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tv   Book TV Encore Booknotes  CSPAN  April 16, 2011 6:00pm-7:00pm EDT

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guest on footnotes back in 1993 to talk about her book, "thinking out loud." in her book, she discusses her views through the special lens of her gender including commentary on issues like lying and violence. it's about an hour. . .quindlen, in your new book, "thinking out loud," you say that the -- i'm trying to look at the words here, that the best line in anything that's ever appeared under your byline, is could you get up and get me a beer without writing about it, question mark? who said that and why did you
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write it? >> my husband said it to me one night, and i must say it's so embarrassing to have this mindset about everything, that the moment that he finished that sentence, i said to him, can i use that? i just thought it was the best thing i had ever heard about what i do for a living, which is everything that becomes grist for the mill. >> how much have you told the public in your columns in the past about your private and personal life? >> i have told them a fair amount about my kids. i think more than anyone else. except for myself. i have told them a whole lot about myself. and some about my husband and my friends, but in the op-ed page column, i have been writing for the last three years, i have scaled back on that a good bit. first of all, because my kids are older, and they can read now. second of all, because i wanted in this column to bring more reporting about the world to bear on my personal opinions and less reporting about my own life. >> talk about the fact that you are the third woman in history
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to have an op-ed column in the "new york times." who are the other two? >> anna mccormick, who wrote about foreign affairs, and claire lewis, who wrote about foreign affairs. flora, up until quite recently, several years ago. >> why does "the new york times" only have one woman? >> that's a very good question. the answer is that i hope in the foreseeable future, we'll is are more than one, but so far, it's only me. i'd like to see us have three or four women writing on the op-ed page. it's not just us. i mean, i mentioned in the book at some point that at one point, ways at a gathering of editors from out of town papers. one of them said to me without a hint of thinking, he was saying anything, i'd love to run your column, but we already run ellen goodman. clearly, the idea was they
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filled the woman's seat. there's a woman's seat on the supreme court, there's a woman's seat on the op-ed page. that's got to stop. the idea that you need one woman columnist, one black columnist and everybody else can be liberal or conservative white men. >> what when does your column appear? >> wednesdays and sundays in the "times" and in papers across the country, a variety of days depending on what the op-ed editor wants to do. >> do you have any idea how many at this point? >> it's difficult to keep track of them because of our syndication system. at least over 100. with the list of names we have developed, we think there's just about right. >> is there another city where you find yourself more popular than others? >> chicago, i find there's a good reaction. chicago seems to be city that really loves its columnists. i mean, chicago and royco and clarence paige or bob green. they take columnists very much
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to their heart. i ran there when i was writing a column once a week called "life in the 30's." so that by the time i started this column in the "chicago times" picked it up, it was probably the only city that i visited in which people would recognize me on the street. so, i feel pretty at home in chicago at this point. >> as i told you before we started now, this discussion started on my way here. everybody kept telling me, i saw anna quindlen on television. some people had it on 20-20, and some people had 2 on prime time live. this was recorded for our audience weeks before we go on the air. what's going on with anna quindlen. what's going on with prime time television? >> i think it's the book. i try to keep a low protile about things like that. i have been asked to be on television a fair amount. first of all, i don't have a lot of free time because any time that i'm not working on the column, i'm usually with my kids. and second of all, i sort of
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don't like the idea of dissipating the energy that i bring to writing the column in talking about how i feel about issues beforehand. but because of having the book published, there was a certain interest in doing this, and so i agreed to this, but it was pretty tense. the magazine showcase just because they followed me for a long time, and i gab to feel like like i was going to spend the rest of my life with the battery pack in the pocket of my coat. >> when did they start following you. >> i guess it was three or four weeks ago, and they were with me for days and days when i did reporting, they went with me to a family planning clinic, and when i won an award and i went to talk to high school students, and when i went into the office, and so on and so forth. >> what was your reaction of people around you, as you had a camera following you everywhere? >> it was really funny, because
