Posted by: jbwuk | December 16, 2009

True Tales and Tall Tales

Exploring the slippery line between fact and fiction and the overwhelming auspiciousness of the number 8, JBW, along with the JCC held our first ‘True Tales?’
We were blessed with fabulous tellers, from the worlds of fiction, non-fiction and the slippery places in-between. Novelist and striker for the English writers’ football team, Joe Dunthorne; Academic and professional middle-class worrier, Bridget Escolme (last seen presenting a Pecha Kucha in her pyjamas), performer and curator Brian Lobel (last scene performing with no clothes on), fiction reviewer and writer, the formerly chaste, Hephzibah Anderson; and writer, performer and serial kisser, Lana Citron.

8 are the nights of Chanukah, days of the brit milah and resonant in other ways. It is the unsung magic number, underrated, and overlooked until this night when we all sung its praises, explored its facets, lauded it to the treetops. There’s the magic 8 ball, invented in 1942 manufactured by Mattel as a fortune-telling tool. There are the 8 symbols of Tibetan Buddhism, the 8th Red Army, the legs of a spider (two of which are at the heart of storytelling traditions -Arachne and Anansi.)

Our 7 tellers (yes, one cancelled) elaborated on 8 in entirely different ways. And in case you were counting, the other two tellers were hosts Rachel Mars and me,  Mekella Broomberg.

We were drawn, and at times lured, into:

  • Princess Diana fixations in the twisty back streets of Calcutta
  • Seeing an ex after an 8 year hiatus, but he was walking into De Beers New York store with his new girlfriend.
  • A father who didn’t see his own parents after the age of 8 and his daughter’s subsequent fixation with childhood loss.
  • A fierce coveting of chocolates after the disappointing gift of a box of After 8’s.
  • Being party to the humiliating seasonal ritual of a tokenistic Channuka performance tagged on to the end of a primary school nativity play.
  • Receiving life-changing advice from a belly-dancing guru, teaching figures of 8 with her hips.
  • Inheriting the Hawaiian ‘8’ method for finding lost items (visualise yourself, with outstretched arms in the top section and your lost item in the bottom section. As you do this draw the outline of an 8 in the air with your two index fingers) 

The  audience composed their own 8-word memoirs and then huddled together deliberating which of the stories was the fictitious one; the proverbial hamentaschen amidst the latkes.
All the performers negotiate the slippery boundaries of fact and fiction on a daily basis and each of us knows well that even when you attempt to confine yourself to one the other inevitably creeps in, so I had imagined identifying the tall tale would be virtually indecipherable. And yet, when it came to the vote it was pretty much unanimous, and everyone was right. This may suggest the line is clearer than I had thought, or maybe people blush and touch their neck when they’re lying. … I remain undecided.  Either way, although the story was made up, the Hawaiian ‘8’ method is a true philosophy, and works for non-Hawaiians just as well, in case you’d like to try it.

There’ll be more ‘True Tales?’ at Jewish Book Week  on Saturday March 6th, this time the theme will be ‘Imprints of Home and Exile’ and we’ll be featuring another slew of super talented tellers.



  1. Hi Mekella

    I just stumbled across this and thought of you at JBW:

    There’s a fantastically feisty Belarusian poet in the current issue as well.

    Happy Light Fests all round !

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: