Saturday, February 20, 2010

Review of Foreskin's Lament, by Shalom Auslander

Whew! Finally managed to upload the image of Auslander's book, Foreskin's Lament. I guess this will get easier -- I hope so! Anyway, don't let Auslander's title put you off. True, this is not an easy read. Not a feel-good book, in the traditional sense. As the author writes of his Orthodox Jewish upbringing, no one is let off the hook. His parents bring the usual and customary Jewish anxiety to the table, but then carry the extra baggage of dealing with the loss of a child. The father has the teeniest problem with alcohol. Shalom's stories of his dealings with his myopic day-school teachers should ring true for any of us who have been in that world. As with my own experience in day-school back in the late 60s, the "pilpul" -- the nitpicking details of halahic observance-- often took the reigns, and left both common sense and compassion exiled, out in the cold.

As Shalom's older brother's fights with their father get increasingly contentious and violent, Shalom struggles to be the peacemaker-child, to provide distracting comic relief. We see the groundwork for the author's subsequent difficulties. The telling of Shalom's life, as he becomes an adult and works to process his painful beginnings, are a shocking, yet crucial truth-telling. In the end, we see a shining example of the "healing" (sorry, that word sounds so trite) power of writing your life. I've read this book three times and I get more out of it each time. An important book.

Oh, my one beef with the author: his photo! Scary! Maybe I'm asking too much from a jacket photo, but this one elicited from me a reflexive gasp. I had hoped to see a face whose expression belied a bit of the wisdom and coming-to-terms with life that he fought so hard to acheive, instead of the defensive-looking, angry face that glared back at me from the inside back cover.

The audio version features Shalom himself, with a small bit read by his wife, Orly.


1 comment:

  1. Look at you . . . from amateur to professional overnight! The site looks awesome, Susan. I'm blown away!