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people couldn't quite figure out. why, here is this ordinary looking woman in a raincoat, reading a newspaper on the train and how come there's a camera girl around her? inevitably, they would say, what's going on here and some woman would tell them who i was, and they would either look even more puzzled and walk on or a couple of women would walk into the frame and say, i love your column. i never miss it, which is always a great feeling. >> what was the experience like after you were able to see the piece when it was done? >> well, it was strange. i mean, i feel a little self-conscious about seeing myself on television. it always gives to me new meaning to the phrase, "warts and all." i'm always looking for the "and all." i actually thought it was a very nice piece, and that they captured something about how i try to balance my personal and my public life. >> did you change your personality at all at any point
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when you knew you were on television? >> i don't think so. i felt a little inhibited in terms of saying things. of course, i cleaned up my mouth a little bit. no, i mean, after a while, i think the dangerous thing was that i got used to wearing that mic and that battery pack and just went on my merry way, but i don't feel like i changed my personality much. >> this book, "thinking out loud the personal, the political, the public and private has how many columns of yours? >> i think it's 87. 87 or 8. close to 100. it has a new long section that i wrote especially for this book about being a woman growing up in the newspaper business, and then four essays that begin each of the sections of the book. >> and who chose the columns? >> i did. >> over what time span. >> the columns ran over about two-and-a-half years, and i just
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picked whatever i liked. >> why do you think something like this sells? >> well, you know, i feel sort of funny about pulling together collections of my columns because i think, you will did this. when i was publishing my novel, "object lessons," i felt this is a brand new thing and i'm sort of entitled, but readers tell me over and over again they like it because they have clipped these things out and save them and they turn this horrible orange color and start to fall apart after a couple of months or so, and second of all, because putting them together was like ---with like-minded columns gives them a way of looking at the issue this they didn't quite have when i did one abortion column in february and another one in april, and another one in july, and another one in november. so that what i found was the first collection i did, which was a collection of my life in the 30's columns was that people
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really, really liked having them together all in one place. >> where did you grow snup >> philadelphia. >> where in philadelphia? >> the philadelphia suburbs in a place called drexel hill. >> what did your parents do. are they still alive, by the way? >> my mother died 21 years ago. my father is a management consultant. as he described it to me when i was a little girl, he's a doctor for sick companies. >> does he still live there. >> no. he lives in new jersey. >> my prors and sisters >> i have three brothers and a sister who is 1 years younger than i am. >> when you were growing up, what were the influences in your life? >> the biggest influence has to be from a catholic church. i'm from a very large, strauling irish catholic family that was very involved in its own ethnicity. i mean it, was inkred tobl me when i got to college and found out there were people who didn't know exactly where their families had come from and feel
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that meant exactly something about them, and the church was such a huge influence in all of ur lives. i went to catholic school for ten years. that i would say that that was the single biggest influence other than my mom and dad. >> what kind of influence did it have on you? >> i think a way of looking at the world >> in an odd way, i think i'm a liberal because i was raised catholic with the sense that you had to be fair to other people and you had to help take care of people who were less fortunate than you were, and that everyone was sort of your neighbor, and you had an affirmative responsibility toward them. i think that sense of family and community that grew out of knowing that we were all part of this together, and that we were related by religion. >> where did you go to college? >> i went to barnard, the women's college of columbia
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university. >> what did you study in >> i was an english literature major? >> why? >> the idea of getting to read for four years. if i could do that now, just read it's just my favorite thing in the whole world to do. and i'm always finding writers that i missed either because of my concentration, which tended to be on certain writers. i'm a very big dickens fan. dy all of the studying of dickens work that i could do in college. but a couple of years ago, i realized that i had never read trollop. that seemed to be a good gap in my education. over the last two years, i have been engaged in reading the series of trollop. right now, i'm in the middle of the last book. the idea of be able to study fiction just to me is heaven. >> who got you interested in reading and english? >> i don't know.
