A New York Times Notable Book, and a “chaotic, laugh riot” (San Francisco Chronicle) of a memoir.
Shalom Auslander was raised with a terrified respect for God. Even as he grew up and was estranged from his community, his religion and its traditions, he could not find the path to a life where he didn’t struggle daily with the fear of God’s formidable wrath. Foreskin’s Lament reveals Auslander’s “painfully, cripplingly, incurably, miserably religious” youth in a strict, socially isolated Orthodox Jewish community, and recounts his rebellion and efforts to make a new life apart from it. His combination of unrelenting humor and anger renders a rich and fascinating portrait of a man grappling with his faith and family.
Auslander, a magazine writer, describes his Orthodox Jewish upbringing as "theological abuse" in this sardonic, twitchy memoir that waits for the other shoe to drop from on high. The title refers to his agitation over whether to circumcise his soon to be born son, yet another Jewish ritual stirring confusion and fear in his soul. Flitting haphazardly between expectant-father neuroses in Woodstock, N.Y., and childhood neuroses in Monsey, N.Y., Auslander labors mightily to channel Philip Roth with cutting, comically anxious spiels lamenting his claustrophobic house, off-kilter family and the temptations of all things nonkosher, from shiksas to Slim Jims. The irony of his name, Shalom (Hebrew for "peace"), isn't lost on him, a tormented soul gripped with dread, fending off an alcoholic, abusive father while imagining his heavenly one as a menacing, mocking, inescapable presence. Fond of tormenting himself with worst-case scenarios, he concludes, "That would be so God." Like Roth's Portnoy, he commits minor acts of rebellion and awaits his punishment with youthful literal-mindedness. But this memoir is too wonky to engage the reader's sympathy or cut free Auslander's persona from the swath of stereotype and he can't sublimate his rage into the cultural mischief that brightens Roth's oeuvre. That said, a surprisingly poignant ending awaits readers.
Actually enjoyed the book and related to it quite a bit. Like the author, I grew up in Monsey NY as an orthodox Jew and attended the same synagogue and day school. I too have issues with god, not sure he exists actually and if he does i don't think he gives a crap what a person eats. Difference is that the author seems to have had a horrible upbringing which is why he is so bitter.
I am no longer observant but have a great relationship with my family despite the fact that I feel that they are a bit fanatic. The author really points out the problems with how judaism is taught in day schools and is a prime- example of what can happen when the methods backfire ...
To the author, chill out, life is too short to be so obsessive over something that is truly unknown.
Shalom is a modern satirist that reminds me of Vonnegut. I’m a 54 year old recovering catholic who is on a similar journey. May Shalom not be killed by God!!
Good one, foreskin Autch!land
Easy to read, conveying feelings and emotions directly, as well as Jewish ways of life, thanks God!? that are valid for only a very small part of Jewish population. Although, very few would challenge it as the author does.
I enjoyed it very much.
A good one!