tv Lawrence Wright God Save Texas CSPAN May 26, 2018 12:10pm-1:31pm EDT
imperial china and are going to most modern place in asia to learn about the ideas of the outside. >> you can watch at booktv.org. >> i'm not only excited to have lawrence, so a little conversation, she's the senior editor of magazine, previously a staff writer of the new yorker, texas monthly for nearly 30 years, two-time winner and four-time finalists for the magazine awards, most recently in 2012, her work appeared in esquire, national geographic along with the sunday magazine and play sometimes sports magazine, the pieces have been
collected in political writing, her book on the artificial heart ticker will be published in august of 2018. mimi, thank you so much. and, of course, as for lawrence, he's an author, screen writer and play write and staff writer for the new yorker magazine. author of many books including the looming tower which won a pulitzer surprise and going clear, scientology, hollywood and the prison of belief which was made into a wonderful hbo documentary and a book that got him into no shortage of trouble, of course. [laughter] >> his play cleo finished successful run at ally theater in houston and for our own purposes tonight, of course, a texan, he wasn't born here but like so many of us he came here and just never seemed to leave. his new book god save takes on
goal to explain texas to the rest of the country. for this task there's nobody i would trust more, please join me in welcoming mimi swartz and lawrence. [applause] >> hello, thank you for coming. i think we should come with the basic question, how did you come to write this wonderful book. >> when david asked me, i reminded him, i get paid by the word and he just asked and when i left texas monthly i wasn't going to write texas because i didn't want to be seen as writer and my interests were elsewhere but i never got around to leaving texas and it's on
because i don't have any business, you know, my business is in new york, la, washington, to some extent and been correspondent for much of that, so why why am i here and so i thought when david layed down the challenge, it was a good opportunity for me to examine, you know, what it is -- even as frustrated as i sometimes am about some of the --
oilmen culture and a little patronizing and so on, but it was another era, you know, the thing that is remarkable to me right now is texas is so changed , the economy, the culture, even with all the immigration including the explosive economy. it's been turned into a totally different entity and yet it still has relations to the roots of texas. >> i was thinking it one of the editors of texas monthly the other day was saying all the old great trial lawyers are gone, so a guy-- are the great characters gone are just different.
>> they are wonderful characters and many of them evildoers, but there is great characters. if i'm going to lament the loss of character, the only ones that come to mind is and richards and molly who had a way of defining-- [applause]. in their own way they created a brand about texas women and universally recognizable and they are tough, they are funny, they stand up to anyone though matter how big the belt buckle is. they had a way of pushing back and that captured the imagination of women all over the world and we don't have someone fulfilling the role right now, but it is there to be taking-- taken. >> well, where there are things
when you came back home to report on that? were there things that surprised you about texas or did you have your own set of assumptions? >> oh, yeah. >> what were some of those? >> houston really surprised me because when i was growing up in dallas we sneered at houston. you probably didn't know that. [laughter] houston was blue-collar, great place for country dancing and barbecue, which is still true, but when i started diving into houston i really got a chance-- especially while rehearsing the play, so you know the most diverse city, i'm sure you've heard that and you really see the diversity and the thing about the diversity in houston is it looks for the city, you
new orleans and i thought this is very very touching and it exemplified, i think, a lot of the spirit of texas, but also houston especially of being an open and welcoming place, which -- with a very diverse population and yet facing real environmental challenges. >> and education. >> education is a broader subject for the whole states. >> well, i keep thinking i'm going back to mind for your analogy, i mean, are we giving up that texas stereotype that certainly was large here for different identity and how comfortable do you think her stony and-- historians, how much do want to they keep and how much do they want to forget about it? >> the myth is still alive and i open the book by going to bucky's. [laughter]
you can get fully outfitted as a texan you know, you can drive right in and get your closing go into the wonderful bathroom and acquire these texas -isms. it's interesting to me that texans adhered to this mythology of you know when we talk about the myth mainly the cowboy and oilmen, cattle drives and the get rich quick stuff and all those things are part of-- i talk about three levels of culture and the primitive is stuff people recognize as texas all of the world and a lot of it created in hollywood, you know. like texas john wayne movies done in arizona parkland where texas is this primitive man against the elements, good
against evil and ask a schedule no god-- a sorry about that, but in those movies it is really, you know there it's about heroism and it's about people, the risk and they throw themselves in the elements and that is a captivating mythology. when i was a young man roberta and i taught at the american university in cairo for two years and i used to go horseback riding by the pyramids and there were stables right below and i was a city boy, i mean, i grew up in dallas for the most part and so i was in a cowboy, but anyway they found out i was from texas and they started calling me texas and one day they said oh, texas, we have a course for you and two men lead this