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i just remember always taking a lot of pleasure out of reading. i -- i was a fanciful little girl. the opportunity to go other places and meet other people just by sitting in the big chair in our living room and burrowing down into a book. i mean, i remember unceasing efforts on my mother's part to get me to go outside and play because it was a beautiful day. it never did a bit of good when i was inside with a good book. >> what did do you after college? >> actually, during college i was working part-time during summers and holidays for the new york post, which was then run by a woman named dorothy chef. i had a wonderful time there, and learned so much, since i knew almost nothing about my business. so, for the two years after i graduated from barnard, i continued to work the at post. >> what did do you there? >> i was a general assignment reporter in new york city. i covered anything that came down the pike from celebrity
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interviews to police commission hearings, to city hall to fifth avenue. and really i learned a lot about the city, about writing. it was a place where we were really urged to bring bright writing to newspaper stories. it really set me up, i think r, for the rest of my career. >> what year did you get out of college? >> 1974. >> >> you have been in new york city for the last 18, 19 years. >> in 1970 to go to college, so, yeah, i guess 22, 23 years, something like that. >> when you think about those days at the "new york post" and stories that you have offered, do it have memories? name a couple. >> oh, gosh. i remember coming in the first hears that became so famous about corruption in the nursing home system in new york city and how badly elderly people were
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treated, which made a huge impression on me. i remember doing a profile of sean connery and not being able to get a word out of him for almost the entire interview and then going back and rewinding my tape and opening the tape recorder and finding out that there was less than that on the tape, and having to write a piece about how monosill lapic he had been and how overwhelmed by his sex appeal i had been. i remember recovering jerry brown during the 1976 primary race, which was a great introduction to the craziness of politics for me. and just, your run of the mill murders and mayhem in new york. and just learning how to get around, learning how to deal, and learning how helple my colleagues could be. it's funny. i still work with people in new york city who first worked with me when i was 19 or 20 years old
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and you really remember the guys who said you to, did you get that quote? were you here the last time you did this, because the guys who didn't ever say overtly, look, kid, you're out of your league, but who helped you out over and over again. >> are you surprised at what you are doing today? >> i don't feel that way now, but i feel like if i could have looked ahead ten years ago, i would be flabbergasted at the idea that i would be doing an op-ed page column, but now because i have done two other columns for the "time"s, a column called "about new york," and "life in the 30's," i feel like it's a natural progression. i am still delighted by what i'm doing today. >> how long did you work for the "new york post"? >> i was there after college for two, two-and-a-half years. then in 1977, i went to the "times." >> when did you meet your
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husband? >> in 1907. >> where. >> our freshman year in college. he was a columbia and i was at barnard. >> what's his name >> jerry kurvati inch >> what does he do? >> a very good trial attorney. >> how did you meet him? >> somebody sort of actually fixed us up. a guy from oregon that we both knew realized that we were both from new jersey and thought this was an amazing coincidence, not understanding that at columbia, about half the students were from new jersey. he brought us together and sort of, i never looked back. >> and did you -- do you both agree on politics? >> we agree a lot on politics. i think my husband is more pragmatic than i am. and more hard-headed. certainly, more conservative, but not much. i think overall, we find ourselves in considerable agreement about things. >> you mentioned earlier you're a liberal. >> oh, yeah. >> what does that mean?
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>> it mean that i don't yearn for the way things were, and i don't honor the status quo. i'm always looking at how things can be. >> if you were to pick, let's just for the fun of it pick five different subjects that -- and talk about what it is to be a liberal in those subjects. let's take -- you write about it in your columns, the gulf war. if you are a liberal, where would you have stood on the gulf war. >> i was opposed to the gulf war and i thought that that was in some sense a classic liberal position because we didn't have -- i didn't think we have a real good reason for going in when we did. and i thought we were being somewhat misleading about those reasons from the get-go. the idea of liberating kuwait never seemed to me to be really what was going on, and it took us some months before we finally admitted that we were really concerned about american oil supplies. >> did you know any liberals that were for it? >> oh, yeah.
