Shalom Auslander And Abraham’s Call

From Nextbook:

I am in Chicago, at the Hopleaf Bar on North Clark Street, one of the last stops on the U.S. portion of my book tour. What happens as I am on my way out of the bar has happened before.

“Excuse me,” a young woman calls. In other cities, it is a young man, or an old man, or an old woman.

“Yes?” I answer.

“I was at your reading.”

For a moment I flatter myself and assume she wants a book signed.

“And I have to say,” she continues.

This is the first bad sign. People who say things they “have” to say usually say those things with their hands pressed firmly over their ears.

“I have to say that I think it’s so sad that you say these things about Judaism.”

“Sad for me,” I ask, “or sad for Judaism?”

“Sad for Judaism,” she says.

“Oh,” I answer.

“Judaism has wonderful things to say,” she says. “We all have bad things in our lives,” she says, “it’s terrible that you blame Judaism.”

“Have you read the book?” I ask.

She flutters her eyelashes self-righteously.

“I don’t want to read the book,” she says.

“So you haven’t even read the book?”

“I don’t want to read the book.”

I explain as best I can, and with as little physical violence as I can, that I don’t actually attack Judaism in the book. That in the first place the book is about one person’s experience, which is what the word “memoir” on the cover means, and that in the second place, I don’t attack any ism, that I don’t give a damn about isms, that isms are beside the point. That I recount a series of things I was taught—horrible things, cruel things, destructive things, things that are not dissimilar to the things taught, horror of horrors, in the name of Christ or Allah. I suggest that if she believes those things are wrong, that if she believes that her ism is not about those things, then perhaps her anger would be better directed at the people who teach such things in the name of her ism rather than at the person who was taught them, and I suggest, again, somewhat radically, that she read the book to find that out for herself. But she flutters her eyes again, says “I don’t want to read the book,” turns, heads back to her snickering friends, pats herself on the back and feels like a hero.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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