rearing stallion that's in the air with nostrils flaring and it scared me to death, but being a texan i had to get on the horse and he took me half way to libya [laughter] it was a pretty exciting ride, but that was, to me i felt i was literally the texas myth 18 of the distance between me as a real texan and the idea of a texan was starkly apparent to me and that was i call level one texas, but the life you and i lived in texas for the most part has been level two where money derives and people come out of that period of primitive texas stuff and they look around and they start looking at other cultures and imagining, what
have they done? would they do? they built beautiful's churches, cities, educate their children, send them abroad, by arts and build museums and all these things that are characteristic of great cities all of the world , but it's characterized by insecurity and because you are not being yourself, you are being like other people and what you are seeking is a high degree of sameness, characteristic of so many of our cities. then, i think as a level three where i once postulated that you go through that period of looking around and then turning back to the roots and seeing what is there and finding what is great about it and to me the
moment that i recognize level three was i had a rabbit enchilada at a café. now, this is a sophisticated take on what it means to be texas, but beyoncé singing her roots in the church year and the country music influenced her and alton doing his dance, that little town ranger texas, all of those things are way of redeeming who you are. >> i was thinking about there are places in the book where you talk about your childhood and i think you and me and many of the people here had this experience growing up in texas, get me the hell out of here the minute i'm old enough i'm leaving i'm never coming back and i wondered if you could talk about how you felt as a kid. one of the people i'm writing about now got beat up for
reading books and i wondered how your life in dallas affected you so that you wanted to get the hell out? >> i think one of the things-- the kennedy assassination was one of the things that was motivating me. i was in dallas in 1963 in algebra class in the eighth grade, i think, and it was-- you know there was a stigma attached to texas in dallas and everywhere you went it was such an irony because dallas was a right-wing fanatical city. it was going off the rails with a lot of political violence and when lyndon and lady bird came in they spat upon her and then when stevenson came in that woman hit him over the head with a placard which is said if you seek peace ask jesus. [laughter]
perfect expression of what i call the dallas paradox. you know, that was part of what was going on with me is there was a culture of political extremism that i felt didn't represent me and then there was also this extreme layer of conformity that i also felt imprisoned by and so i went to the city i thought was least like dallas i could find, so new orleans where went to tulane for four years. it was escape from the kind of prison of orthodoxy that dallas has become. >> what i remember thinking is when i got out of college and my mother was selling me on houston and she said everything but what she meant, which was it's safe to come back home now.
>> you are in san antonio; right >> now, i was in massachusetts. >> she was in san antonio? >> right. >> wire is she selling you on houston? >> because she knew i never would go back to san antonio, but the idea we hit somewhere level 2.5 and it was safe enough to come home, but i wondered, you talk in your book about having something opportunities to live so me other other places can you talk a little bit about how you ended up-- where you went and then how you ended up still keeping your home base here and why. >> after graduating, went for a brief time to boston and then roberta and i moved to cairo for two years. it was a fascinating time, certainly education for a naïve young man from dallas and then
we came back to the us and wound up durham, north carolina, for a wild and event at, where i got my first real writing job. then, atlanta where we spent seven long years. [laughter] let me say this about atlanta, it's a very pretty town and if counselor like girls you would want to date her, but when i first-- my first book came out, a book about the amish and minority kids from harlem, you know, east bronx and stuff like that out would go stay with farm families and the families we followed were amish and mennonite dairy farmers in central pennsylvania, so i was writing about the experience of
these children in the book came out and there was an autograph party in atlanta and the police came twice. there was some guy was going around and pouring champagne down ladies dresses and my host, a writer friend of mine named marshall frady who has written a biography because billy graham undertook to administer a little correction and he took him outside, broke his hand hitting him in the police then came to a report about a attempted homicide and this is for an autograph party for a book about the amish. [laughter] i thought man, i feel out of place. [laughter] >> so, then you got back here and one of the things again, thinking about in your book and people you mentioned a while ago , one of my favorite parts of