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sure in fact, i think probably more than any other issue that i have written about in the three years that i have been an op-ed page columnist, there were -- the majority of people on both sides of the ideological fence who wound up across the table from me on that one. i mean, there was this hard core conservatives who were opposed to intervention in the gulf war, too, but overwhelmingly, the conservatives i knew and most of the liberals thought that on balance, we should send in the troops. >> i don't know where i marked it in here, but in some place on one of the columns on the gulf war, you predicted without -- without hesitation, that george bush was going to be re-elected in 1992. >> and that he ran with colin powell it, would be the largest landslide in american history. yes, i have that column on my bulletin board to remind me about the sin of hubris. >> is that why you put it in the book? >> that's not why i put it in
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the book. i put it in the book because it was a column that had many other things in it. it's useful to know when people have said things that they shouldn't have said because they thought they were taking the long view. only the long view in america only lasts about 60 to 90 days. >> you write a lot about abortion? >> yes. >> what's the liberal position on abortion. i think it is that that's a matter of individual choice and personal liberty. >> do still practice catholicism >> yes, i do. >> how do you get along with your view of abortion in the church now? >> i don't think of myself as having a relationship with the institutional church, that is the hierarchy, but in terms of my own conscience and my ability to feel confident about taking the sacraments and my relationship with god, i don't have any problem with that. >> as a liberal, what do you think of bill clinton? >> as a liberal, i like lots of
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what bill clinton has done so far. but i worry when he seems to be too worried about making everyone like him. without exception. so that i was saddened by his decision to do with the haitian refugees exactly what the bush administration had done, which is send them back home without giving them a fair hearing on political asylum, and i think he needs to press harder on removing the hiv exclusion for immigrants and refugees coming to this country, but on abortion certainly, i think he's done very, very well since he has been president and very non-hysterionic and matter of fact sort of way. on his economic plan, i think he has really succeeded in focusing the attention of the country on deficit reduction. now he's going to have to come
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up with larger spending cuts to go with the focus. >> is he a liberal? >> yes. as liberal as i am, no. >> other than what you just mentioned, how would you -- i mean, what's the difference? >> i think every indication about governor clinton was that he can be extremely pragmatic, and that sometimes he is willing to shave a little bit off the principle and to do what works. he's also not been -- not carrying out the death penalty in arkansas, and we part company in a major way there. i think probably because of the job i do. i have a luxury of being in a little more of an ivory tower liberal than he gets to be. >> on race, what does it mean to be liberal? >> on race, i think when it means to be human is that you are just fair to everybody, regardless of the circumstances under which they were born and
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the attributes they have. but i think what it means to be liberal is that you understand that there is an unmistakable synergy between race and poverty in this country, and therefore. the things that come with poverty deinvolve on disproportionately on african-americans and latinos. and it's important for government to take that particular bull by the horns in terms of social services, in terms of schools, and in terms of how it handles all aspects of crime prevention, and the poor neighborhoods in which crime is disproportionately played out and in which it's disproportionately black people who are the victims. >> on health care, what's it mean to be liberal? >> i think means that you believe there should be a national health care policy that provides some reasonable level of health insurance for all of our citizens. >> are most columnists in this
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country in newspaper liberal or conservative. >> i think many more are liberal than conservative. when you talk to people trying to decide what syndicated columnist to put on their page. they will tell you they have a much easier time finding liberal men than they do finding conservative men, women, or black columnists. in fact, someone only half in jest asked me one day if i knew of anyone writing in the united states who was a conservative, african-american woman columnist and i had to tell them that i didn't, and i was not sure i would, because people generally don't act against self-interests. >> what's the difference between the way you write almost every week and your couple of columns and the editorial position of the "new york times"? >> well, first of all, the editorial position of the "new york times" relies a good deal on conversation and consensus. i was saying today that i wished there was a better way to let the readers know how we do what
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we do, because it's really fascinating. i mean, they get these 10 or 12 people around a big table and some of them know everything about certain subjects, and they bat ideas back and forth. there's a great deal of disagreement, and a great deal of two cents thrown in, and out of this we cobble together a series of editorials every day which are then looked over and refined by the editorial page editor. so it's much more of a collaborative process whereas what i do is very much, you know the sound of one woman clapping, was it were. dmplts you sit on the editorial board? >> no, i don't. >> do you sit in on the meetings? >> i can, if i want to, but i haven't for a while. i did for the first few months that i was writing my column, and i'm welcome to drop in any time, but in general, i don't. >> if you weren't a woman, would you be a columnist for "the new york times," in your opinion? >> i don't know the answer to that.
