Skip to main content

tv   James Baldwin  CSPAN  December 31, 2016 12:59pm-2:01pm EST

12:59 pm
and eleanor roosevelt is against greed, she uses the word, we must end greed and encourage democracy but you have to go door to door, block by block. she called it movements, then you could have changed. that was her contribution. i say never go anywhere without your man because i was born in the bronx so i always say never go anywhere without your gaining that she never went anywhere without the women of the democratic party and the progressives who were her allies. fdr was better at juggling. he had to negotiate conservative realities that she did. she wanted to organize movements and she did.
1:00 pm
>> you can watch this and other programs online at [inaudible conversations]
1:01 pm
>> in the new book, "james baldwin: escape from america," we have plenty of copies up front, so we do encourage you to pick up a copy or two or three so we can stay in this neighborhood as a community space. [laughter] okay. i'm going to do this very elegantly. so, first, let me introduce our panelists. carol weinstein is the mother of taan yell baldwin -- daniel baldwin, also on the panel, and was a partner of david whom she met in 1964. later, jimmy would refer to her as his sister out of law, and when jimmy bought the house in st. paul -- [inaudible conversations]
1:02 pm
>> thank you, david and carol first visited jimmy there together in 1977 from amsterdam where they were living at the time. they drove there to celebrate his buying the house. carol also visited in 1974 and then again several summers from 1975 into the '80s with daniel. she and daniel also made nostalgic visits several years later after jimmy died, and daniel visited his father david there as well when he became very ill. carol was a very active participant in the afternoon sessions with the welcome table where the author sought criticisms of his work and completed in the early hours. daniel fondly recalls his uncle jimmy walking hand in hand with him up to the town center visiting many villages in the area and sometimes carrying him, being taken on sightseeing tours to paris, swimming in the pool,
1:03 pm
and to the ocean in the monte carlo along with being taught chess and astounded at finding baldwin's books in many strange languages for him in the house. carol's a longtime patron of book culture and hails from brooklyn, new york, and has managed to travel and work extensively across the globe during her lengthy career. currently as chief learner of her sole consultancy learning works, she provides consulting services in diversity, inclusion and human resources, learning and development and leadership management across the workplace. she's also associate professor for graduate programs, and her proud best accomplishment is her son daniel, and his greatest accomplishment, her two grandchildren. daniel, the nephew of james and son of david and carol, father of graham and poppy, husband of china is a professional audio engineering consultant and
1:04 pm
sometimes visual artist who resides in providence, rhode island. from traveling with his mom since he was born in new york city and having lived in a few other places, he has had the benefit of seeing much of the world, although now he enjoys a much quieter life in providence. okay. [laughter] thank you. also joining us is nicholas de delbanco to, and he comments on the frequency of time spent talking at jimmy's table. he has published some 29 books of fiction and nonfiction, his most recent novel is "the years." his latest nonfiction is "the art of youth." delbanco was director of the mfa program and the hopwood awards program at the university of
1:05 pm
michigan, and he is the robert frost distinguished university professor of english language and littture at the university of michigan but now lives just with around the block from our store on 114th. [laughter] so all these new yorkers together, come together as a result of their association with this project done by jules farber who attended rutgers in new new brunswick with where he received a bachelor's degree in journalism, he wrote for various american and foreign publications and was awarded the silent prize by the minister of foreign affairs for the best articles published in the american press about the netherlands. farber wrote and published in english and dutch editions, and he has written three more books published in french and english, but his most recent project has been this collection, again, "james baldwin: escape from america."
