From the Slightly Foxed bookshelves | SF Edition No. 27, Marrying Out
We’ve been tidying the bookshelves to make room for our new spring publications and, lo and behold, we’re down to the last 30 copies of our handsome limited edition of Marrying Out, Harold Carlton’s brilliantly observed, irresistibly hilarious memoir. If you’ve been thinking about adding this delightful book to your collection, now’s the time. Please read on for an extract, introduced by Oliver Pritchett.
The first thing that strikes one about the Conway family is the noise. The air is filled with Father’s sudden roars of rage, the slaps he lands on his son Howard, and his two other children, the flying plates, the slamming doors. Then there’s Grandma with her noisy coos and kisses, her cries of ecstasy one moment and shrieks of woe the next. It’s no wonder Grandpa is always going off for a little lie-down. And, of course, behind all this hubbub there are family secrets.
Marrying Out (first published in 2001 as The Handsomest Sons in the World!) is a memoir of growing up in the 1950s in a Jewish family in Willesden, in north-west London, all monkey-puzzle trees and crazy paving. Written by Harold Carlton, thinly disguised here as Howard Conway, it begins when he is 12 and is reluctantly being prepared for his bar mitzvah by a chain-smoking rabbi who looks like a gangster. It is a very funny, very clearly observed book, with moments of outrageous farce but also layers of great sadness. Grandma, as a character, is as vivid as her orange dyed hair, her chalk-white powdered face, her scarlet lips and painted talons, and her magnificent histrionics . . .