October 18, 2007
An Orthodox ‘cast-off’ holds God accountable
(Page 2 - Previous Page)Six months after he was introduced to his London-born wife, who had been through her own traumas, they married and moved to the East Village, shifting further from religion and their families. Auslander didn't go to college and took a job as an advertising copywriter. Later, he began writing journalism, including articles for Esquire. He found the personal voice that he now uses a few years later, when writing a letter to his mother about halting communication: "I cried as I read the letter to my wife. Then I thought, this is wrong -- this is sad for my mother, but freedom for me. I rewrote the letter funny -- as funny as a don't-call-me-ever-again letter could be. That was the first time I wrote something for myself.
"I laughed and kept writing," he said, adding, "You can choose. There's you and a hundred other voices in your head. It's about not letting yourself live in someone else's movie."
He agreed that the best humor comes from anger.
"That's the stuff that makes me laugh, starting with Aristophanes, Beckett, Heller, Vonnegut," he said. "They're pissed off and funny about it."
"I'm a bit of a screwball pitcher, I can't throw a fastball up the center," he says of his humor, which often comes from his juxtapositions. "When you're not expecting a light to be shined on an object in that way," he said, "it brings the thing into relief -- it makes me laugh."
Does he worry about writing things that will upset his family?
"My basic feeling is that I'm entitled to my story and I'm entitled to talk about it," he said.
He's no longer in touch with any of his family members, including his well-known uncles. He last saw his parents when his son was born. For his son's first birthday, the inscription on the cake read, "Happy Birthday, Paix. From Mommy, Daddy, Harley, Duke [their dogs], and no one else in our families because they are bitter miseries who'd rather drag us into the morass of their bleak, tragic lives that share for a moment in our joy. And many more."
"Writing is cathartic, not curative," he said. When he began therapy, he told his doctor that "I didn't want him to take away whatever it was that made me write. Writing was the only thing that made me feel good. He knew that was anger and would never take it away. It would be like declawing a cat, taking away its defense. It has been dissipated through a loving marriage and son."
"I'm not blowing buildings up," he said. "I'm not suing anyone. I'm not trying to shut down the Yeshiva of Spring Valley. It's a good kind of anger. It's just my way of living."
Does he pray?
"I hope someone isn't killing my wife when I'm talking to you," he said. "Is that prayer? Nowhere does it say that Abraham or Moses davened. They spoke to God, beseeched him. For me, prayer is talk. I talk to God. I'm unhappy with Him."
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