Feh: A Memoir

  • From the Publisher
May 13, 2023

Shalom Aus­lan­der was raised like a veal in a dys­func­tion­al fam­i­ly in the Ortho­dox com­mu­ni­ty of Mon­sey, New York: the son of an alco­holic father; a guilt-wield­ing moth­er; and a vio­lent, over­bear­ing God. Now, as he reach­es mid­dle age, Aus­lan­der begins to sus­pect that what plagues him is some­thing worse, some­thing he can’t so eas­i­ly escape: a sto­ry. The sto­ry. One indeli­bly implant­ed in him at an ear­ly age, a sto­ry that told him he is fall­en, bro­ken, shame­ful, dis­gust­ing, a sto­ry we have all been told for thou­sands of years, and con­tin­ue to be told by the reli­gious and sec­u­lar alike, a sto­ry called Feh.“

Yid­dish for Yuck.“

Feh fol­lows Aus­lan­der’s midlife jour­ney to rewrite that sto­ry, a jour­ney that involves Phillip Sey­mour Hoff­man, a Pulitzer-win­ning poet, Job, Arthur Schopen­hauer, GHB, Wolf Blitzer, Yuval Noah Harari and a pas­tor named Steve in a now-defunct church in Los Ange­les.

Can he move from Feh to mere­ly meh? Can he even dream of mov­ing beyond that?

Aus­lan­der’s recount­ing of his attempt to exor­cize the sto­ry he was raised with — before he implants it onto his chil­dren and/​or pos­si­bly poi­sons the rela­tion­ship of the one woman who loves him — isn’t sacred. It is more-than-occa­sion­al­ly pro­fane. And like all his work, it is also relent­less­ly fun­ny, sub­ver­sive­ly heart­felt and fear­less­ly provocative.

Discussion Questions