1:06 pm
so a quick round of applause for our panelists and for jules -- [applause] and i'm going to go ahead and turn it over to them. >> [inaudible] >> oh, you're right. one last note. unfortunately, george wein was not able to join us tonight for the panel. he was very disappointed, but he was not feeling up to it. he turns 91 on monday, and he had a flu shot earlier this week and had a bad reaction to it, so he stayed home. but he wanted us to know how disappointed he was and that he really loved jimmy baldwin and was looking forward to reminiscing with the others about him. again, thank you, jules. take it away. [applause] [inaudible conversations] >> i don't know if it's better if i sit or stand. can everybody hear me? >> [inaudible]
1:07 pm
>> is that better? okay. maybe i'll stand. the first thing people ask me when they hear about the book is why did you do this book about baldwin. there have been enough books and literary commentary and so forth. and i did it because of an accidental finding, discovery of a photograph of james, or jimmy as they called him, at the hotel in -- [inaudible] and a famous hotel, many of you probably know it. the whole hollywood crowd goes there during the cannes film festival, and years earlier picasso and chagal and everybody came there, and they sort of traded artwork for meals. and the inside of the hotel restaurant is full of these wonderful things. i thought it was -- because i
1:08 pm
loved james baldwin's work from the time i was in high school and read many of his books, i thought it'd be interesting to find out why other people like us -- we lived in amsterdam, as you heard from cody, for a number of years, and laider we moved to provence, and we made it a ritual to go down every summer to see the, have lunch there, to see the wonderful -- [speaking in native tongue] which has a great art collection and to enjoy. it's a very unique, special ambience there. and i thought it would be nice for my next book finish the last one was about fayson, and others were about the popes, jew and provence, and one was a big photo book, sort of a cocktail table size about cats photographed by the world's greatest photographers. so this was sortf a challenge
1:09 pm
to see what could i do that's different about baldwin. and i found out that this period that he was in st. paul provence which was from 1970-1987 has been written about very little. everybody knows about the period in new york and other places, but this -- and then i thought maybe a fresh approach might be let's find out people who came to visit him there and how they shaped his life there, like carol and daniel and nicholas and a lot of famous people like sidney poitier and harry belafonte and angela davis and all those people. so i set off, and it took me more than four years, and it might be a reflection of my slow
1:10 pm
writing to get this book together. and i got on the phone very brazen like and called everybody and said perhaps you would like to help reminisce about -- everybody, to the last man, was happy to cooperate. nobody said i'm too busy or whatever. some of these people i met i was able to interview or visit here in new york, people like david laming who, unfortunately, couldn't come today because he's now living in connecticut and he's traveling. but david lemming and other people like that who spent a lot of time with baldwin at home. and that's what -- besides those, i was always interested in the everyday contacts he had with the people in provence because that's not the most obvious place for a new yorker
1:11 pm
from harlem to come live. it's a very all-white, conservative, agrarian community that had never seen a black man in their lives, and they thought he was kind of a revolutionary. and the police had a car parked outside his door which everybody said, oh, you're fantasizing, but it was really there which came out in later publications. so he had a hard time. he said it was just like being in new york and harlem. there was a lot of an antagonis. but due to his broad, big-toothed smile, he won over the people. everybody who walked in the street, he said, hey, joe, come back and have a drink with me, and let's stop here, and he -- correct me if i'm wrong, carol, because she knew him very well, of course. so this was a part of it. book concerned with why did baldwin go to --
1:12 pm
[inaudible] he was feeling depressed and on the verge of a nervous breakdown because of all the assassinations in america, because of the resistance to his work with the -- as an activist. the other young black writers were condemning him. he was having problems on all sides. he felt -- so he fled to paris again for the second time, and there he, with a self-induced breakdown, probably mental, he got into the american hospital just outside of paris. and after treatment they, someone said why don't you go to san paul. you know people there, for your convalescence. so he went, and he was greeted there, again, in this hotel which became his second home, by simone -- [inaudible]
1:13 pm
he knew simone from the student riots in the '60s. he was there at that time. and he watched television with her and drank a lot of booze til all hours of the night. they had a very -- simone and he both lived in the hotel in separate rooms. so he was in simone's room for all these encounters. and she said you have to stay here, and i'll help you find a place to live. and the place that they, that she came up with was a very elegant 17th century -- [inaudible] a big home. virtual virtually about one kilometer from the heart of the city but really very elegant. the only problem was that the
1:14 pm
owner was someone who hated blacks. she came from algeria where they were dispossessed during the algerian war from a very rich family, even though she was only 2 years old, and she kept this hatred for anybody black. but simone and the woman opener of the hotel -- owner of the hotel convinced her to do it. so what did she do? she built a big brick thing blocking her doors, her part of the house. well, actually, she put an armoire there, a big wardrobe and so he could never come into her space. but slowly, slowly, slowly through the years she learned to love him. and she wanted him to have the house. and all her forlorn years of loneliness and so forth, she passed on to him.
