tv 2016 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books CSPAN April 10, 2016 1:30pm-3:31pm EDT
[inaudible conversations] >> thank you for coming. nice crowd. first of all, i have to deal with the title of this panel, which really, through history, laws of nature, laws of man. the title is a little difficult for me as a political reporter, i write about the laws of man and i never think about the laws of nature unless i'm covering a natural disaster, like our 1994 earthquake. our panelists have two tasks, most important for them is to
talk about their books in such a compelling manner that you will all brush out afterward, by copies and have the authors assign them. the book signing is in signing area number one. this is noted on the festival math in the center of the program or one of the volunteers in the room will help direct you i have been thinking. the laws of nature explains like the formation of the great coral reef, once thought of as permanent and now, we know they're not. we hope the laws of man can save them from global warming. these of books deal with these
two conflicting forces, i guess, in a engaging way with really gripping writing. in reading them, i wondered how all of this history that we will be talking about today affects us. i thought that all of three books are essential to our understanding of today's world. michael schuman is the author of confusion in the world he created and he has been correspondent for time and the "wall street journal" covering asia and the global economy. he lives in beijing, and is also the author of: the miracle, the epic story of asia's quest for. in the latest book he tells how confucius attempted to bring a system of order, respect and responsibility to his unruly world in effort to communist government is continuing today. marries a book is: spqr: a
history of ancient rome and is a professor and confronting the classics. which was nominated for the national book critics circle award and a she also writes a very delightful blog. she tells how these enterprising and effect energetic, aggressive and the thing i always think about is cruel romans employ their idea of the laws of man on their diversity in part. mark is an associate professor of history at seat hall university specializing in intellectual, cultural and political history of modern era and his book in the science-- in
the age of science and reason-- region tells about something we all know too well, no matter how good our leaders are or how complex our government structure is, an earthquake can wipe us all out. my name is bill boyarsky. i'm a journalist. i was with the los angeles times for 30 years and now right for a number of web publications. so, michael, i was thinking of you this morning when i was watching cnn and they were telling about how the government is cracking down on these earth sets western villages that are-- developments that are being built in china, wanting to restore the old value.
you said in an e-mail to me you said confucius was focused entirely on human affairs. he is blamed for the decline of chinese technology and innovation. now, china is working to reverse that. talk about that a little bit. how is the teachings-- how are the teachings of confucius shaping today's chinese society? >> thanks, bill. that's a great place to start a history panel because it gets out what makes history somewhat fun and so important because if you believe what some scholars would argue about this is, confucius, this chinese guy who live 2500 years ago and said a bunch of stuff had so much influence because i did kind of ripple down the centuries and completely altered world history
and here we are today in the 21st century and his ideas are still influencing world affairs. on this front, we deal with science and technology. confucius has been considered over the years has basically anti- science. he sent his time mainly talking about good government and human relations and he believed that's it everyone cultivated their own moral qualities to try to do the right thing that, that would lead to a peaceful prosperous strong society. more practical learning, well, that wasn't is so important. there's a passage in one of the old text that recounts a conversation that confucius had with one of his students and this student told confucius that he felt he wanted to learn more about animal husbandry and confucius waited until he left the room and then confucius kind
of mocked him and called him a small man. he was not talking about his height. he said the essence of his argument was that if you know about righteousness, what needs do you have for agriculture or animal husbandry, so what some scholars think happened was that as confucius had these ideas and became so important in chinese society confucius kind of this anti- science kind of elements of confucius thinking made china anti- science. that the really smart people were supposed to be sitting at universities writing poetry or managing a government and not tinkering around in some lab. so, following this line of thinking, confucius gets a blamed for one of the great turning points in world history, which is that the shifts of power from east to west for much
the last 2000 years china was actually a far more advanced society technologically and economically than western europe. but, the great scientific resolution-- revolution, the industrial revolution happened in europe and not china that led to the great decline of china on the world the stage. some scholars and reformers look at confucius and his sake that is confucius fall for making china anti- technology. and that's still relevant today because as the chinese economy is stumbling, leadership realizes that the country needs to become more and more innovative and will take the next step and really compete in the future. so, you can argue that confucius is still a problem for china even today. what's even more just and right now is that as the government is pushing for innovation, it's also reducing confucian ideas
and values to a degree that the chinese government hasn't-- hasn't it more than a hundred years, so the government today wants china to become more innovative and more technical logical eight advance and more confusion, so that i get that the original, can you have a society that has both confucian and innovative and the answer to that will be incredibly important for the future. if china does he come innovative it means it will become a more powerful economy and will become more powerful relative to the united states, but if confucius is there and his ideas continue to hold china back, well, maybe china has a different future. >> thank you. you know, mary, as a tourist i travel around. my wife and i travel around the old roman empire from spain
through the mediterranean up to the uk and see all of these things, france. we see a lot of the structure, i mean, older stadiums, old baths, a lot of ruins. and-- but, such a long occupation of these very plans. and how does it affect what we see today along the mediterranean, in europe and all that. >> that's interesting and, of course, in many different ways, but can i-- i just want to say one thing in response to michael, first. i was listening with absolute fascination to that neat seven
up confucianism and all kinds of things similar with the roman elite except they love agriculture. [laughter] >> when they went and smashed, literally destroyed the place. one thing they rescued was a multivolume encyclopedia on animal husbandry and agriculture. [laughter] >> just shows one of the things are different, but i think it's quite interesting particularly as someone who lives in the uk to reflect on how rome in the roman empire as it were shaped the world and, i mean, i think there is something which is very very in your face about the romans in britain, you know.
you say you go out and you see bits of rome still there. you go round the country and you see loads of pounds in britain or chester, buildings, that means the romans were there because that is the roman word for camp. you can see the social geography of britain is still configured in a roman way. why is london in such a stupid place, actually for capital city y, the bloody romans put it there because it was convenient for them. you are kind of living in a world which still has its parameters formed by rome, but it gets more complicated in this for two ways, really. one way is, of course and i'm talking about britain, but we could do the same about germany.