the book is about the legislature, and when thinking about my mother saying it's safe to come home now i'm starting to think maybe it's not so safe anymore. who are these people running our government and we had been here-- lived here long enough to remember when molly made fun of these people. can you talk about the difference in the people she was covering when she was starting out versus now? >> well, think about when i was young. texas was blue. you know, it was largely conservative. texas gave birth to lyndon johnston who produce the great society and california produced ronald reagan and the modern republican revolution, so you know the evolution of the politics between these two states is fascinating. back when molly was riding the legislature was largely democrat
and you know when george bush got elected you remember the lieutenant governor and the speaker were both democrats. there was a kind of comedy between the parties because they needed each other and it was always a negotiation. yes, there was a lot of fighting , but it wasn't until the republican takeover in nearly 2000 and there had been a longtime hunger to assert control over texas politics, but it was the redistricting that took place i think in 2003 when tom had just got elected speaker of the house and tom delay who is the majority whip he and craddick began to rearrange the districts and like i live in austin. probably the most liberal city and the entire southern tier of the united states, and it was a
historic congressional district that lyndon johnson once represented. we now have six congressmen representing parts of austin, five republicans and one democrat's and you know so far as with legal challenges, but it's that kind of artful creation of district that render your votes pointless and that, i think, is one of the reasons, i think one of several reasons why people in texas don't votes. we are always at the bottom are right next to it. >> they feel like they don't have a voice like there's no reason. >> especially true of hispanic voters. there's always been talk about texas turning blue and of course texas and california despite their differences are very similar. we are both minority majority states, which is unusual in the
future up so much of america. we both have about 40% hispanic population and in california they vote. if you just subtract the question of ethnicity, who doesn't vote are the young, the poor and the poorly educated and there are a lot of hispanics in that category, but i think that's also true in california or could the real, i think, is the absence of aspiring candidates. we talk about possible, you know, appealing hispanic candidates like the castro brothers, but they don't actually go out and offer themselves to statewide offices and is so until that happens it will be difficult to find people that will rally the disenfranchised voters of texas. we have 29 million texans. we have more than half, got
nearly 16 registered to vote onn voted in the presidential election, so they took the trouble to register, but they did not take the trouble to cast a ballot and i think that's telling statistic that they did not feel like they had someone to vote for. >> i mean, is one of the things i thought again reading about which you write about the legislature which is what what is the endgame? would we end up with? unconcerned, so what are you thinking will happen. the break is gone; right? >> i worry about this because i am not a partisan figure. on the person that believes in bipartisanship, but if you categorized me politically i see myself as a pragmatist the ninth
and thought about starting a party, the anti- partisan pragmatist. social conservatives i guess is the best term for them characterized especially by dan patrick, you know, their agenda is not about business. that's such a radical break from the republican party previous era and what joe straus represented. they represent social change. let's not say change-- it's not progress is regress. they went to gaze back in the closet, they don't want gays to marry. they even want to take down traffic cameras on the street signs. desire to go back to-- now building a bouillon depository, but they don't have any cold to
put in it, but the idea was soon texas will have its own place to store gold. these are fantastical thoughts anyway. i think the republican party and texas has taken a overdose of some type of hallucinogen that makes me think that antagonizing 40% of the population of the hispanic vote by passing the show me your papers portion of the sanctuary city bill and showing such homophobia, such that they would not even seek to log cabin republicans at their recent convention, the gay republicans who had asked for a booth and they were rejected. all the young people are so pass that. and a lot of the money and support that is coming into dan
patrick and other social conservatives derived from homophobia. it's very discouraging to me. >> well, i mean, i do worry about next session because i think it will be like the tanks rolling in, i mean, we will see what happens in november. since i was talking to a political scientists here and say what you think about they till and crews and he sort of looked at me like do you really want to hear the bad news or not , so we really don't know. >> i will say that they tell has been running an amazing campaign and so i don't think-- he's handicap in fact the democratic party, the wounded animal that doesn't have any force. it's pointless in some ways and he is from el paso.
for whatever reason we have never elected anyone from el paso to statewide office. kind of shameful. would we have against el paso? >> it's a nice place. >> it's a nice place, but as centric-- eccentric. very fascinating. woody has going for him is that he speaks spanish fluently where ted cruz, the hispanic does not. he reminds me a little of jimmy stewart took i have met him the other day. fox news studio in dallas at 7:00 a.m. and here is the fox anchor. while, you are handsome. [laughter] you are young. you are really tall. you are charismatic and he was like what's the question.