1:15 pm
and she wanted -- so he kept buying rooms in the house, but he didn't have money to pay for them. so he gave her ious. and on her death bed in the village, she had them pinned to her nightgown leaving instructions, he can't get the house til he pays. [laughter] so, and that became a court case for 20 years between the cleaning woman who was supposedly distant family and claimed that she was entitled to have it. and all these remote relatives who appeared from nowhere. so for 20 years the house stood empty. it was pilaried by people who stole shutters off the building, there was rain coming in, but nobody -- until it was finally settled and this cleaning woman got the house finally and sold it. and now it's in the news again
1:16 pm
because the present owner wants to build 20 villas on this beautiful property, and the monuments committee didn't do anything to protect it. and he's already knock down two wings of the house, and no one knows what's going to happen. but that's in the news now. [inaudible] i prepared this, and then i haven't even been looking at it. sorry. one of the things in this -- the book explores life with jimmy and with over 70 interviews, and as i said, it took me four years because the essence of the book
1:17 pm
is to try to get to know his life through the people who came there. and besides the famous people like maya angelou and those people, there were everyday people, everyday locals who were very close to him. his doctor, after he retired, was there every night for dinner. his mailman, who was a very young boy at the time, used to come because he was the only one in san paul who read any english, and he had to take down the telegrams which came in by morse code or something word by word by word or and then bring it. and he said, he told me, he said, i came when i was 15 or 16, and he would always greet me with a big kiss. he said, i'm not gay, but he was like a grandma to me. [laughter] he used that word.
1:18 pm
and i always got invited in for a drink, and he was living in this tense situation at that moment, was being fold even in america when he -- followed even in america when he went back to teach, when he went to new york. the fbi was on his tail organized by j. edgar hoover. [inaudible] it's been confirmed now. everybody was saying this is only -- and he called him a black homosexual communist, and he had to be, he had to be followed. he was not a communist. i think j. edgar hoover should have come out of the closet at that moment. [laughter] people like the rolling stones guitarist bill weimann was a good friend of his, and there's
1:19 pm
a picture of him in the book. the pictures trace his earliest dales with carol -- days with carol right up to his burial here in new york at st. john divine, at the cathedral. i think while taking distance from america, he retained a love/hate relationship. he always felt very american. he said i can't be an expatriot, that's only for -- expate rat, that's only for white people because i have a lot of baggage with the family history and don't forget i was the grandson of a slave. so he always felt this double-sided relationship. and he finally became, as he
1:20 pm
called himself, he always said i'm a small, ugly, gay black american, as he liked to describe himself. but he was finally accepted as one of us in the community. and one of the wonderful things just going back to the picture for one minute is i asked the waiter in the hotel why is there a photo of james baldwin here? i understand picasso because he came and all the others. and he said because he was like a son to the family roux who owned the hotel, and the grandmother of the present generation said we want you to be part of the family, and you come eat with us and stay with us and so forth. even though he had his own home. and this went on with her daughter and with the present generation. they saw him as a sibling, as a brother. and they supported him. and, of course, with simone's
1:21 pm
backing and the family roux which are the most important in up to because of their establishment, helped him become known and accepted by the people. he remained a displaced american writer using black english which toni morrison confirmed in one of her writings, that she learned a lot of that from him, that he didn't -- and he never wrote anything, he never wrote anything that gave indication that he was living in france. it was always as if he was in america and doing his usual essays and writing and so forth. and the only thing he was writing when he died was called "the welcome table," because he
1:22 pm
called the dining room outdoor and indoor the welcome table. and people who came -- he had guests day and night, and he didn't have the money for it. he was getting huge advances from the publishers, and it was spent before the check was card practically. cashed practically. this went on and on and on until it really became a problem after his death from money he had gotten from a major publisher and, of course, it couldn't be paid back. but heft writing this book, this play, "the welcome table," but he died before it was finished. aside from that, everything he ever did was america, american-oriented. i think, i hope that answers the question why i did it. i was fascinated by baldwin being in this little french
1:23 pm
village, by the people who came. everybody, i felt all kinds of people, one of his lovers that fled to the caribbean after he died because of the relationship, all kinds of people, local, the mailman, the chauffers, the café owners, everybody came. i did not find anybody who had a disparaging word about him. he was very popular there and very successful, and i think it's wonderful that such a book could be produced with all the good evidence and all the nice people on the panel. nicholas, who lives nearby, as you heard, who was there all the time. i remember from his book that his wife was keeping notes about when they were there, and they were this at lunch and dinner or dipper and lunch or -- dinner and lunch or breakfast and lunch. he had to have a lot of people around him all the time, but people he liked. he was very close to the
1:24 pm
