Episode 597 – Shalom Auslander

Virtual Memories Show 597:
Shalom Auslander

“You are not born hating yourself; someone puts that in there. What would the world be like if they hadn’t?”

With his amazing new book, FEH: A Memoir (Riverside Books), Shalom Auslander explores how the judgmental disgust of FEH infected his life, and what it meant to get sick & tired of the disgust and outrage FEH-stival and look for a way out. We talk about the sense of shame, disgust and self-loathing at the core of our common story, why every bookstore should be called, ‘You Suck’, his friendship with the late Philip Seymour Hoffman and how they bonded over FEH, and how hard he’s worked to find the un-FEH for his kids. We get into how story is our operating system (but what happens when there are bugs in the OS?), how the FEH machine came after his psychiatrist, the notion of misotheism, and his video series UNGODLY where he reads the Bible and asks, ‘What if God is the antagonist?’. We also discuss his ultra-orthodox upbringing, how “Jewish heritage” has been subsumed by Holocaust memorials, his antipathy toward the pop-culture Anne Frank and how he rewrote her for HOPE: A Tragedy, his time in the advertising industry and how it led to his TV show Happyish, his bleak Peanuts parody strip that got Jeannie Schulz’s approval, the neurological condition where blind people believe they can see and how it parallels our existential state of FEH, the realization that cynicism doesn’t mean you’re smart (just lazy), and a lot more. Give it a listen! And go read FEH: A Memoir!

“The story at the root of everything is, ‘You suck.’ . . . . Once you start to see the story, it’s a very easy story to see through. . . . And one of the things that needs fixing is the story that tells us there’s no fixing this.”

“It’s not that I’m an optimist; it’s that pessimism has let me down.”

“The more money there is in the creative industry, the shittier the work.’

“Writing this book, I found that I didn’t have to be pro-earnestness; I could just be anti-misery.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, BlueSky, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr, and good ol’ RSS!

About our Guest

Shalom Auslander was raised in Monsey, NY. Nominated for the Koret Award for writers under thirty-five, he has published articles in Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, Tablet magazine, and The New Yorker, and has had stories aired on NPR’s This American Life. He is the author of the short story collection Beware of God, the memoir Foreskin’s Lament, and the novels HOPE: A Tragedy and Mother for Dinner. He is the creator of Showtime’s Happyish. He lives in Los Angeles. His new book is FEH: A Memoir.

Subscribe to Shalom’s Substack.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at a generic hotel in New York City on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom PodTrak P4 digital recorder & interface. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Zoom PodTrak P4. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Shalom by Radiance Photography; other photo by me. It’s on my instagram.