Monday, February 18, 2008

Foreskin's Lament

I had heard of the book Foreksin’s Lament by Shalom Auslander, but I hadn’t really looked into it. Then a colleague of Melanie’s had recommended it to her and she, in turn, recommended it for our book club at the Bay Ridge Jewish Center.

Melanie read it first and, while discussing how much she was enjoying it, I realized I had read Auslander before, in The New Yorker. In fact, one of the sections of the book had originally appeared in the magazine in January 2007, a piece I remember reading and enjoying:

There are thirty-nine categories of work that are prohibited on the Sabbath. Category No. 37, Kindling a Fire, also rules out kindling anything electrical, including a television. It was Game Four of the Stanley Cup semifinals between the Rangers and the Washington Capitals. I had decided to switch on the television Friday afternoon and just leave it on until Sabbath ended…

Basically, the book is one man’s memoir of growing up as an Orthodox Jew, his dysfunctional family, and his own personal, very strained relationship with God. What would come off as a sad tale of disappointment and religious oppression is thwarted by Auslander’s wicked sense of humor and irreverent outlook on life. We tag along as the author battles his demons: an abusive father, a vengeful God, drugs, crime, and an ambivalent relationship with pornography.

Here are some additional links:

A Q&A from Entertainment Weekly here.

Another excerpt here.

I, along with the majority of our small book club, enjoyed the book immensely. I think it would certainly appeal more to Jews who are more familiar with the religion and culture. However, that is not to say that Non-Jews wouldn’t get anything out of it (hmm, is that sentence a triple-negative?) It’s a relatively quick read, as memoirs go. If you’re unable to motivate oneself to read it, at least give up a few minutes to view these two excerpts, delivered via the majesty of YouTube:

Part 1-

Part 2-

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