artistic community and to the writers that were there, nicholas and a few others. and i think that more or less tells the story of the book, and i hope you enjoy it. thank you very much. [applause] [inaudible conversations] >> i think we would like to call on carol now to tell in her words her relationship with jimmy and through her partner david, and her frequent and early visits staying in the house, being with him, hearing the writing that he read to her and to several other people at the breakfast -- at the lunch
1:25 pm
table because he got up very late. he worked all night, drank a lot of whiskey and then produced this fiction or essays. and then he would ask several very close friends and his secretary and his family to please tell me what do you think. so please, carol, maybe you can -- >> thank you very much, jules. well, i met david baldwin in 1964 in the east village at a party. i was living in the area, and we met at a party at the home of an attorney that worked for jimmy. and then it was up or down from there depending on how you look at it. [laughter] but it ended up being literally the next three-quarters of my life in terms of amazing experiences and things that i
1:26 pm
treasure. so david was at that time in rehearsal for blues for mr. charlie which which, i don't know, did anybody in the audience see it? well, a lot of people left because they couldn't handle it. it was quite a play. actually, a wonderful work of jimmy's that has never received the proper due, as much of his work. but i was at a performance at the antitheater every night -- amphitheater every night, and then it closed and went to london for a little while, and then it ended. and there have been resurgences of the play. in fact, it was done recently what daniel lives, in providence, rhode island, at the trinity repertory theater which was exciting to see after all these years. it's a wonderful play to read,
1:27 pm
it's an important play, and too many people said it was polemic and didn't want to have to face what was the play about which was based on the emmitt till lynchings. and other lynchings. and so it's interesting to note that given this was all the way back in 1964. and he had quite a hard time with the actors' studio, lee strasburg and the whole plan, to get it done. and burgess meredith was involved in the process as well as a lot of great actors. i then went with david in 1967, and we lived in the house jimmy was exiting that summer. and that's where i also met david lemming who has written a biography about jimmy. and i've known david that long.
1:28 pm
then we closed the house, we went to london. we got an apartment for jimmy and his sister paula and david and i. we lived in london together in 1967, the fall of '67 through the spring of '68. then i came back to new york. and in 1971 i went back over to amsterdam to live. so when i saw that jules did this wonderful book, i got a copy of it, and it is a wonderful book. great photographs and, apparently, he was living there with barbara in those years, and i just found that out which is really cool. so david and i loved amsterdam. and while we lived there, jimmy bought the house, actually end of '70s. we went down in the fall of '71 when i was supposed to be working at a medical publishing house, but i snuck away. and we -- i got an old volkswagen, and we drove through the mountains and fought all the way. [laughter]
1:29 pm
about how to shift and not shift. i was, i was a great driver, i'd been a cab driver, by the way, so i knew how to drive, but i didn't know how the drive a stick until i moved to europe. so we got to jimmy's at six in the morning, and jimmy opened the door, and he had all this food he'd made for us. all kinds of classic soul food. he loved to cook. didn't do it often, but he loved to cook, and he was delighted that we came to welcome the house with him. we stayed more about a week, and then -- for about a week, and then we drove back to amsterdam. and then i went to the house '72, '73, '74, and then he was born in '73, and he came in '75, '6? >> '9. >> '9. [laughter] and at least four more years. >> '80 a couple times. >> couple of times. and some of these pictures here
1:30 pm
that you see, these are my photos. except for one. and they -- i let jules put them in the book. of course, they're not very good, i was not a photographer. i was not trying to do that, i was taking it for his memory book. we didn't ever think of jimmy as famous jimmy. jimmy was jimmy, uncle jimmy. and my friend jimmy, my brother jimmy. so i had the good fortune, incredible fortune to get to know jimmy very well as a human being, you know, who was jimmy as a man, a kind human being to the world. and so opposite what the images people tried to perpetuate about him. so i got to not only admire him, but to see him as an adviser to
1:31 pm
me. like, when i made decisions about where should i send daniel to school, he would weigh in on that. what did he think about the infamous teachers' strike that i didn't strike in during 1968 when i started my high school teaching career. and what did he think about that. [laughter] so it was fascinating, a lot of what's going on right now is exactly what was going on then x that's pretty terrifying. so if anything, we need jimmy more than we ever, ever, ever did. so daniel would go with me in the summers, we would stay all summer because i was teaching, so i had the summer free. and we had the most extraordinary times. he treated daniel very much, it was his brother's son and loved him as -- well, he couldn't love him more. he would just get a thrill. so maybe i'll turn this over to my son now, and if he wants to
1:32 pm
read this or i'll read it, but i think he should read it. this is something jimmy wrote about daniel which david lemming gave me a copy of very late in the day, but i think it's pretty special. >> all right. just as a bit of an introduction, obviously, because we all know who i am, i'm daniel bald wirntion james baldwin was my uncle. and actually to say just as a bit of an opening, i always considered myself lucky just, you know, especially looking back on it. i was lucky because i was a black kid in new york city, didn't have a lot of money and got to go spend the summers in france. like how cool is that, right? [laughter] you're like -- you don't know it's cool when you're 2 and you're almost drowning in the front of -- [inaudible] and you have adude aquaphobia for the -- acute aquaphobia for the next three years. [laughter] but you look back at it as you get older and people are always asking what was it like?
