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tv   Gay Talese Talks About Life as a Writer  CSPAN  June 24, 2017 8:00pm-10:01pm EDT

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astrophysics for people in a hurry. and profiles of 13 influential women in history. our look at the best selling books continues with "theft by finding" humorous. and facebook ceo comes in 7th with the advice for overcoming diversity in option b. and bill o'rielly looks at the leaders of the revolutionary war in legends and lives. followed by strength finder 2.0. and wrapping up the best selling non fiction books is jd dance with his recollection of his childhood in the rust belt in ohio. ....
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which begins after world war ii. i was born in 1932. in a little town called ocean city, new jersey near atlantic city. my father and mother owned a store, had a dress shop, tailor shop. my father made beautiful suits. my mother made a lot of money and made nothing but an sold women's dresses with great success.
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when you a child of shopkeepers anything around, after school i went to parochial school and after coming home in two or three in the afternoon, i hang around the store and have some chores to do and in my mother's case when she sewed a dress there was cardboard boxes that had to be folded into form and tissue paper and my mother would insert the address into the tissue paper and i do that. i made the boxes. i'd hang around and eavesdrop. i was ten or 12 or 13 and i listen to the conversations in the middle of the afternoon in my mother's dress shop and the dialogue between my mother, a very curious woman of italian and american heritage, born in brooklyn and came to this protestant town called ocean city and her customers were regular and most of them were middle-aged women for the money to buy dresses.
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they were more the affluent members of the small-town community. there has been for the mayor, superintendent of the school, cadillac dealership and these are women of the afternoon. in the afternoon they'd come to her dress shop and talk about their lives. they complain, because during the war there was much to complain about. and a child stood behind the counter, gay talese, listening to stories. even in my father's case, more refined men cared about close, there weren't many but there were some, they'd come for a fitting and i'd be listening as the men were honest will, my father would measure them and they'd be having conversation. i was a listener from before i was a teenager and i like tenure on the store because in the store you meet a variety of people, all of them are older and some of them are articulate
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and some of them maybe not but they all had a circuit look about them and i observed, observed people and i eavesdropped. my imagination was enlarged by the stories of ordinary people in an extraordinary time. it was world war ii, the war was on. it was on in europe and asia and the people came into the store, women who were having to ration, who couldn't buy silk stockings because it was nylon. men who couldn't fill their tank because there was a rationing on gas. men who had sons in the army, daughters in the army, uncles working in war plans, the town itself, it's an island not far from atlantic city.
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the town itself is on the ocean and having a border wall, the lights of the boardwalk looking upon the atlantic were black on one side and on the inner part of the light you can have some light coming through. throughout the town there were homes with stars representing someone of that family was in the service. i grew up in a time in great patriotic american. everyone was involved in war, unlike now. in those days, you had a great story dominating our life even if we were not participating directly in the war, we were in the order of the war, all of us, even a nine or ten -year-old, such as i was in the store. i also was reared in a literary home. i was not george clinton whose father and mother were in harvard. on the contrary, while i had been in the book business, newspaper business all my life i had worked as a writer of english but english wasn't spoken so well by my father. he was an immigrant from italy and my mother was born in italy, born in brooklyn but she did speak with an accent. what i'm saying is that in my
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home life it was not home or apartment was aligned with books. but what i got were verbal stories. i was listening to the stories of women talking about their lives and it wasn't so boring. it was quite interesting. it was the material that created writers of fiction, great story writers or novel titles or play writers, ordinary people were transformed on the american stage or on the american page in terms of creative writing into stories of elevation and meaning. in journalism, which is where i would gravitate, the kind of stories that i would like to write about or not necessarily be the agenda of the city managing editor, the domination of news was the good news of important people, recognizable names and the people that you read about in newspapers are people you've heard of, it might be a general political figure or maybe a gangster or a movie star but they were public figures.
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i grew up thinking that private figures were interesting. i never chose to become a fiction writer. i never aspired to write a novel but i did aspire to write and i did aspire to write as a storyteller about real people with real names, real names. that's hard sometimes for people to give you their name for publication but i also learned from my mother, primarily in the very patient with people. my mother would talk in that she would listen and then she would listen as people started to talk about their lives and my mother wasn't an aspiring writer but she was an inspiring person. she was curious in way that i inherited about these women who were different from her and they were older, richer, more experienced, more securely american. when you're the son of immigrants as i am, my mother is a child of an immigrant but
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similar background you want to know about the larger america and who are your spokespeople for those were established as americans because for two-three or four generations they establish their security in this country. they are known as americans were as marginal people like me, fractional americans or even if you're bored here as i was and i told you in 1932, ocean city, new jersey, i looked at things from the other point of view and that persisted from age 92885. i always look at things when i'm writing about people and when i'm writing about people, real people they are not always respected people. they're not always well known in some of them are notorious. i've written about a lot of gangsters or despised people, pornographic people or dubious people those that i wrote about a couple years ago, those are people that are on the fringes
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of life and not with a great deal of respect paid upon what they do but i had to have a story to tell. i've been, more than 70 years as a published writer -- i was being published as 1516, 14 when i was a high school student writing for the town weekly and i write about high school. i was getting my name in the paper when i was a 15 -year-old software in high school. ocean city newspaper gay talese, high school news and every wee week -- i wasn't good at school but i was good about writing about the school asking about the students themselves -- as my mother asked her customers at the dress shop. both my mother and father, to a degree, certainly me, got from communicating straight, looking
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at people right on with rectification the presence of people, watching their gestures, not only what they said but what they thought -- many people when you first talk to them tell you what comes into their head and what you think they want you to hear but if you get them longer, get patience, get them to open up and i'll tell you more about what they think or what they tell you, at first, might be altered as you get to know them better. they trust you more. so, when i cultivated is a person who is very curious, sincerely, i'm not a gossip, not a maligned person. i don't want to hurt people when i write. i'm not a hatchet writer. in all the years, from 15 -year-old schoolboy with 85 -year-old veteran journalist, was published hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of articles, short, long, small books, big books, i've never had
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in my memory anybody call me, write me saying you did me bad, you did me wrong, you violated our confidentiality. i never did that. but i also never wrote for their approval. i've never been a ghostwriter and in collaboration with people. i keep my distance because i always felt i was a distant person. i always felt i was an outsider looking in. always thought that boy in the store that i was listening, watching, being an outsider, told not to talk to the customers unless you're spoken to but i had those good manners, respect the privacy of people but curiosity about people. in the small stage of a store and when i left the store, i left my hometown and i went to college in in alabama and i learned about the different type of american. after alabama i came to new york, i happen to meet a student of alabama was from mississippi, i went to tuscaloosa, in 1949 and 53 and i met this guy in
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french class -- i didn't learn much but friends but i went to french class. this guy from mississippi who befriended me and you i worked in a college newspaper and he said gay, do you want to go into journalism when you graduate you ought to go talk to my cousin in new york. yes, i have a cousin who works for the new york times. he is the managing editor. really smart he was from mississippi and the manager of the new york times. when i graduated from 1953 the first thing i did after i spent some time with my parents in ocean city, new jersey. i took the bus to atlantic city, 43rd street to the bus station, eighth avenue and went to the new york times building, unannounced, walked in, third floor, there's a receptionist at the desk, elderly man with a bow tie. in the background where these portraits of the sulzberger family, the owners of the new york times.
