tv Charlie Rose Bloomberg September 10, 2015 6:00pm-7:01pm EDT
♪ announcer: from our studios in new york city, this is "charlie rose." he has been called a master of the art of narrative history. he tries -- twice won the presidential prize and medal of freedom. he has written 11 books, including "1776" and "john adams." his latest is called "the wright brothers," which tells the story fromo bicycle mechanics dayton, ohio who taught the world to fly. it is great to have you. guest: thank you, sir. charlie: this is a trilogy of
high achievement. guest: that is exactly right. the first book was at the -- was about the building of the brooklyn bridge, the next book was of the building of the panama canal, and now this. all three of those a compliments took place in a handful of years , in the late 19th century into the first years of the 20th century. each in its own way was a major breakthrough without any historic precedent. but this one more obviously changed the world. in no time. because man had never flown the motor powered machine into the air before. when that happened, it was clear to a few, but not to all, that this was one of the decisive turning points in history. one of many things that were very surprising to me in writing book was that you sort of
imagine, ok, they flew the first time at kitty hawk in 1903, and every but he realizes it's terrific and changed the world, but it wasn't until 1988 that the world -- 1908 that the world relies, yes, we can fly. minds that it our was impossible. this so have -- this so often happens in history throughout life. it about the is people who do this? they don't quit. guest: that's right. they do not give up. i really think it also had something to do with where they came from. america, thisrn is not to say that there are lots of other people from elsewhere that don't give up. up.y truman never gave
origins. very humble charlie. purpose, .hey have a purpose in mind probably sounds like a bad pun -- high purpose that they were determined to achieve, no matter what. went time either of them up in one of their experimental planes and flights, he was risking his life. it took tremendous courage and character. was to seey for me to what extent their use of the english language was of major importance in their success. they were raised by a minister father, who insisted that they learned to use language both on paper and on their feet. and you their letters,
think that neither one ever finished high school. of theumbling, their use language. their humor, their foresight, everything. they grew up in a house that had no running water, no indoor plumbing, no electricity, no telephone, but it had books. and the father insisted that they read and only read what he felt was of importance -- history, natural history, philosophy, and the ,lassics, and everything including the work of the famous agnostic ingersoll, even though he was a preacher, the father. charlie: wilbur was the dominant brother. guest: the dominant brother and a genius. orbital was very bright -- orville was very inventive and genius mechanically, but wilbur
was a genius. and a big brother. he was the leader. it wouldn't have happened without both of them. two heads are better than one, as it turned out. that.re a good example of charlie: when did they have the idea? guest: they had the idea that they could learn to glide, to ride the wind, and they studied birds on the beaches of north carolina. charlie: i love that. the idea of seeing them out there trying to flap their arms. local people off of they were not cases. -- nutcases. learning to fly by studying birds is like learning magic from the magician. they figured it out.
nobody ever had. fly.hen they had to there were theorists that had very exciting and often genius ideas. they wouldn't fly. there are twoid ways to train a wild horse -- one is to sit on the fence and study the horse, and then go to your comfortable chair in your living room and write your theory about how to train it. the other way is you get on the horse and ride it. as you said, the almond way you can learn to write a bicycle is to write a bicycle. skill, not only had the ingenuity, and genius to create a glider that could do more than any glider ever had, but they also had the courage to do it. and they were not defeated by failure. they learned from their mistakes , and that is a marvelous lesson
for all of us to learn. charlie: i guess it was horrible friend, itwho told a was great going up in a family where there was always much encouragement and intellectual curiosity. guest: exactly right. i think the way we are brought up is more important and we realize. we get -- put a lot of emphasis on education. what manners were you taught? what were you taught about loyalty and telling the truth? what were you taught about being kind to people? olivet begins at home. -- all of that begins at home. the dinner table. conversations about behavior and aspirations. their father was an exceptional teacher. , who is important
in this story -- i have to say i have spent a lot of trouble and effort ringing her front and center stage, because she deserves it. she was bright, she was bossy, she was funny, she was opinionated, she had a temper, but she was always there when they needed her. she is the only one of the group that went to a college. charlie: does she remind you of emily rutland? guest: yes, sir. and apple yale adams -- abigail adams, very strongly. i think the story would not have come out the way it did had it not been for her. i think one of the joys of the work that i do is giving credit where credit is long overdue. charlie: find unrecognized
characters -- guest: yes. we need lessons in appreciation. so many of these people, we hear about them in school history courses for about 10 minutes and then we move on. oh, the wright brothers, they were bicycle mechanics for a while and then invented the airplane. that is only a fraction of the story. the fact is they had a tremendous interest in architecture and photography. they were fully alive intellectually and mentally, but they also had this driving sense of purpose that i feel is essential to high achievement on that scale, on that level. they weren't trying to make a lot of money.