1:33 pm
it was like having a family. most of us had a family, maybe you had that really cool uncle. my uncle jimmy was my really cool uncle. that's all the. he had the cool house in france. it was warm. there were pear trees in his yard with. there was a pear, grab one, great, awesome. cats running all over the place. to me, it was just like little heaven, you know? even as you get older in your teen years, you don't realize what's in front of you when it's there. you don't even realize the influence it has on you as you get older. growing up black, jewish in america -- [laughter] take your pick. and i lived all over the country, and nobody ever gets it right. i must be algerian, i must be middle eastern, i must be native american. kind of depends on my outfit for the day. put on the right costume.
1:34 pm
i be my uncle -- but my uncle had a lot to do with me understanding my identity growing up in the sense of being willing to go that's my mom, that's my dad, i'm the middle. i'm what came out between. that's great. and it was really made it a lot easier to not be confused about who i was growing up. which could happen. trying to figure out. so this is a little weird for me. i've read this before but never out loud to a group of people. and i'm not going to do my best james baldwin impression, because i won't do him justice. at least not watching a few videos. intercepted memo, classified. as follows, in part, it will be remembered that napoleon bonaparte of corsica, a province of france, is the last gentleman emperor of the french. the course cans, who are an exceedingly high tempered
1:35 pm
people, are understandably proud of this and have never imagined that bone part would ever have any competition, indeed, if it had not been for the legend, we might have had far more trouble than we have had with this somewhat unpredictable island. i it has come -- it has come to our attention that a certain daniel of english, province of harlem, is now in the south of france. he -- [inaudible] at least two languages and he speaks more than one. there's a -- [inaudible] at work around the clock deciphering the code. its cover, as the americans would put it, is that he is traveling with his mother. we have our belgian experts at work on this aspect of the problem. [laughter] this daniel has been seen lately in monte carlo where he exhibited this is the pushes friendship with the fish -- suspicious friendship with the fish in the aquarium.
1:36 pm
i need not detail to you how delicate this is in view of how recent, ongoing experiments with marine life. he has also familiarized himself with the casino, and it is suspected that princess grace has looked on him at favor. he also poke at length with a -- spoke at length with a group of arabs. this night, july 19, 1975, he was seen in the cologne door where he, one, conversed with parrot toes; two, guided guests around the pool; three, was escorted by mademoiselle -- [inaudible] yvonne. it was observed that the bartender smuggled him peanuts and crackers. he was also seen with two straws, seven he has received, several cars, one elephant, several other cattle and a fleet of cars. eight.
1:37 pm
he had enough candy to offer a candy to almost everyone on the terrace. nine, he taught an english couple how to roll the dice. and he was seen with mademoiselle -- [inaudible] in the television room -- yeah, i remember that. the english couple invited him back. 12, the parrot toes invited him back -- parrots invited him back. and, he spends a great deal of time with his uncle's gardener. 14, he appears to speak a kind of creole with valerie. she was the only person in the house who understood me for three years. and this clearly is just the beginning. we had enough trouble with napoleon, as you must remember. if we do not move quickly, we may find ourselves crushed between the jealous co to rsicans and the intrepid daniel. [applause] >> well, it's hard to follow --
1:38 pm
[laughter] i've been struck all evening by the presence of the past how vividly he occupies this room again and how welcome we all were at that table. i first and last saw daniel when he was the size of his shoe. so i'm going to follow jimmy's lead, and because i am a writer and the definition of a writer is that we take more care with the language that we put on a page than that which rolls gran dill wently off our tongues, i thought i would read to you from the book to which jules kindly referred and which he quotes in "the welcome table," this book
1:39 pm
of mine that came out almost 30 years ago about our shared neighborhood. it's called "running in place: scenes from the south of france." my wife and i, in fact, were in the south of france this very week and returned from it having given -- [speaking french] a wide berth buzz the house -- because the house and its history is no longer a happy one. but my memories of it are almost wholly happy, and i thought i'd share a few pages from this book about that. i first met jimmy inconsequentially as it were in istanbul in 1970. a play of his was running. i didn't speak any turkish, we sort of grinned at each other and shook hands once or twice.