of course, our identity is not formed by that kind of sense of roman infrastructure. it's a formed by our view of conflict between us and the romans. one of the most interesting things about how rome works in the head of any western european is that we are always on the roman side and against them. are we actually thinking that we are the inheritance of the rome or are we inheritors of the rebels they zero press, that populist? that's an edgy sort of stand out there in when we are thinking about our own cultural identity and there's no better place to see that than just outside the house of parliament, on the banks there is a fantastic bronze statue of leading british rebels, the warrior queen boudicca in her chariot with her
daughters, flowing hair. she massacred thousands and thousands of roman soldiers 20 years after the conquest. she is in all sorts of ways, but she's a rebel, the terrorist, she's the independent freak. only base of the statue-- on the base of the statute this kind of paradox about our relationship with rome comes out clearly because what it says in the quotation from slightly earlier poem and basically says, don't worry boudicca because she did come to a nasty and, don't worry because your descendents will rule more of the world than the romans ever did. [laughter] >> so, you turn the independent
freedom fighter into the ancestor of the british empire by an appalling sleight-of-hand, actually. but, i think for me though, it's not infrastructure that's important that first got me into the romans. i think that's where rome has formed, western identity and you know better than me i think in this country, is not so much in infrastructure, it's in the conversation that we still have with the romans the how politics and civic values work. i think it's interesting in the states because american audience is much more receptive to this than british ones. british ones always tend to think about aqueducts and american audiences think about
the capital and the idea of how you create community. in many ways i think, what we are really are the air of is roman debates-- look, we are not simple kind of dupes who were taken by the romans, but we are that errors about roman debate on what it is to be a citizen, what rights a citizen has, what liberty is and to an extent, this is where * the book away, to write or justifiable or necessary to suspend the liberty of the citizen in the interest of protecting the states and homeland security. we are still talking about that in ways that the romans have focused to talk about and i think that is the direction i dove. >> mark, in your book of this
terrible earthquake which occurred in november 1, 1775,-- >> 55. >> 55, and sort of got overlooked in the history of the world because it was followed by the seven-year war, which got most of the ink. with mary just brought up about the conflict, order and civic life was certainly after this terrible earthquake was certainly an issue in lisbon when lisbon was destroyed by the earthquake and a very powerful first minister assumed all power. ruthlessly suspended rights, to property away, actually he sort of took apart and dismantle the
inquisition for his own inquisition. so, there were no civil rights because of the need to protect society from this devastation. can you talk about that a little bit? >> well, the lisbon earthquake disaster, which is the subject of my book-- i mean, you may have heard of it. it's a cameo role in voltaire's candied, but most educated people i would say nine out of 10 walking down the street have -- it just would not-- is not part of their mental universe, yet it was one of the greatest natural disasters in the last i would say 10000 years. it was certainly the largest earthquake to affect europe in five to make 10000 years. its epicenter was off the atlantic, by your bering coast
and cause a tsunami, which is very rare in the atlantic ocean. into was between 8.5 and 9.2 and the moment magnitude scale. it was felt as far away as norway, northern italy, casanova who was imprisoned in the doges palace for a sexual indiscretion , that morning felt his jail cell's shake and he prayed that the wall would fall and he could just skedaddle out. it did not happen, but months later he learned that was the morning of the lisbon earthquake and he wrote about it in his autobiography, so this earthquake and i'm nowhere. most people in lisbon had never felt an earthquake. it began about 9:45 a.m., during that 9:00 a.m. mass. picture frames on the walls of started to shake and then after
three tremors, the center of the city was for the most part destroyed. the low lying area of the city was built on landfill. then, about half hour later, thus tsunami hit and came up the targus river, smashed into the river bank and pulled at thousands of people who were there escaping the destruction from the city and then a firestorm begins because of the candles that are in the churches , the housewives and slaves are cooking the feast day meals and so the city of about 200,000 people, which is much larger population because of the feast day is hit by three blows. many people think it's the last day that this is what is written in revelations and the secretary of state, this man that bill has alluded to is i think one of the
most interesting and important statesmen and most people can have never heard of. his house was on the out side of the area that was destroyed by the earthquake. he immediately jumped on a horse, galloped a few miles to the palace where the king was and the king was so shall shocked that he essentially gave the defect of power over to him who was ferociously ambitious man. a man from the lower gentry where many of these people come-- come from in this period and from that moment on he built essentially a sort of took over the country because the other ministers in lisbon were at their villas several miles outside the city. tomball, again immediately called in the soldiers into the city, martial law was declared, people were executed and from that point on it was earthquake
politics and as bill alluded to they were pretty brutal and he started to take revenge on his enemies in that upper note-- nobility in the church, the tickly chuzzlewit and essentially was a terror of state for the next 20 years and what i say in the book in some ways this natural disaster did in a few minutes what took the french revolutionary several years to do. it essentially got rid of the infrastructure of the regime of all the great villas and great families, the churches which were the power centers of the pool balls enemies where many of them or most of them were destroyed and this allowed-- he essentially created a power back to it-- vacuum and so the story
is, the city, and it's what ultimately happens to the portuguese empire, which i believe is the beginning of the downswing and i just want to say that in the first-- 50 years before the lisbon earthquake that portuguese found with the spanish had found centuries before, which was gold in great quantities and 20 years later they found diamonds and emeralds and rubies. this all flowed into lisbon and 50 years before the earthquake was the second golden age completely destroyed by the earthquake and a new portugal was born and it was in some cases a horrible place, certainly for two decades. >> what i'm going to bring up is not really a central point to these folks, but it is something
i'm interested in because i in in the communications business. mark, it took forever to get word out about this earthquake before cnn. [laughter] >> mary, you talked a bit about -- i wondered how christianity could furnish and you talked about how in the roman empire there was such a great communication and of course in confucius day his teachings, no one who wrote about him had ever seen the man. it was all by word-of-mouth, so could you tell them a little bit about, i mean, this is a huge earthquake and people in europe did not know about it for
months. >> as i mentioned, the ripples of it were felt in many areas of europe. thus tsunami actually hit four continents, so by the end of the day on november 1 people had drowned in north america, south america, europe and africa, but pool ball close off so no ships could leave because he was worried the use would fill a ships up with things they has stolen from the rubble of that churches and villas and so the first writer, one writer who was paid by the secretary of debt and bastard to spain who died in the earthquake left lisbon the morning of november 4, so three days later. it took him about four days to get to madrid and then several writers left madrid for paris and verse i.
writers went north, crossing the english channel and i guess sort of november 20, or so the news arrived in london. the stock exchange immediately closed down. at there was among the merchants and then the ripples moved down to rome and eventually they make it to st. petersburg and one of the-- i don't read russian, but i assumed anyone to find out how long ultimately it took and so i found copies of the st. petersburg, the only newspaper published in russia at the time, stanford had copies of this it was sent to my university and i trained myself to identify what lisbon looks like in russian cyrillic script and portugal and when i saw on article on one of those two things i made a copy and gave it
to my two colleagues to translate and it's fascinating, the russians were absolutely transfixed as most europeans were at the time. you would think that it would be the same article over and over again. no, i found fascinating things in the russian newspapers. for example, the morning of the earthquake november 1, around 10:00 a.m. mount the cbs actually smoked. i never heard that before. i'd never seen that, but it's from a neapolitan news article and apparently everyone thought there was going to be an earthquake and ran into the churches. no earthquake was felt in naples and everyone was happy home not knowing, of course, there was great destruction other parts of europe. >> i still think that seems terribly modern from a roman point of view because québec to 7980, i mean, 300 miles away from there it-- no one knew
about it. so, i'm quite keen of the connective vacation of the roman empire, that we need to be realistic. it's a world of pockets of information, quite different from the only modern world where things might be slow, but you did get the news. i think that for me, again, i could i-- i feel conflicted about the romans because on the one hand everything is slow. news is an travel you know, if you want-- suppose you want the very very quickest way of getting from rome to london. you will never get there in less than five weeks, really.
