I complained recently about being in a reading slump. I’m glad to say that I finally dragged myself out of it. Or rather that several books got me through it. I’m hoping people will pick up this first book because of the awesomeness of the title—Foreskin’s Lament by Shalom Auslander. Perhaps they’ll read the back and the flap copy before flipping through the first few pages. Those lucky enough to get this far will find themselves in for a delectable treat. Auslander’s funny, bleak prose reminded me that there are still some fine writers out there. Go to Nextbook, do a search for Auslander, and you’ll get a great intro to his style. The New Yorker is also printing excerpts from this book. I’m hoping that he’ll come read at my store this Fall. I haven’t even mentioned what the book is about yet. It’s his memoir, of sorts. As he learns that his wife is pregnant, he reflects on his own childhood, growing up in an Orthodox community. His love/hate relationship with God begins at an early age. It sort of made me feel like my own dabblings with religion were just that, dabblings.
The second book that helped drag me back to the rich, literary landscape is Junot Diaz’s forthcoming novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Mao. I loved the stories in his impressive collection Drown and cheered whenever I saw a story of his in the New Yorker. Finally, we get a novel—a good, hefty one at that. Even though the title of the book says it’s about Oscar, a first generation Dominican-American, we also get the stories of his sister, mother, and grandfather, moving around in time and place. The narrator, a friend of the family, addresses the reader directly throughout the book, giving you the feeling that this story is being told to you over a long afternoon on a hot summer day (give me a break, I read it over several hot days). Diaz mixes in lots of Spanish phrases as well as sci-fi and literary references with no explanation. He does include a lot of footnotes, some tongue in cheek, about the reign of Trujillo over the Dominican Republic. If I can quote Matthew Sharpe, the author of one of my favorite books this year Jamestown, who said “this fierce, funny, tragic book is just what a reader would have hoped for in a novel by Junot Diaz.”