1:40 pm
but then we ran into him as he was moving into this -- [inaudible] and this was just as we were planning to leave. we had about a week. i was, i think, shocked by how warm and immediate his welcome was. in that week we probably drank, oh, 40 bottles, had 30 meals -- [laughter] couldn't get out of town or country without his blessing. and it felt like a literally fast friendship formed. but what i want to read to you about is a period in 1974 when we returned. jimmy baldwin, however, remained. this time he welcomed us like long lost friends. he established a work pattern
1:41 pm
and an entourage. he had a chauffer large enough to double as a bodyguard, a cook, a companion named philippe who acted as a kind of secretary/manager and various others whose function is less easy to describe. there would be a dancer or painter in tow, old lovers or associates from some project in the offing or projected or long past. they came from italy, america, algeria, tunisia, finland. brothers and nephews passed through. we were rarely less than six at table and more often ten. the cook and the -- [inaudible] came and went. the men stayed on. they treated their or provider with a fond deference as if his talent must be sheltered from invasive detail, the rude matters of fact. they answered the phone and the door. they sorted mail. there was an intricate hierarchy
1:42 pm
of rank, a jockeying for position that evoked nothing so much as a provence court who was in favor, who was out, who had known jimmy longer or better or where, who would do the shopping or help with the book jacket photo or join him in paris for the interview. he was working again on a novel. if biel street could talk. jimmy drank scotch, we drank wine. i've not as yet described the quality of kindness in his manner, the affection he expected and expressed. his face is widely known, that dark glare, broad nose, those large, protruding eyes, the close-fitting cap of curls starting to go white. but photographs cannot convey the mobile play of feature, the intensity of utterance, the sense he could contrive to give that attention matters and gesture can count. there was something theatrical
1:43 pm
in baldwin's manner, and it grew automatic at times. he would embark on what seemed a city raid -- tirade, clearly had been phrased before, a kind of improvised lecture spun out of previous speech. he stared at you unblinkingly. you couldn't turn away. he wore expensive jewelry and fingered it talking. he smoked. he'd been holding center stage for years. you shifted in your seat. you said, yes, but -- and you -- he raised his manicured hand. dialogue for baldwin was an interrupted monologue. [laughter] he would yield the platform neither willingly, nor long. he could seek incisively on a book he hadn't read. [laughter] but again and again he impressed me with his canny ranging, his alert intelligence. understand me, he'd say. it's important that you understand. and it was important.
1:44 pm
and you understood. my pleasure in our meetings is easily explained. here was the spokesman of his generation and color speaking directly to me. that he took my opinions seriously, that he read and respected my work or appeared to, that he wanted us with him as often as possible, all this was flattering. when we parted late at night, jimmy would say, see you two tomorrow. if we came for lunch instead, he urged us to stay on for dinner. when a friend passed through, he would insist we meet. why he wanted to be with us is, i think, less clear. each friendship partakes of the reciprocal trade agreement, and i can only speculate as to baldwin's motives in the trade. he was the most social of solitaries, the constantly attended and attended to, he seemed nonetheless alone. he wanted to hear news from
1:45 pm
home. elena, my wife, had worked several years in a rehabilitation agency for drug addicts in new york whose clientele was largely black. she moved easily through his old streets. though she was without exception single woman in his house and in a party of a dozen men, she was given pride of place. she sat at his right hand. they liked each other, i believe, with up fettered, immediate liking -- unfettered, immediate liking. she treated him with just the right mixture of impatience and respect. they embraced each other, meaning it. they huddled in corners together. there was nothing exclusionary about his attitude to women. though surrounded by adoring boys, he was also a family man. i matter to him, i suppose, as a practitioner of a shared trade. he told me he was starved for the chance to talk books, for a discussion, say, of henry james with someone who had read him.