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the gentleman was the receptionist -- must've been in his 60s, i walked in and now i because i'm a son of a taylor i had my clothes made and i dress well. i didn't look like some rag pillar off 22nd street. i walked in as a 21 -year-old with a suit and tie and jacket and hat, fedoras. i said good afternoon, may i help you? i'm here to see mr. turner, the managing editor. the receptionist looked at me and said do you have an appointment i said no. i don't have an appointment he said well he's a very busy man and you have no appointment. yes, but i know his cousin. oh you know his cousin, i graduated in alabama and his cousin said anytime i go to new york say hello to my cousin.
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he looked at me with bewilderment because i didn't look like a person who would potentially be a bomb thrower or threatening individual, well-dressed, not presumptuous, well mannered but in a sense, walking in off the street, expecting to have the presence of being one-on-one with the managing editor of the new york times. i bewildered this man but he picked up his phone and five minutes later a younger man comn those days, the mid- 1950s. good afternoon, young man, i'm herbert, i'm his executive secretary, how may i help you? i repeat that i went alabama and his cousin -- he is very busy and how long will you be in town this was 11:00 o'clock in the morning. i said i'll be in town as long as it takes me to see him. he said, look, he has a
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4:00 p.m. meeting and every 4:0s editors and if you will, back at ten to four i will try to get you to say hello but you will not have more than four or five minutes. is that agreed? yes, sir. come back at 4:00 o'clock. i wandered through and left the building wandered 42nd street, having never been there before and i'm a very provincial boy from new jersey. i wandered times where, i see the lights -- i've seen them in films and new script but i've never been there. i killed two or three hours wandering around, and a sense of wonderment, curiosity now compounded by the city of towering buildings, the city of the remarkable assortment of people of all colors and dress and style. i returned at 1004 as promised and went back up the building, to the elevator of the third floor. the same receptionist was there and saw me and soon he came out
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himself. come this way, gay talese. they open the doors of perception into the vast sitting room, the sitting room of the new york times had a whole block from 43rd street to 44 street in between those two points were dozens and dozens of rows of desks, behind the desks were typewriters and behind the typewriters were men and women reporters. in those days, you'd hear the carriage and the bellringing. they were smoking all over the room. there were editors where people were green eye shades and it was like a cathedral. this vast assortment of activity and this creative newsroom that is the center of the daily newspaper in the making, miracle in the making. he says come with me and i follow him down to the aisle looking at all these reporters and we make a left and we enter
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a large office i'm a very large office. in the back of this office is a desk and on the desk sits this man in a gray pinstripe suit, slicked hair with one dark shoe on the desk and is leaning back in a big leather chair. he sees me, he's guiding me into the office, past the conference room and in a few minutes will be occupied by the editors for this for a pack meeting. i walk in there and he says this is mr. gay talese and he graduated from the university of alabama this past june. sit down tell me what would you like to do with your life. i want to be a reporter, zero, i like to be a reporter in this newspaper. gay talese, people work a long time. after you work on many papers, metropolitan papers, the chicago tribune, philadelphia inquirer, cleveland -- then you'll have life experience.
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mr. callas, maybe i could be an office boy or something. he looks at andre and said no, no, sorry. by the way how come you are here, did you say smart i know your cousin. zero, you know my cousin. with my cousin? your cousin from mississippi jimmy easton. he looked at me with a blank stare of lack of recognition of what i was talking about. at first i was bewildered, 21 -year-old gay talese, looking at this major figure, looking askance, like what am i talking about. he didn't have any cousin that he knew by the name that i gave. finally, the silence, i realize what a bad impression i am making unknowing, coming in here under the assumption that i
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would be greeted by some cousin southern style. on the contrary, there was now one minute and other editors were about to come in and i could see the door -- he said thank you, mr. andres, take his name and if we haven't office boy job sometime we can talk. nice to see you, young man but i said goodbye and thank you for i walked out the door feeling humiliated and down the elevator, across the bus station, back to ocean city, new jersey. it was the summer of 1953 and i was going to call that cousin and say you jerk, what a stupid thing to do. i didn't. two weeks later, in my mother's to shop, the phone rings. the new york times is calling, i happen to be there. gay talese you are interested in an copy boy job yes, sir. i'll be there in four hours.
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come two weeks from now and then i stopped started my job is a copy boy. the most glorious time of my life. twenty-one years old, coming to the new york times as a copy boy. what was wonderful about that time and it was probably the most important job of my life. the beginning of the job meant that in a 14 story new york times building, as a copy boy, i would not only walk around the city room, third floor delivering messages and essentially a servant boy. there were other theirs, too. i would also carry messages from certain editors on the third floor to the eighth floor which is the sunday magazine section and the template which is the editorial where the people wrote editorials. and to the 14 ford on the 14th
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for the ivory tower where the sulzberger family, the owners, head offices. you go to the 14th floor and you saw a statue of the sulzberger's really owe their position to adolph fox who died in 1935 and he bought the paper before the 1900s and made the new york times the great paper that it was and still is. all of this history that i'm getting up and walking down and the elevators -- in those days the elevator men were all african-americans, all wore uniforms and wore white gloves. and caps. and in the elevator there were people who were talking about important literary or historical, i.e. jobs like i did as a boy in the store. getting everything by being close to people and seeing how they dressed, their gestures. i'm getting a visual sense of the paper for people and that copy boy job that lasted for almost one year, i was called
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the army and then i came back. i became a reporter but to just quickly move my head, when i left the times after eight-nine years as a reporter, nate in 1965, i knew what i wanted to do and i wanted to write about reporters and i wanted to write about -- i saw the building, 229, it's move now but it used to be at 229 west 33rd was a store to me. those people, up and down those different floors and specialty jobs or maybe an advertising salesman or maybe someone that was dealing with the trucks that carried the paper all of those specialty jobs, everyday coordinated their efforts into the making of the daily newspaper a miracle event reflecting the world as best possible from these foreign correspondents and national correspondents and near bureau and all the stuff was put
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together and i was observing, i was a boy in the store watching a big picture now. not a little to shop or tailor shop but i saw them the same way. i saw them as people and they weren't facts and figures, they were people, real people with real names and aspirations and talents and specialties. i left the newspaper in 65, i'm going to write about these people and i'll report on reporters. i'll write about editors, i'll write about media. in those days, media was not even the language. i spent four years, to in 69 of the book came out and it was about the new york times. it was about the people, facts and figures it wasn't, it was always people. that's been the prevailing mission of my life to write about people and not to take the liberties that maybe or norman mailer, who i knew, probably
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every important writer of my lifetime because i lived in new york since 1955 full-time. i have a wife in the publishing business so she knows a lot of writers and i know a lot of writers. most of them are fiction writers. my wife had the late pat conroy and ian mcewan and a lot of distinguished people you know about. i wanted to be a journalist, a fact person. untreated, but a storyteller. in addition to my store experience that i have late talked about at too great a life there is also some influence from the short stories that i happen to read and i didn't read much as a high school student
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but i came back to the new york and everyone was reading the new yorker. i have never heard of the new yorker. people read the new yorker like they read novels. i'm catching up little by little and i'm reading because i overheard what they're reading. i'm reading john cheever but i never heard of, i mean, john o'hara, the short story writers of the new yorker. i'm wondering that i'd like to write like that but i want to write with real names. so the short story form so i borrowed and brought journalism into that. now, later on tom wolfe would bestow upon me and the new journalism, gay talese is one of the founders. he was very generous but i never thought -- all i thought i was doing was ordinary people which includes me trying to write a story form, that's it. nothing more to say. >> host: you talk about your
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wife who has her own imprint at random house. all of the people she published at the freedom to be writers and i really wanted to pursue material at a depth that fiction writers can by not naming names. >> guest: i don't know why it is true but when i was finally catching up as a reader, which really begins when i'm 22-23, working as a reporter but the best writers were always fiction writers, the good writers. i read the good writers and esquire or saturday post or collections, i lived in the village for a while when i first came to new york, i had an