it was sort of jaw-dropping experience for the anchor and that was fox. [laughter] we will see where this goes. i'm not setting anything aside. >> there is one story you told me that's also in your book and i'm jumping ahead a little. i will move from politics to work in one second, but there's a wonderful story told about a certain texas governor who did not-- you might have been unhappy about your burial plot 51 until the story? >> steve harrigan to whom the book is dedicated-- dedicated, my closest friend and associate was given-- allowed a pot in the texas state cemetery which is like arlington for texans and so
-- and i was jealous. [laughter] so, at some point maybe it's because steve saw how eaten up with mbi was, i was approached by the cemetery people, would i be interested in making an application. oh, if you insist. [laughter] i sent in an application and then i didn't hear anything and so i eventually-- it's kind of hard to do this, to call up the cemetery and ask. mr. right, someone should have told you that your application was rejected. really? you asked me to do it and now i'm rejected? had that happen? well, it had to be approved by the governor and rick perry and
i had crossed swords in the past. i was the mc of the texas book festival for a couple of years and at the first year that perry was governor and he didn't attend the event. the bushes always had. people were grumbling about it and i said well governor perry wishes he could be here. just the night before he had gotten into a little trouble because he led a prayer at high school, which was not constitutional and i said he's back at the high school praying again and didn't get much of a laugh. [laughter] anyway, next day the head of the book festival called me and said larry, the governor's office is demanding an apology. really? it was a joke. i know that, i know that, but
they say they will not allow the capital to be used for future book festivals if you don't apologize at. wow. political pressure, so i wrote here he dear governor perry and i'm so and then i got this letter back saying he had long planned helping raise money for crippled children and etc. and signed it prayerfully, rick. [laughter] anyway, different governor gives me texas metal of the arts so we have a ceremony and superintendent of the cemetery comes around looking at nametags and when you are accepted into the cemetery and yet not dead they list you in parenthesis as
pending. [laughter] so, the cemetery official is going around and looks at dan rather and dan is in. the range rats were a little too young to conduct, but there were all these other celebrities that were around texas related and he comes to me and said oh, mr. wright, we are so looking forward to hosting you. [laughter] well, much as i look forward to it myself-- [laughter] my application was rejected. oh, surely not. yes, that's what i've been told. well-- and i said i heard the governor vetoed me. he wouldn't do such a thing, you
should apply again. i thought well, you know. [laughter] so, i did. [laughter] steve and i and roberta and sue ellen got in the golf cart recently and ran around and selected our plots them as we get vetoed out then that is where we will wind up. >> so, when i told people i was interviewing you many of whom were in journalism were like-- i caught the last couple weeks the larry palouse a because your book is coming out. your play just closed and writing for the new yorker and the sean who live. everyone wants to know how does he do all this. i know some of this is a strange confluence, but i would like to hear a little bit about your
working process. i love the donkey story, i mean, if you want to talk about the looming tower. whatever you think. >> as a young writer i didn't have any training, so i had to develop my own strategy and i found-- for me i have to research everything and if i have trouble writing it's usually because i don't know enough and so i had to go out and do more research and then i forget everything and so i found that i had to start using notecards just like a graduate student in 1960. i would take a-- can i borrow your legal pad a minute? demonstration purposes. >> do you want a pen? >> you cannot-- hardly see because she has a very interesting legal pad.
there is this little margin over here and so i will write down the names of the people i've heard about all my story and then i would write down their telephone number over here and then i go to talk to them and i ask them who else i should talk to. new names in the new telephone numbers and as i talk to each of them i highlights that i had talked to them. because i do so many interviews they get to be a good prop, so that if like if i met the fbi and i say who else should i talk to in its page after page after page and their eyes get big and then they are more forthcoming and there was one of the fbi guys once told me that they had decided that because of the highlighters or in different colors i developed a code and so now i always use different colors because it's like pixie dust in their eyes, something
more sophisticated than it actually is. i go through and put all of that stuff on notecards. when you are doing the notecards by categorizing, you are actually beginning the outlining process. you are beginning to focus on the things that are interesting to you and then there is the question of how do you find an interesting-- you know, how to get the readers interested and i always think you need a character. i call this character a donkey because you need a donkey is a very useful beast of a burden and can carry a lot of information on his back and can take the reader into our world he's never been in before. for me, a good example of a donkey in the looming power-- power, when the tragedy happened and i was desperate to find a way to write about it i started going through obituaries that
were streaming online and john o'neill's name came across and it caught my attention for several reasons. he was the head of counterterrorism for the fbi in new york, but he had taken classified information out of the office and had been discharged and then got a job of the head of security at the world trade center. so, i thought bin laden, he didn't get the monde, bin laden got him and that was the last part of it in my mind and whether he was a hero or a goat he was a great donkey because he could take us in the world of counterterrorism and his personal tragedy which turned out to be far more amazing than i could've imagined would be-- would give the reader a way of catching, you know. you can write about 911 without having characters at all, but you wouldn't care and once you