they weren't trying to achieve fame. they didn't like the limelight, they avoided it. charlie: were they trying to change the world in? guest: no. they were sure that man could do this, and they thought they had the answer, and they did. and they had no money. the entire expenses, all the expenses for the first plane to fly out of kitty hawk in 1903 or less than $1000. than $1000. the smithsonian spent $70,000 trying to build an airplane that would fly, and it just blew into the potomac river several times. charlie: what didn't they understand? guest: for one thing, they didn't understand that you have to get on the horse and ride it. charlie: what was the role of photography? photography.oved they were interested in it for
technical reasons. it was advancing very rapidly. if you look at the photographs on the inside front page, that is a shark. it's unbelievable. that is from the original glass plate. photography had been revolutionized, and they were fascinated by it, but they also wanted to record everything they did in order to protect themselves from people who would violate their patents. a supporter of the wright brothers compare their achievement to that of christopher columbus. guest: yes. charlie: do you? guest: yes, absolutely. charlie: columbus discovered the new world and how to go to further worlds. guest: look at this -- everybody goes everywhere today at 35,000 feet. last year at o'hare field in chicago, 70 million people through and out of that one airport.
1903 wasn't all that long ago. i could've known orville wright. he did not die until 1948. i would've been 15 years old. he could've been that nice old fellow around the corner who was fun to talk to. it is a fraction of time as history goes. you could not imagine a more dramatic change. he lived to see jet propulsion and rockets. it all went very fast once they got the key. you call what you do "a calling." how is it a calling for you? you tell me. to bring to life
the best that can be found in the story of why we are the way we are and how we got to where we are. that doesn't mean it's all good , admirablenderful people, not by any means. i think that what really happened is not only as interesting as stories that are concocted, but often more interesting. i have always thought of myself .s a writer, not a historian i am writing about what really happened, and i couldn't make anything up. i'm not going to change any facts and figures. charlie: you have a calling, what is the gift? guest: telling a story. there is no trick to writing history but to tell stories. that's what it is. great stories. and stories about real things and real people.
yes. mcculloch: we should not just think of history is politics and the military, which is a huge part of it. but it is everything. i had done what i have done with this book and others that i have written. they are not about politics in the military. i think that the future of historians looking back on our time are going to be talking other things in politics and military that we have achieved in our time, and mistakes we have made. said before have that all of your books are about one of e first books that you read -- "the little engine that could go -- engine that could." that is a common denominator. we are broughtw up. that is the kind of book we are raised on. charlie: i love this, wilbur bird soars ino
♪ charlie: the one and only toni morrison is here. she won the pulitzer prize in 1988 for the novel "beloved." five years later, she became the first african-american woman to win the nobel prize for literature. president obama said reading one of her novels taught him how to be. she was awarded the presidential medal of freedom in 2012. her new novel is called "god help the child. i am pleased to have her back at this table. guest: thank you. this is been described as stable like, is it stable like? -like, is it fable-like? guest: not to me. i hope it is much more
complicated than that. charlie: but it is the first one you have written with a contemporary setting since 1981. why did you go back to contemporary settings? toni: i was a little alarmed about doing it. book because the contemporary world was hard for me to grasp. it seems slippery -- charlie: it's always changing. guest: right -- toni: right. when i finally got a way to talk about it, it drew the confusion of race and color and class, then i could do it and felt i could do it. charlie: when you got through? when i began to think of what was significant now in 2007, 2008, whenever, one of the
color,s topics was race, shades of color, reactions -- charlie: is there a difference between race and color? toni: well, color is a substitute for racism. race is just human beings. has some -- there are probably just to certain kinds of color. these are social constructs, not in visions of science -- orentions of science scientific descriptions. these are things human beings think of for good reasons. some profitable, some just personal. how can you feel really, really good about yourself if there is but separating yourself
from something you are convinced is lower than yourself? charlie: are these troubling times? toni: yeah, these are. i am not sure they are all that different, but it is obvious now. that times are troubled. we seem cowardly, i think. when you think about the media and read stories about young or middle-aged lacking in being shot -- black men being shot by police, what astonishes me is not that there are so many, because there is always been a lot that have never been newsworthy, is the obvious cowardice of the police. i don't mean all police, but those that we hear about. how are you afraid of a man
running away from you? how are you afraid of somebody standing in the grocery store on their phone with a 20 gun that you can buy -- with a toy gun that you can buy in the store? how could you be afraid of a little boy? and you are these people who call 911? who are they? you look at the window and see a kid with a toy gun, and you get on the phone. policeman who was chasing a guy who had killed and turn around, faced the policeman, and said she me, shoot me. and the policeman when. not.at he kept saying, "i'm not going to shoot you." he cap saying it. the guy obviously wanted to be shot, suicide bike on -- suicide
by cop. if that policeman had been military -- he was not a coward. charlie: he had different training. guest: entirely different. it was great. he stood up. but these guys running around, popping people over and over again. charlie: how can we change that? toni: we have to change the police training. charlie: that's the obvious. toni: that's clear. charlie: tell me who lulac and bridewell- lula ann is? toni: she was a little girl, sort of personally threatened by her mother who was very upset when she saw her child because of her color. she is very, very black. really black.