1:46 pm
we talked the way most writers do, in a kind of shorthand and sign language. we asked each other always how the work had gone that day, how this paragraph was doing or that character and scene. this is a lengthy recollection, and i'm going to skip to its end. we'd been at his house two or three times in a row. it was our turn, therefore, to invite the baldwin clan. we did so one thursday for lunch. they said they would come happily. there were seven, maybe nine. [laughter] the two members of his party i remember as men passing through were a dancer called bertrand and a publisher named willie. the former was lean, lithe, beautiful and black. he danced at the -- [inaudible] the latter was mount now, white -- mountainous, white. we'd been warned about his
1:47 pm
appetite by baldwin's cook days before. willie was a voracious eater who had sent her to the market three times that afternoon. [laughter] i should explain that we were living in the gatehouse, a very small gardener's cottage, in effect, of a very grand estate with olive droves and switchbacks -- groves and switchbacks and, you know, etc. this was owned by an elderly woman who was nothing, if not snobbish, and whom i hear referred to as lil' ya rosenthal. okay. elena -- we made an extra pot. though simple, it takes time to prepare. we started the previous day. we cubed the lamb and browned it and hen fashioned the buy -- and then fashioned it. we peeled you are the anytimes and carrots -- turnips and
1:48 pm
carrots and leaks. lela rosenthal knocked. she was hoping we might join her tomorrow for lunch, there were people she thought we should meet. we would be unable to join or invite her, for we owed a friend a thank you -- [inaudible] i remember not naming his name. [laughter] part of this was inverse snobbery -- [laughter] a distaste for admitter by association. and part a suspicion had lela known baldwin was coming, we should have had to invite her also. they would have been water and oil. at any rate, she told us, she hoped we would take in our wash. it hung on the clothesline outside. [laughter] she wanted to walk by the house and let her friends take photographs. they were passionate photographers. her friends were distinguished, she said. they were the last of the
1:49 pm
habsburgs and the last of the -- [inaudible] or perhaps they were the last of the holsteins or collateral branches instead. in any case, they were old and distinguished and wouldn't appreciate the laundry on our line. she hoped we would ready the house. we promised. we made the second -- [inaudible] brought an extra dozen bottles, brought three additional -- [inaudible] from the baker and waited for jimmy to come. he himself didn't drive. he had, however, purchased a brand new mercedes, dark brown and substantial just short of stretch limousine size. [inaudible] [laughter] his driver would be working that day, he had assured me. they had no need of our little, tattered car. he was bringing -- davo, philippe, billy, willie and bernard. [laughter] at the appointed hour, we were
1:50 pm
ready. a car came. the day was overcast. what pulled into the parking space was not jimmy be's mercedes, but an ancient gray renault. it was followed fewer in or y'allly -- [inaudible] lela rosenthal appeared. her guests emerged. they were slow and small and bent. the process of arrival took some time. the doors opened, faltered, closed. [laughter] the last of the hapsburgs wore dark suits and carried cameras and advanced with umbrellas and canes. they shuttled off together. they kissed one another's hands. as soon as they were out of sight, we heard another car. the deep-throated growl of gears, the high hum of power and harness, the trumpeting of the horn and baldwin's mercedes roared up.
1:51 pm
[laughter] it spat and raked gravel, it rocked on its brakes, it fairly pirouetted in the sun. [laughter] four doors flung wide in unison. our company had come. [laughter] they were dressed for the occasion, grandly. they wore boaters, their boots gleamed. bernard was especially splendid, he flung his hat high and extended his hands for applause. we applauded. jimmy embraced us, we him. the chauffer was not happy with the switchbacks of the drive, they're badly backed, he said. he brought his lunch along and elected to stay with the car. he stood arms folded, glowering down through the olive groves. he was danish, thick and sold sd and imprefer yous to charm.
1:52 pm
what a charming place, the publisher proclaimed. we piloted them in. this wasn't easy. they swarmed. they raced to the crest of the meadow and walked tiptoe along the rim -- [inaudible] they approved the view. they clattered through our little house, exclaiming at the style of it, posing on the bedroom balcony. give me the simple life -- [laughter] let's have -- [speaking french] philippe had brought flowers. he garlanded elena, jimmy, willie and bertrand. we emptied four bottles of wine by the time sweatinged to eat. it was -- settled to eat. the meal was a success. the publisher approved. audibly, he sighed. he sat back and rolled up his sleeves. which pot's for me, he asked. there were olives and pat today, praise for the salad and bread. the dining room could barely contain us.
