April 12, 2020


Our "Recommended Reading" section focuses this time on the latest release from writer, Jill Kavalek.  Join Jill for a whirlwind (and frequently hilarious) trip through world history, in her book,
"All you need to know about the the History of the World according to Me."

(excerpt from "All you need to know about the History of the World according to Me," by Jill Kavalek):


Who am I, Jill Kavalek, (a screenwriter and playwright), to tell people about history? I’ve always liked history, (not so much acts of parliament and laws of the land).

(above: Jill Kavalek and long-term friend, Peter Kavalek, spotted in Melbourne, Australia).

Well, the Corn Laws were quite interesting in a boring sort of way, a bit like sitting through something by Wagner; you think, “Is this never going to end?”  As a writer I probably have a quirky sort of mind and I like odd things…Things that happened about history, in history, while the people that instigated them were thinking about something completely different.
(below: The memorial stone marking the repeal of the Corn Laws, 1846).

 I remember doing a history exam and while cramming for it, I was also reading a book about Gnomes.  Naturally, by the time the exam came along, I knew all there was to be known about gnomes and just managed to scrape through my history exam.
(below: Distracting - One of the classic guides to all things "Gnome-Related," the book by Wil Huygen from 1977).

Most people (unless they are actually interested) know bits and pieces about history but they often get them muddled up.  For instance, I was at the dentist yesterday and he was convinced Peter the Great was French! 

My step-grandson has just asked me why I have ignored the Hittites.  Apart from being around for ages, none of them seem to have done anything interesting (apart from fight with the Egyptians but everyone did that). 
(below: Frieze with Anubis, from the Tomb of King Tutankhamun, 1324 BC).

And frankly I’d never heard of the Hittites! I’m sorry.  There didn’t appear to be one that stood out in the whole lot, (though I have later learnt that Abraham bought his grave from a Hittite).  So, as far as I can see, the Hittites may have been all over the place, as a sort of ancient Real Estate Agent office.

So, this is my History of the World, excluding, (sad to say) The Hittites.


Hollywood has a lot to answer for when it comes to historical drama; they tend to add things just to make the film or whatever more dramatic, (as though, when you look at it, the entire thing wasn’t dramatic enough) without the screenwriter adding his feelings on the subject and then the director taking it even further. There’s a saying in the film world that producers had a very hard time making Cecil B. De Mille (a very famous film director in his day) from keeping Moses out of the
War of the Roses.  They probably need not have bothered; the general public wouldn’t care (as all his films were big and glossy and seem to have Charlton Heston in them).
(below: Charlton Heston in the iconic rowing-scene from the classic, "Ben Hur.")


But then I had the radio on and I was vaguely listening and I heard them talking about the
Old Testament and someone said, “Isaac became Jacob.”  And that’s when I thought, “Oh, no, no, no! Someone really does have to make it their business to sort this lot out. It’s about time we put Moses back in The Bible and the War of the Roses in the Middle Ages, where they belong!”


As I said I am a writer, (hopefully an amusing one), with credits mainly for writing plays and stuff for T.V., so you can expect a lot of, “He said, they said.”

I thought to myself, “Well, no one is beating down my door, wanting me to write anything. I might as well have a go at straightening all this out.”

Hopefully I can write a history about the world which interests and entertains people while getting everyone in their proper place in the scheme of things, as they were doing whatever it was they did to make them memorable.  


The book, “1066 and all That,” was written by W.C. Sellar and R.J. Yeatman, but you actually have to know something about history to be able to see what’s funny about it.  For instance, they refer to Queen Anne as “the dead queen.”  Of course, she’s dead - she’s been dead for hundreds of years - but she was alive at one stage, so what’s funny about that?  Later I’ve tried to explain.

In this little epic of mine, fear not, all you are required to do is read.  As I am a simple soul it shouldn’t be deeply immersed in acts of parliaments and other events, (which I usually find dull).
What I remember about history are things I’ve either found strange, funny, brilliant or just plain daft.  
As I said, hopefully it will have daft bits, funny bits, and smarter-than-the-average-Bear bits, which will
entertain you.


Also, do not look for chronological order all the time.  As something pops up to me, I write it in and later on where it actually happens, I explain it in greater detail so it should make sense, (hopefully).  
I am not an historian, (as neither was the Duke of Norfolk, but he does crop up a lot as we go along).
(below: Gutenberg Bible, NY Public Library, USA).


The Bible and Very early Bits and Pieces.

To begin, we have to go back several thousand years to Abraham, the first person who believed in one God.  Until then most people had a variety of Gods for different purposes.  For example, there was Hestia, the Goddess of the hearth, (whose name later became the moniker of a bra company).  Some of the others were nice and cute such as Apollo, or Cupid, who went around darting people with love arrows.  There was Dianna the Huntress.  
(below: Diana the Huntress sculpture at The Huntington Library, San Marino, California, USA).

Most of them were quite pleasant but as I could never tell which were Greek and which were Roman. There’s no point in getting into it, as I’m bound to get it wrong.


In the Middle East there were many small tribes.  They also had Gods, but they seem mainly to do with the house and had unpronounceable names.  Of course, there were also much larger ones such as the Byzantines, who stuck around for a long time and only sort of collapsed once the Christian religion took hold under Emperor Constantine.  And then there were whole nations such as the Babylonians, the Philistines, (and presumably the Hittites were in there somewhere), and of course the Egyptians, who never disappear no matter what was done to them (which reminds me of the Duke of Norfolk, but he comes in much later).

(above: Ancient Hittite carvings depict the lives of the warrior people).

It was about now that along came Abraham; he was the first person to believe in one God. 
He and his wife Sarah, desperately wanted a child, (although if the Old Testament is to be believed, they were nearly a hundred years old).  Abraham already had a son, Ishmael, with an Egyptian servant girl, Hagar.  
After much praying, gnashing of teeth and weeping etc, God eventually granted Sarah’s wish and she had a son too, named Isaac.  However, God wanted to be sure Abraham really did believe in him, so He said, “You will sacrifice your son to me.”

“He wants to what?”  Sarah screamed at Abraham, as he prepared for the sacrifice. 
“What’s wrong with a goat?”

She was beside herself.  After all the performance to get her beloved son, now this!

 "Well, you’d better be right!" she mused.


As I discovered while talking to a student of the Talmud, Isaac was thirty-seven when all this was going on and when he finally spoke up, you can imagine the conversation.

 (above: A copy of the Talmud found in Jerusalem, 3rd Century, CE).

“Excuse me...What?  For thirty-seven years we’ve all done everything He wants, now He wants to sacrifice me?  I don’t think so!" 

Then God finally spoke up, saying,  “Stop! I just wanted to make sure you would obey My will.  Oh, and by the way I’d like Isaac’s Jacob, to change his name to 'Israel'."


Isaac considered the matter and thought that, compared with offering him as a sacrificial lamb, changing his son’s name was definitely far more agreeable.  And then God told them that Jacob, (now 'Israel') would become an important figure in the scheme of things. 

"Are you sure this God of yours if quite sane?" asked Sarah.

"He is the one God and must be revered in all things," Abraham replied.


"That’s all very well, as long as He doesn’t keep wanting us to sacrifice any of our children, or keep changing our names!" retorted Sarah.

God spoke, "Jacob (now 'Israel') is going to be the father of the twelve tribes of Israel."


From these beginnings, the three major world religions began.

 (above: "The Creation of Adam," by Michelangelo, 1508-12).


Stay tuned for our next excerpt from the comedy book, "All You Need to know about the History of the World According to Me," by Jill Kavalek.

If you'd like to see our latest interview with Jill, you can see it here on our YouTube channel:

























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