Amy Winehouse Statue


Last Things by Marissa Moss

Last Things Marissa Moss Cover (2)Reblogged from Writing About Reading

An uncredited reviewer in Publishers Weekly writes: “Deeply affecting and harrowing… This is not a sentimental story of how suffering ennobles people.  Moss’s deliberately naive drawings effectively accompany her painfully direct text…The fact that the family does endure is impressive, and this book demonstrates how art can transmute suffering into literature.”

S/he is right on the mark.  Moss is a successful children’s author best known for the Amelia’s Notebook series has written and drawn the most grown-up of books.  When her husband, Harvey, is diagnosed with ALS, he becomes more and more distant from the family, and there is no easy resolution to their relationship or his illness.  This is not an illness story where everyone becomes a better person, but eventually, as Moss writes in her introduction  it is about the “strong bonds of family and how they can sustain us.”

Everything about the book brings home the situation they find themselves in. Like life, it has to be lived, and like life, there are ups and downs: many, many downs.  Moss is clear-eyed about what the disease is, what it does to Harvey, how she and the kids react.  In a way, this with the clear text and the expressive drawings and varied and inventive design of the pages to suit to the story would be enough.  But what makes this a great book is that alongside the story of the family and the illness,  There is more. Beyond the day to day, there is the life of the mind.  Of connecting to the thoughts and history of humanity. For Harvey, a professor of medieval art, this involves hanging on to his intellectual journey trying ever more desperately to finish his book Picturing Kingship on King Louis IX’s personal prayer book.  He cuts himself off to write his last work.  King Louis is christian, the family are Jews. And for the family it is Judaism and life-cycle events of a bar mitzvah and later on sitting shiva for Harvey when he dies that locate the mundane in a wider world. Human beings live, love, struggle and die, but our minds put this all in the context of humanity.

Book Trailer:

Review from The Forward
Washing Post article about the Jewish aspects of the book
Publishers Weekly review
Kirkus Review


Cable Street Mural


Bernard Kops pays tribute to Emanuel Litvinoff


Immigration and Emigration:The world in a city–East End Jews

Soup kitchen for the Jewish poorEast End Jews

In the late-19th Century, the church at the corner of Brick Lane became a synagogue, as thousands of Jews moved into Spitalfields in the Huguenots’s wake. More than 2 million Jews left Eastern Europe between 1881 and 1914, prompted by economic hardship and increasingly ferocious persecution. Following the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881, the persecution of Jews in Russia became even fiercer, and a wave of pogroms swept across Russia and neighbouring countries.

Many Jews landing in England actually intended to go to America, but about 120,000 stayed in this country. Again attracted by the area’s reputation as a place for cheap living, and by the fact that it had been home to a Jewish population in previous centuries, large numbers settled in Spitalfields, often finding work in the ‘rag trade’. By 1900 Jews formed around 95% of the population in the Wentworth Street district of Spitalfields.

Read more…


The Battle of Cable Street is brought up in response to Trump in @onthemedia For Antifa, Not All Speech Should Be Free via @WNYC


R.I.P. Zygmunt Bauman

He’s not a literary author, but has been a enormous influence for critics and authors in the world of Anglo-Jewish writing (and far beyond–I just bought a book of his in Phoenix, AZ) that it is worth linking to him here.

Bauman Institute
Wikipedia Page (apparently there are issues with it.  Can you fix them?)  (Or tell me and I will make the chages.)

Al Jazeera
The Guardian
Washington Post
Times Higher Education
The Times
Jewish Telegraphic Agency


The Infidel (film)

The Infidel (2010)

Director Josh Appignanesi

The Infidel (2010)

The Infidel (2010)

This is not only a very Jewish movie, it’s a very British and a very Islamic movie dealing with the matter of multiculturalism. Omid Djalili plays Mahmud, a Muslim who discovers not only that he’s been adopted but also that he’s Jewish. The script, written by comedian David Baddiel, delivers fistfuls of one-liners (Mahmud is escorted away by security guard and retorts “You find out you’re Jewish and suddenly some bloke in a uniform is leading you away?”).

When asked about the basis for the comedy in the subject matter, Baddiel explained: “These communities and cultures are seen as at war or polarised, or at opposite sides of the fence, which allows for a body swap sort of situation to arise.” It has recently been adapted as a stage musical.


“The Promised Land” Open University, London, 23rd July 2015

Papers given:

  • ‘Tragedy or Neutropia? The Honourable Woman’
    Dr. Sue Vice, University of Sheffield
  • ‘British-Jewish Utopias and Dystopias from Zangwill to Jacobson’
    Professor Brian Cheyette, University of Reading
  • “No Outlines”: From Dystopia to Heterotopia in Howard Jacobson’s J’
    Dr. Ruth Gilbert, University of Winchester
  • ‘Messianism and British-Jewish Utopia’
    Dr. Peter Lawson, Open University
  • ‘The Future is Orange: Utopia and Dystopia in the Films of Stanley Kubrick’
    Dr. Nathan Abrams, Bangor University
  • ‘No Promised Land: A. C. Jacobs’ Poetry and the “Moment” of Diaspora’
    Dr. Merle Bachman, Spalding University
  • ‘East, North and West End: The Promised Land across London in the Plays of Bernard Kops’
    Mr. Jeremy Solomons, Boston University & University of Reading
  • Reading from her memoir “Losing Israel”
    Jasmine Donohaye, Swansea University
  • ‘The Idea of Jewish Racial Space: Zionist Utopia in the Anglo-Jewish Imagination’
    Professor Gavin Schaffer, University of Birmingham
  • ‘Jewtopia: Herbert Samuel, Rewriting Bacon’s New Atlantis, and Zionism’
    Dr. Finn Fordham, Royal Holloway University of London
  • ‘Skin: a Metafictional Investigation into Jewish “Blackness” from Chamberlain’s and Pierce’s Racism to its Deconstruction in Modern British Film’
    Dr. Federico Dal Bo, ICI Berlin
  • Paper Title: ‘Michael Moorcock’s Pyat Quartet, Twentieth-Century History, and the Failure of the Utopian’
    Dr. Eric Sandberg, University of Oulu

A Triumph of Dylanology

bob-dylan-in-tallisMy professor Bryan Cheyette aside from being a literary scholar is a Dylanologist.  In a personal sense, Dylan is a connection–when I first began to think about doing my doctorate, I spent several amazing times talking through ideas with Christopher Ricks, Dr. Cheyette names “Dylanologist-in-Chief.” After the topics that Dr. Ricks and I were discussing didn’t lead to an obvious PhD topic, I went home and came up with my current work, and now have the honour of working with the “Anglo-Jewish Literologist-in-Chief.” Read Dr. Cheyette’s essay on Dylan and his connection to Jewishness at the University of Reading, English at Reading blog.

A triumph of Dylanology