Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

When the parents are kids

    Sunday Times film critic Cosmo Landesman’s parents are at once distinctly Jewish and militantly unorthodox. The biblical commandment against sex with other folks’ spouses seems to have been disobeyed by both Fran and Jay Landesman almost as a matter of principle, with unsettling consequences for their children, of whom Cosmo is the older (writes Michael Horovitz).

    In the parts of Starstruck (Macmillan, £14.99) relating to his family, Cosmo, its author, exacts a near-merciless revenge, as though impelled by the highest critical imperatives to dishonour his father and mother.

    In 1948, Jay Landesman, aged 29, quit working in his mother’s antique shop in provincial St Louis to revel in the non-stop party life of a randy playboy in New York City. There he launched Neurotica, a hip but profoundly uncommercial magazine devoted to exploring the undersides of Middle American dreams. He soon met his wildly Bohemian match in the form of Fran, a sassy Greenwich Village art student six years his junior, whose rebellion against her rich parents was completed by marrying Jay.

    He then opened a nightclub, The Crystal Palace, which helped bring the likes of Barbra Streisand, Lenny Bruce and Woody Allen to the fore, and Fran began her staggeringly original songwriting.

    In the mid-1960s they moved to London with toddler Miles and Cosmo, then six, in train. The couple was soon mingling with Alternative London’s intellectual, pop and performance arts personalities. Over the subsequent 40 years, they remained anarchic, promiscuous, drug-happy teenagers at heart, as did Miles, who has formed numberless punk rock bands. But Cosmo’s rebellion took the form of a desperation for restraint and conformity. He has done his utmost to escape the wayward examples set by his parents (and to an extent, by his first wife Julie Burchill). It is a pity he undervalues their authentic achievements.

    As an extended family scrapbook, it is graphic, sardonic and, here and there, grudgingly affectionate. But the many pages that aspire to discriminate between celebrity, stardom, success and failure, genuine culture and our increasingly philistine Zeitgeist, consist of mainly unthought-through obsolescent journalese — displaying the very dumbing down which Cosmo purports to be deconstructing.

    Michael Horovitz’s latest book is ‘A New Waste Land’. Cosmo Landesman will be speaking on ‘The Joys of Family’, Sunday February 22, at Jewish Book Week 2009

The Jewish Chronicle

Review: Reunion

Amanda Hopkinson

Friday, November 25, 2016

Review: Reunion
Books

A taste for forbidden flavours

Michael Kaminer

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A taste for forbidden flavours
The Jewish Chronicle

Jodi Picoult competition entry form

Keren David

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Jodi Picoult competition entry form
The Jewish Chronicle

Review: Freud: In His Time and Ours

Stephen Frosh

Friday, November 25, 2016

Review: Freud: In His Time and Ours
Books

Jodi Picoult - The book that changed me

Keren David

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Jodi Picoult - The book that changed me
Books

Review: Margaret Thatcher and the Middle East b...

Robert Philpot

Friday, November 11, 2016

Review: Margaret Thatcher and the Middle East b...
Books

Can you solve these knotty problems?

Daniel Sugarman

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Can you solve these knotty problems?
Books

Getting ahead is a slice of pie

Suzanne Levy

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Getting ahead is a slice of pie
The Jewish Chronicle

Review: A Horse Walks Into A Bar

Stoddard Martin

Friday, November 11, 2016

Review: A Horse Walks Into A Bar