Synopses & Reviews
"The faithful look sharp or fall victim to a 'surly, bossy, paranoid, violent' God in Auslander's satirical debut collection. The author, raised an Orthodox Jew, mercilessly spoofs the Old Testament deity: God suffers from migraines, stalks a modern-day prophet and appears as a large chicken, among other incarnations. Though harsh rabbinic voices echo throughout, and characters who engage in Talmudic-style debate usually arrive at absurd conclusions, Auslander's target isn't religious hypocrisy. Instead, he guns for sacred cows: literal interpretations of the Torah, strict adherence to Jewish law, and belief in an all-powerful deity who metes out punishment and reward according to man's fulfillment of God's commandments. At the heart of this satire, though, is the pain of true believers at the mercy of a capricious God. These are high-concept stories: a chimpanzee suddenly achieves 'total conscious self-awareness.... God. Death. Shame. Guilt' a burden he cannot bear. A yeshiva student wakes one morning with a brawny, goyishe body and is reviled by his community. A man enrages all major world religions with his discovery of original Old Testament tablets preceded by the disclaimer, 'The following is a work of fiction.' Occasionally, the Catskills-inflected comedy is corny, but for the most part, Auslander skillfully handles heavy subject matter with a droll tone. 'Beautiful day,' an adman says, making small talk at a pitch meeting with God. ' 'I made it myself,' God answered loudly.'" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Shades of the absurd, Orthodox Jewish style, in a nutty little debut collection of 14 stories.
An 18-year-old Lubavitcher yeshiva student wakes up one morning in the form of a "very large goy" and terrorizes the community of bickering rabbis in "The Metamorphosis." In "God Is a Big Happy Chicken," newly dead Yankel Morgenstern ascends to heaven to discover that God is--surprise!--Chicken himself, "who gets his feed filled in the morning, and his droppings cleaned in the afternoon and that's all He really wants to know." And though Yankel is allowed to return to tell what's what to his devoted family, still praying to a non-fowl deity, he can't bring himself to disabuse them of their cherished ideals. In "Bobo the Self-Hating Chimp," a small male chimpanzee in the Bronx Zoo achieves "total conscious self-awareness" one day when he recognizes that he feels shame--thanks to a "bright red erection"--and has a kind of breakdown that leads him to reject his previous monkey existence as meaningless and embrace suicide. In his theatrically deadpan moments, humor writer Auslander revisits Beckett, most notably, while a fear-and-loathing urban sensibility ala Woody Allen also springs to mind, along with Kafka, in these grim, seemingly silly pieces that possess a direct comic hit. "Holocaust Tips for Kids" is a marvelously twisted catalogue of grisly historical facts mixed with juvenile naivete and fear: "Anne Frank hid in her attic for over two years. / Maybe I should pack more food." Many of the stories skewer in some fashion what may be more contentious and solipsistic aspects of Judaism. In the last tale, for example, "It Ain't Easy Bein' Supremey," a balding junior accountant, Epstein, creates two slavish golem from the Kabbalah for Dummies only to watch them kill each other over finer points of law.
Too brief by far, but with enough sparks to give an idea of the author's irreverent revelations. Overall, a fresh voice, and wonderfully fearless.
-- Kirkus Reviews
An inventive, surreal, and absurd collection--and much anticipated literary debut of a fresh young humor writer.
Table of Contents
The War of the Bernsteins
Bobo the Self-Hating Chimp
Somebody Up There Likes You
Heimish Knows All
Holocaust Tips for Kids
Waiting for Joe
Startling Revelations from the Lost Book
One Death to Go
They're All the Same
Smite the Heathens, Charlie Brown
God Is a Big Happy Chicken
It Ain't Easy Bein' Supremey