she got a little bit about giving her away. she tries to take care of her, but she needs, she believes, to protect her from people who will perhaps feel the same way she does. and in so doing, she disables or. .- disables her until the girl can use that very thing -- deep likeness -- to her -- deep blackness -- to her advantage, it takes the to figure it out and become a better person.
charlie: but this whole book is about the bond -- toni: most of it. charlie: carol walker writes that you are asking the reader to consider what happens to children who cannot forget the torment of an excruciatingly painful childhood to repeat. you are asking the reader to consider what happened to children who cannot forget the torment of an excruciatingly painful childhood. toni: that's true. i think we all have some level of recollection of maybe not serious trauma, but unpleasantness. somebody who should've loved us, but didn't. we sometimes think we have gotten over it, but many times it's just already is shadowing .ur behavior
it's debilitating. you don't regret, but you do something about it. ishink that the best thing to stop thinking about yourself and start thinking about somebody else, start taking care of some of the else. move on. it's not always about you. charlie: you say that you didn't appreciate the hierarchy of color until you went to howard. toni: that's true. charlie: so what did you learn about the hierarchy of color? convenient, more easier, and comfortable big e or skin was. you could get into certain places and so on -- and comfortable the lighter your skin was. you could get into certain places and so on.
i was able to determine and sororities and school apartments, etc. where the leadership and scorn was. charlie: how did you experience that? toni: very differently. i thought my little hometown was the way the whole world was. and the hierarchy in my hometown was almost the opposite. thatnly thing worse than was washington, d c . out there was seriousness. it was segregated in a very sturdiest way. i felt safe that howard, but it was different. i didn't know these grades come -- theseof color grades and levels of color, class, all of that.
i didn't know that. and i learned. arelie: because you accomplished, a nobel prize winner -- do you fully thatehend that and believe it's justified? toni: there are really two things people. my name is clothing offered -- c hloe walford. morrison is the name i acquired as an adult. they are not to bring different people. toni morrison things about what you just said. whether or not she is important in the world, and she has meta s
dals. she can handle that. the other person, the chloe person, is the one who writes and thinks, and is wholly uninterested in toni morrison. charlie: so the talent is with chloe? toni: oh, yeah. charlie: and toni is the one outside the package. toni: that's right. they are both nice, but they just do different things. charlie: and you are happiest being chloe. are you really ec i think you -- are you really? i think you are toni. when you start writing this? about three years ago.
did the death of your son effective? i know it affected you, but this book is about parent-child. toni: he died when i wrote home, and i think i dedicated it for him. this one i wrote for you, whoever "you" is. charlie: i'm looking. ."or you "and you know who you are." toni: yeah, that's what i wanted to do. charlie: how does that affect your writing? toni: it didn't. charlie: are you saying that because you are being protective? toni: maybe. the death of my son is so
endless, so without closure, so significant and important, i had every anticipation that it would always be that way, will always be this way. being affected. arms.like losing you are affected the rest of your life, if you lose your arm or lose your son. toni: yes, and it should be that way. as long as he is dead, why should i forget? i did a play with peter sellers.
doold him i will only if i could get rid of one character. peter said, i want him in there. said, he dominates every scene. why is he in their? the play is called "a fellow." "othello." -- -- so if i could just get rid of this one character and concentrate on mine -- was he or editor? toni: he was my boss.