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apartment on nick to go straight. i catch up with some of the paperwork's of some of the private writers, the beat writers, but just regular writers. i wanted to do what was not so well done in the world of nonfiction which was to write well. the nonfiction writers, not many of them were good writers, they were writers of context and they might be doing a biography of charlie chaplin or doing a biography of president harry truman or george patton, or a biography of someone in the news and i didn't want to write about anybody in the news. when i was a reporter, i became
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a general reporter and i wasn't always able to choose my subject. i didn't want to write for the front page of the new york times. i tended to do everything i could to avoid what they call serious news. the editor -- this is not the paris review, it's a paper record, the new york times, especially in those days. i'm talking about the paper 60 years ago when i was beginning. it was a paper of record. on the front page was usually one of the prominent person said and it could be president of the united states senate member or board chairman of the board schools in new york or whoever and they'd say that in their direct quote would be i never wanted those direct quotes. i didn't want direct quotes because i didn't believe what they said is what they thought. i always that's i never used a tape recorder. i didn't want to be beholden to what people said and be caught
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on a little plastic machine and i have to live with it. i didn't want that. i wanted to spend time with people and get them to tell me what they really thought. when you're covering big news you're covering the senate, i can't imagine, i can imagine like anything is a premature death is been stuck as a political reporter. it's a jump off the bridge. i wanted to write about unknown people, i wanted to write about the little woman who said pigeons at the park or a woman who from ukraine cleaned offices in the chrysler building for at 4:00 a.m. in the morning or some doorman outside the plot plaza hotel, to be of what it was like to be a bus driver in manhattan or clean the subways in the morning, those obscure characters that people do not recognize and i wanted to be a chronicler of those who are unrecognized, untitled in my
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first book which was written when i was a new york times reporter, published in 1961 and was called new york somewhere differ this journey. it's a book about nobody. it's about people in the shadows of the city and their my kind of people, my kind of person, they had a high priority in my life. even now, the books i publish in a couple years of the same odd characters written by an 84-85 -year-old guy that the 24-25 -year-old guy was writing about when i was that age. same kind of character. it's a world of nonfiction but it's storytelling. i don't want to compete with great writers but i wanted to be as a nonfiction writer, considered serious writer, no less so than my hero or carson the color or whoever.
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i wanted to be a serious person of nonfiction, it's hard when you work at a newspaper, especially, the paper of record. it can be done if you have the perseverance and patience. >> host: before we leave the world of nonfiction, we have a quote from you: that nonfiction writers are the second-class citizens, the ellis island of literature, we just can't quite get in and it pleases me off. [laughter] >> guest: i remember saying that to katie who did this excellent interview with the paris review. well, i don't feel any differently now. i mean, i'm not resentful, i mean, i am aware that we nonfiction writers do not have the status of fiction writers
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and i wish we could do something about it but all i can do, all any of us can do, care about nonfiction writers but wanted to be a literary form was to just do it, just do it. and just let your work stand for the best you can do and i keep presenting that i keep about my age so much but it's all i can tell you is that an 85 i look back on the long career from being published at 15 and being published at 85 and there's never -- i don't remember anything of all the stuff i did for newspapers or magazines or other periodicals or other book publishers, i don't remember anything i did that i felt ashamed of. i am on the seams. everything i wrote, i tried to do the best i could with writing, to say nothing of the fact to do the best i could in
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describing the people who are willing to trust me, allow me to talk to them. more important than talk, hang out. the art of hanging out. in order to get people to give you the time to talk to them, and more importantly, move with them, to go on errands with them, to hang around with them in their place of business -- i remember once i got to know a famous broadway director, not famous now but in my time, joshua logan, in the 1960s was a very big broadway known for mr. roberts on broadway -- it became a movie. also, south pacific, it was a very big play and a movie as well. he had a lot of big hit like that. one time, and 62, i wanted to write about him and he finally said okay.
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i'm rehearsing a new play, now, so i'll be at rehearsals. i said, mr. logan, can i come watch rehearsals? i won't violate -- if it's off the record -- you can come. but the rehearsals are boring. that's okay. the next two weeks, every day, i'm in a broadway theater watching mr. logan rehearsal play they called tiger, tiger, burning bright. it's not a plate you would know but in 62 -- it had an all-black cast which was interesting. diana stands, al freeman junior a lot of names that broadway people when know and i watched them rehearsal and it was amazing. when you watch a broadway show in rehearsal you are seeing the creative process of the director, correcting, claudette o'neill, was a mid- black have
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the woman in her mid- 50s and she was doing something on stage that he didn't like and they had an argument in one of the arguments was so interesting and i kept notes -- later on with this knowledge put it into the piece and there's a piece called tiger, tiger, burning bright or something like that. what i'm talking to you about is the importance of being there. hanging out, showing up. today i don't want to to abruptly change subjects but technology is taking over. i think it took over in the 60s when i was still in the newspaper and i saw more and more people using tape recorders and that means they'd walk out and shovel microphone in the face of the mayor of new york and say mr. mayor, bob loblaw. this is not the kind of quote we want. i want to talk to you and you tell me something.
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i will say, you really mean that was mike maybe i should -- i was working with the people on their own notation. i'm not falsifying anything but what i'm doing is probing into their psyche and trying to get them to do a better job of explaining what they are trying to explain in trying to improve to the point that i can quote and have an interesting quote rather than just some verifiable quote of the tape recorder which is the first draft in their mind kind of stuff. i don't know what i'm talking about this at such length but when talking about is a lifetime's experience of trying within the realm of nonfiction, journalism, if you will, to write stories. and to write about them in a way that honest but not disrespectful. what do i mean by that? i mean there's a way in which
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you can write, if you're careful with your language, with the pros, you can say things that might in the wrong hands be damaging or unflattering but if you take care and use this wonderful english language, use it wisely and subtly, you can say the same thing without being blunt or crude or cool. i'll give you an example: when i was doing a book on the new york times, arthur hayes sulzberger, who was the big boss when i first joined the paper, i interviewed him later on when he had a heart attack and he was ill and his son was thinking about taking over. arthur hayes was well known within our office through all the years i worked there was a good-looking guy, mary to the bosses daughter but he had an eye for women. he was such a good-looking,
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movie star guys. get a movie star girlfriend. it wasn't a covert relationship. he bring her into the building and on the 14th floor he had a bedroom. it was incredible. when you think about now and people on socks are fired because of girlfriends and actual dalliances and all the stuff. in the new york times, in my period, it was so much more blatant. no one was losing their jobs. least of all the owner of the paper this guy was incredible. okay. what i'm doing a piece, the book that i did in 69 i'm interviewing him and he -- at that time he was retired more or less and he was living with his wife in a big apartment overlooking the museum and 82nd avenue. i'm talking to him he was sick and in a chair and i'm trying to interview him and a good-looking
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nurse comes in -- good-looking nurse, gorgeous and she had a glass of water any pill. mr. sulzberger, are you ready? she put the pill in his mouth and gave him the water. she turns this beautiful body around and she goes down the hall. i'm watching him watch her. all the way this guy is looking at this beautiful woman she had. in that description i didn't say this but mr. sulzberger had an eye for an ankle. an eye for an angle, that tells you everything. it's gotten salty, everyone knew this guy was a guy that appreciated women more than just his wife and an eye for an angle. i'm not saying that's a great poetic phrase that it's the underwriting, it's a subtle understatement, i'm an
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underwriter, there's no reason to make people seem unattracti unattractive. if you can say something that gives you, the reader, what you want to say what's relevant and true. maybe not entirely flattering but at least it's not insulting. with logan, he's a homosexual, but he had a wife. i'm back to the director now. one time he had a fight with claudia mcneil, this black actress who was powerful -- she's like oprah winfrey. mr. logan was a pistachio refined southerner but he had a wife and adopted a son. people were gay but they were married and it's okay. at one time he said, you know, claudia, she was on the stage
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and he says oh, claudia, you like the queen up there. she turns around, you're the queen. he looked at her, zero, claudia. what a quote that is, i thought. i came to write the piece i wrote that. i called him up after i finish the piece after i delivered in mr. logan i told you that something that bothered me i would let you know and i know that claudia mcneil said what she said because we all heard it, not only me but other people in the theater, other actors, yes, i know. can you change it? can you change your the queen? i said, well, what's the suggestion? how about mistress? you're the mistress?
