M's Reviews > Foreskin's Lament

Foreskin's Lament by Shalom Auslander
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's review
Jan 19, 2008

really liked it

I went through a lot of indecision in the star givings for this one. On the one hand, a lot of it was disturbing and bothersome, and I had to skip some passages out of sheer disgust. On the other hand, it was funny, well written, thought provoking and a rather interesting examination of frumkeit. So bottom line, once I got in the second half of the book, I was a lot more interested and engaged, and I left with an overall appreciation for the book's strength.
As to Auslander himself, so sometimes I got annoyed at him - his attitude toward Gd can be so immature - I didn't get what I want, so why should I bother, ie, I davened and you didn't let my aging and dimentia riddled grandmother live, what good are you, pass me the ham. Then at the same time, I totally get the feeling of the random chaos that this universe seems to run by and how futile and senseless it seems to turn to Gd when He's the one setting this into motion (ok, fine, with a lot of help from mankind, but still, it does seem like, so why are we here, then? Some sick cosmic joke? I mean, sheesh, He has nothing better to do with His time?).
I am super interested in knowing more about his family - while his annecdotes were shocking and disturbing they in many ways only confused me as to his tenuous hold on relations as well as relgion seemed to wax and wane with little clarity as to when, how, and exact gradations, but I guess nothing is so precise. It was fascinating to read about Shalom flipping out in Israel and donning a black hat though not surprisingly there was little discussion on any thought process or feeling, whereas the anti Gd stuff seems endless.
At the end of the day, what do we make of this man - in some ways he is the mouth piece for what many, I'm sure, are too scared to say - at the same time, perhaps these thoughts are best left silent, perhaps he is only encouraging a mentality and behavior that is unhealthy, perhaps there needs to be a love it or lump it attitude with Gd rather than this angry diatribe - I guess I mean I can't tell if he's a hero or pathetic, worthy of sympathy or antipathy - he is cnfused and complicated and so is this whole issue. Does a catharsis of such nature have a place in the world, our world specifically, or is this destructive and therefore meant to be ignored/shunned etc.
Anyway I have to say, sikkum, that the book has some awesome lines that are just hysterical and it certainly got me feeling - anger, sadness, shock, horror, dismay, etc. So can I give it to the two stars I wanted to when he gets into his porn stage? Or worth the four stars I wanted to give it for sheer well written eloquence and heart felt sincere anguish?
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by K (new) - rated it 3 stars

K Wow -- great review. I haven't read the book yet, but you've certainly piqued my interest. I think Auslander's attitude as you described (i.e., my ailing grandmother died, therefore why be frum) is common to many people who go off the derech. It's a conundrum -- faith by definition means accepting things you can't understand, and certainly there are times when you say, why am I bothering? My sense of Auslander, though, is that he lacks three-dimensionality -- he's full of invective for frumkeit and for his family, and can't seem to find anything positive to say. I believe that he had a horrible childhood and everything, but isn't part of adulthood getting over that, and seeing things in a more three-dimensional way? At least, that's what his therapist should be helping him with. But I guess his black-and-white views are selling his books. For now. Unless he develops a more multifaceted view, I can't see him making it as more than a one-trick pony.

message 2: by Riv (new) - rated it 2 stars

Riv After reading your review, I scrolled thru many other 3 and 4 star reviews and saw a lot of "from this book I learned a lot about Orthodox Judaism and Yeshiva education..." Someone has to stop this person!!!! Come on, even YOB wasn't THAT bad!!! Seriously though, it may be entertaining, but this guy is making us look like a bunch of Wacos, or worse...

message 3: by K (new) - rated it 3 stars

K I was also looking at other goodreads reviews, and was pretty horrified myself. I think that intelligent people will see through him and realize that this view is incredibly one-dimensional, and therefore highly exaggerated/unrealistic. Unfortunately, I'm not that confident in the average intelligence level of his readers. The problem is, a public effort to stop him (and I'm sure it would end up being public, even if it didn't start out that way) will just make Orthodox Jews look worse, and more tyrannical. Many people argue that, with someone like this, ignoring him is the best defense because any reaction to him at all legitimizes him and brings him more publicity. Margueya went to hear him speak, and all the questions from the audience had to be written in advance and passed forward before the speech. After speaking, Shalom/his publicist filtered through the questions and picked and chose the ones he read aloud and responded to. There was no opportunity for spontaneous questions/comments. I thought that was rather telling.

message 4: by M (new) - rated it 4 stars

M yea, I was also disturbed by the - wow this was eye opening, especially since his take is so heavily biased considering his father etc. There is not a shred of positivity to his outlook. In many ways tho his bitterness is his own disadvantage as many readers do not take him seriously or attribute his darkness to emotional hang ups more so than actual grievances - but the distinction is blury at best. So yes the smarter the reader the less swayed but at the same time an angry man will always have a following.

message 5: by K (new) - rated it 3 stars

K Hey -- are you back from Aruba? Was it amazing? I'm looking forward to numerous goodreads posts of books read on the beach this week...

message 6: by M (new) - rated it 4 stars

M I am back, it was amazing, I am a lomster/tomato with hair, and a happy one ... I put in a slew of updates and am eager to hear your feedback!!

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