charlie: even though you don't write about ballet, you don't -- toni: he's writing a biography. charlie: of himself. toni: yes. charlie: what does he add to your? commas. charlie: the old joke. toni: he is always putting them in. . don't want this sound i want breath here, there. charlie: your writing has music. and you have to hear it. toni: mm-hmm. , signed up to do audiobooks there were really good actresses. i never listened to them, and
once i did, i thought, that's not right. the words are not there. she is not hearing -- charlie: so your what, 84 now? toni: 84. charlie: and proud of it. toni: i guess it happens all the time. that's what my sister says, she is a year and a half older. she says, what happened to us? i say, lois, we got old. i say, i've taken such good care of you, body. what is the matter with you? why are you treating me this way. [laughter] so i stay around, because the alternative is death. charlie: you prefer living with
the body to the alternative. separate yourself from your body. a recent article speculated about your legacy. it made comparisons with william faulkner. toni: make sense. charlie: why does it make sense? because he had a relationship with black people that was very different from most of the other contemporary writers. i don't mean he was stupid or contemptible, but he was easy and clear. and also his language was explosive. . don't know when i would hope is that at some point, i would not be an african-american woman writer, as though that
were a category. i just want to be alphabetized. william pose story -- william poe's story is a right mail writing -- white male writing. is because african-american writers want to say that. look, i'm an african-american and i can do this. i understand that, but at some point some of these grandchildren are going to say -- charlie: you are just saying that the comparison for me is what all writers, not a race or race oricular -- any any particular defining characteristic, even gender. nothing. just writer. oh, yeah.
i remember being at an event where someone said wonderful things about me -- i don't think is an african-american writer. i don't think of her as a female writer. what do you think of me? ipod and said, "white male writer." i i've caused and said -- paused and said, "white male writer." [laughter] charlie: it's great to see you. the book is called "god help the child." toni morrison. ♪
♪ is considered one of the most important fiction writers of all time. his books include "never let me go" and "remains of the day." the new york times calls his latest novel the weirdest, riskiest, and ambitious thing he has published in his celebrated career. i am pleased to have him back at this table. for what people
are saying about this. my question is, is it appropriate for you to take 10 years to complete a novel? guest: i would like to do it more quickly, but i am doing the best i can. there is no problem with the quantity of books out there. charlie: you are going for quality. : if i put something out changei want to slightly and style of books out there. i want to offer something a little bit different. until that gets into place, i don't feel i am ready to get the book out there. charlie: some feel this is a radical departure for you. kazuo: it comes as a slight surprise that people think it is so different. i always come at these things from the inside.
flyingke building a machine before aviation got going, all these guys try to make unusual flying machines in their backyards. i feel a bit like that. i am just trying to get this thing to fly. for a long time, it doesn't fly, then you put this piece on it and finally it kind of flies. but is it, for example, a love story? a love story, but of a certain kind. when we say "love story," we usually mean a story of two people coming together, and the story ends when people declare love for each other. i think there should be more love stories like this one. it is about the decades in the ofrs, the long-distance
love. all those years that you struggle to keep the flame alive. this is about a man and a woman who will stand by each other right to the end. charlie: they suffer from a kind of amnesia. this was one of the main problems -- i struggle for economics -- for a kind of story that i can express in the abstract. i often cannot find a way way to put it off, the right setting. one of the things i started off with is i want a situation where community, a nation suffering from something of collective memory loss, and the nation has to decide if they want to remember everything. maybe there is been something very traumatic buried in the recent past. maybe there was a very good reason for these things being buried. charlie: do you have a point of
view on that? kazuo: my point of view is that it is very difficult to generalize. --hink there are situations let's go to after the second world war. i am being polite here, i'm in the united states. i do not want to talk about any dairy giants in american society. buried giants in american society. charlie: so let's talk about france. kazuo: i'm going to talk about france. right. the french after the second world war, what are we going to do with this stuff? they were on the winning side, but they spent a lot of their time collaborating with the nazis, sending french jews to the grass chambers -- the gas chambers without help from the germans. what do they do with that? had a move on from that?