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i thought, okay. i thought, now, wait a minute but why should i -- it doesn't affect the piece. it was a rich, rich peace and it wasn't just one scene. it was a lot of things. i didn't so change what i was doing, a profile of a man in a tent situation trying to direct a plate that would not be a hit, incidentally. but this confrontation which he had with many actresses that many do have this all the time. it was in the piece that i think was in esquire, when he died, and an anthology of my work, you'll find this piece about joshua logan, the queen, you're the queen, i put in after he died during his lifetime i just changed that and now maybe one could argue that wasn't a very good change and a reduced -- sometimes you make a writer the
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writer has the right to write. i have the right to change. i won't have logan change for me i'm not writing for the approval of anybody, you're not an honest journalist to do that, as you know. but i'm also not a cruel and vindictive -- i'm sensitive to other people. they gave me an opportunity to invade their privacy and to tolerate my presence, to allow me into the inner world as a director was rehearsing a play for broadway and the allows a writer like me, reporter like me to sit in an empty theater, day after day after day while he rehearses a cast of maybe 25 people with all the lighting i'm having the right to be pretty to that most private self of a director. i feel i owe him or her, i owe them a kind of respect. i owe them respect.
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i do that. >> host: where did the name gay come from? >> guest: my italian father had a father named. [inaudible] we are from the southern part of italy, the four-part, the peninsula. my father was the only immigrant he left in 1920 and became a citizen of the united states in 1928. he settled in ocean city, new jersey, with a little tailor shop. he married my mother in 1929 and he attended a wedding in brooklyn of a cousin of his named nick and nick married a girl who was my mother's sister. he would have another son nick
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and my cousin, my age, did goodfellows and casino and other things with mr. scorsese and married to that well-known and very witty while nora efron for 20 plus years. my father, anyway, met my mother at this wedding of the elder nick. but in world war ii it made a profound difference on a train difference on me. my father's younger brothers who didn't integrate were in the fascist army. as a boy going to the movies, even have television in those days, you got the news from going to the movies, the march of time, those cartoon things for children. i went to the movies of some of
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my fellow students in grade school and later high school and i see the italians captured and stuck in trucks and driven off to prison camps and two of my father's brothers had this happen to them. they were captured by the bridges and sent to concentration camps, sorry, a prison camp. i saw the war as a nine -year-old-ten -year-old in 1942-43 from different points of view. as a journalist i see things from different points of view. as i'm speaking to now, it's 2017, were approaching the summer and i have been for the last year most americans who keep up with the news, reading my new york times, my only job is the new york times. i'm reading the new york times and reading about the washington
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post and reading about the television news whether it's cnn or ws nbc or fox or whatever and it seems like russia has become the enemy. i'm thinking, i mean, jared kushner was with the russian ambassador. this guys with the russians, this guy. zero no. wait a minute. what is going on here? why are the russian people or the russian nation the enemy? they are the enemy, well. i go on television and spending time with the enemy. i'm wondering, as a journalist, when did it become generally accepted that russia is the enemy. journalists are not asking the question. they're going ahead with prevailing and political point of view in the post decline of
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hillary clinton, the loss of that election. and all the reasons that are attributed to the russians. it may be the russians and maybe when i'm older, hopefully, if i'm not dead by then, we'll find out that the russians fix the election that the russians penetrated the ballot boxes -- i don't know how that's possible but every day when i watch the news or watch these spies or interview, the white house and the question -- now, what am i talking to you about talking about looking at current events from another point of view and i don't know whether it was james baldwin quoting henry james or what but some quote i remember was the americans, american people generally have a difficult time recognizing from
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other people's point of view, other nations point of view their own reality. something that singular americat prevalent but i'm not sure it's not. what i can tell you, as a writer, as a reporter, i would see things through different points of view because i came out of that awareness. it might be true that a palestinian reporter in new york, if there is, i don't know if there is one but maybe some muslim writers -- maybe, muslim religion or origin might give you -- baldwin, there's never been a better writer than james baldwin. i knew him personally, lucky to know him in the 60s, been to his house many times. this very room you are in now is better dinner guests.
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at one time, i saw him at a with tom wicker, washington bureau chief he led led the new york times when kennedy was killed. great reporter. i knew tom wicker and i met him through david, my old friend, his wife and they had dinner and i'm bought over jimmy baldwin. wicker was from the south, north carolina and jimmy baldwin, this is like 64 because of before selma and baldwin and wicker got into an argument. white southerners against the black poet, black radical brilliant and also outrageous baldwin. he had a strong point of view and boy, he let you know what his point of view was. it wasn't sitting well with the new york times columnist bureau chief. i said to him, fine, baldwin
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starts screaming at wicker and wicker starts to meet at baldwin. and there within 4 feet of where were sitting at the dining room table. the wife said you can't talk to tom that way. you can't to and she's crying and she left the table and went over there. near that window and she put her head into the curtains and she screaming and tom said all the stuff. i'm hearing, jesus, this is interesting. we have the white south, liberal white south -- people like tom wicker or my old friend term turner calhoun or willie morris was a wonderful editor of harper's magazine, came from mississippi, tom wolfe, william styron, they were from the soutl southerner and willie morris was
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in tom wicker was but sometimes they confront a very outspoken black voice and there's the problem of communication or understanding. i don't know i'm getting into this but this is what i remember and also, how different points of view you kind of see things from different points of view. if you're open to it. if you are not open to it, journalists are not now open to it. why is -- russian people are great people, great culture, great writers, great singers, great artists, great history. they did great battles in world war ii against the nazis but now in my lifetime from the end of world war ii, stalingrad, i remember all the stuff, of course as a boy, reading about it. but now, germany is not the enemy anymore. ms. merkel -- germany, the nazis
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were with my brothers who were in mussolini's army but now the germanies are wonderful people and the japanese are tolerant. when i was a kid and i go to the post office and my father would want me to deliver it in italy and i go to the post office in this little town and there'd be a poster of hitler and mussolini and uncle sam wants you to draft and buy bonds and now the germans are wonderful people, japanese are okay people, italians are okay people, russians are not okay people. [laughter] this is not a political show. not sure i would talk about this. >> host: the original question that we started with was where did the name, gay, come from? you started to tell the story >> guest: i should certainly listen better. my grandfather was guy and he
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was not an immigrant but a migratory worker. he was a stonemason, came from italy on a vote with other laborers. he made seven trips from italy settling in the heart of philadelphia outside of a place called ambler. there was a lot of stone work to be done there and he would do six months or so as a laborer and go back to italy, he had -- he died. he was only 40 years old in 1914. there was a lot of asbestos and network. my mother, when i was born in 1932, and my father, italians usually name a male child after eight and parent.