have the central figure like in going clear, the scientology book i had always been interested in writing about faith and different kinds of faith took scientology was interesting to me because it's such a stigmatized religion and yet very notable people surrender their will and their reputation to it. why would they do that? so, wanted to find the donkey and i thought for a while it would be john travolta, but remnick said it was to tabloid and i still think it would've been pretty good. >> i would like to of known. >> then, paul a two-time academy award-winning director dropped out and he became my donkey. it-- he doesn't have to be famous or you know attractive,
but just a person that's caught in an interesting situation and then you write about-- it humanizes the situation. but, its front and loaded in terms of the labor, but when you're actually sitting down to write with all those notecards and everything that has taken months and months and months or years, when you start the writing process it's all right there. i don't know if it is true, but i think it is that if you write with some kind of velocity it adds the momentum to the reader as well. that is my hypothesis. >> so, how do you write with philosophy because you have it all in front of you? >> ya. you know, if you know what you're going to say that it makes it easier in the research and getting everything organized prepares you for that work this really is having i've been working on cleo the play for 20 years and--
>> how many drafts? >> 87. >> can you talk a little bit about the genesis of the book, why? >> the genesis began with the fact that the scandal coincided with my onset of puberty. [laughter] >> that was rhetorical. >> back in that time married couples on television and in the movies slept in 20 beds and suddenly the sheets are ripped off and there's this unbelievable scandal of the pope condemned them, elizabeth taylor and richard burton. there was a resolution in congress two for bid elizabeth taylor from returning to america can you imagine hat-- that having to angelina jolie? we expect that kind of behavior now, but back then it was so toward and certainly awakened an
interest in me. i love the fact that, you know, here it is with taylor and richard burton engaged in the most scandalous love affair of the 20th century and they are playing anthony and cleopatra who corresponded to them and agent history and i just thought there would be-- i just want to say something also. they were so great. we were supposed to open last october and the actors were here getting costumes when harvey and i was unable to get here until two days later there was still water in texas. i was able to get into the theater and i could see that bottom two floors were totally underwater it took 10 days to drain it and i thought this is not going to happen.
i was rehearsing with my actors, bob the director was stuck in new york because planes still weren't landing in houston. the artistic director came over and said, you know, everyone-- we are going to have to cancel the production. you know, there's a big difference playing reporters and actors. the actors nodded and said yes, we want to keep rehearsing and i said didn't you hear him. go home now. it's over, but then the artistic director began to weep and toward the schedule the next day they found a place for us and put on one of the most wonderful productions. the costumes and the seven music and all that, neither i nor bob or anyone in the cast has ever seen equal of it, so you have a real treasure here.
>> one of the other things i thought about when you told me about this play was how in the world would you find someone to play elizabeth taylor. i thought the play will sink or swim on that person and you did. can you talk about finding her? >> yeah, her lace-- her name is lisa byrne mark and casting his eyes a problem because you know they state casting his destiny. most of the time it's really destiny when you are in the process. you think you are going to hell. these are the people and going to work with, you know richard burton also very difficult person to cast. they sending-- the casting agents in new york were sending us people that would be perfect for prince charming at disney world. [laughter] that's not to richard burton. but, with elizabeth taylor's we
seen, they were all very beautiful models who had taken some acting classes and this is a very challenging role. lisa came in only because, you know, if you are the starring actor being auditioned that there's a person sitting here whose call the reader and you read-- you keep your lines and i reach you back and so bob and i are sitting out there listening to you. we are paying attention to you, but the reader is serving. she is a reader and the casting agents knew that she was good, but she didn't have an agent or anything. never had a starring role. she had been at an acting company to rain that country was sense and sensibility. he put her on the list and she
was totally charming and natural and funny and tall. we needed to find a tall burton. she just ate that roll up. she has gotten great acclaim. >> she's amazing. i'm going to ask you one more question and then we will let you all ask questions. i have known you for a long time and one of the things that struck me about the book and i think of you is 35, the sense of mortality that permeates the book. you know, you have been saying the last few weeks i don't know what i'm going to do next, and i know if i were finishing something i would go to the valley from uncensored on the beach, so i'm curious, where do you think this constant you know like this life force where you have got to be working, what you think that's about at this point? >> well, i don't know. the idea of retiring is
terrifying to me i'm not joking about it. that idea-- even this afternoon i didn't have anything to do and i was driving roberta knotts. she observes that i'm very disciplined, which is true. you know, being disciplined means you are focused on something and you are applying all of your effort to accomplish that thing. then, if you don't have that thing it's like a machine that kind of just fritz is out, doesn't have anything to chew on so, that is the way it feels. why i am so neurotic is a different question. i think in part it took me such a long time to get established as a writer i don't feel like i really was able to do the kinds of stories i wanted to do until
i got to the new yorker. i was 45 years old and i spent a long career in the vineyards. >> i remember. >> working in magazines and doing a lot of stories and taking assignments and learning the craft. i felt that i would never have that opportunity. once i-- you know, once i had that moments and i was actually working for rolling stone for a while. now that roberta's over there i had to implicate her in this. i wrote my first article for the new yorker in 1992, freelance. at the same time about ross perot and at the same time rolling stone was offering me a contract and this had never happened before. we really really needed the money and a reliable income.