-- how do they move on from that? maybe there is something to be said. let's all pretend that we have braved resistance fighters and not visit this question for a few decades. there will be a time perhaps when we are stronger and can face this, but right now if we look at our recent past, we are just going to tear each other to pieces. we will go communist. the money could be a civil war. society cannot fold. you look at situations -- situations like what happened in bosnia or rwanda. charlie: or cambodia. guest: yeah. you have situations where people seem to have lived together, different tribes and communities had managed to coexist for a
generation, and then some can of societal memory was deliberately we awakened to mobilize hatred and violence. that same question about, do we want to remember certain things? are we better keeping off some memories buried? i was wanting to apply it not just to a nation, but side-by-side with that i wanted to apply it to marriage, because i think the same questions apply to a marriage, a long-distance would to anyit long-term parent-child relationship or siblings. have passageships that you agree to just keep buried. all right, that was unfortunate and painful, let's just move on. the couples at the center of my novel have this very difficult
our love-- will survive remembering some of these things? do we want to remember some of the things we have buried? on the other hand, if we don't look at these things, and their time together is limited now -- if we don't look at these darker passages that we have put off to the side for now, is our love genuine? is it based on something phony? but memory has been a theme of yours, has it not? kazuo: i sometimes worry it has become a bit of an obsession. think it has probably changed and evolved over the years. when i started to write fiction as a very young man, i think it was in order to remember. that's why there is a very intimately in my mind and
--rt between writing fiction intimate link in my mind and heart between writing fiction -- charlie: how does your writing stimulate memory? kazuo: it's not so much stimulating memory. i left japan at the age of five to live in britain. growing up, i had these memories of this place was very precious to me, and it was not a place that i thought i would return to . i had these memories, and it wasn't like specific memories, it was a memory of the whole , a different way of being, a whole atmosphere and group of people. thatgot older, i realized very personal japan inside my head was somewhere i could not go to in the plane. it was also fading with every year that i got older. i think i started off my whole
byting fiction career actually wanting to preserve these memories. i couldn't preserve them just by writing down facts, i actually had to rebuild a japan of my imagination and memory in a book. i thought right at the foundation of my writing impulse was this notion that creating a world in fiction was an act of memory preservation. safe inside that book. i wanted to preserve it inside a fictional world. that's how it started. it was a way of constructing a sense of one's self. charlie: and what was the impact em about14th-century the green knight?
kazuo: it is a very entertaining story:. poem.ry there was one little stanza -- the story takes place in two castles, but there was something like a bridge passage where the he writes from one castle to another, and you get a glimpse of what britain was like back in those days. says thisous poet young man -- he had to sleep on rocks in the pouring rain. it says something like, he was boar, wolves, and panting ogres were chasing him from villages. of thistle glimpse
weird, imaginary, ancient , i thoughtbritain that would be a fun place to write my novel. this place.enly see charlie: and when you find that place, that is a huge benefit. kazuo: yeah. i go location hunting. i go about things backwards. it's a stupid way to make novels, but i get a story where , and't have a setting sometimes it takes a long time to find the right setting. charlie: how long did it take you in this case echo kazuo: -- in this case? kazuo: it took a long time will stop -- a long time. the particularly like the
banality of panting ogres. charlie: the banality. kazuo: yeah, there was no surprise. the pollen doesn't go, yeah, these ogres. they were just a part of life. i thought, well, i will have that. they will just be ordinary things in the background. charlie: it is said that your wife, when she first read the book, hated it. this is what you're getting at when he wanted to know why it took 10 years. [laughter] i'm giving these serious literary responses. you want the simple, human answer. she didn't hate it.
i am quite a long way into it. i had written about 60 or 70 pages. even i need a little encouragement like everybody else. i showed it to her. , you are going to have to just start again from scratch. [laughter] charlie: and how was that moment between the two of you? kazuo: it was a little bit awkward. that i'mwas saying is not saying you have to alter this character or change anything, but not a word of this can survive -- or not a word of did can survive, but she say the eyes -- ideas were
interesting, but you have to start over, the execution is wrong, and you have to start from scratch. charlie: did you take it seriously? kazuo: i did. i put it to the side and wrote another book. i had a couple of movies to worry about. lyrics for asong jazz singer. i did these other things. happens to me a lot. "never let me go" i had to attempt three times. there are three abandoned versions of that book back in the 1990's. charlie: but they build on each other, don't they echo you didn't just -- don't they? you didn't just throw it in the ocean. kazuo: i have this strange, naive concept where if i come back to it, something that was wrong before would have gone solution the repair that had not occurred to me the first time or second time that
would present itself. that has been my experience. it was only the third time around, but i came upon what you sci-fi -- that wasn't there in my first two attempts. i was trying very hard to contrive some way where young people would go through the experience of old people, that they could go to the struggles of the whole thing up becoming middle-aged, then getting old, then becoming sick and dying. find some way they could do this in 28 or 30 years. i just couldn't do it before. but then this piece of the jigsaw presented itself. charlie: if you could have been
a great musician, would you prefer that to a great novel? -- novelist? a difficultis question, because i still love music. if you are not allowed to do something, because i wanted to be not really a musician, i wanted to be a great songwriter. i love songs. i'm not a composer, that's too grand. i love a four-minute, three-minute, two-minute song. emotion contained in a song with all the style mentions -- lyrics, performance, the orchestration. if i could have been a -- it takes 10 years to write a novel rather than -- charlie: it is great to have you here. ♪
fed.: countdown to the tech leaves wall street higher. a week for the closely watched rate decision. the invisible hand, china's central bank is set to dabble best dabbled in the offshore court currency market. singapore marks five decades of independence with an election marked as crucial. >> coming to live from bloomberg in hong kong, let's start thing