1:53 pm
we rolled about the table like a litter of puppies, suckling, jostling, slicing sausages is and cheese and fruit and cake. a shadow appeared at the window. i looked up. lela rosenthal -- [laughter] was outside by car. she and her four companions were inching to the house. they had their cameras at shoulder level focusing, and it pained them, clearly, to approach. [laughter] we must have looked to them like spengler's nightmare realized, the decline of the west. the beaming black man at the center, the live array around him, the so human news white man with -- voluminous white man with loaves in his hand, the pyramid of bottles, the mercedes being polished. all this was hard to focus on or frame. i could see lela explaining, i
1:54 pm
do not know how she explained. there was no laundry, however. they circled warily. we didn't invite them in. they moved to the back of the house. [laughter] [applause] >> nicholas, that was wonderful. thank you very much. part of this is excerpted in the book with his permission because i found it so important. are there any questions now for the people of the panel or my, me? you have to leave. okay. bye. adieu, au revoir. questions from the public to anybody on the panel or to me? >> [inaudible] [laughter] >> we have kept you long enough.
1:55 pm
>> thank you all for coming and for having the patience and interest -- [applause] really wonderful. and we all appreciate it. [applause] the family, the literary friends and the publisher of the book. the book -- [inaudible] cody, who did such a good job in organizing this. thank you very much. [applause] >> so we're going to real quick set jules up front to sign copies for anybody who wants him to. and, again, thank you, everybody, for coming and celebrating this part of james baldwin's legacy. thank you. [applause] [inaudible conversations]
1:56 pm
>> you're watching booktv on c-span2 with top nonfiction books and authors every weekend. booktv, television for serious readers. >> we've got three days of booktv for you on this new year's weekend. our holiday schedule features "in depth" live on c-span2. this month authors weigh in on the presidency of barack obama. on our weekly "after words" program, "the wall street journal"'s joanne loblin. also this weekend, cnn political cricketers look back at the presidential race, "sports illustrated" reports on a working class town through the lens of high school football, and the latter or years of eleanor roosevelt.
1:57 pm
and we discuss 400 years of immigration through new york city. that's just a few of the programs you'll see on booktv this weekend. for a complete television schedule, go to booktv, 72 hours of nonfiction books and authors. television for serious readers. >> and we're here with mike mann, he is the award-winning climate scientist and co-author of "the mad house effect: how climate change denial is threatening our planet, destroying our politics and driving us crazy." what led you to team up with your co-author to write this book? >> well, you know, tom is sort of, is a genius. he's the cartoonist for "the washington post". he has been engaged in some of the hardest-hitting commentary in all of our media when it comes to the issue of climate change and climate change denial. i am a climate scientist, but i spend a lot of time trying to communicate the science to the public and the implications of this science.
1:58 pm
and so we felt it made sense to combine forces and use his cartoons and sort of my background as a scientist to talk about the issue of climate change in a new way, to use his cartoons maybe to engage some people who otherwise have been sort of impervious to what the science has to say and what the implications are. >> there is an argument out there that there's no true consensus on climate change, that scientists are kind of at odds with each other over this topic. can you speak to that? >> yeah, that's one of the things we take on in the book because there is about as widespread and robust a consensus about human-caused climate change in the scientific community as there is about the theory of gravity. but the difference is that when it comes to issue, the issue of climate change, there are vested interests, powerful vested interests. fossil fuel interests who find the science and its message inconvenient because it implies that we need to do something about our continued burning of fossil fuels, and they've engaged in a massive
1:59 pm
disinformation effort to confuse the public and to confuse policymakers about the science. and so that's partly what this book is about, how they've been successful in confusing the public when the science is as compelling as it is. >> the united states entered the paris agreement recently. can you tribe the implications -- describe the implications of that and if it will make a significant change, if it's too much, if it's too late, where that's going? >> so the paris agreement is one with of the reasons for cautious optimism that we're actually now confronting this problem. and in the book we sort of end on a positive note because we talk about the paris agreement, we talk about the immense progress than made. the paris agreement won't solve the problem, but it gets us about halfway to where we need to be. and so it's easy to imagine that a few years from now in the next conference we will build on the agreement that was reached in
2:00 pm
paris last year and really do what's necessary to avert catastrophic climate change, to reduce carbon emissions enough to do that. so there is a path forward. now, we wrote the book before we knew what the result of the presidential election was going to be. and the challenge, of course, is somewhat more uphill now because we have an incoming president who, you know, has said that, among other things, he wants to back out of the paris agreement. we didn't realize how relevant climate change denial would be 2007 the turn that our election took -- given the turn that our election took. and so now, in fact, the issue of climate change denial -- though we'd like to think that we put it behind and that we're sort of marching ahead towards solving the problem -- well, we have a new obstacle in our way, and we're going to to need to deal with that. >> so what might the implications be if we were to back out of the paris agreement for the next four years specifically? >> well, you know, we are one of the two largest emitters of carbon on the planet, china and


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on