they flew me up to new york for their 25th anniversary. so, i took the afternoon and went over to the new yorker to meet my editor and she said we would like for you to write more for us and i said i would like that, but i've been offered this contract and i have to take it. well, maybe we can do something about that. two hours later i had an offer from the new yorker and i went over to the four seasons where they were having the rolling stones and back then telephones you had to go down to basically between the bathrooms and i called roberta and i said i just got an offer for a contract at the new yorker and she said well, if that's what you want. [laughter] do you even know me at all? >> do you want to stand up?
>> i went back up to the dinner and found out i was not invited to the dinner. i was invited to the drink after, so i was sitting in the bar outside the dining room with john f. kennedy junior who had also not been invited to the dinner, so we are sitting there and we are getting the feed of the dinner through closed circuit tv. .. and cigarette holder and i am blocking on the names, keith richards. on his shoulder and furiously
writing something and i said keith, what is going on? well, matt, the odd winner just insulted the man, just insulted him and what happened? i had a photograph and took it out to the backyard of my house in woody creek, colorado and shotguns it and sprayed pig blood all over it and framed it and i was going to give it to him tonight but he says it wasn't appropriate because he was sitting with yoko know. i so don't belong here. i am so glad i have that contract in my pocket. i date the beginning of my career to that day in four seasons bar. >> thank you. i think we want to let --
[applause] >> any questions, please come on up. >> high. i'm doing a documentary on molly ivins. i know that molly said texas was the national laboratory for bad government and i was wondering if you at this point with your concept of level i, 2 and 3 and where the legislature is now, does that still apply to going forward for the overall government? >> it is not a disproportionate influence. there is a proportionate influence on the country
because it is so big and dramatic. texas, california is the largest state, 55 electoral votes. it is the blue state and texas is the red state and it has 39 electoral votes but it is going to get four more in the next election. california is not going to get any more and hasn't since 2003. new york has been losing population and electoral votes since the truman administration. by 2050, texas is projected to double in size. it will be the size of new york and california combined. what happens in texas is the future of america. not just 2050. 10% of all schoolchildren in
america are texans. what we are doing and doing a very poor job educating our children is going to determine the future of texans. it is up to texans to make sure we lead the country in the right direction. >> my name is jacob. texas athletes, we have various championships, super bowls and nba championships and athletes who have competed in various athletic events collect paralympics and special olympics. there is one person who has been a competing athlete in all three of those. >> congratulations. [applause]
>> good evening. i wanted to ask aside from the actual writing on the notecards you mentioned, what are the most important attributes a writer should have? >> the most important is persistence because it is hard, going hand in hand with a high tolerance for frustration. sitting in front of a blank screen with your mind racing around trying to find somewhere to start is frustrating. those two things are the empathy because you have to be able to project your imagination outside your own
mind and be willing and able to hear where other people are coming from and sometimes those people are foreign to you and even frightening but being able to see through your prejudices to the people on the other side of the table is essential. those three things i find you have to have. there are many other skills you could have that would make you a better writer but without those it would be hard to be a writer at all. >> one thing larry says about journalism being self-regulating, the idea you have to talk to everybody. >> my idea about journalism is like the looming tower that took five years and i interviewed 600 people and that is the fundamental idea of
journalism. you talk to everyone who will talk to you. you cover the universe but there are some people, that is called horizontal reporting. some people are more knowledgeable, more candid, more amusing and you go back to them again and again and again and that is more about understanding. when you really want to sink deeply into something you find someone who can help you get to it and that is the vertical. >> two brief questions. texas has been very successful for many years in many ways. in a few sentences, why? >> it starts with oil. texas wouldn't be texas without oil. in 1901, there was a hill outside called sour spring
mount and it was gasy. schoolboys used to set it on fire sometimes and there was a disreputable conman which is a theme in texas history. this one was only one arm, he lost one arm in a gunfight with the deputy sheriff and he forecast he would drill and find oil at 1000 feet. that was a lie. and at 1026 feet, there was an explosion. 6 tons of drilling fluid over the derek. this never happened before.