so, when people have this image of the roman empire and a roman empire sitting in the middle of the roman empire issuing orders, you can't get the word out even if he wanted to. but, i think it still is interesting that romans, monty python life of sobriety and what did the romans ever do for us-- [laughter] >> in some ways that's true, but i think there is something absolutely extraordinarily revolutionary about the idea that however long it took you, you could and 50 a.d. get on a road in rome and you could follow it and you would end up in athens. you were just that with it or in spain. heaven knows what he was like
when the peasants woke up one morning to discover and southern france that there were a load of bulldozers that had moved in carving a road through their own property. i suspect they wouldn't be so please, but you do have a kind of servants that the roman empire sees itself in terms of its connections common terms of how they were joined up by roads. that, as bill suggests, is an interesting background to christianity because the standard view that we all learned through largely christian sources is such that somehow the kind of battle between the romans and christians, standoff. the christians are the counterculture and the romans constantly the enemy. we see it in those two terms. that seems to me really really
misleading way of cnet, for all kinds of ways. for start that christians were romans anyway. their work romans over here and christians over here. there were christian romans and not christian romans. the really striking thing and actually we overlook this when we just look at the title of the new testament and paulson and corinthians letter to babylonians is that christianity and always kind of opposition to roman political power was the first religion in the roman world that saw that that sort of connectivity could be exploited. the christians used the structures of the connective empire to make a world religion. later on, of course, it is re- presented as a kind of standoff that's the most roman imperial
religion of all is christianity. christianity would have been impossible to grow without a roman road. >> you know,-- go ahead clec thinks. i take it a different direction because one of the issues i had to deal with when writing about confucius is that there is a lot of modern scholarship that shows that the rollup confucius has been basically inflated over time, that he really was not as important as people think he is an even more than that he's a bit of a figment of people's imagination. that he is an effort by the west to understand china and east asian society that when the jesuits first down their way to china and trying to figure out what was going on they created a much mark ^-caret philosophy and put this kind of guy in charge of it and their ideas kind of influence the ideas of the
chinese themselves about what confucius will was and so that you ended up creating a confucius that necessarily was not even there and this was a difficult subject-- idea for me writing a book about confucius. okay, what does that do with mary was talking about, it has to do with records and how ideas are disseminated. one historian said to me, the reason why we note confucius was so important is because people wrote down what he had to say. 2500 years ago, not everyone-- books were rare things and people didn't keep records of what everyone was saying and doing and just the mere fact that a bunch of people thought it was important to write down what confucius said and passed along shows how important he was at the time and then of course, these records both oral and written warehouse his ideas
became spread and sprayed and spread not only across china, but through all of east asia, so the whole facts that looking back at deep antiquity in china is that there is a written record that-- got passed around at all shows the importance of what this person did and said and at the time and how it carried down through history. >> when does confucius become known as a presence outside asia when do the people of the west become aware of confucius? >> the west became more aware of confucius when the first jesuit missionaries ended up in china in the 16th century. they were trying to figure out how to convert chinese to christianity. they struggled with that for a while and their eventual solution was let's meld ourselves into chinese society and we have to learn a lot more
about it. they were the first ones actually to go about translating text that are considered confucius text into european language. >> romans got to china pending they got quite a long way with what i was brought up to call the far east. but, the cultural impact seems-- the traces in chinese writing of romans turning up. there is a wonderful copy of a copy of a copy of a roman map, which actually extends as far as india and there are all kinds of this event in a kind of dump like pompeii there are all kinds of indian bric-a-brac, which has come back, iv-- ivory statuettes. heaven knows how they got there, but it doesn't seem to be any kind of interesting culture in
play. just little bits of stuff, slight sense of that exotic. >> you know, the earthquake touched off what you call the great earthquake debate. did god cause this earthquake, punishment for our sins or did it come from natural forces that were hardly understood. although, we were just at the beginning of the discovery of science and all of those things that led to the industrial revolution. right at the beginning and so there was this huge debates. >> the lisbon earthquake happened at a fascinating moment
and europeans history. scientific revolution had occurred, but the phenomenon of what causes earthquakes was amount. there was a great debate. i would say most people believed that god has caused the earthquake. but, many were trying desperately to find out what caused it, what natural forces had essentially brought it about there were all kinds of theories mainly based on aristotle's idea of cowbirds under the ground and when going through them. 18th century site is added fire and chemicals and so forth. there was even a series that the new lightning rods might have brought-- and many of them were fascinating, inventive comedy series, but they were wrong.
in fact, we didn't really figure out what caused earthquakes until the 1950s and 1960s when plate tectonics was accepted by the scientific community. this gave an extra opening to the religious areas and sectors of society paired people like john wesley, for example, said to his congregation and he wasn't alone-- well, he knew that educated pastors and priests of your appeal the theories about what caused earthquakes and it put these into their sermons. well, look the scientists say that a ground fires, exploding gases and today of all kinds of theories, but they have no idea what causes earthquakes. looking out into the congregation, but we all know what causes earthquakes. we have read the bible this is god and god is sending us a message. and the religious figures in europe were particularly excited because they did not have a
problem with science. they believed in science for the most part. but, they could train their argument against people they really hated, the deists, those who believe that god had greeted the universe like a watchmaker and then stepped back. this clearly showed the lisbon earthquake, that god was not a indifferent sovereign. he was playing a role in nature, in our lives. he is sending us messages and so there is this extraordinary overlap and debate between people that are accepting people-- things from both sides and the fascinating-- in england , which is potentially the center of the european enlightenment and of course the industrial revolution begins in the middle of the 18th century the king george the second called for a national past day several months later, i think
february 6. every member of the church of england was to go into the churches and pray. that what had happened to lisbon didn't happen to the british empire and in fact, the churches were filled. not only the protestant churches, also the catholic churches, the jews went to temple. only the quakers did not go to services and not only that, the quakers opened their shops that day and this apparently led to writing. the quakers were attacked for this. this is again in the middle of the 18th century enlightenment >> there's another debate which comes out of that, which he touched on a bit ago which is a historical debate, which is about how the earthquake managed
to speed up what took the french revolution years to achieve or not achieve. that question is, if it we are standing back and thinking about this from a historical point of view is do these natural disasters really show us anything? do they speed up something that might have happened or are they terribly convenience something we cling onto later? there are back-- very many explanations of the fall of the roman empire, which somewhat makes it a natural disaster. it was the plague in the late century. declined birthrate. what's you then do is it becomes off the peg explanation which in many ways you are looking at or discourages you from looking at
all of the other things that were actually working at that time anyway and i wondered where you stood, actually, on the lisbon earthquake. did this do in the regime or did it fast forward? >> excellent question. alexia, the great sociologist historian of american democracy also wrote a book and his argument was precisely that, that the french revolution simply sped up the centralization of the state in france. it was going on before 1789, and therefore we should not really look at what happened between 1789 and 1799, but look at what was going on before and what comes later and his argument was centralization of the state. when i started writing this book, i had a subtitle: forging of the modern world. the lisbon earthquake changed everything.
i, of course, went into the sources and realized it's not quite true. unfortunately. the story is somewhat more interesting. i think in terms of portugal, it did speed up these forces of secularization, centralization of the states, the decline again of the church. thank god, pombal was sent into exile, ultimately. but, as bill pointed out this earthquake happened right at the beginning of what we call the french and indian war, europeans called the seven-year war and so after about five or six months reports about the earthquake and how the portuguese are doing is kind of pushed off the front pages and europeans still completely forget about the earthquake. but, within a few years they do because more important and pressing things are going on,
battles are being fought in the new world etc. so, though this earthquake debate is fascinating. my sense is that many people really didn't change their opinions about the world. they used the earthquake as a springboard to solidify and sort of make their arguments. i mean, their old ideas. i cannot fascinating. so, i would agree with you there soon so, what you are really saying is that if a natural disaster is going to change anything it has to happen at the right time. [laughter] >> i have one more question and then we will go to questions from the audience. this is for you, michael. they have been talking about things that compared to china happened at warped speed. i mean, even though it took a long time, china has been slow
to change as low to evolve, but right now we are able to see through the miracle of the internet, television, we are able to see this society transforming itself immediately. right now and lifetime. as we watch this again, and briefly, where do we put confucius and what we see and what we read about? >> you know, i get asked a lot about why i wrote a book on confucius and actually all the time. it actually happened when i was on my way to the room this morning. [laughter] >> and you get especially not just from people kind of in the us in the west kind of like, why do we care about this old guy,
but you get a lot from asians as well actually have come to have somewhat of a negative opinion towards confucius and blame him for all kinds about step from the second class status of women to governments and all of these other bad things and the reason i did it is that after living in asia, 420 years-- four, 20 years and asia operates differently than we do in west and why is that, and in the end i think it is because all societies are ultimately based on ideas. i think when we are talking about like earthquakes and natural catastrophes, they happen everywhere and can't change the course of events, but ultimately how i think that ideas a man in some ways are more powerful and live longer
and you can see that in china today. even though this is a country that's remarkably different than it was 2500 years ago and in recent times has gone through fantastic political and cultural change, economic change that people now are actually rather than moving farther away from their traditions and traditional ideas are actually moving closer to them. that is the government is promulgating confucius ideas again for its own purposes, but ordinary people are also after not really looking very much at their own history and their own traditions for about a hundred years are actually going back and reading this stuff again and learning from and the people who are doing that are saying we are looking for answers to our own problems today. and, maybe we confined them in
what our ancient philosophers that all these years ago. so, poor me from a historical-- from history standpoint it's remarkable how powerful an idea, you know, can be. something that started so long ago and so resonate the role of these different political, social economic changes that are kind of still around and still influence out people to do what they do and how the world works. >> now, we would like to have-- sheer from you folks. yes, right over there. do we have a microphone? [inaudible] [inaudible] ceric let's be repeat that in
case you could hear. what would be a nuance to the question of why rome fell. [inaudible] >> i think the newest answer splits the east from the west and said, look, actually if you go to the eastern part of the roman empire, it didn't fall until 4053. they called themselves romans. they said they were the roman empire and so if you look at it from the point of view of them than the fall of the roman empire doesn't resonate. i think in the west, obviously, things are different. there's a breakdown of the political of any kind of
political aggregation of the political unity. not as total as we think. we have a-- [inaudible] >> the names of the people who take over for the romans. being seen as nasty characters who came with this senseless violence on great roman civilizations. in fact, they were latching loving law-abiding christians, for the most part. which you get in this does go back to the communications problem that's it does prove difficult in a sense to manage this epidemic violence going on within the empire to some extent. you get a split of the western empire certainly slits.
