Sunday, February 03, 2008

Book Review - Foreskin's Lament: A Memoir

I just finished Shalom Auslander's Memoir, Foreskin's Lament. I heard him interviewed on Fresh Air a few months back, and just had to have the book. It was published last year by Riverhead Books, and goes for $24.95 in hardcover. It's a quick read, at 310 pages.

The reason I had to have the book is because for some reason I can't articulate, I really identify with Auslander's pain and anger.
He is a very fucked up guy, who nonetheless thrives and is really successful. He's got a great family, a good job, and writes very funny stuff. I think that what I like most is his ability to see the mess behind him that still has a place in him. If you see it, you can talk about it. If you can talk about it, you can laugh at it. If you can laugh at it, you can fix it. He says it better than I do like this:

"Samual Beckett was often accused of being a pessimist, a charge he denied. In fact, he argued, those who are labeled pessimists are the true optimists -- were it not for their belief that the world, however awful, could be improved, they would never bother raising the issues. Optimists, he further argued, are the true pessimists in that they're so convinced the situation is beyond repair, all they can do is pretend there's nothing wrong with it" (295).

The memoir follows two threads: 1) His childhood and young adulthood, which is described nicely in the following:

"This is the term we've been using lately: theological abuse. It involves adults, known or unknown to the underage victim, telling them a Lunatic runs the world, that He's spying on them, that He's waiting for them to break a rule . . . Other choices included 'spiritually groped,' 'religiously fingered,' and 'touched inappropriately by an angel'"(112).

and 2) The birth of his son. The foreskin in the title is his son's, the lament, his. The question for him and his wife as the book progresses is: Should we circumcize our son, given that we feel so tortured ourselves by our Judaism? I won't spoil it for you.

I give this one 5 out of 5 nipples. I recommend it to all of you.

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