roughnecks were crawling, waited a moment and crawled back to clean up the mess and suddenly boulders and mud and oil started flying out until higgins, 50 barrels a day, 100,000 barrels, flank 150 feet into the air. that was called spindle talk, that was 1901, gateway to beaumont. >> the second -- >> got to get around the fact, he saw the injustice, he built a skyscraper on rust street and
learned the texas company to take care of their oil, rather than john d rockefeller, standard oil and gulf oil, humble oil, to houston, skyscrapers with nominal rent and that plus the shift channel made houston the world capital of energy. if you ask that kind of imagination and energy, has transformed texas and made it into what it is. >> in many different ways. i prefaced my second question, i'm a new yorker from new york and i have family there. i go there periodically. why in your opinion is there such animus on the coasts to us
here? >> i guess every texan has run into the stereotype. for me it is a little different than it is for you. when people say where you from and i say texas, i get that look, like saying you cheat on your taxes or something, how dare you. they press further and say i'm from austin and they say oh. forgivable. texans, john bainbridge had an interesting observation that americans look at texas the way the old world looks at the new. europeans would sneer at america, our bourgeois ways, mercantilism, all the course habits we have, you could trade
the language out for the way americans look at texas. you have a feeling of being usurped and the truth is texas is usurped so no wonder they are frightened by the change. >> i look forward to reading your book. >> i went to ask a follow-up question how you juggle these divers writing projects, the whole stack of index cards rising up to the ceiling, and many other characters join with them. are you seeking a little guilty pleasure writing on cleopatra? how are you juggling these diverse projects at the same time? >> i love working in these
venues. the first time i wrote a play roberta asked me not to do it until we are independently wealthy. it turns out i can't let go. i just love to get out. i imagined i would be a poet and i didn't know what the risks were in solo. the truth is i would rather read a newspaper than a poem so i don't know what i was thinking. i had the image of being a writer. i found in order to be a writer, i had to write something people wanted to read. since i didn't have anything to say, maybe i should become a reporter. i was young and it was perfect training to me.
eventually i started writing occasional movies and plays and i found it is all storytelling so they have that in common. movies and plays don't have any narrative. it is all themes and characters and i realized those are very powerful tools for any writer. so i try to import into my nonfiction scenes of characters, when i have a great scene i will report the scene, listen carefully as i would report anything else because setting the scene puts people there and characters make their hearts go out to the character. similarly when i am writing plays or movies, i take the research capabilities i have developed over the years and spend time researching elizabeth taylor and richard burton and interviewing people
who knew them and finding delicious parts of their personality and their experience. i wouldn't have been able to make up. it is cross-fertilization. >> i am a teacher and i would like to know what your wife taught and what she has taught you. what she has taught you. >> what she has taught me. oh my gosh. roberta, please stand up. [applause] >> roberta taught mix k-12. i will tell you a story about that. she was a teacher of the year, wonderful teacher, but when governor george bush decided to
start his reading program which began with no child left behind, it was decided they were going to do it in roberta's classroom. she was hesitant to do that because it was naptime, trouble ahead. because there was a lot of difference in the reading of the students, the principal insisted that she do it so she picked out some good readers. so the governor comes in followed by the news cameras and photographers for dallas morning news and roberta picked up some good readers but this one kid, real impish and cute kid crawls to get close to bush and the governor looks down and says hey, partner. the kid draws us in and bush's
laugh. he is really great with kids and charming and reading him a book, that is the cover of the dallas morning news and later that afternoon roberta sent the kid home with head lice. [laughter] >> i always wondered, you want to say something? all right. you ask what she taught me? a continual fact checker. roberta taught me a lot about being together. we have been married 48 years, thank you. we were married on the first floor moon in 1970 in athens, greece. we celebrate our anniversary every four months.