in many ways it splits into a series of micro roams. lots of many roams everywhere. is not very nice, but to be honest they are more likely to be restoring their ancient roman buildings meant to be taking pot shots at them. but, they do lose partly from pressure from the outside and partly from the inability to have any centralized form of command within that part of the empire. they lose political unity, but in many ways they remain culturally roman, for the most part. i'm not talking about peasants, hear. peasants, poor old guys living in the country probably were never romans and people say a good joke again in roman, when did the iron age and in britain, probably about 1500. the romans made no dense anyway
in much of rural peasant life. you get desegregation, not revolution. you don't get such good sanitation. otherwise, quite roman. >> i would like to thank all of you for not exposing all of my ignorance during one hour. but, you have a fair amount of it. market, a question for you. when thomas jefferson was the ambassador to france, he was warned about the brazilians, to steer clear of them. do you think there was any reverberation in brazil from the earthquake in lisbon? >> absolutely. they, of course, received the news after a month or so. in fact, i think they got it before north america, before can
to boston. of course, it was the cash cow of the portuguese empire. they were extraordinarily concerned about whether lisbon was completely destroyed, whether they should send ships filled with gold to lisbon and what with a sending those ships to. what's interesting, i read a letter that pombal sent to brazil and he sent these letters throughout, in fact, the western world downplaying the destruction of the city. he did not want to scare people. he did not want the trade to be dampened. but, the brazilians and i call them sort of brazilians, but there is also portuguese concerr cities and they are asked by pombal to pay a 4% tariff to rebuild the city and at first they are very excited about this and the merchant community all
come together and they are going to send enormous amounts of money for the rebuilding of the city. they feel so terrible. but, by the end of the 18th century they are still asked to pay that for percent, and i have seen letters from the brazilians saying when is this going to end the city is almost rebuilt, so yes, absolutely they were concerned. there is all these many stories they are, but no newspapers to read because the first printing press i came to brazil came in the early 19th century when that king left after the napoleonic invasion. >> over here. >> question for mark. if climate change is sort of the lisbon earthquake on the installment plan, how similar or dissimilar is the debate today regarding climate change, similar to the after affects of
the lisbon earthquake as far as the reaction to why it happened and what to do about it? >> that's a complicated question. of course, one thing, i mean, we can't stop or at least we don't know how to stop earthquakes from happening, so there was no question about prevention of earthquakes. again, they did actually one of the things that all of the earthquake commentators or many of them noted was the temperature, the barometer, at the time. thinking there was actually some connection there. they were shocked, at least in lisbon to discover that the earthquake happened and the tsunami came on a day that was rather beautiful end of the sun was out and it was shining and why are these waves smashing into our coast and wise the ground rattling.
in a some ways that, i think, is sort of very different because science-- i wouldn't necessarily completely settle, but science is generally on the same page about what causes climate change, but in my period as i've said that science was not settled at all. all the kinds of theories about what caused earthquakes were out there and so the skeptics had a point. the skepticism, i think, resonated more. the fact that either god caused it or there was some other cause rather than the theories that were there at the time, so i think it was a very different time in a very different debate. >> this is for mr. shuman. is there a saying of confucius that you feel is particularly
pithy and relevant to our current state of affairs? >> [laughter] >> actually, what's interesting about that is that confucius himself got a similar question. [laughter] >> that was from one of his students which was something to the affect of, is there one word that can guide you your entire life or something to that effect. his answer was actually pretty interesting. his answer was, reciprocity. he went on to say, basically very similar to what the golden rule is in the reverse, which is don't do unto others that you don't want them to yourself and it to a great degree that is basically-- that basically sums up confucius there. you don't need to know he feels. that's it. [laughter]
>> no, there are libraries and library's that confucius, but that really was what confucius was about, that's-- that he believed that morality had ultimate power, that if you try to do the right thing and you try to make yourself a better and better person and that was a lifelong question for confucius.
and life's loss of men. could you comment to each one of these? >> what is the source of nature? [inaudible] >> well, i don't know if i can explain the title but i do know in terms of my subject that this was, again, the middle of the enlightenment. a great deal of confidence that nature was good. natural rights, natural law, et cetera, and here you have this enormous catastrophe and natural disaster in which tens of thousands of innocent people die. oh do we square this with our confidence that nature is good? and i aged earlier there were all kinds of responses. care was very upset about the universe that god crated. railed against it in can deed in the poem he wrote, but people --
like -- wrote a response to voltaire in which he report the earthquake went that bad. the reason the people died is nice were living in big cities in four-story buildings. if they lived in little hut close to nature they would have surveyed. so, -- i take the point of view of the historian and say, at the risk of bag bit provocative, i'm not very interested in the laws of nature because i don't income there are any laws of nature that are not made, rpi invent. interpret be by -- let make i general -- free -- by men and women. so i'med? how men and women make laws of
[inaudible conversations] >> into tv is live at the los angeles festival of books, held on the campus of the university of southern california and it's a much prettier day today than it was yesterday. we have a full day of live coverage ahead. the next author panel begins in half hour and that's a panel on biographies.
in the meantime, reza aslan is joining us. his most recent book isset" lot. the life and times of jesus of nazareth." the last time we saw you on the show, we have a new pope, a rise in isis, and more people are identifying as athiests than ever before. what is your take on this topic? >> guest: well first of all, big fan of the pope. i'm a product of a jesuit education, and the minute that i newell we were going to have a jesuit pope i knew things were going to be different. if anybody is familiar with the history of the catholic church and the thorn in the side of the jesuits have been in that church for centuries. think you knew that this is going to be a revolutionary moment, and he has not failed to really live up to the expectations a lot had of him.
