Carol Gould is a very funny woman. She is as witty as she is heartbreaking and she is quintessentially theatrical. When I first met her, I found myself laughing out loud as she shared the most painful details of her expatriate London life. I suggested that she take her show “on the road.” Gould’s hilarious imitations of her various self-righteous sparring partners in the British media would alone be worth the price of admission. You may see her in performance HERE and you may read her website HERE.
Gould is currently working on a play, a film, and a book about her experiences in London as a Jewish-American expatriate playwright, filmmaker, and journalist for the last thirty years.
She is also looking to “get out of town” before it’s too late. If anyone is interested in owning a lovely flat “over there, over there,” please contact either of us.
This QNA is the first in my ongoing series of interviews with people whose work I believe is hugely important.
Q: Why did you move to London from America in the first place?
A: I moved to London in January 1976 to do a postgraduate course in theatre and film studies with Temple University’s London campus. I was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Temple and wanted to have the ‘European experience’ as my sister had done in Italy as a music scholar.
Q: Why, after nearly 30 years, are you planning to leave London?
A: I am leaving because I find the level of Jew-hatred and America-loathing too much to handle now. Over the years I have allowed the nasty comments from British friends and work colleagues to roll off like water off a duck’s back, but since 9/11 the comments have been tinged with a visceral anger. I feel that ugly ‘You damned Jew; you bloody Yank’ hatred rising to the surface to such a degree that I could see myself being physically attacked very soon.
This is not paranoia; just this past week I was told by a man at my storage facility that he had taken a visiting American friend into a London pub and that the verbal abuse from ordinary English people was so severe that they had to leave. To be specific, this abuse takes the following shape: ‘How does it feel to be responsible for our British lads dying every day in Iraq so your friends in Israel can have some more guns to kill Palestinians?’ or ‘ How many Americans can spell ‘dog?” or ‘Who are you and your Israeli friends going to slaughter next?’
Q: What kind of life did you have there, culturally, politically, professionally, and socially?
A: In my early years in the UK I have to say I had a rich life. I worked in the top echelons of theatre and TV and was highly respected by my colleagues. In recent years, however, I have found work hard to come by; when I have been in the workplace I have been at the receiving end of nasty comments about my Jewishness, about Americans and about being a ‘Zionist.’
When I defend my heritage, otherwise intelligent media colleagues tell me to ‘get that Holocaust chip off your shoulder.’ I was asked to leave a high-profile women’s video collective way back in 1999 when the Board – women from Britain and Africa — decided I was ‘too Zionist’ to be a ‘trusted member of the team.’
Q: Tell me about your plays, films, and other writing work.
A: In 1977 my very first plays, ‘Virgo Rising’ and ‘Barking to the Angel,’ were produced in London. I was all of twenty-three! In 1980 I had a very successful play at the Edinburgh Festival. After that I was taken on by Anglia Television as Associate Head of Drama and for ten mostly happy years was Commissioning Editor and Associate Producer/Script Editor on international Drama seen on PBS. I worked with John Rosenberg (American) and Sir John Woolf (British), who were true geniuses.
Some of my credits included ‘Tales of the Unexpected;’ ‘Cause Celebre’ by Sir Terence Rattigan; six PD James thrillers; adaptations of Somerset Maugham and of Eric Ambler.
Q: Tell me about your new-found fame as a media pundit.
A: I think I have achieved notoriety in Britain because I am the only Jewish American woman writing with passion and pride. Janet Daley is a superb Jewish-American pundit but she plays it safe and does not deal with the issues that I confront.
I have provoked the ire of the Anglo-Muslim community (not intentionally) by complaining about the virulent hatred I have witnessed at Islamic events in the UK. I also write about anti-Americanism in the UK and have upset a lot of Britons. I even invoked the ire of the famous British photographer Sally Soames because I happened to write about the disgraceful behaviour of the Manchester United fans when Jewish – American tycoon Malcolm Glazer bought that English football club.
Fans were wearing ‘Die, Glazer, Die!’ t-shirts at the first match after he sought to buy the club. I felt this was anti-Semitic and anti-American. Sally wrote to me that she was outraged that I had dared write about something I ‘know nothing about.’ As it happens, in one of my many lives I was once a professional tennis writer and photographer and I am also a sports nut! I stay up all night watching matches on TV.
I make lots of people angry, but I have also been honoured with an appearance on the legendary BBC ‘Any Questions?’ show hosted by Jonathan Dimbleby, and in November will be debating Shami Chakrabarti, Helena Kennedy QC and Trevor Phillips in Newcastle for the British-American Project on the issue of Faith and Justice.
Q: What frightens you?
A: I am frightened by the anger shown me by ordinary Brits. Yesterday, I went to mail a letter and an elderly Englishwoman came up to me and started shouting at me when I told her that perhaps we were not being told the whole story about the current national postal strike. She accused me of saying ‘My country is full of liars’ and then when I reminded her I was British, too, she scoffed and quite angrily said I could never be British. This is Brit-speak for ‘you fat little Jew Yank bitch, how dare you say you are one of us? ‘
She then appeared in the pharmacy and shouted at me about sponging off the NHS (our health system.) It is hard to explain to Americans the anger provoked by Jews and Americans in the UK but I suggest your readers go to my website, Current Viewpoint, and read some of my recent articles about confrontations in London.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I am working on a play about the nineteenth century British engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and a screenplay about the weekend of the JFK assassination. I have received an Arts Council grant to make a film about ‘GI babies’ for completion by September 2008. I am also working on my new book, ‘Don’t Tread on Me.’
Q: When will this book be out and what are you focusing on?
A: It will be published in the UK and USA in August 2008 and will be about anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism and anti-Israel rhetoric in the UK and Europe in my thirty-two years over here.
Q: Thank you very much for your time.