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i would automatically be guy but my mother wouldn't have it. she was an american, aspiring american. she wasn't going to be some spaghetti commercial american. she was a refined, well-dressed, manager shot, she looked the part. she wasn't going to have, in world war ii, with two of her husband's brothers in the italian army, she wasn't going to have some kid called gay. we were americans. italian was never spoken in our house. i can't speak -- i never learned to words of italian my whole life. it was never spoken. we were american. we were american, damn right we were. particularly whether your country is the enemy in a situation like it was in world war ii.
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my mother settled for gay. my father didn't fight the issue because, he too, was a little bit defensive, i think -- i don't think, i know he was defensive wanting to be american. join the rotary club, the only italian in the rotary club. he put american flag in front of the store every day. he wasn't the only one, the shopkeepers, the main street of our town all that. they took the flag an american flag in one of his brothers were saluting the flag of miscellanies italy so the kid observing future reporter started seeing the war in different ways. so that is why i'm not guy. otherwise, i might have been.
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>> host: as an outsider, catholic from immigrant family, ocean city, new jersey, at what point, gay talese, did you feel like a new york or any friend of tom wolfe and philip roth and david and the new york times? >> guest: never. i felt, and often feel, how wonderful i could know these people. in fact, styron lived in the house for two years and -- i don't know how well you knew william styron and i don't know your audience today, over 50 years of age would've heard of styron. some of his work became movies like sophie's choice, if you remember that movie, maybe they read about confessions of nat turner, it was controversial but, anyway, before i bought this house for filling this interview i rented parts of it and i had a couple apartments
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here that i couldn't afford but i held on to some apartments and i had a lease for more than i can afford so i put styron, who was a random house author and my wife worked at random house, she's been in publishing for 60 years and was a younger editor at 62-63. random house published styron. so, and said is he looking for a place to stay smart we have a third floor and we are not using it. for two years he and sometimes his wife, rose, would come in here. they had a key and sometimes you come alone in right and he was then writing confessions of nat turner. i know it because he at night, he would come down, he bring his yellow line had and had beautiful handwriting. sometimes, even i can understand my handwriting but some people
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have -- i remember the nuns i knew had a beautiful handwriting. styron had been in writing. he'd come down at night and read what he'd written that day about the confessions of matt turner. i was mesmerized by him in his talents, his handwriting. and the fact that in this little house where wicker would be fighting with jimmy baldwin, another side of there would be writing about the confessions of nat turner getting back to the slave revolution where this black guy turned on the little white woman who taught him to read. i don't know if your member that novel, very controversial novel. the black objections kept it from becoming a film. but i remember, so well, styron and getting back to your observation how nice and how good that i could no styron and
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no philip roth and no tom wolfe and noel norman mailer. jimmy baldwin, i know all them. but i also always the outsider. i don't mean to say that i'm an isolated figure, i'm a very comfortable accommodating, assimilated person and i can go anywhere and feel, to a degree, very comfortable. i'm comfortable in crowds. i can walk any stage without rehearsing and say something and not making of myself. i have a sense of self that isolated from my main persona. i mean to say that i am always to people in my own definition of what two people that is to say wherever i am i'm talking to you as i'm talking to you now and i'm hearing our conversation and i'm having a dialogue with you but i'm also aware of what's above your head. i'm also aware of where we are
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that there's a cameraman and outside as a taxidriver. i have a sense of we are here but there's a lot going on. i have a sense of being always not always a reporter but a reporter on the reporter. i am not so surprisingly to you, writing about my personal life now. i have always wanted to write about my personal life because it is so daring journalist to
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move over from the realm of the fiction writer which is private life. and spends his life writing about fiction. it is a philip roth, you know whoever he is. but he is philip roth. i want to be gay talese writing about gay talese. even in embarrassing situations. recently about a year ago i had a book called voyeur hotel. this guy that i knew, because he wrote me illiterate 1980 to tell me about what he was doing. and the motel, he on this motel. he turned into a laboratory. and they were 21 rooms. he punctured holes in the ceiling over the guest rooms.
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like a big ventilation system you thought it was an air duct or something. up in the roof and the attic, he peaked. and he wrote me a letter and said i'm keeping a record. human laboratory. human privacy. and i went out to see him in 1980. and confirmed that when he wrote in his letter is true. but he would not let me write about it because i insisted i was a nonfiction writer i have to have names that my reader needs to know where i'm getting the information. and he would not do it.he would go to jail, why would he translate 30 years i did not talk to this guy. he sent me a record of what he saw but it was, i am not going to use it unless i have his name. and in 2014 he writes okay, now i can give you my name because i am out of the business and
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there is a statute of limitations. i'll not be prosecuted for invading privacy. so wrote this book, and i wrote it always admitting that i am also a voyeur. i am a voyeur. i think reporters are voyeur's. in my book called the king and the power, reporters are voyeur and see that imperfections and people. and voyeur's, we see the imperfection in people and places. i wrote that in 1968 and it is true and 2017. you see the warts in the world and the imperfections of people and places. not the positive always the negative. mostly the negative, mostly the news, people not looking good. most news does not help, it hurts. most news is news that scrutinizes, criticizes,
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implicates and ultimately, if not destroy, it certainly does harm the well-being and livelihood of the people that are in the news. i do not want to be that kind of journalist and i'm not that kind of journalist.but i am also the kind of journalist who wants to let you know that i am not isolated as an observer. i am a voyeur. so what i am writing about this, i am a voyeur with another voyeur. i do this book called -. i was living in california in a nudist park. there was this check for new for six months in the middle of orgies writing about it.
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i did not use big names. does not mean that you will get good reviews it does not mean you will not be criticized for what you do. it does not mean you're not answering to your behavior. a married man married to a well-known book - quest i wrote this my kids were teenagers. and i said about what you write that story, if i'm going to write about sexual immorality, i want to write about obscenity which i did. i want to write about the obscene people.because once a catholic boy and an altar boy in the 1940s, the priest and the nuns taught me about the evils of sexual thought and don't read this book and don't say this and don't have these thoughts, these erotic thoughts. well of course, as a voyeur i'm trying to go get over that.