what i would say very quickly about this pope is that he has learned a very valuable lesson from his predecessor, pope benedict, and that is that you can't really reform the vatican. the vatican is too unwieldy for it to be reformed. but you can reform the church. and i think that the -- pope francis learned if you just simply stop with the bureaucracy, and instead begin to appeal to the world's billion or so catholics through action, through faith, particularly this' amortis leticia. profound statement of transforming priests from, as he kind of put it, from arbiters of morality, those who are there to signal out your errors, into
actual pastors, people who there are and have the freedom to actually approach situations in an individualistic basis, with sympathy, not looking for some kind of hard and fast rule. think that what is happening in the catholic church under pope francis will be revolutionary. >> host: isis. >> guest: isis, of course, is phenomenon we're trying to figure out. >> host: is it a religious movement? >> guest: well, insofar as as anyone who calls themselves muslim is a muslim, yes, isis is a muslim this tee bait whether it is or is not muslim is kind of silly. if you say you're acting in the name of islam, we should probably just take your word for it. but to think that in and of itself creates some sort of generalization i think is quite silly. the fact of the matter is that
isis may be muslim but so are the vast majority of its victims. by the tens of thousands. isis may be muslim but so are the people who are fighting against isis. people on the ground who are risking their lives battling this cancer. they're monday him, too, so if isis is muslim and their victims are muslim and the people fighting them are muslims, this done really say anything all that generalizing about islam itself. >> host: more good more people are identifying as athiests. >> guest: it's true, more people are nying is a athiest. in fact there's been a doubling of athiest numbers, but let's just be clear. that's now two and a half percent of the united states. so, yes there has been a surge of people identifying as athiests but it's still in ridiculously small amounts. when it comes to the united states of america, which is a country that form a -- is 71%
christian. so we're still deeply influenced by christianity in this country. no way to get around that. >> host: reza aslan is our guest help has appeared on booktv's in-depth program where we spent three hours talking with him and taking your phone calls, talking bit his books, his most recent book is "the life and times of jesus of nazareth." zealot it's called. 202-748-8 01 in the mountain and pacific time zones. we'll begin taking the calls in just a minute. reza aslan is a creative writing professor at the university of california riverside. where were you on that day of the shooting in san bernardino? >> guest: i was actually in haiti.
i was shooting an episode of my new cnn show, "believer," a spiritual adventure series where i go around and take part in religious rituals in various communities that lends to opening up different worlds, different beliefs and it was obviously quite a shock it was so close to the home and the place where i work. we need to get to a point where we recognize that the united states is not immune to the appeal of these organizations, like al qaeda and assist, but there are muslims in the u.s. in absolutely infinite -- a small percentage of them but they do exist who feel at though their identity is under a certain sense of crisis and who are looking to these groups who are
expressing their grievances sometimes in horrifically violent way. we're nowhere near to problem europe has. let's be clear. we have had 3,000 or so europeans who have left to join isis, and almost zero -- very close to zero of them in america, and i will also say that this overwhelming focus that we have on islamic terrorism -- and islamic extremism in the united states is absurdly exaggerated and more dangerously, think, hides the truth. the department of homeland security, the fbi, and 74% of every single law enforcement agency in the united states all say that the greatest threat to americans is right-wing extremism, right-wing terrorists. they have killed far, far more than americans since the attack's of 9/11 than islamic terrorists have.
you're more likely in this donee to be shot by a todd than to be killed by an islamic terrorist at awful as the san bernardino shootings were, as horrific as that experience was, that was 355th mass shooting in america in 2015, and that year, last year, ended with 372 mass shootings. so, yes, we are under threat of terrorism is in done toronto, this is not islamic terror simple. >> host: your new series, believer, and when does it premiere? >> guest: on cnn in 2017. >> host: bob is calling in from overland park, kansas. bob go ahead with your question or comment. >> greetings, people. you're a national treasure. my question is, and it centers around my perception of the dawn of the millennium we were very
worried about the y2k virus in our computers. would assert that the true y2k virus was religion and the form of virus that infects the human operating system. so, one of the things i've always been interested in is the political assertions that were made at the council when they made the determination that christ had been physically reborn and had come back from the dead. we have, upon discoveries of the libraries in 1935, conflicting accounts of that, when their recollections of the resurrect was more in the form of persons' dreams, recollections of christ's teachings as opposed to a physical, it was more of a memory. >> host: let's hear from our guest. >> guest: great question.
you're a national treasure. i wouldn't necessarily call religion a virus since it's been around since the dawn of human evolution. we can go back, with material evidence, at least 100,000 years ago, but now a new group of scientists who call themselves cognitive anthropologists say we could go back as late as 400,000 years ago and see signs, very clear expressions of religious impulse in human beings. so, if it's a virus, it's one that has been there from the dawn of our evolution. secondly, i think you're absolutely right about the creed and the way that it calcified a particular kind of theology when it -- or christology when it comes to christian beliefs, but -- even the gospels themselves indicate a wide variety of beliefs about what
the resurrection meant, how it was to be understood. remember next gospel of mark, the very first gospel there, is no resolution, the tomb is simply empty, and the gospel which end's chapter 15, verse 8, says a young man in white told the women to tell the disciples that jesus would meet them in jerusalem and that's the end. bit the time you gut to math hutu and luke you have the community trying to say what does the resurrection mean? was jesus a ghost? we have a story in which jesus eats fish and bread. so he can't be a ghost. but was he physically -- did he have a physical body? we have a story in which the disciples are sitting around in a room and jesus suddenly pops in as though he is a ghost. so even in those gospels of the earliest moment of the formation of christianity, seems to be an enormous diversity of belief about what the resurrection
actually meant. but you're right it wasn't until around the nicine period that became calcified. >> host: jacob, you're next. go ahead. >> caller: hi. good afternoon. my question for you is: what were the beliefs and traditions that affected jesus and his preaching and actions. thank you? >> guest: wow, i love that question. i never get to talk about that. it is a religion that was born in ancient persia, before it was even persia. probably i would say around 1100bc. that's give or take. so before abraham, i would say. the prophet is wildly rather as
the first mon ethe is particularly created prophet. created the concept of heaven and hell and the concept of angels and demons. these things did not really exist before he began to speak about them and he talk about how human morality is what decides where you go in your afterlife. if you have good thoughts good, words -- deeds, that's the formula, then you will go to a good place in your afterlife, heaven. if you have bad thoughts, bad words, bad deeds, then you go to a bad place. this was revolutionary. now, the reason it is so important is because it backs the religion of the empire. cyrus the great was the persian king who defeated the babylonian
empire and set the jews free from their babylonian captivity. sent them back to the holy land, gave them the money to rebuild their temple. and so the jews post the babylonian compile, post 6th 6th century bc -- were heavily influenced by this. that how they accommodate these notions. for instance, the best example of this is the concept of the devil or satan. you read the hebrew verses saidan is nothings an evil character, no. the adversary of man himself part of god's court and is know at the satan with a lower case s. but he is one of god's messengers. god send him out to do his bidding. by the time you get to the new testament this is a completely different satan. a satan with a capital s. this is not man's adversary, he
is an evil being. that shows you the influence of -- if were to be glib i would say christianity is what happens when you combine soastrium and judaism. >> george is next. we're listening. >> caller: i have a couple of questions regarding how christianity reconciles jesus as god. one point in the gospels jesus says, the father knows the time of the final judgment, the final coming, but i don't. and then, again, -- i went to church today -- in the gospel today, several times after the resurrection, jesus appears to the disciples and others but they don't recognize him.
