Israel Zangwill, Children of the Ghetto: A Study of a Peculiar People (1892)
May contain spoilers
And this, I confess, is a novel that I hadn’t heard of, set somewhat to the east of the Clerkenwell of The Nether World, but in an impoverished area. I hadn’t heard of Zangwill – although apparently his The Big Bow Mystery (1891) was the first locked room mystery novel. He was the author of the play The Melting Pot (1908), a term which came to stand for the ethnic homogenisation of American society.
Whilst there seemed to be no solutions to the problems of Clerkenwell in The Nether World, whether state, religious or charitable, in Zangwill’s East End ghetto the community and beliefs of the Jewish immigrants and their children at least provide a safety net. The focus is mostly on the area around Petticoat Lane and a thinly disguised Princelet Street (I wonder if the synagogue glimpsed here is the one in Iain Sinclair and Rachel Lichtenstein’s Rodinsky’s Room?), with excursions to the West End, the British Museum and Kensington.
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Occasionally I come across a publisher that looks so interesting that I’d secretly like to buy everything they print. Five Leaves Publishing is one such — I either found their collection of essays on Utopia or on Maps and then of course there was a pamphlet about Malcolm Hulke… There’s a second edition of a book on utopian communities I’d really like to read as well.
They’re in my old stamping grounds, which feels, uncanny as it is, and they’ve opened a bookshop. This is good news — as far as I can tell Mushroom Bookshop survived through the years of Thatcher and Major but died under Blair, so it’s good to see a radical bookshop open outside London.
They weren’t the easiest place to find, in part (no) thanks to Google Maps, and I’d gone most of the way up to Hockley and down past slab square to where Pearson’s was in search of something claimed to be opposite tourist information. I clearly missed the A-board outside the twitchell that led up to the shop. Twice.
And when I got in the shop named for the small press, I failed to find a section of the shop devoted to the small press. You’d think it’d be a no brainer, really. The book I wanted is out of print, but I brought a copy of Marlon James’s A Brief History of Seven Killings (2014) to support bricks and mortar, and an anthology on essays on London novels:
- Andrew Whitehead on The Nether World by George Gissing
- Andrew Lane on The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle
- Nadia Valman on Children of the Ghetto by Israel Zangwill
- Angela V. John on Neighbours of Ours by Henry W. Nevinson
- Sarah Wise on A Child of the Jago by Arthur Morrison
- Anne Witchard on Limehouse Nights by Thomas Burke
- Heather Reyes on Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
- Zoë Fairbairns on This Bed Thy Centre by Pamela Hansford Johnson
- Rachel Lichtenstein on Jew Boy by Simon Blumenfeld
- John King on May Day by John Sommerfield
- John Lucas on Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton
- Susan Alice Fischer on Farewell Leicester Square by Betty Miller
- Jane Miller on The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen
- Andy Croft on Rising Tide by Jack Lindsay
- Bill Schwarz on The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon
- Jerry White on Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes
- Cathi Unsworth on The L-Shaped Room by Lynne Reid Banks
- Ken Worpole on The Lowlife by Alexander Baron
- Susie Thomas on The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi
- Gregory Woods on Ready to Catch Him Should He Fall by Neil Bartlett
- Lisa Gee on White Teeth by Zadie Smith
- Valentine Cunningham on The Hard Shoulder by Chris Petit
- Courttia Newland on Dead Air by Iain Banks
- Sanchita Islam on Brick Lane by Monica Ali
- Jon Day on Capital by John Lanchester
- Philippa Thomas on NW by Zadie Smith
It’s an interesting list of which I have six — somewhere — and have read maybe three, so before I read the collection I need to go away and read twenty-eight (is it?) books. This will take some time, and library hopping. The Gissing is in UoK library, but I am sat close to the Zangwill. But maybe I need to read in chronological order?
Note, of course, a huge gap between Baron and Kureishi. No one wanted Ballard?