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maybe going too far to try and understand erotic thoughts and people that - sometimes end up in jail because they have declared by the law. i become very involved as a reporter. and i am not always eager but unavoidably have to declare were given information. i want people to give mean names. i don't want to keep it secret and i cannot hide either. so if i'm writing about group sex and someplace in california called trevor which i wrote about. i'm not sitting there typing in the distance i am in the middle living it out, hanging around
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with these people. when i was a gangster i hung out with gangsters for seven or eight years. they were in this room were jimmy baldwin was fighting with a gangster with his bodyguards. another time floyd patterson the fighter, that little table has been the center of feasts and or sort of exchanges across the glass of wine and a lamb chop. many times, many kinds of people. and i am in the middle of it. and i have also detached from it. i am not schizophrenic but i am also always aware that i am a chronicler, storyteller, observer, artist in the art of hanging out, interested in different points of view, seeing things in different points of view. what is it like to be a student
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in fourth grade muslim today? fourth, fifth grade getting to know who you are in the city of new york. how your parents are considered the way things were when i was 10 or nine years old in 1942 or 1943. when you go to the post office is a picture of mussolini. that is my people. no. maybe, i don't know. that kind of confusion, duplicity where you see things like prismatic. envision you turn around and you can see flashes and light in direction.but as a writer, i am able to indulge my curiosity. i am able to give voice to my thoughts and put those thoughts on paper.
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carefully. the point it is hoped that i will share with the readership some perception that they did not have because the point of view i'm giving to them is a point of view that is not necessarily part of mainstream conditioning. you know right now i am not writing this, i'm not writing about these international affairs i am not a writer of international affairs. but i certainly am reacting as part of the audience of television news coverage or newspaper coverage.i am a reader. and i was pondering why russia is the enemy. it is not patriotic to say but just a little bit of thinking. that gives you something of what i am like today. always wondering mike is it true? or is it true or is it fair?
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that the russians should be the enemy. i mean the egyptians are not led by some saint like figure. this general you know but saudi arabia, our president as a speech you now, purging the summer of 2017 is just some weeks ago, president trump visited saudi arabia. saudi arabia, women cannot even drive cars. but i did not see women in the streets of washington holding placards protesting that our president is going to a country that is doing big deals with this kingdom, saudi arabia. the women are subjected to a kind of subservience unknown or unrivaled by other, most other nations. in iran, another enemy we have iran which i don't know why but women are a lot better off than
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in saudi arabia. you know the protesting woman in washington want to march against glass ceilings or whatever. they do not pick up on saudi arabia. and the journalists did not write anything about that. they write about the president coming out of the airplane and not holding the hand of his wife. or donald trump -- pettiness. there is a tremendous pettiness in journalism today. snarky small minded and very one-sided. but, i would not find a large audience if i were to deliver such a comment in front of a gathering of pen writers. the writers are quick to condemn other countries censorship and writers being
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put in jail or people who are speakers saying the wrong thing and going to jail whereas at berkeley or middlebury vermont, in the recent past have been expressing censorship and nobody from my wonderful writers group - again, it'll baldwin said. and maybe james eluded to about the way americans, we do not see things from a different point of view. that did not include me and thank god that did not include james baldwin. kingdom and the power, thy neighbor's wife, under that father into thy sons. a lot of biblical references aren't there in the title? >> i was very much a product of a post-world war ii right wing,
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catholic education.the nuns were from ireland. even i am from ocean city a protestant county, i told you. in the late 1800s the catholic church in those days was poor. people who are not very old enough to know that john kennedy was almost - as a political guy. catholic support, our minds were as catholics, to find by good and evil. there was a very distinct rule about behavior. and the catholic teachings was
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very cleansing of any sexual or erotic content. my priesthood tell me.i was an altar boy. do not read this dirty book by kathleen windsor. do not see this jane russell film. these were erotic people of the 1940s. for other amber. i mean people, i grew up with that and i have this idea of the bible. i am not saying i was reading the bible but i was in a biblical mentality because the priests and the nuns really governed private thought because you had as a young impressionable person in the church, the fear of dying and going to hell. i mean really had you dying in flames forever because you
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thought of a nude woman. i remember one of the few persons that i loved and i wrote about was the great doctor peter o'toole. i once had a chance to write about him. and he come about my age, he was like lawrence of the arabia. and he told me, i spent some time with him and in london i spent time with him in ireland where he was born and peter o'toole told me that once he drew a horse. as a boy in school, he was drawing a horse. and he put a penis on the horse. the nun beat him with a ruler. and he said i'm only drawing what i saw.but i remember he had an island the kind of upbringing that i had. sometimes you find reflections
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of yourself and the most amazing people and here is peter o'toole talking to me, an international movie star. interesting how you remember things like that. >> are you still a practicing catholic? >> i never was a practicing catholic once i got, once i left home at 17. after i left high school i could not get into a college but my father had a tailor. my father, the taylor, had a doctor. one of his customers in our town. from alabama so i went to alabama, university of alabama. i lift catholicism completely. when i married, after he came out of the army. after college.
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i spent two years in the army, i get out in 1956. i was in germany. when i came out of the army -- she was catholic. and pretty serious. she went to a convent school, sisters of the sacred heart. when i first met her she would go to mass and carry around a missile. but when she married me, she dwindled. our religious control, our minds and bodies diminished. and in those days you see, i'm talking the 1950s. most of what you did was sinful. premarital sex was premarital.
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it was sinful and we were having premarital sex. it is not that we had guards from bishop francis breaking our door down. but still, the rules of the church, birth control was sinful. so they made us into criminals spiritual criminals. so we just left it. and i remember we have two daughters. and i remember neither of the two daughters were baptized. does that mean that they are cursed? maybe so, but they are not baptized. we never joined another church. we exercise a kind of restrained intolerance and we like to think godliness.
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honor, obedience. but we are not under the rules of the church. i mean francis as the pope, certainly much more acceptable person the sum of the previous popes. >> how long have you been working on your book about your personal life? >> well, i have been thinking a long time about how far can a nonfiction writer go in revealing privacy? by using real names. i do not want to write fiction. because much more challenging is nonfiction if you write about privacy. it is hard to do. writing about sexuality is hard to do.
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you are going to run into a lot of public reaction that will be very negative and from the time i first met my wife, girlfriend two years before marriage and even before that, i always saved things. i saved letters, notes. i kept the kind of account from my high school days more than that, i filed it. i do not keep it and lose it. i filed it. i have file cabinets. i have been following my life as a reporter. my personal life, my life as a schoolboy, as a soldier, as a copy boy, as the first renter of an apartment in 1955.
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my meeting with certain women in 1956 after i got out of the army. my meeting of a person in 1957. whose father was a lawyer, went to columbia school of journalism. i mean colombian law school, sorry. where we had lunch, where we had dinner. when we first became lovers. when we first argued. when we first decided we were going to see one another.i broke it off. i have records. when we got married, 1959. ran away to rome, not in the church, got married outside the church in rome. and a friend of ours got remarried and he fixed things up because he is very well connected socially. and very well known professionally. i am known today but in those
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days 55, 56. i kept records of my marriage. what kind of records? every time she wrote a letter to me. if i was traveling on assignment. i saved the letter. i would date the letter if it was not dated. and i would write what i was doing when i received the letter. or we had an argument. there have been many arguments. she might leave a note on my bedside table. when you come home, i will be going to bed alone tonight. do not wake me up. i just feel we need a couple of days not talking. i would take that note. i mean i would take that note and i would write the background of the note, i would attach my account, staple it to the little one page note that was on my table. i would put my keys on that
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little table. i write about that. then there would be a reconciliation three days later. i would write about that. that reconciliation in 1977, have all 1977 including the bedtimes in where he was. i've calendars beginning in 1962 that show you every day where i am. there i am with, who i had dinner with, where i was. i was in new york, alabama, frankfurt, germany, beijing, china. who i was with, all of that is on calendars. the calendars have these like a large postage stamp. i wrote very small in it. i keep records, keep files, folders. every day of every year, every year of every decade from 1947. three 2017 i have a record. what is this massive narcissism?is it obsession?
