Salt Beef with a Side of Bacon

Marcus Cooper and his freaky moustache

Marcus Cooper and his freaky moustache, nd.

Look at this excellent dude. This is Marcus Cooper, born 1 November 1871 in the East End of London, one of the ancestors of my friend Bill Prensky. Bill has always felt a strong emotional link to London, so three years ago, I suggested that he might like to have a proper historian look into his family history. I put him in touch with an historian friend of mine, Andrew Lewis, as well as designer Liz Mosley.

Lilaine Shanholt, Bill's maternal grandmother

Lilaine Shanholt, Bill’s maternal grandmother, nd.

Here’s the result: Salt Beef with a Side of Bacon, the story of a Jewish family in London. I’m credited as the editor, although I didn’t do much more than write a few passages, and work with Liz on some of the design details. I also dug up a few photos to supplement the ones Bill already had at home (such as the smashing pic of Marcus, above, and this rather beautiful one of Lilaine Shanholt, Bill’s maternal grandmother, who was responsible for his Anglophile tendencies). It’s a fascinating snapshot of a typical Jewish family in Victorian London, and it was great fun to work on it with Andy, Bill and Liz.

The booklet ends with the family emigrating to New York in the 1920s. I hope Bill commissions another historian to follow the rest of his family history, as they are a very interesting bunch, deeply involved in radical politics, psychology, music and the arts. Bill’s favourite uncle, for example, was Bertram Ross (real name Bertram Prensky), Martha Graham’s dance partner for many years, a gentle man and judging by the pic on Martha Graham’s Wikipedia page, a stunning-looking one, too.

Bill himself is a pretty awesome guy, but I’m not going to rattle off his c.v. here. It’s enough to say that he’s one of the best men I have ever known, he has had a profound effect on my life, and I consider him to be the closest thing I have to a father. Okay, enough personal shit now! *embarrassed*

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