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i think there's many jobs that i held at the "times" for which i was moved forward quite quickly because there was inadequate representation by women in a particular area. and that one job led to another and led to another and led to another. given my background and given the other things that i have done at the paper, it wasn't really going too far afield for the publisher to offer me an op-ed page column, but one job after another was a job in which i was the first woman, and i think in a comparatively young age, and i'm not sure that would have happened if it hadn't been for gender. >> you went to the "times" in 1977, "the new york times"? >> yes. >> how did it progress to the time that you got your column? >> i started out as a general assignment reporter, just covering whatever came up that day, which is a terrific job. then in -- i guess it was in 1978, i have a hard time keeping
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track of it, i covered the first two years of the koch administration down at city hall. then when i came back up to work in the office again, i was given a column to write called "about new york," which is an old traditional column at "the new york times" in which you write twice a week -- a reporting column in which you write twice a week about anything that you care to in new york city. i left that column because i became deputy metropolitan editor of the paper because in the space of about two years, i had two children, who were quite close in age, and i felt that it would be impossible for me to have a full-time job at the paper, and still spend as much time ace wanted with my children. i felt like i would be missing all of good stuff at home, so six months after our second son was born, abe rosenthal asked me if i wanted to do a once a week column to keep my hand in, and
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that was the column called, "life in the 30's." i did that for three years, and ended that because i gave birth to now our third child. there's a pattern emerging here. and when i was deciding to leave the paper at that point, because i thought i had sort of topped out, the publisher offered me the op-ed page column. >> could you still write a column about "life in the 30's." >> no, obviously couldn't. >> how old are your children? >> they're nine, seven and four. >> their gender. >> two sons, a nine-year-old, a seven-year-old and a daughter. >> ho do you and your husband do it now? what kind of a day do you have? >> we have a baby-sitter who comes in every day at about 9:00. i take the three children to school first thing in the morning, and then i'm usually back home by quarter until 9, 9:00, which is when the sitter gets there. i usually work pretty much non-stop from 9:00 until 3 30k
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or 4:00. sometimes elaine picks the kids up and sometimes i do. usually i knock off and be with them from 4:00 until 8:00 or 8:30 and when they head to bed. certain evenings i work for another hour or two, and sometimes three and other evenings i'll just sort of collapse and read. since my husband is so often trying cases, he works much longer hours than that, and so he spends less time with the kid during the week, although both of us sort of have an inviolate weekend time. i don't do any work related thing, other than to go over the column with the capy editor and from 5:00 friday afternoon and the sunday morning. >> i'm not looking for the address, but where do you live? >> in hoe beckon. right across the river from manhattan. >> how often do you go to the
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"new york times"? >> i go in once every two weeks to look over my mail and see what my assistant thinks i need to take care of over the long term. but i do an enormous amount of business by modem on the commuter. i can get the wires now on my computer at home, and send memos back and forth to various people in the office, and so the technology has freed me up to spend most of my work time in my home office. >> how many words do you write for each column. >> about 760, 770, depending on how long the words are, and they're there a little more or little less space that day. >> who has the last word on what goes in the column? >> i do. no one except for the copy editor, who generally handles things like pank wags or length sees our columns until they actually go in the paper, so there's no veto power by anyone except for your own good sense and judgment. we even write our own headlines for our columns. >> you do. >> yeah, which should be clear
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you to if you read mr. safire's headlines. he's sort of famous for pushing to the limit the pun-ability. i remember, he wrote one not too long ago about paul song gas. it was about the womanizing question, the bad conduct -- no, the womanizing question, something es, and paul tsongas, and it was called, wine, women and tsong. i almost called him and said, all right, you win this year. >> what about your column, though, that goes out beyond "the new york times"? do you also write those headlines? >> they do that themselves, but the "times" ones, what you see on the times op-ed page, we have done the headlines ourselfs? >> how long has that been a tradition? >> as long ace know. i have to tell you, i have never been blindsided in my life as when i filed my first column and after i filed it with the copy editor called me and said, what's your headline. wait a minute, i don't write
