I don’t often blog about things I dislike as I have learnt that it is more pleasant to read uplifting blog posts than negative ones. However tonight’s post will be an exception as I have just finished what I found a very disappointing book, Foreskin’s Lament by Shalom Auslander.
This is what Publishers Weekly has to say about it:
Auslander, a magazine writer, describes his Orthodox Jewish upbringing as theological abuse in this sardonic, twitchy memoir that waits for the other shoe to drop from on high. The title refers to his agitation over whether to circumcise his soon to be born son, yet another Jewish ritual stirring confusion and fear in his soul.
The back cover, in French (I was lent the French version by some friends), announced a crossing over between Woody Allen, Chaim Potok and Philip Roth. A very enticing combination.
Unfortunately althought it aims at being funny, the book has none of Woody Allen’s subtle sense of humor. There might be some humorous passages now and again but most of the time Aulander’s use of humor is repetitive and thus quite predictable.
I have not read many of Philip Roth’s novels even so, although a cynicism similar to that of Roth’s can be felt in Foreskin’s Lament, Auslander certainly lacks his brilliance and capacity to surprise his readers.
Like Potok’s novel, Foreskin’s Lament features ultra-Orthodox and Orthodox Jews; nevertheless this is all the author of The Chosen and Auslander have in common. Potok’s characters experience religious dilemmas but find solace in painting, medecine or studying while finding their own way (Orthodox or not) to be Jews in ways they find honest and coherent. But above all, despite the pain they sometimes inflict on each other, there is always respect and most certainly love between parents and children whatever the outcome. There is none of this in Auslander’s novel; the narrator hates his parents and their mutual rejection seems to bring nothing but anger, bitterness and resentment.
I still read the book from front to cover but when I had finished I headed for the bookcase and picked up Chaim Potok’s In the Beginning to re-read it.