Monday, August 20, 2007


I try to read the on-line edition of the New York Times daily.

My late father would bring it home from work (with at least two other dailies) and a habit of some 55 years is hard to break. It also provides me with so many examples of media bias.

Today, there's a guest feuilleton, Pore Me By a Shalom Auslander. The piece itself wasn't all that funny or interesting but I knew there had to be a reason. There was. He's described thus: Shalom Auslander is the author of the forthcoming “Foreskin’s Lament: A Memoir.”. And
Shalom Auslander I discovered is the author of Beware of God: Stories, which was a finalist for the 2005 Koret Award for Writers Under 35. His writing has appeared in Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, and, and he is a regular contributor to Public Radio International’s This American Life. Well, so he's, er, important.

But let's get back to his new book, "Foreskin's Lament". One blurb (see below) reads: "Auslander “writes like Philip Roth’s angry nephew.”" [Complaint = Lament?] Wow, this is going to even stir up Jewess. That's all we Jews, males and female, need: another Philip Roth. (hint 1; hint 2). I guess the angry part comes from the fact that Auslander grew up in an orthodox religious Jewish community. The book will deal with the author's life-long struggle with a consistently angry god.

God is angry Auslander?

Well, here's another comment: Raised Orthodox, Auslander recalls his daily negotiations with the strictures of his religion and eventual “cease-fire” with God and this one from the publisher:

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.

and one Tom Perrotta, author of Little Children and The Abstinence Teacher, opines:

Shalom Auslander writes like Philip Roth's angry nephew. Foreskin's Lament is a scathing theological rant, a funny, oddly moving coming-of-age memoir, and an irreverent meditation on family, marriage, and cultural identity. God may be a bit irritated by this book, but I loved it.

Will the book succeed? Will Jewish men find themselves in it? Will Jewesses swoon before the Jewish Bad-Boy?

Wait for October or, "after the holidays".

P.S. Anyone who knew Auslander when he was growing up is invited to comment here and tell us all about him in Monsey or Woodstock or wherever.

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