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headlines, editors write headlines. once i got used to it, i got to really like it. what about the people that write op-ed pieces. >> no., they don't. it's just us. the feel is that we're so completely independent that every step of the product ought to belong to us. >> how many columnists are there that write legly for "the new york times"? >> there's six of us now. we're short one since mr. wicker retired in january. >> and if you were to try to define what it takes to get to be a columnist for "the new york times," what would go into that package? >> well, i certainly think that it's helpful this f. you have -- helpful if you have a good deem of reporting experience, and a career in the newspaper business but mr. safire proves that that's not necessary because before he came to us, he worked for richard nixon. i think the most important thing a columnist really needs is a clear advice -- voice and
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identifiable way of speaking to the readers, and looking at the world, and a real ability -- not necessarily to take lemons and make lemonade, but sometimes to take a little bit of string from here and a little bit of string from there and to weave them all together into whole cloth. it's quite a different skill than being a really good reporter or really good writer, because of the self-starting aspect of it. i mean no, one calls you on a monday morning and says for wednesday, do a column about this, and for sunday, do a column about that. it all has to come from whatever motivates you. >> who do you talk to when you want to talk to somebody about ideas? >> i talk to my friends a lot. i have at lot of friends in the business who are reporters. i tend to talk to them almost every morning about what's going nont news. about things that we have heard, and read, that kind of a thing. i am forever picking the brains
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of our reporters. who are absolutely great about it. you know, i mean, if i want to write something about the supreme court selection process, i think i just get linda greenhouse on the phone so fast because she knows so much, and she is so smart about the issues surrounding her beat, that i could never go wrong, you know. if i want to write about the homeless or child welfare policy in new york city, i call celia douger who covers that for us. she has a million different contacts right on the tips of her fingers. i mean, given ow good our staff is, there's 100 terrific brains to pick. >> is there somebody, either a friend or somebody that you work with that always calls you the day that the column hits the street and reacts to what you have written? >> yeah. my best friend will do that. my husband does that most of the time.
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maybe not first thing in the morning because he knows i'm a little fragile sometimes first thing in the morning. >> what does that word mean? >> well, after having written all day tuesday and gotten into a lather about something, i'm usually a little -- still head-up about the subject. i don't want that hear about what i did wrong with it, if i did. it's usually over dinner wednesday morning that jerry will say that you made a good point in the column about clinton, but i don't think that you took into account x, y or z. i may still get sort of -- you know -- chin up about that, but i hear it more at dinnertime than i do in the morning. but my best friend, janet maslin a film critic at "the new york times" is someone who weighs in with me practically every time you i write, practically every morning. >> what do they say you to that is the most helpful. when do you know that you have hit it, and when do you know that you have missed it >> when i say -- when i know i
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have is hit it, my boy, did you hit it on that one. my husband will say, boy, good column today. he's sparing enough. he's a harsh enough judge that i know that i hit it when he says that. and i don't know as often when i have missed it, except that sometimes there will be a somewhat deafening silence about the larger point of the column. sometimes someone will say to me gee, you know, it was a good analogy that you used. and then i think, but what about the whole thing? but oftentimes, if i have missed it, i know i have missed it. and then in a couple of days, the readers tell you. i mean, if you have written something that's particularly effective, even given the fact that you hear much more often about people who don't like the column than people who like it, if you have really hit it out of the park, the readers will write in to you and say, boy, you know i really like your column, but
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that one -- that's a wonderful feeling. >> what do you notice happening to you wlrx you are through years plus into this column? television exposure, prime time live and all of that. people want you to come speak to them? >> i give usually one or two speeches a month, but i like that as much for what i learn as i do for me giving a speech because, you know, in terms of the questions that get asked or the things that people come up to me and say afterwards, you can get a real good sense of what america is thinking. when the campaign was going on and i was out givening speeches, a lot of times, you know, i got as good material from the audience in terms of future columns as they ever got from me. >> where do you think you get -- what's the best source for you on columns? >> page one of the newspaper. a lot of times. i mean, a lot of times, you just write off the news because what's happening is the only game in town.