i've never heard, well, what did he look like? what form did he take? >> guest: well, that's actually very much connected to the first conversation we had, that, yes, post resurrection, are certain resurrection narratives in which jesus appears kind of ghostly. the disciples don't recognize i him. he changes the way he locks. suddenly breaks the bread and they do recognize him. just as there were an enormous amount of ideas and controversy among the early clips about what the resurrection actually meant there, was an equal amount about whether jesus himself was god or what his relationship was with the father. you see this again in the gospels. on again, the gospel of mark. at no point in the gospel of mark does jesus eve identify himself is a god in matthew and luke there are verses that can be interpret as though jesus perhaps is equating himself with god, because of the powers that
he possesses. he acts by the finger of god, he says, and if he has the finger of god, maybe he is saying he himself is god in some form, and then you get to the gospel of john, the last of the gospels, and jesus is barely human. he is pure god. he says, i am the -- i and the father are one. this slow evolution is a perfect example of this conversation that was taking place in the early christian community over what the relationship between jesus and god was. again, as with the resurrection, that conversation came to an end at nycia when the doctrine of the trinity, father, son, and holy spirit, one substance, three forms, became the creed of christianity, and all those other creeds, including the aryan movement, which believed that jesus was just a man. the gnosty cs who say jesus
has no human attributes and what you saw was an illusion to a human being but he was pure god. those views were violently suppressed and what we now forward as the trinity became the founding dock christian of christianity. >> host: ten minutes left. jim in mercer island, washington, you're on the air go ahead. >> caller: thank you, peter good to talk to you again, reza. i called in a couple years ago on your program. it was wonderful. one question i have is i know when you came to the u.s.a. you became a christian, in fact i think you became a fundamentalist christian if i recall. >> guest: that's right. >> host: then went back to islam. i'm wondering why? what was the motivation to go back to islam and do you prefer -- i guess you do prefer islam over christianity and why? and i'll hang up and listen to your question.
>> guest: thank you for the question. yes, it's true. so, i was born and raised a muslim but really a cultural muslim mitchell family was not very religious at all. my father was a hard core marxist athiest who hated everything about religion. when we came to the united states, this was a time of severe anti-muslim settlement, the early 80s, the height of the iran hostage crisis, and we kind of scrubbed our lives of any kind of outward signs of religiosity but i've always been deeply fascinated by religion and a deeply spiritual kid. has to too with my child images of revolutionary iran. i was seven years old and i experienced what it meant to have an entire country transformed in the name of religion, and that never left me. and so i had an abiding interest in religion and spirituality but no way to kind of live that out,
at least not in my family. when i was 15 i went with some friends to an evangelical youth camp in northern california. heard the gospel story for in the first time. never heard anything like this before. it was a transformative experience for me medley converted to a particularly conservative brand of chinnity. then when i went to the university i decided to study the new test. for a living, and it was there under the tattoolage of my jesuit professors i discovered the historical jesus, the jesus that becomes the central figure in "sell -- zealot" and that transform the with a i thought about christianout but was still desirous for some kind of spiritual edification, and i started learning more and more about what religion truly is. i think this is the core of your question, and i'm -- that's why i'm so glad you asked it. i think we have to understand that religion is not faith.
these are two different things. faith is subjective, is individualistic, it's mysterious, it's impossible to express. religion, how too you expect it? that's it. religion is a language. a language made up of symbols and metaphors but a language that lets people express to themselves and the other people the experience of faith, of transscene dense, -- transcendence so to me it doesn't matter what language you choose, whether you're speaking french or german your saying the same thing. english or mandarin you're saying the same thing, so i choose whether you choose the symbols of christianity or buddhism or islam, you're still expressing the same sentiment, just in a different language. and so i think it's important to choose a language. that's all.
i am a muslim because i think there are symbols and metaphorses of islam make more sense to me. i'm not a muslim because i think it's more right that kinect or more correct thaninnity. don't think that way. i just think that the language that it uses to describe the experience of the divine, the relationship between creator and creation, that language works for me. the buddha once said if you want to draw water, you don't dig six one-foot wells you. dig one six-foot well. islam is my six-foot well but i also recognize, as the buddha did, the water i'm drawing from is the water that everybody is drawing from. >> host: a couple of viewers referenced the longer interview tie did with reza aslan. it was in july 2014, i believe. you can watch all three hours of
our discussion with rezas a lan online. just two quick quotes from "zealot. "." the common depiction of jesus has a peacemaker who loved his enemies and turned the other cheek has been built mostly on his portrayal as an apolitical preacher with interest in or for that matter knowledge of the politically turbulent world in which he lived. that picture of jesus has already been shown to be a complete fabrication that jesus of history had a far more complex attitude toward violence. kim in pennsylvania, please go ahead with your question or comment. >> caller: hi. well, you sort of answered -- i wanted to know a brief summary of what your book was about, but if he could goo into more detail why your book is different from
other scholarly books on jesus. >> guest: sure. sure. >> host: can you, tim. >> guest: my book is' the world in which jesus lived. this incredibly turbulent, apocalyptic era in the first century, an era in which the jus were living under the boost of an imperial roman occupation that controlled every aspect of their lives, including their religion, and the way in which he jews over that first century repeatedly rebelled against the roman rule, and how jesus fits into it. the quote peter read is a perfect example. jesus lived in an era in which it would have been impossible not to be aware of what was going on. the political and religious and economic turmoil that had affected the life of every jew in judea and -- and to stand up and say a. the messiah, the ancestors or
king david people and here to re-establish the kingdom of david on earth, that's a political statement. this book is not about who jesus was, whether he was god or the son of god or the messiah. just makes a very simple argument that whatever else jesus was, whatever else he was, he was also man, and as a man he lived in a specific time and place. his teachings were addressed to very specific social ills. his actions were in response to very specific religious and political leaders that whatever else he was, he was a product of his world. and so if you really want to know who jesus was, and how to understand his message, you've got to begin by understanding his world. >> host: joe in phoenix, arizona, one minute left go ahead. >> caller: quickly. i applaud your comments on the pope-especially amortis
lucretia, being a divorce evidence catholic. it's astounding mitchell question is regarding president obama. should he be labeled correctly that he is not calling the terrorists islamic terrorists? >> guest: i like what seth myer said about this. this isn't hogwarts and president obama is not harry potter. simply calling it islamic terrorism doesn't magically make it go away. the president's argument is that isis sees itself as the representation of all muslims which is absurd, and by calling them islamic terrorists, we are just feeding that isis narrative. that's a pretty good argument. however, as i said earlier in this conversation, isis is muslim for the simple fact they call themselves muslims. just because isis is muslim doesn't mean that islam is isis. that's where we get tripped up. to say that these actions, which are so beyond the pale of
anything that could conceivably be called normative islam, they have anything to do with representing the ideas, view us, actions and thoughts of the world's 1.6 billion muslims, that i think is just ridiculous. >> host: reza aslan you're speaking at the "los angeles times" festival of books but your wife is also speaking. >> guest: jess car cofound over kiva, the world's first peer to per platform. check it out. and lets you loan $25 to a person in africa. 9 .5 payback rate. fastest growing nonprofit in the world. she is my hero. >> host: she has written a book. >> guest: her book is called cleric water, brick. and it's -- clay, water, brick. no just about the experience of creating kiva. it's about how to think about poverty, how to think about the poor, not as the poor burt as
entrepreneurs who don't have the opportunities and who just need that. >> host: we protect you being on booktv, our live coverage of the "los angeles times" book festival continues. we're going back into newman hall, this instance an author panel, biographers and you'll hear about john weather boot, sis bale la, the warrior queen, and jonas saul ' -- salk. a full afternoon of coverage on booktv television for serious readers.
