Yes, for those who are interested, I will get back to answering questions and writing more on my analysis of Brian when I can get to that point again.]
The below article covers an award-winning journalist and author. All the awards can go jump in the lake, because what's more important is that she was born the same year as the eppylover, and was a teenager in Liverpool during Beatlemania! Even more lovely is that her parents were good friends of Brian's folks. *sigh*
I only wish she would write something about the Epsteins, personally.
Hanging out in the Cavern with Brian Epstein
Novelist Linda Grant tells Sarah Caden that there were certain advantages to being a middle-class Jewish teenager in Liverpool during the exciting Sixties
(Linda's bio from her own site)
(Linda's bio-British Council of Arts site)
EVERYTHING Linda Grant writes is informed by the facts of her background. It's the same, of course, for all writers, but Grant wears her status as a Jewish woman on her sleeve. And with pride, though it's something she only recently began to explore fictionally.
Suffocating with hay fever on the day she's in Dublin to promote her latest novel Still Here, which sees a Jewish Liverpudlian return to her native city to care for a dying mother who guards the family secrets, Grant admits a preoccupation with her Eastern European background; with being Jewish; with growing up in the middle-class "leafy suburbs" of Liverpool.
The elder daughter of Benny and Rose, Grant's history was not something she was able to tackle. Thirty years ago, she explains, you didn't talk about what it meant to be Jewish, nor did you wish to delve into the past. On both sides, her grandparents came to England from Eastern Europe.
"And in both cases," she says, "they bought tickets to America and thought that was where they were when they landed in Liverpool. For days, my grandfather walked around saying, 'Isn't New York the most beautiful city in the world?'
"Back then," she goes on, "you would be met off the ship by members of the Jewish community, who would ask where you came from. If you were from Kiev, you were sent to Devon Street, and so on. No one knows what my family were called when they arrived; they just moved into a house that had been rented by a family called Ginsberg and took over the rent book and their name."
It wasn't until her father became a British citizen in the late Forties that the extended family became Grant, so stopping the flood of post-war anti-Semitic hate mail.
Comfortably off thanks to her father's wholesale hair products business (he brought the Cold Wave perm to Britain) Linda was caught somewhat between two cultures as a teenager. Like every adolescent, she thought her parents fools who knew nothing and did everything wrong, but she was also a typical third-generation immigrant, who wished to integrate more than her parents had done.
"As a teenager in Liverpool in the Sixties," she explains, "all you wanted was to be involved in this wonderful thing that was happening, the Beatles and all the different groups. So, at 13, I was sneaking out to the lunchtime sessions at the Cavern, desperate to be part of that, and though my parents disapproved, they couldn't completely put it down because the son of their friends, Brian Epstein, was running it all. There was a real feeling of your parents trying to keep you inside this enclave and I didn't want any of it."
Straight from school and determined to write, Grant became a journalist. When she finally came to write her first novel in the Nineties, she felt she'd covered everything. Everything but the facts of her own history.
After her first, acclaimed novel, The Cast Iron Shore, research for the second led Linda Grant, accidentally, into the often tricky area of family biography. "I began to write a book entirely about Liverpool," she says. "But when I started, it felt like I was asset-stripping my parents' lives and it was too uncomfortable." Instead, she wrote a "family memoir", Remind Me Who I Am, Again, which, more than a decade after her father's death and her mother's submission to multi-infarct dementia (a disease similar to Alzheimer's) had an unusual effect on the extended Grant family.
"I was interested in how families, but immigrant families in particular, tend to mythologise their history," Grant says. "And when it came out, relatives who hadn't been seen for years came out of the woodwork and wanted to be part of it." She discovered stories she had been told had as many interpretations as she had relatives, and children recorded as lost or cousins who had disappeared without trace were suddenly writing to her, making contact and giving her back her past. For her and her sister, Michele (the "good girl") who stayed relatively close to home and provided a grandchild, it was a reclamation of their past.
It was a recovery that likely gave her the freedom to write Still Here, which, although not autobiographical, speaks about the universal experience of belonging to a family with baggage and, more specifically, of her particular experience of feeling the same but different, of accepting how we are shaped by our environment and making peace with it.
And though her writing will continue to draw on the influences of her past and of Liverpool, there is no question of Linda Grant returning to live physically close to either. She has lived away, looking back and reassessing since she was 19; it is not home any more, but something else. She laughs out loud at the notion of writing about where she has chosen to live, however. "Come on," she laughs, "what is there to say about North London?"
Inspiration, it seems, is where the heart is.
The Irish Independent website
(free subscription required)