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craziness? it could be all of the above. but what it is is a sense of being an observer of yourself. meaning, as i tried to explain earlier to you, the sense of being different. from just to a peer to be. to be somewhat apart, having extra pair of eyes and observatory power. that sees me as a filmmaker making a film. and i am in a scene. i'm not the filmmaker, i'm not the camera but i have in my hand a kind of camera that sees a visual sense of me having reading a note saying i think we should break up for a while. signed nan. and through this almost 60 years of marriage, i have a
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written record of the ups and downs of the marriage. it is not who is afraid of virginia wolf. it is more or less the ongoing, persevering, good time, bedtime routine of a persevering marriage. for now approaching its six decades. what does it mean? well, i wonder. i will tell you one thing as a reporter, it brings me as i read what was written, by a woman who was very upset by this husband, me. what she writes on october 11 of 1981. isn't what she believes on october 18 of 1981. there is change.
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if you're going to be holding to the written word of any particular note, and believe that is the final word, you are wrong. this is not a story we're doing about history. but it is a personal history that i am doing. historians that go back and read the life of maybe general grant or the letters of lincoln, or the letters of maybe margaret atwood. might as biographers think that what was written by trent torture sister is the final word. even because it is written by jane eyre or margaret atwood were queen elizabeth ii. it doesn't mean it is the final word. it means that that is what people felt and put on paper sometimes in ink at that moment. it is not the final word. but when you have this vast collection of material,
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material that would be worthy if we are writing about - but we are not. we are writing but an ordinary marriage that goes for six decades. that has survived i hate to use the word challenges, but survived the uncertainties that have in a week by week, year by year life of two people who have chose not to get a divorce. not that we had not discussed it on numerous occasions but had chosen for whatever reason. smart or not so smart, but to not get a divorce. marks it as attentive either an experience of punishment, stupidity or maybe laziness. maybe we were just too lazy to divorce! too lazy to make a phone call to a lawyer. too lazy to do the paperwork.
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i don't know what it is. but i'm trying to find out. and so what i have is a history of two people in one house and one city for me. of 1957 to 2017. .... .... >> to walk in new york times and having this cousin who is the
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talked about cousin. it is that voyage from that guy to the boy why was, the reporter he was, the chronicle and logger of subjects he became to where he is now. he has certain feelings of disaffection of how journalism has become slanted. but it is a story that only i could tell because i am dealing with the source not unnamed sourc sources. whether i am reliable witness to my own life is a question. but at least in one valid source, my wife would write the same book. she would do it. she would do it with very different points of view. >> host: will the book be
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published by the man? >> no, no, that could not be. i do have a little bit of help. i didn't know if you want me to go into the details. but you mentioned the article in the paris review, i think you mentioned the interview by katie. katie wrote a wonderful book on common arrangements and victorian marriages and that kind of thing. i loved that book. i got to know her. i have her interviewing man. i have all of the letters. but also i have access to all nan's photographs and statements as a result of taped interview katie is doing and others have done it before. i have had nan be interviewed. i know the woman. i don't have to have a tape recorder. i know whatever she said on tape i probably have a version of
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that in or own hand writing. there has been a lot of hand writing and i am not sure in the future people will write letters anymore. with everything on e-mail, god knows what will happen. i am not affected by e-mail. i am still in the old form of letter writing and i keep careful typed notes too. >> who are the phillip ross and tom walt and william styrens of today? who do you think we will think about in 20-30 years like we do with those people? >> guest: i -- this is unfair and some of your audiences are 25-30 years old. let's assume c-span has an audience primarily of 25-35 years old. that means they don't have a clue who i am or a full
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understanding of the writers in my generation. you mentioned a lot -- a lot of them. i do know this, though, when i started and tom wolf started and others started writing for magazines, we all wrote for the same magazine. esquire in those days. esquire of the 1960 was an important magazine. the great new yorker was not great in the 1960s. it was under an editor that wasn't thinking much beyond his little office. he was insular. mr. sean his name was. but the editors of esquire, mainly a man named howard hayes, was a great editor. he hired tom wolf and norman
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maler and william f buckley, jr. and a slew of people to cover politics or to cover social events or sexual fashion. and the magazine made writers famous. pige pigeon -- picture writers. writing about the steps of the pentagon and gary gill more and a novemblist himself.
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who is the new tom wolf? or joan gideon? i know. i look at magazines and i don't see anybody who because of the ark of the magazine article has gott gotten attention. i see nicole cruise or tom kidman on the table. the new yorker, i know, the new yorker is the exception. but it is still wonderful writers. non-fiction writers. but it is not what esquire in the '60s showcased for the writer or subject. it was the writer. and i don't see in journalism today, the daily journalism, any style reporters.
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i know there is a flash in the '70s that started the spirit of investigative journalism we now see. and full flower in the age of trump trumping by the washington post and new york times as rivaling in the field for who is going to do the best damage or drop the most bombs today. but who emerges as the writers of daily journalism? i know woodrow bernstein but sometimes i see three people's names on the story. what there is is selective journalism. journalism in the era of technology. quick, thirsty, fast.
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but i am not a literary critic but i don't -- if you were forcing me, i mean you couldn't force me. how can i tell you who the new tom wolf is? i cannot tell you even who the new david hal stein was. he was a great war reporter in vietnam. neal shan was another, harrison salsbury. these are names i doubt young people heard of them. they were the giants of my time. in 2003, if he had neal shehan when he invited iraq i don't think there would have been a war. they would have exposed the lying of the defense department. rumsfield would have been vilified. malcolm brown and all those stars would have knocked them down.
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we have so many wars but no name -- i don't want to sound insulting because there are hard working people but i am talking about what's happened through no fault of the journalist necessarily but the fault of 9/11. the story of 9/11 destroys free thinking and creative journalism because after 9/11 the shock of our lack of security, the fact we have bombing in our own country. in downtown manhattan, are you kidding me? pentagon? after that, the nation security minded people in government and in media became so influenced by not writing anything that is
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against national and defined by the people who define security. we became in iraq unlike vietnam we became embedded. i saw "the new york times" people embedded. one time i was on a stage of the 92nd street y nine years ago. and among the people, arthur ox salsburger and i said as a grad idea of your institution, i am embarrassed you would have reporters in baghdad working for "the new york times" embedded with the military. you are making them mascots of the military.
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they are actually public officers. we cannot get out of iraq. and the well ns of mass destruction story should never have gone unchallenged but it did. when you ask me these questions, i would like to be responsive and my lack of capacity to do
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that will probably bring disappointment on me. but i don't recognize today the pride full feelings i had when i was younger. i have a memory of glory. it wasn't me. i wasn't a war correspondent but i remember neal shehan and malcom brown and harrison salsbury, a man i knew and admired who went in 1966 and didn't have credentials but wrote about american bombs in hospitals when the american government and state department was denying. government hated him. they called him a communist
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because he had previously been a war correspondent in moscow. this man was a great figure in my mind and in the minds of old journalists like me. i just look around and don't see them anymore. maybe i lost my capacity to see what is there. but i still feel saddened by the fact the courage and anti-government. we are not fighting the government. i don't care if it is obama, bush or trump. journalism is now worried about the first lady doesn't have her hand on the president coming out of the plane or the president pushed someone out of the line in a visit to europe at some foreign minister meeting. that is small stuff.