>> i have the easy task of shepherd organize three distinguished biographer through what if think will be scintillating conversation because they're so practiced and so accomplished. i'm very proud to be among them as moderator. and -- do i have to say -- i'm jim, and two of our -- i was about to say contestants -- two of our panelist were nominated -- finalists for the national -- for "the los angeles times" book award last night. terry alford, john john wilkes booth, and charlotte jacobs for jonas salk, and christian donny has been nominated before.
the year before. right? so they're all prepared, worth listening to i made an executive decision we would dispense with describing all their books and titles and distinctions. okay? because we -- you all went to fine colleges. and you all had great s.a.t.s, like everybody in the audience, so it's easier to get to the matter at hand, and also, this famous and infamous title gave us a little trouble because all of the characters, like everybody else, is in some degree or another famous or infamous, and so we're going just explore that a little in terms of how the biographer summons empathy toward the infamous without being
judgmental. i want to begin and then i will turn the floor over to them -- with some things they wrote to me in e-mails when we were thinking about how this panel should go. also, i fess this will come up later but i want to point out that kirsten spend 25 years -- right -- on isabella, which defeats many of the biographer is know who only get 14, and morgan, with 16. and charlotte devoted a decade to your book. right? and you write fast, i guess. and terry also made the quarter century mark. but they wrote to me and since they're very succinct and articulate, instead of
introducing their books myself, i'll allow them to intrados them. 'er writes about john wilkes booth. hi asked him how could he write about somebody who really did deserve the term infamous? and he wrote that preconceptions aside, booth does have some good qualities. if he had been evil, i wouldn't have been interested in spending a biographer's share of time with him. when he lost his balance at the end and committed murder, he lost everything. and kirsten has written -- you should be the moderator of this. it's impossible to understand isabella without understanding that europe was at war with aggressive islamic fundmentammism in the form of
the otto man turks, caliphate that employed slavery and sex slavery on a large scale to subdue neighboring nations. the turks had the biggest army in the world and repeatedly demand they would seize all of europe. the turks invaded and seize most of southeastern europe during sis pel la's lifetime and western europe was flood with refugees. sounds very familiar. so, charlotte has written to me when on april 12, 1955, waiting -- the jonas salk vaccine could prevent polio, celebration was worldwide and he became a hero overnight inch the wake of his achievement he received a staggering number of gifts from the public and awards from heats of state. his name averaged riff gandhi
and churchillhill on the list of most people. yet he was ostracized by the scientific community. the one group whosed a layings he craved. so, with that set up, i thought i would ask each of you to chalk about how you began your books, how you chose the subject, how you got into all this -- and just give us a sense -- you want to begin, kristin? >> okay. well, hello, everybody. i'm glad to be in california. always delighted to be here. and of course, isabella would consider this one of her most important capitals if she were alive. she claimed the world for herself and that included the americas, and memories of her all over the state, if you think of san francisco, san diego, los angeles, and sacramento, these are all spanish words and they're spanish because of the control that she managed to
exert through the spanish empire. that's kind of how i came to write the book. life california and fascinated by all the spanish names and spanish and mexican history of california, and that guess back even further in my childhood where a large 0 part of childhood was spent on the panama canalson, part of the u.s. empire. and i'd go out on the sea wall over looking the atlantic ocean and dangle my feet over the edge of the sea wall and look at the police where christopher columbus sailed and we all know about christopher columbus visiting the common topic, and n history, and there's always just a brief little mention about the person who sent him, which was queen isabella, and i became fascinate as a little girl thinking there was a woman who had once been a little girl like
me and she had had this huge impact on the globe, and had sent sailors and explorers so very far around the world, and that continued to have such a big impact on our lives today. and even now, of course, spanish us the second most common language in the world, after mandarin chinese. this is because of the influence of queen isabella. so i take up the thing that initially got me curious about it, i've always been interested in the role that women play in history. often the underappreciated role that women play in history. and in telling the story of isabella, i tried to tell the story of the expansion and growth of the spanish empire and how she made that happen. charlotte. >> when i was a child growing up, poleover was in news.
news reels, newspapers, magazines, showed pictures of children struggling with crutches or entombed in iron lungs. what made things worse is no one could predict which town or which child would be the crippler's next victim. fear pervaded the country. in 1954 my home up to of kingsport, tennessee, was selected as one of the sites for the trial of the polio vaccine, which had been made by jonas salk and was being tested -- the national foundation for infan tile paralysis through the march of dimes so i was an original polio pioneer. when a year later it was announced his vaccine had been a success, that polio could be prevent, jonas salk became one of the greatest heros of my generation. over the years i often wondered, what happened to jonas salk, having reached a claim at age 40, what did he do for an encore? i also wondered why did his life
seem strewn with controversy. seemed like such a nice man. so i could find no biography to enlighten me, so i set out to write one myself. >> thank you. the john wilkes both book, i'm always liked stories about unusual people. true stories, particularly when they get in a jam and then you get to see when the pressure is put on, what is inside. the first book i wrote was title prince among slaves. a true story of a west african prince who was enslaved and brought to mississippi as a slave there for 40 years, and i was just interested in his case and what had sustained him as a person, and he was a muslim and his faith was very integral to his survival as a slave, and oddly enough that fellow got freed late in life and went back to africa. very unusual for a person in his condition. the booth book came about -- i
live in the washington area and always been -- that's one over the big stories in the history of washington, dc, the assassination of abraham lincoln, and once i looked into it i realize third were a lot of books on the assassination, a lot of them. many of mediocre quality but not a -- there wasn't a single -- just a become on booth himself. he was a very celebrated actor in his time. very successful, lincoln actually went to see him play. lincoln applauded him. booth is very generous to lincoln's son, tad, gave him flowers on one occasion when he came to the teeter. so i realized this is an unusual person, an unusual story. this was not like most of the assassins we're phenomenon women if people you never would have heard of before. here's somebody with something to lose, not a born loser so i wanted to see what the story was there to recover the childhood, the theatrical career which was
very successful, and that's what fortune's fool was. >> terry, one thing we talk about before the -- is that was a very accomplished actor. he wasn't just some amateur wandering from town to town help did richard iii in an electrifying way, and i'm sure that part of what interested you was this dichotomy between the dastardly acts which -- for which he is remembered and this other complex side of him that you referred to. >> yes. it interesting he was highly successful as an actor, and i sort of -- there were people that loved him, people that were okay, some that didn't like him. just like they're actors that we like today and then others we don't care that much for, but he was defined in his own generation as a greatact actor, and the definition was by a
critic, a good one -- that he was able to play a great actor, this critic said, was one who could play three leading roles better than anybody necessary the country. not just one because you can have a role that is so perfect for you, grew never need to do another thing. you think of sylvester stallone and the rocky character. the perfect marge of an actor and ale rompes he could do richard iii and the next night do romeo and be very tender and engaging on stage. so he was very special in that regard. very unusual. and the troubling thing was he had really intense southern feelings. he had stayed out of the war, the civil war, because of a promise to his mother. she had already lost four children from childhood diseases and things like that, and she told him basically, that's it. i'm not losing another family member like this. can't do this. she had always been his protecter when he was growing
up. she had when one that had buffered him from the odd and unstable father he had. so there were very, very close, and he agreed to stay out of the war, stay out of the confederate army, which look can back was a big mistake because his sympathies were enlist thread and the had the termerment for action, for doing things and should have gob into the war and been a confederate shoulder and would have been shot halfway through the war and never would have heard from him. that wasn't to be, was it? >> also, if everyone had problems with their mothers became a presidential assassin, we would -- we wouldn't have a lot of leaders. but i'm interested in the way one's perception of one's subject changes over time. so we're talking about that
before, that you begin with one idea, usually a very flawed and tentative idea about who your subject is, and after your quarter century you must end up somewhere else. in your case, ten years. in 25 you would have ended up still somewhere else. what about that? >> well, as i mentioned, when -- what did know about jonas salk except he was this big hero and really beloved, and that wouldn't have been a very exciting biography to just write about someone who was just one surface to him. but i knew nothing else and so as i began my journey of doing research on him and interviewing people and learning what i could about him, i found that he was a
very enigmatic man, who he loved the public, but he -- celebrity was like an albatross around his neck. he shunned controversy. he was a very mild-mannered man and yet controversy followed in the wake of every one of his discoveries. he was a man who i think almost every woman in n the united states was in love with on april 12, 1955. and yet he had a very plain wife who was a little bit cynical about him at times. so, there were so many ups and downs in my search who was jonas salk. after all that's the greatest challenge of a biographer, is to date your character or your subject as they were or the best likeness that you can of that person.
