Philip Davis on Serious Jokes

Philip Davis, editor of The Reader magazine, is a professor of English literature at the University of Liverpool and author of Bernard Malamud: A Writer’s Life.

In the United States, it is currently Jewish Heritage Month and he was asked by Oxford University Press USA to reflect on his own Jewish heritage. Below we learn about serious jokes.

More than forty years ago, Mr Zold was the shamas – the Jewish church warden, as it were – of the Orthodox Synagogue to be found in Shakespeare Street, Nottingham.

As a boy I was more interested in Shakespeare than in Judaism, but the address was only part of the incongruities of assimilation: just along the road, in a not dissimilar white-stone building, was the local YMCA. My father was an orthodox Jew, a Yeshiva-educated boy from Hackney in London, who as the years went on became more and more disillusioned with orthodoxy. He hated the thought that the more money you paid, the better your seat in the synagogue – meaning, not some superior cushioning (he could have put up with that), but a place closer to the Ark of the Covenant and by implication to the Lord Himself. My father also disliked the new Rabbi. I remember one Day of Atonement – Yom Kippur, which follows hard upon Rosh Hasshanah, the Jewish New Year – when towards mid-afternoon, my father went upstairs to the separate ladies gallery above us males, to see how my mother was doing during the fasting. That was his custom as a husband every year around three o’clock; it was like a religious ritual. Only as he did so, the ‘new Rabbi’ (meaning he had probably been in post for five years by now) made a loud announcement in English that the men were not allowed to visit their wives upstairs – which, in point of orthodoxy, was correct. My father, however, had his own laws, and even as Rabbi Posen renewed his prohibition from the dais, the bimah, there was my father visibly leaning over the rail of the ladies gallery in profiled assertion of his greater loyalty. Defiantly, he expected to be seen in his silent protest, and I sitting alone downstairs awaiting his return was (I now recall with some surprise) not in the least embarrassed but delightedly proud. I knew even then that this was the minority within the minority, the righteous law-breaker, the stiff-necked hook-nosed Jew of the prophets recalling spirit against letter.

Read the rest of the blog here.

Event: ‘Life’s Better with a Book’ – a Readers’ Day

Life’s Better With a Book

a Readers’ Day
… in partnership with The Brindley Arts Centre

Saturday 12th June, 9.30am – 4.00pm

Join The Reader Organisation’s Jane Davis, Brian Nellist, Angela Macmillan and many others, for a day of interactive workshops that explore the ways that literature can make us feel good. Engage with some familiar favourites in Dickens, Austen and Wordsworth, and discover some new writers, as we unearth why reading and writing occupies a unique role in our lives: helping us to understand self and other; personal experiences past, present, and future; and uncountable unknowns. “Can hard times really make us stronger?” “Can we recover moments of supreme happiness from times past?” The Reader Organisation staff consider these big questions and more, all inspired by the reading experience.

Tickets: £20, £15 Student/OAP, £12 Leisure Card Holders. A delicious lunch is included in the price.

Workshop Details and Booking Form:
Brindley Readers Day 2010 Booking Form

Booking and Enquiries: call or email Claire Bigley at the Brindley: 0151 906 3734 or Claire.Bigley@halton.gov.uk

Facing your fears… and doing it anyway

Niall Gibney, who’s working on our Merseyside Community Theatre project, has just returned from giving his first ever presentation (to the Deputy Chief Executive of Liverpool City Council, no less!) to show how, from his first-hand experience, it’s possible for young people to be inspired and become engaged with Shakespeare, even if they don’t think it’s for them. He did a brilliant job, and here, he tells us about why it’s so important to  face your fears…

Hello all, I got back from doing my first presentation about an hour ago. This was about getting youths involved in our Merseyside Community Theatre project. It was to Ben Dolan, Deputy Chief Executive of Liverpool City Council. It went really well… I was very nervous though. Still, now I can look back at it and say I am proud of myself, that I did it, and Jane and Niamh both said I did well too.

If I can do things like this believe me, anybody can. You’ve just got to prove it to yourself and face your fears head on!!  Get involved :-D

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Be a part of it yourself – visit the MCT website to find out how.

Event: Superfreakonomics Live!

With super smart thinking and great storytelling Superfreakonomics Live! challenges the way we think, explores how people respond to incentives and shows the world for what it really is… super freaky.

Superfreakonomics Live!

An Evening with Stephen Dubner

Monday 21 June, 7.30pm
Liverpool Philharmonic Hall
£16, £21

The best-selling Freakonomics, was a worldwide sensation, selling over four million copies in 35 languages and changing the way we look at the world. Superfreakonomics is bigger, bolder and more controversial.

Stephen J. Dubner is the former writer and editor at The New York Times Magazine, author of Turbulent Souls (Choosing My Religion), Confessions of a Hero-Worshiper, and the children’s book The Boy With Two Belly Buttons.

Join him as he reveals a whole new way of looking at the world.

Book here.

Tonight: KATHERINE SWIFT, The Morville Hours

The Liverpool Literature Seminars

A treat for gardeners, country-lovers, medievalists, and anyone needing an inspired break from their revision…

Katherine Swift
The Morville Hours

Tuesday 18th May, 5.15 pm
Rendall Lecture Theatre 9

University of Liverpool

Katherine Swift lives at The Dower House, Morville Hall in Shropshire. She worked as a rare book librarian in Oxford and Dublin before becoming a full-time gardener and writer in 1988. Spanning thousands of years, The Morville Hours (2008) takes the form of a medieval Book of Hours. It is a meditative journey through the seasons, but also a journey of self-exploration. It is a book about finding one’s place in the world and putting down roots.

All welcome. Drinks to follow.
Contact Alexandra Harris if you would like more information: alexandra.harris@liv.ac.uk.

Event: The Reading Revolution at Hay Festival

‘The Reading Revolution’

Hay Festival, Thursday 3 June 2010, 5.15pm
Venue: Elmley Foundation Dream Stage (event 266)

Get Into Reading is a unique read-aloud model that connects people, improves wellbeing and inspires minds.

Join Dr Jane Davis (Director of The Reader Organisation), author Blake Morrison and Dr David Fearnley (Medical Director, Mersey Care NHS Trust) at Hay Festival in a conversation about The Reader Organisation’s work to bring about a Reading Revolution.

Get Into Reading is one of the most significant developments to have taken place in Mersey Care NHS Trust and mental health practice in the last ten years. Dr Fearnley

Book your tickets here.