we had many anniversaries. >> i thought cleo was great. tell me the future of cleo. >> i don't know what the future of cleo is. we had a successful run, we had a great cast. last night was a sad night for me because i have been dreaming of the day this would play on the boards. but who knows? we would like to see it on the west end, to regional theaters around the country. theater is in some ways as hard as the movies. if you want to go to broadway you need to movie stars and we had movie stars interested in
this. you are paralyzed because you can't do anything with it until you act on that interest or become uninterested. i won't go through the list of movie stars that have done that to us but i would not mind having all the movie stars put in a bag and thrown in the ocean and start all over again with a more humble crew. >> it is absolutely wonderful. i have a quick question for you. i am not a native. species can you pull the mic done a little bit? >> i'm a native of colorado and i often wonder, some of my friends call houston the black hole, you come here for you years, we will be here a couple years longer. i was most proud of houston during katrina and it is exemplified daily in how we
accept strangers. what i can't rectify in my mind and i struggle with on a daily basis, the same town that puts more people to death than any other county or city in the world. there is this generosity of spirit but also a streak of meanness i have seen in county jail and other places. how do you see that reconciling itself? as somebody who studies the stage, do you think people like yourself and other artists can play a role in ushering in a new era where the spirit of generosity and openness becomes the dominant force, something that is there but there is a laziness to the sutherland? >> my feeling about my
relationship to texas, the personal way you put it. i wanted to add my voice because i'm a texan. i have feelings that may be way at odds with the political trends in this state and yet i have an opportunity to express myself and maybe create some awareness among other texans about where we are and it is especially true that we have to be conscious of the fact that we are going to lead the nation. it is inevitable. it is no wonder people are anxious when they look at texas because we are not educating our children, we spend less then 40 nights in 50 states and
how much we pay for students. it shows in the nation's report card which came out 3 weeks ago, we were 41st in fourth grade and 45th in eighth grade or vice versa. - the future of our state and our country and we are going to double in size by 2050. houston and dallas have 10 million people each by 2030, that is only 12 years away and look around. we can't keep up with infrastructure, supporting the population we have now but schools and bridges and water facilities, we have to prepare to become that leader and we are not and spending time talking about the bathroom bill when you can't finance your skills is in my opinion on texan. you are not meeting the
challenge. [applause] >> thank you also much. a round of applause for lawrence wright. [applause] >> as a reminder books will be signed out there where you entered. form a line against that wall over there. people will be coming around to get your names and getting your books ready, have a good evening, have a good night. [inaudible conversations] >> is look at some books being published this week.
look for these titles in bookstores this coming weekend watch for many of the auditors in the near future on booktv on c-span2. >> how do we fit into this? >> what makes us human? what makes us human is that emotional apparatus that drives all of our behavior, seeking as we do, rational means of achieving a goal. every minute of our lives. where did that come from? it came from the evolution of emotional centers and the massive cerebral memory capacity that we acquired in enabling those actions that were emotionally guided and
where do those come from? 1 million years of hunter gatherer life and our ancestors, ones that created humanity. history did not begin with the origin of literacy 6000 years ago. it did not begin with the origin of the neolithic. it began 1 million years ago with an existence that depended on intimate relation to the natural world and appreciation all of the natural world's quality is, love of the home in the natural world. deeply in our thinking, we
should turn to great satisfaction and imaginative power in the world that gave us that. >> pretty hard to adopt that. if you could give it a shot. >> ed also points out and i often tell my wife we only recently came inside. as an species we have been outside for millions of years. there is a deep spiritual connection to that. in my experience in the national parks, i could take any individual regardless of their socioeconomic ethnic background to the rim of the grand canyon or the high sierras to see the milky way or
to stand beneath the giant sequoias, and they are moved. there is something that happens to those individuals in those spaces. to honor terry who was so gracious to write the introduction to the book that gary and i have written, i want to read a little section from terry's introduction. terry has the extraordinary skill of writing a about our public lands and our parks and she has a deep spiritual side as well as she often drives from her experiences with native americans of our nation who often practice that spiritual connection. one conversation, said that
this is not a time for anger. it is a time for healing. our book is in waters, deserts, prairies, national parks and monuments, wildlife refuges and free-flowing rivers, lakes and oceans, common ground, our natural inheritance to be passed from one generation to the next. they are our sole geographies, the landscapes of our imaginations, seedbed of an ecological state of mind. we are not only inspired but healed by nature's sense of integrity, harmony and wholeness. each time i stand with needles overlooking the national park, in the midst of this vast landscape, carved and created through wind and water and time, i have the sensation of being very small and very large
at once. the navajo have a word for this kind of balance and beauty. we are one with the universe was without a spiritual dimension to our work as conservationists, we are only working for ourselves, not the future and certainly not for future generations of all species. ..scussion on immigration. [inaudible conversations] [laughter] >> i think we'll go ahead and start. good morning, everyone. >> good morning.go will come. we attendees to use the sessional-- social media. thank you for joining us and thank you to the san antonio public library a and the southwt to school of art and craftft for sharing their space with us