Foreskin's Lament

Foreskin's Lament

3.9 11
by Shalom Auslander
     
 

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FROM THE CREATOR OF SHOWTIME'S "HAPPYISH"

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

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Overview

FROM THE CREATOR OF SHOWTIME'S "HAPPYISH"

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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Fierce, funny, and subversively heartfelt...With his middle finger pointed at the heavens and a hand held over his heart, Auslander gives us Foreskin’s Lament. Mazel tov to him. And God? Well, he’ll survive.”—New York Times Book Review

“Auslander writes like Philip Roth’s angry nephew... 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.”—Tom Perrotta, author of Little Children and The Abstinence Teacher

“A laugh-out-loud quarrel with God.”—Newsweek

“A terrific book I was sad I read in so few sittings, because I wanted more.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“Hilarious, caustic, and surprisingly moving.” —Philadelphia Inquirer

“Blasphemous and funny.”—Newsweek

“A surprise and delight.”—Boston Globe

“A fretful, self-effacing, bitter…hilarious story.”—The Houston Chronicle

“Wryly comic.”—New York Magazine

“Hilarious, caustic, and surprisingly moving.”—Philadelphia Inquirer

“A very funny memoir.”—GQ

“Lyrical, hysterical… funny and angry.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer

“An audacious, poke-God-in-the eye memoir.”—Miami Herald

Benjamin Anastas
Auslander, a contributor to "This American Life" and the author of a book of stories called Beware of God (2005), grew up in a strict Orthodox community about 30 miles north of Manhattan…and his funny, fierce and subversively heartfelt book is a record of his coming-of-age in captivity and an ode to "the evil inclination" that would set him free from bondage, but not entirely…Writing with humor and bitter irony about the most personal subjects, with deep, real-world consequences, is no task for an acolyte, although many have tried. With his middle finger pointed at the heavens and a hand held over his heart, Auslander gives us Foreskin's Lament. Mazel tov to him. And God? Well, he'll survive.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

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. (Oct.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
New York Times Book Review
Fierce, funny, and subversively heartfelt...With his middle finger pointed at the heavens and a hand held over his heart, Auslander gives us Foreskin's Lament. Mazel tov to him. And God? Well, he'll survive.
Newsweek
Blasphemous and funny.
San Francisco Chronicle
A terrific book I was sad I read in so few sittings, because I wanted more.
Philadelphia Inquirer
Hilarious, caustic, and surprisingly moving.
The Houston Chronicle
A fretful, self-effacing, bitter...hilarious story.
Boston Globe
A surprise and delight.
New York Magazine
Wryly comic.
GQ
A very funny memoir.
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Lyrical, hysterical... funny and angry.
Miami Herald
An audacious, poke-God-in-theeye memoir.
Library Journal

Generation Xer Auslander (Beware of God: Stories), raised an Orthodox Jew but trying to extricate himself from his dysfunctional web of family and religion, has a self-described problem: he believes in God, but it's not working for him. Auslander traces his adversarial relationship with the Almighty through a series of hilarious but gut-wrenching episodes from his childhood and adolescence: the "blessing at meals" competitions at yeshiva, Orthodox dating woes, and his painful relationship with his rage-filled father. Readers will alternately laugh and cringe at his scathing portrayals of family life and his angry, almost biblical attempts to bargain with God in order to achieve happiness and security. Though this is not at all a theological treatise, those unfamiliar with the Orthodox Jewish tradition will learn much through Auslander's attempts to accommodate the larger American culture while adhering to religious law. Anyone raised in a strict religious environment and/or by a strict religious family will identify with his experiences. Suitable for all public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ6/1/07.]
—Nancy E. Adams

Kirkus Reviews
What was it that Tolstoy said about unhappy families?While each may in fact be unique in its discontent, surely the one recalled here by Auslander (Beware of God: Stories, 2005) stands out from the rest for sheer outlandish, operatic misery. Haunted by the ghost of a first son who died in toddlerhood, the author's Orthodox Jewish father became a broken, brutish alcoholic. His mother, an embittered woman convinced she married beneath her, lusted vocally after the achievements and wealth of her two brothers, both rabbis. This childhood tale of woe could be merely maudlin, but Auslander brings a mordant sense of humor to his portraits of encounters with the non-Orthodox and their Trans Ams, and of jockeying for position in his isolated upstate New York community. The book begins with the author, who fled this insular world to work in New York City, discovering that wife Orli, a fellow religious refugee, was pregnant-an occasion to celebrate for many, but Auslander, who grew up terrified of a vengeful God, saw it more like the setup to a cosmic joke. "I know this God, I know how he works," he writes. "On the drive home from the hospital, we'll collide head-on with a drunk driver and [my wife and son will] both die later . . . That would be so God." The author's attempts to rid himself of the scheming deity under whose thumb he came of age became tangled up in his strained relationship with his family, but he tells this sad story with a crucial touch of satire. In the midst of a description of his waking nightmares of theistic vengeance, a friend interrupted to point out that Auslander's conviction that God might have a personal vendetta against him was slightly solipsistic. He's schemingagainst you, too, Auslander responded: "You just don't notice it."An often breathtakingly irreverent look at religion and the humorous side of exorcising the past.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594483332
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
10/07/2008
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
381,037
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Tom Perrotta
Auslander writes like Philip Roth's angry nephew... 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. (Tom Perrotta, author of Little Children and The Abstinence Teacher)
From the Publisher
“Fierce, funny, and subversively heartfelt...With his middle finger pointed at the heavens and a hand held over his heart, Auslander gives us Foreskin’s Lament. Mazel tov to him. And God? Well, he’ll survive.”—New York Times Book Review

“Auslander writes like Philip Roth’s angry nephew... 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.”—Tom Perrotta, author of Little Children and The Abstinence Teacher

“A laugh-out-loud quarrel with God.”—Newsweek

“A terrific book I was sad I read in so few sittings, because I wanted more.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“Hilarious, caustic, and surprisingly moving.” —Philadelphia Inquirer

“Blasphemous and funny.”—Newsweek

“A surprise and delight.”—Boston Globe

“A fretful, self-effacing, bitter…hilarious story.”—The Houston Chronicle

“Wryly comic.”—New York Magazine

“Hilarious, caustic, and surprisingly moving.”—Philadelphia Inquirer

“A very funny memoir.”—GQ

“Lyrical, hysterical… funny and angry.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer

“An audacious, poke-God-in-the eye memoir.”—Miami Herald

Read More

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