Foreskin's Lament: A Memoir

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9780143142492: Foreskin's Lament: A Memoir

Foreskin's Lament reveals Auslander's youth in a strict, socially isolated Orthodox community, and recounts his rebellion and efforts to make a new life apart from it. Auslander remembers his youthful attempt to win the ‘blessing bee’ (the Orthodox version of a spelling bee), his exile to reform school in Israel after being caught shoplifting a cassette tape of West Side Story, and his twenty-five-mile hike to watch the New York Rangers play in Madison Square Garden without violating the Sabbath. Throughout, Auslander struggles to understand God and His complicated, often contradictory laws. But ultimately, he settles for a ceasefire with God, accepting the very slim remaining hope that his newborn son might live free of guilt, doubt, and struggle.

Auslander’s combination of unrelenting humour and anger – a voice that compares to those of David Sedaris and Dave Eggers – delivers a rich and fascinating self-portrait of a man grappling with his faith, family, and community.

Praise for Shalom Auslander

'There is a serious point to Auslander's fictional games. He wants us to be careful of taking any figure of authority too seriously; God is just the prime example . . . Its real heroes are literary: writers such as James Joyce and Samuel Beckett who use prose to get at something more mysterious and mystical than any religion - our love of and trust in language, to amuse and distract us from death' Times Literary Supplement

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Product Description:

Shalom Auslander was raised with a terrified respect for God. Even as he grew up, defying and eventually being cast out of his community, he could not find his way to a life in which he wasn’t locked in a daily struggle with Him. Foreskin’s Lament is a rich and fascinating portrait of a man grappling with his faith, his family and his community.

‘Bracing and witty . . . Never, frankly, can there have been a more blasphemous book . . . Foreskin’s Lament somehow expresses the ideas of Richard Dawkins in the tone of David Sedaris. You can read it for the humour, you can read it as reportage into a secretive and bizarre world, you can read it as a personal tale of triumph over adversity, or you can just read it for the misery. It doesn’t really matter. But do read it’ William Sutcliffe, Independent on Sunday

‘One of the funniest books I’ve ever read, killingly so’ Hilary Spurling, Observer

‘Exceptional . . . very, very funny’ Time Out

‘Painfully poignant and hilariously noir’ Jewish Chronicle

‘By turns hilarious and devastating . . . Few books are laugh-out-loud funny. This one is’ Naomi Alderman, Sunday Times

‘America’s hottest, funniest, most controversial young Jewish memoirist . . . blackly hilarious, groundbreaking’ The Times


About the Author ~ Shalom Auslander
Shalom Auslander was raised as an Orthodox Jew in Spring Valley, New York. His writing has been published in the New Yorker and Esquire, among other magazines. He lives in upstate New York with his wife and son.

Exclusive Interview with Shalom Auslander

What is Foreskin's Lament about?

I was raised in a small ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in New York; picture a madrasa somewhere in Taliban Town, change the head coverings to yarmulkes, switch the Korans for Old Testaments and thatís pretty much it. The book is about my life under the thumb of an abusive, belligerent God, and the long-term emotionally crippling effects the fundamentalism of my youth has had and continues to have upon me. But funny. I suppose it didnít help that my father on Earth was as abusive as my Father in Heaven. Good times, good times.

What inspired you to write it?

Anger. Four years ago, my wife and I went to a doctor, and the doctor put gel on my wifeís belly, and then the doctor said, "Itís a boy." And instead of being excited Ė instead of picking out little footballs or infant-sized Valentino Rossi shirts Ė I spent the evening terrified: Should I circumcise him or not? What will God do if I donít? Will He kill me? Will He kill my son? Will He kill my son first, just so I experience that agony, and then kill me? When will He kill my wife? And then that fear turned to anger, and I thought, "Maybe I should write this down. Maybe I should tell someone what this feels like." And so I did.

Who are your literary influences?

I have no idea Ė I know who I like, I know who inspires me (Kafka, Beckett, Celine, Voltaire), but whether they influence my writing or not is for someone else to decide.

If you could recommend just one "must-read book" to anyone, what would it be and why?

I would recommend anything by me. This is because Iím self-centered, and broke.

What top tips do you have for anyone looking to write their first book?

Donít. The only ones worth writing are the ones that tell the deepest, darkest truths about life and humanity, and the only way you can discover that is discover the deepest, darkest truths about yourself. Totally not worth it. Buy a flatscreen TV and an Xbox, stop looking inward and float through life, plump, shallow and happy. It will all be over soon, and youíll thank me when it is.

Reviews for Foreskin's Lament

We are not the only ones to love this book. Check out a selection of reviews below.

Unforgettable . . . [Auslander is] America's hottest, funniest, most controversial young Jewish memoirist . . . I challenge even the most disapproving of his parents' friends to read this blackly hilarious, groundbreaking memoir without wiping tears of both kinds from their eyes. The Times

Outrageously funny . . . Dazzling . . . Raw brilliance infused with classic Jewish irony . . . This is indeed a lament, but a lament with attitude. Sunday Telegraph

Hilarious and devastating . . . Few books really are laugh-out-loud funny. This one is. The comic timing is perfect and, as with all the best Jewish jokes, the pain behind the humour is apparent . . . Fascinating. Naomi Alderman, Sunday Times

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Shalom Auslander
ISBN 10: 0143142496 ISBN 13: 9780143142492
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Auslander, Shalom
Published by Penguin Audio (2007)
ISBN 10: 0143142496 ISBN 13: 9780143142492
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