Book Review: Holocaust Tips for Kids and Smite the Heathens, Charlie Brown by Shalom Auslander
Satire is a difficult form to get right. If it is too humorous then it might not be biting enough; if the satire hits home then it can be dry and even dull, and then it can be humourless and miss its target.
These two short stories take a satirical aim at religious persecution and antisemitism in particular.
Holocaust Tips for Kids is a young teenage American boy’s view of the Nazi Holocaust. It reads like that teenage boy’s scrapbook, facts and reportage sit all beside the boy’s own writing on how he would survive a modern holocaust. This takes broad swipes at Hollywood action-adventure films, using their logic to fight a holocaust.
Smite the Heathens, Charlie Brown is written in the form of the classic American Charlie Brown story, using almost all the many characters from that world. Here there is a war, in the Charlie Brown world, between the believers in Schulz, the creature of them all, and the Giant Pumpkin God. The characters quickly fall into the different factions, seeing the others as heathens and therefore justifying their own actions.
Shalom Auslander has captured both these separate worlds extremely well. In the first story, he captures both the voice and logic of a teenage boy. In the second story, he unnervingly captures the tone and sound of the Charlie Brown stories.
Unfortunately, Auslander’s satire is nothing new and fires at targets that other writers hit bull’s-eyes on long before him. The skill of his writing impressed me, tonally these two stories are so different and yet each of them perfectly captures the voice they are written in. But the satire here is nothing new, we have heard it all before by other writers. I wish Auslander had taken aim at different, new targets here or had found something new to say.
Edited by Drew Payne
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