Tag Archives: Shalom Auslander

Shalom Auslander at Elliott Bay Books

Shalom Auslander appeared at Elliott Bay last night to promote the paperback edition of his memoir, Foreskin’s Lament.

What struck me most is how serious and intense he is. I guess I should have realized this about him from his promotional photo, which simply screams I am a serious and intense author. But his work, which I love, just seems much too funny to come from anyone so grave.

Except for a single man who laughed loudly in all the right places, the reading felt a little like a wake. Despite this, I enjoyed myself. I got a chance to hang out with Matt Briggs and talk shop. And it’s always good to get into Seattle for a night.

Auslander said he considers memoir to be the literary equivalent of pornography. I’m pretty sure he was serious. I guess he only wants to write fiction, but his memoir is really good.

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More Picking Favorites: 2007 Memoir Edition

obamasm.jpgshalomsm.jpg

Of all the memoir I read last year, here are my three favorites:

Dreams From My Father: I know this was available prior to 2007, but I read it last spring and was much impressed with Barack Obama’s willingness to tackle complex subjects in a deep and meaningful way. Everyone talks about his drug use in college, but what stood out for me were the heartfelt discussions about coming to terms with his mixed race background and his complex feelings for his father, an African living in Kenya.

I’m encouraged that Obama used memoir as a vehicle for opening a frank discussion of race in America. I’m delighted he felt comfortable enough with his modest drug use to discuss it openly (in stark contrast to Bill Clinton’s quasi-admission of not inhaling his drugs).  

Foreskin’s Lament: If I had to pick, this was probably my favorite memoir from 2007. Partly a discussion of fatherhood, partly a coming-of-age memoir, Shalom Auslander describes with great humor his attempts to break free from of the bonds of his Orthodox Jewish upbringing somewhere in upstate New York.

AlternaDad: Neal Pollack’s memoir about becoming a father convinced me that I should try to market some of my own essays about parenting. What I have noticed is that the best memoir always seems to inspires me to write my own. 

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Foreskin Tales

Shalom Auslander

Books I have read on how-to-write memoir occasionally suggest boiling down into the fewest words what your memoir is about. From Shalom Auslander’s new memoir, Foreskin’s Lament, here are a few words that do just that:

I believe in God.

It’s been a real problem for me.

I have very little sympathy for veal.

I find Mr. Auslander inventive, irreverent, and incredibly funny to read. Most of his stories center on his experience growing up in an Orthodox Jewish family in upstate New York. But his memoir is also an exploration of fatherhood: ambivalent memories of his father, feelings about his own role as a parent, but mostly he offers stories that feature the antagonistic relationship he has with his Heavenly Father. This is how to write memoir.

Earlier this year I read another memoir about fatherhood by Neal Pollack. For some reason, Jewish fathers who write memoir seem to fixate on the circumcision of their son’s penis. Everyone has a story. Even me! 

So what’s a nice Catholic boy like me doing with a circumcision story? No idea. Maybe I was adopted.

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