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>> two final questions. how did frank sinatra's my neighbors wife affect you? >> my neighbors wife almost destroyed my marriage and i also lost what little reputation i had as a serious writer of non fiction because you see before i wrote my neighbor's wife i read this book in the new york times that was well received and a book on the mafia that was well received. my neighbors wife i got negative reviews but my personal life was reviewed most negatively and i became vilified and also yarded
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as a very unserious person. my that i mean my journalism was questioned because i admitted i went to orgies in california naked. i wrote in great length in that book that my daughters were not teenagers. they were in school in new york and their parents would talk about me and so i was disgusted.
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my wife did not leave me but she was very upset by the story but she got great publicity about who was the way. she had a distinguished career and woman of letters. her husband was just a disgusting, erotically perverted person. i was the vice president of a writers association and i was up for president. there was such an outcry within the feminist element and also some men.
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they kicked me off and first amendment absolutism. they didn't want me around. that was a bad time for me. before that, i had good times. i pulled it out of order but sinatra was published in '6 #. i didn't imagine that in 2007, i would be talking to you about an article from 1966. when i wrote front doesn't have a cold i didn't think it was better or worse.
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i wrote the truth as i know it. i wrote about frank sinatra but didn't write about it. all the books about him were my sources and i am comfortable and he was the soul singer. maybe some former chafer that worked for him or a person woo sold him two suits. they had stories to tell about him. they were told in a way that because i try to write about
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being a story teller they told me stories about singular vinets. these were satellite stories all-around the great planet themselves. the first book is about the journey and my second is about the bridge. those are my people. or the lunetics voyeur are my kind of people. the sex perverts are my kind of people. my kind of people are people that i see as not entirely one way. yes, they are perverted or gangt gangtas. it is not without judgment but
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with an acceptance i am accepting. i am not the priest that taught me things are evil or good. or the nunz. -- nuns. i am not a man of the left or right. i am not political. i am not left or right. i am not anything. i vote sometimes not happily, you know? bernie sanders was my guy. i wouldn't vote for hillary or trump. i vote for losers. he is not a looser but and liked him. i am active. i am not effective but i am active. i look back on a life that influenced guests and became a famous article and don't ask me why. i didn't want to do the damn
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article. i left it the times in '65. i worked for esquire for a year and wanted to write about my newspaper friends and eventually did but i had to do stuff the editor wanted. it wasn't easy. he would not talk to me. it was published. got nice letters. wrote a piece about obiterary writer, got nice letter. then i wrote the book next year and they were all the same. when i die, which might be the next week, in the third paragraph, i bet frank sinatra
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is the core. my whole life is defined by what took six weeks, somewhere in 1966, i start writing that piece that gets into esquire magazine somewhere in 1966. i cannot even remember the month. it was published and i was on to something else. i didn't know it would be defining my life. i wish it were. but if it were not that it might be nothing. i guess i should be happy with whatever i have. >> booktv is on twitter and facebook and we want to hear from you. tweet us or post a comment on our facebook page
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>> as many of you know, i am a joyful practitioner of social media. i enjoy it, i was an early adopter of facebook. the first website appeared when i was late 20s early 30s. i was one of those guys who thought it was totally cool watching a website loading on my old ten inch monitor line by line while my modem next to my desk was making noises and i would say wow, this is the coolest thing ever. and i thought this is the beginning of a new age of enlightenment. unfortunately it is not. unfortunately what it has done is create a huge swamp of intellectuals who are making people stupidier. we are doing studies that show
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people who spend time looking for information, clicking through web pages, are actually dumber than when they started because they the illusion of gained knowledge. the example i often use, and i use it in the book, tell a child, an adolescent, go look up something about fossil fuels and they will follow links about the dinosaurs. what happens after clicking and browsing and clicking and browsing that student will walk away saying i know a lot about fossil fuels -- they won't. their retention is almost non-existence and they will say and i know a lot about dinosaurs and archeology because they believe they have internalized the information and don't realize -- they have been testing people did you know this before you searched for it and
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in other words they can not tell the difference between acquired and inherited knowledge and that is scary. it raises the question of how much you can manipulate people with search results. people believe the first ten results are truer than the next page. think about what when it comes to public policy. that is how you sell the soup. manipulate the search engine and when someone says soup, campbells or progresso has paid enough they pull up in the right order. this is one of the reasons and i will just finish by getting to this issue about fake news off my chest. this is why the russian's prospered at this. they are really good at this. i don't like the way the president and everybody else
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from the president down use the term fake news. i am a russia guy. fake news means a lie deliber e deliberated made from whole cloth seeded out through the media through the internet or other minions out there to pollute the public debate. intentionally a lie. it is not a bias story. it is not an erroneous story. it is not an error that can be retracted. it is not a story spun in a way you happen to not like. none of that is fake news. fake news is an intentional lie created to mislead people and placed in the speaheres so you n
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find it. >> bill clinton shared his thoughts on what you call the most political book of the last decade. >> you know what the exhibit is at the clinton presidential center is? extreme bug. you know what my staff gave me for christmas last year? two, not one, two ant farms. so i can have one on my desk at the presidential library and one in my office in harlem. why? because i am always telling them the most important political book that nobody read written in the last ten years that would all made us all much healthier is the social conquest of health which is less than 250 pages and a double pulitzer prize winner
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biologist that taught me the combined weight of all the ants on earth is greater than the combined weight of people on earth. that is quite a number of ants. why am i telling you this? the conclusion of the book is that of all species that inhabited the earth, and we know there are hundreds of thousands of them, right? they are disappearing now at the most rapid rate in 10,000 years but the most successful species that ever lived, if you define success as repeated chances to be wiped out, but they say nope, here we have. we are still around.
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ants, termites, bees and people are the most successful. he said what do they have in common? bees of all species that ever lived with the greatest co-operators and found ways to work together to build stronger futures and strong common problems. and he said people are the great co-operators but their great strength is our great curse. we have a conscious conscious and consciousness. and we know it. so it makes us air gant and we think we are smarter than we so we tend to slice and dice ourselves in ways that in the end threaten our ability to escape when we facing a threatening challenge. this climate change thing gives
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me a kick. no one doubts the question because it is numerically variable and more than 90% of the sciences they this is an existential threat to the planet. so the new thing is i am not saying they are wrong but they might be. we just had the coldest march in new york in a hundred years. i was pleading for global warming to come back. look, i get it. we can make all these jokes. you name me one other threat. every parent in this audience, name me one threat that you wouldn't make seriously if you thought the odds of doing this were 90% better than the odds of doing that. you know that child seat in the back seat? there is a hundred percent chance your child were survive a
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crash unless the car completely collapses. 5% of people say that is crazy. just throw the kid in the back seat and let them roll around. nobody would do that; right? that is what we are doing on climate change. we are throwing the kid in the back seat and letting them roll around. >> booktv television for serious readers. c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television company and brought to you today by your cable or satellite provider.


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