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Beware of God: Stories Paperback – April 3, 2006

4.4 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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." (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

This first short story collection is approachable and entertaining on many levels, because it includes a strange and either funny or disturbing cast of characters, all of whom explore, in one way or another, their connection to the universe and the Almighty. The first story, "The War of the Bernsteins," pits a technically pious man against his rebellious and frustrated wife, and the descriptions of their internal "spiritual mathematics" is reminiscent of some of Woody Allen's short pieces. "Holocaust Tips for Kids" is, as expected, chilling and maudlin but also somehow humbling, putting everything in an unusual perspective. Some of the other stories seem to verge on gimmicky, but for the most part, Auslander avoids cheap laughs, his point in these stories being that all of us, deeply observant of our faith or not, take the doctrine and ritualistic trappings of organized religion far too seriously. Debi Lewis
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (April 3, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743264576
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743264570
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.7 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #815,982 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jon S. Wesick on May 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book doesn't attack religion so much as what some people have done to it. By placing dogmatic thinking in other situations the stories show how ridiculous this thinking is. Two hamsters argue about whether their owner in omniscient. Rabbis argue about letting a man with a Jewish head and Christian body into a synagogue. A religious war breaks out in the Peanuts comic strip. I want to buy 20 copies of this book and pass them out to everyone I know.
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Format: Hardcover
Shalom Auslander succeeds in never boring the reader, although one may argue the shorts stories are variations on the same theme: the idiocy of some (most?) orthodox Jewish (and for that matter, any religious) beliefs and practices. Besides being hilarious, this book will make you pause and wonder: "am I really a (willing) victim of such a preposterous construction?". This book will not only amuse you; it will also make you more critical, and probably a tad smarter.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's one thing to believe the message. It's another to worship the creed. Here's a collection of short, stark and funny parables about the futility short cuts to the bosom of Abraham.

These are characters trapped in cul de sacs of legalistic fretting, and the god protrayed here in the one that would have to exist to make all this theological manuvering something other than absurd and pointless -- a smug CEO, frustrated with his penny-ante creations and bound by his own legalistic mind.

It's a funny book, a ding on the vanities and motivations of hyperobservant followers everywhere. Not just Orthodox Jews.
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Format: Paperback
I'm not Jewish but I found myself identifying with the overall sense of this book - the sense of religion being completely ridiculous. Auslander mocks many conventions of traditional Jewish religion but to me, it's also a reminder of the ridiculousness of many rituals and beliefs in other religions such as Catholicism. (I was raised Catholic so I feel qualified to comment upon this religion.) It's not a book for everyone and those with no sense of humor, sense of irreverence or sense of the inaccuracy of written history will hate this book, consider it sacrilegious, and no doubt condemn it without having ever read it. But I thought it was well written and some stories were downright hysterical. Who are any of us to say how God would react if here on Earth with Death to preside over a botched death sentence? I liken it to the anti-Bible, though that may be oversimplifying the book. But as a non-Jew, I found this book as funny, fascinating, significant and irreverent as anyone raised in the religion. For another great read in the same vein, read Christopher Moore's "Lamb," a work of fiction about the life of Christ as told by his childhood friend Biff. You will be wiping away tears of laughter.
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Format: Hardcover
I found this book very refreshing and well written. Auslander is very precise and incisive with his language and images and while it may fall a bit on the side of mocking its characters, overall I found the book imaginative and illuminating about the foibles of the Jewish world.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a truly amazing book.

Using satire and humor, Auslander demonstrates to the reader the difficulty and sometimes absurdity of living life as an orthodox Jew.

The characters in these stories are filled with conflicting emotions which can never be settled- the Orthdox Jew can never be completely happy because his life is full of guilt and fear. Guilt of sins and fear of punishment. Fear of missing out on Heaven or being responsible for another Holocaust.

In one story, a young boy both enjoys exploring his sexuality and feels terribly guilty for doing so at the same time.

The most brilliant story, in my opinion, is "Holocaust Tips for Kids". The author lets us into the mind of an orthodox child who has been totally inundated with precise and gory facts about the holocaust throughout his school year while at the same time being taught by his Rabbis that Jewish sins are responsible for God's causing the Holocaust. The result is a child who performss Judaism out of fear of causing another holocaust while constantly thinking of escape routes and hiding places in case a holocaust does occur.

I think this book shows us the schizophrenic personality which an Orthodox Jew must exhibit. On the one hand, there is the reality of this world- its worldly pleasures such as sex, money, and happiness; its suffering such as death and illness. The orthodox Jew, like any human, enjoys the pleasures and hates the suffering. On the other hand is his orthodox religious outlook which teaches to be wary of worldy pleasures (they are sinful or can lead to sin) and to embrace suffering as the mysterious work of a loving God.

These stories are funny but unfortunately some people live such lives and that is not funny.
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Format: Paperback
I read pratically the entire book in one sitting; it's hard to put down. These short, well-crafted stories are filled with memorable moments and lines, as well as a sincere and irreverent take on the whole god 'issue'. As a non-Jew, some (many, actually) references bypassed me completely, yet there was plenty more of the book to enjoy. This is a book that you'll find yourself rereading several times - and it'll still be funny. Of course, the humorless will find things to criticize, but there's no pleasing some people and happily Auslander didn't try.
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