Mother for Dinner by Shalom Auslander - review by John Phipps

John Phipps

Fine Young Cannibals

Mother for Dinner


Picador 272pp £16.99

The main character in Mother for Dinner, Shalom Auslander’s new novel, is dissatisfied with the state of the contemporary American novel. He works as a publisher and has begun to feel as though every manuscript he reads is about the same thing: identity. The more minute and particular the identity in question, the more general and same-ish the quality of the book. So ‘the one about the Blind-Alcoholic-Latinx-Sri-Lankan-American’ reads no differently from ‘the one about the Gender-Neutral-Albino-Lebanese-Eritrean-American’. For Seventh, our protagonist, identity has always felt more like a form of imprisonment than liberation. ‘And yet lately, all around him, the prisoners were proudly raising their shackles overhead and cheering their own bondage.’

Identity is a problem for Seventh because he belongs to a hidden minority who practise their culture in secret: Seventh is Cannibal. Not ‘a cannibal’, just Cannibal – Cannibal-American, to be precise. As the book begins, his mother, Mudd, is dying, and she wants her children to eat her after

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