Book Reviews & Essays on Literature

Foreskin’s Lament – A Memoir, by Shalom Auslander

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Shalom Auslander thinks God’s out to get him in this memoir.(Riverhead, October 4th, 2007)

The book chronicles Auslander’s upbringing as an Orthodox Jew and his efforts to break free from this world. Incidentally, “Ausländer” in German means “foreigner”, and Auslander is indeed a foreigner in the world in which he has grown up.

As a teenager, he believes that God is out to get him, and, provoking the wrath of the Almighty, he breaks every rule in the Talmud. As an adult, he distances himself from the practices of Orthodox Judaism, until his wife gets pregnant and he is right back to his tussle with God – does his son’s foreskin stay or go? Auslander’s memoir can be viewed as irreverent or worse, but I thought it darkly humorous, original and provocative:

“…isn’t tradition just another word for that particularly religious, self-righteous, non-thinking inertia that propels so many to extremes they might not ever have engaged in had they stopped to actually consider, to weigh, to examine?”

It should carry a warning: “Only read with an open mind.”

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