This American Life, where the writer often pops up with stories that bridge the territory between soul-crumpling and hilarious. What make for a brilliant radio piece, it turns out – economy, rhythm, stylishness without frippery – make for an equally beguiling novel.