Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Kasher in the Rye

The True Tale of a White Boy from Oakland Who Became a Drug Addict, Criminal, Mental Patient, and then Turned 16
by Moshe Kasher

Moshe Kasher on the Pete Holmes podcast (You Made it Weird) is one of the funniest things I have ever heard. I can't stop listening to it, and I laugh just as hard every time. It's insightful and smart and hysterical. His memoir: less hysterical.

Moshe Kasher's life growing up is something I cannot imagine (hence, I had to read a book about it). He was a fuck-up, a stoner, an alcoholic, and an all-around piece of shit, and I don't think he'd contradict me on any of those points.

One of the things I loved so much about the podcast was how Kasher talked about his religious upbringing, how he was a Chassidic Jew when he visited his Farher in New York for a few weeks out of the year, but was otherwise not religious. It was an identity crisis, and one that generated a lot of religious shame. And he and his brother grew to be very different as a result of that upbringing: a comedian and a rabbi. That story I found most compelling. His book, however, focuses on the non religious side of his childhood. 

The book is exactly what the subtitle details. Moshe's upbringing was complex: son of deaf parents, divorce,  raised primarily by his man-hating mother and grandmother, bouncing around from school to school, and largely lost in unhelpful special education programs. On top of that, he was a smart-ass taking drugs, drinking, stealing, hanging out with screw-ups like himself. It goes from bad, to worse, to seriously, how could it be any worse?

Kasher is able to look back on his childhood with clarity and humor. There were plenty if moments when reading the book, I put it down saying, Oh my God! or laughing out loud. It's somewhat remarkable that Kasher grew up and became a successful adult. 

This type of memoir won't appeal to everyone. But if you've heard Kasher's stand up or know him from various appearances, it's worth reading. 

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