so, when i started i almost felt like i had walked into my studio and someone had plopped this huge pile of clay on a table and said, okay, sculpt the absolute accurate jonas salk, and every time that i did a new interview or saw a new video of him i might change the shape of the eyebrow or change the shape of his cheek. and so at the very end, i really felt that i knew jonas salk. and that he wasn't just a one-sided american saint, as the public thought him, nor was he a self-absorbed man who con knifed to assure himself a historian role in medical history which is what the scientific community believed about him. >> so, so changes almost without your will. just what your discover.
>> the thought the book was bat spain or the america or the iberian peninsula and the americas, and astart look at her letter end it wasn't just about spain and the americas. it was really a global book. is bale -- isabella, when she commissioned a history of the world, she had one page about her birth but she had three pages about the fall of constant nopele. which she perceived as a terrifying thing and which meant that all of christian europe was going to fall as well. so a lot of her life was really designed in opposition to what she saw as this threat. because of that, my spanish was
good, but i had to learn and use many different languages to tell the story of isabella's life. there were native american sources, there are a lot of arabic and turk sources. there are hebrew sources, french, a lot of the scholarship and thoughtful commentary in that day was published in latin so a lot of lat yip sources. italian sources. we need to remember there was a spanish pope on the thrown. borge so there's the italian sources and the greatest observers of the maritime economy were in venice, so i had to use chancellorresque venetian. so be able to give everyone's own perspective on the stories i couldn't just rely on the spanish perspective. i needed to incorporate everyone's to be able to tell the story well, and i think i was very foolish in not understanding how hard that would be. i had great difficulty finding
documents, finding good translations of documents, setting myself up to do feeble transitions of documents i could take to people who were good translators of documents, and i i had to pay for translations, and that was the only way i could tell what i really found in this global story. >> that is extraordinary. you mention that in your preface. so, you learned some of those languages and others -- >> well, the spanish i was really -- i was extremely fortunate in the time period of isabella's life. in the 1400's people were still writing with hand manuscripts and today it's almost impossible for us to read hand-written manuscripts from the 1400s. they're impenetrable. it's a specialist and actually a dying specialty. but i was very fortunate in that is is because of is bell are las
sees as power broker, she citiedded in making spain wealthy in the years ahead and that was about the time the printing press began to be present, and people recognized her at the time as such a pivotal world figure. in fact, the game of chess changed after her lifetime and the queen figure appeared on the board. as a person who dominates the chessboard. people began finding her manuscripts and her letters, and publishing them in books. so, there are books written in the early 1500s that are transcriptions of her letters and correspondence, and we're enormously lucky in the united states because we have the library of congress in the united states, which is one of the seven wonders of the world. >> let's talk about that. this experience of discovery which is so fascinating for the
biographyer when you finally pry loose from some family the letters they don't want you to read, or come across documents, manuscripts in the library. that's really the kind of experience that i don't think many other professions i know of have, and it's really a profound moment when you realize you're the first foreign have seen these materials, but you were telling us, charlotte, about your effort to penetrate the wall of family. i'm not giving away secrets, am i? >> the archives -- you're dead in the water if you can't get into archives. and for jonas salk, his archives are at the university of california san diego. they're absolutely extensive. he kept everything and lived to be 80 years old. he would keep things such as a
draft of all of his letters. so jonas had great -- in the first travel you's see him angry and using some very inflammatory language and by the time he got to his tenth draft of it, it was a very short and kind. but i originally did not get access to those archives, and without them i never could have written the book. although they are in a library, at uc san diego, they were under lock and key. and one only had access through the family. the three sons. and they made it difficult -- i had to convince them that i could write. i had to convince them that i was serious, even though i had academic credentials and already published a biography.
and i had to go and interview with them and all of that would give me sixths or less and then i'd have to start the whole process over. they wanted to see samples of my writing when i was working, which is a no-no for biographers to share with family members. and i couldn't quite understand why. i kept saying to them, your father, when asked what do you want your biographer to write about you, he said, the truth. some. >> that's what they saul say. >> so i finally figure out what it was and that was they were very protective of their father's image. their father did have a certain image, and as one of the sons finally said to me is we don't want to see a people magazine biography of our father. and so i really did have to glare trust and maneuver
around -- gain their trust and maneuver around in order to get into the archives, which i would say a few months after me book was published, the archives were sold to uc san diego and now are open to the entire public. >> so annoying when that happens. >> could you talk about about process? i know that two of you, at least, have five children apiece. that would definitely affect how you write a book. but i didn't ask you this question. but what is it like to actually produce an amazing artifact like this? one that we no doubt buy on amazon these days, but sometimes they're still books like this one, and you look at them and
the footnotes and the bibliography, it's he's are beautiful things and this is why we go into this weird ill-paid labor intensive time, absurd profession of ours. how do we -- when you get into this gig? >> well, i think i can speak for some biographygraphers and say if you saw the finish product you would run in terror ump. you have no idea it's going to be as big as it will be and be as involved and take as long because you think, okay,'ll look something up. when you do that leads to another question. you think, gee, who is this person? or they're saying this but can this person be trusted? then you have to vet them. and see if they're a reliable source. and it just gets deeper and
deeper and deeper. and then i had a little problem. i didn't have any -- i deal with -- in john wilkes booth's story he dies in 1865, two weeks after lincoln did so he never had any descendents. he was an actor so a very verbal person. he really wasn't a writer. several dozen letter he wrote and most of them are short business notes and arranging theatrical engagement so anywhere not inciteful into this personality. would have to know him from other people, and they -- that's a little bit of a challenge because they can nell what he did. they may not be able to tell me why he did it or what was in the back of his head, and then there was a conspiracy against president lincoln so conspiracies cast a fog over everything, there are people who lie and they didn't know booth and can't have anything to do with it or -- oddly, weirdly, people stepping forward to claim responsibility.
i mean, they want their little moment of fame when they didn't have anything to do with it. so it's quite a challenge, and i don't think -- if i knew how long it would have -- it finally took me to do it i would have run from the project in terror. >> no, no. >> i think when you start to write a book like this, it really -- it's an obsession. and it fills your waking and sleeping hours. pretty soon you're even dreaming about the person you're writing about. and your family makes sacrifices for that. for us, part of it was the financial sacrifices that we had to make. for me to do the book well. paying for translations -- the money jun just dom. throw magic box under the bed. and the famous corruption story.
there's -- you make tradeoffs, personal tradeoffs -- >> corruption? >> a famous story about a man who -- a public official who was being bribed and they said where did you get the money? and on the stand he said it came from magic box under the bed. >> wish i'd known about that. >> we have said, wares -- where is the magic box? and for my children it meant they could do one activity at a time. afford for them to have one sport or one music thing they loved. and we all made compromises. my children were involved. they loved it. they were fascinated by and it became somewhat jealous of the people i'm writing about theosophy get so much time and attention in your life, and i think probably one of the funniest things my son ever said was, mom, why can't you do fiction?