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i mean, there will come a day in the next couple of weeks, months whatever when there will be some sort of decision about gays in the military, and for at least a couple dave, all anybody will be talking about is that decision. actually, you know, for the last several months, you could have written about that at any time because it's so much in the air. during something like the anita hill testimony before the judiciary commitee, you couldn't not write about that story. it was all anybody was thinking about. so, frequently, you get it from the news, but some of it is learning how to read the news and how to bring together despair rat parts. i mean, recently i wrote about the lakewood high school spur posse, the guys who were keeping track of how many girls in their school they had gone to bed with as a measure of sort of their gang worth, and it seemed obvious to me to put that
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together with the case in glenridge, new jersey, of high school athletes who were convicted of having sexually assaulted a neighborhood retarded girl so that sometimes something will seem like a good idea for a column, but it gets to be a much better idea if after a week or two better idea week or two there are two or three other things that can make the same point in tandem with that. host: did you believe everything anita hill said? guest: i believed most of what anita hill said. yes. host: most. what didn't you believe? guest: sometimes i thought she might have been confused about times and dates, about what she said to people when. which i think is perfectly natural given the amount of time elapsed between the events and the time she was testifying and the enormous stress she was under. but i found the central
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accusations that she leveled against him rather credible. it's not an exact science. i mean, sometimes people say to me, how did you know? i guess i knew in the same way that sitting in the jury room or it ising in a courtroom hearing two sitting in a courtroom you decide one person is telling the truth and one person isn't. host: did you believe anything clarence thomas said? guest: i believed a lot of what charns thomas said, but not about his relationship with anita hill, particularly. although i think he certainly may have thought their relationship was considerably different than she did. it is not uncommon for people who get into this kind of situation to see it very differently, depending on who is in the power position who is not, who is saying what to who. host: on the back of your book
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alice hoffman said, anna quindlen is a national treasure. did you pick that guest: no. i think it is nice. i have taken a lot of ribbing about being a national treasure. host: who is she? guest: a novelist who writes wonderful books. host: why have you taken a lot of ribbing. guest: well, my husband says, how is the national treasure this morning host: new york magazine says you can are the laureate of real life. guest: yeah. host: do you like that one? guest: it is sort of strange to have people see you in that way, particularly if you spent your whole life who has seen things written like that about other people and gives them credence or dismisses them. i continue to be very
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uncomfortable on the wrong side of the notebook. host: your own newspaper is saying, anna quindlen's column is a twice weekly argument that arguments have an impact on citizens. guest: i like that description. they wrote that when i won the pulser last year. that is a -- pulitzer last year. that is a nice way of describing what i do when i'm at my best. host: who is susan isaacs. guest: a fiction writer. host: and she says, what a writer. guest: that's a nice feeling. it is a nice feeling for people to feel you are doing it well. 95% of your life is spent in front of the computer screen thinking is anybody reading this stuff host: how do you know when people are reading?
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guest: the volume of mail. host: what is the biggest volume? guest: i think during the anita hill testimony we got a huge volume of mail. there are certain issues that will set certain people off. i get -- i still get a lot of mail on abortion and i get a lot of mail on gay rights. host: can you think of a cull um that you were excited about that landed like a big thud? guest: oh, yeah. there have been columns i was really pleased with and we got two or three letters saying they were good. the columns i can think of when i reread them i still felt that way. the first part of this back is the old block, a place where my father grew up in old philadelphia, an impoverished
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neighborhood. it is burned out and boarded up, the house where he and his sisters and brothers grew up. i loved that column. i just felt like, you know, i really hit it right on the writing. nobody else much seemed to care, but i still like it. host: what kind of schools do you have your kids in guest: my kids go to private school in new york city. host: why do you have them in private? guest: the public schools we didn't were as good as they could be. the private schools in new york were so wonderful that we didn't hesitate for a moment. i'm largely the product of private schools. unlike my friends who say i went to public school and i want my kid to go to public school. i feel i did well in private schools. they were what they tend to be now, consumer responsive. the parents can effect change and have the school mirror their hopes and dreams for
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their kids' education. the problem is our public school ought to be consumer responsive, too. we wanted what we thought was the best school for our kids. it happened to be a private school. host: what is the liberal position on choice in the public schools? guest: i think school choice is sort of a scam, to be perfectly honest with you. because the people who know how to play the system overwhelmingly the middle class, will know how to play the system in terms of finding the right school and getting their kids where it is best for them. the people who always get left out in the cold, in my opinion, the poor, are still going to be left out in the cold. their neighborhood schools aren't going to get any better because maybe people will say nobody chose that one. and meantime, schools that are magnet schools or that are in
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more well-to-do neighborhoods that people pick out for their children are going to, i think, thrive because you are going to have parents who are highly motivated who send their kids there. i think there ought to be a choice. every parent ought to push for a choice for a school in their neighborhood that is a fine school for their kid. we have to start with the schools in poor neighborhoods which are letting so many kids down. host: how old were you when you started writing this column? guest: i was 37. host: is that the youngest person? guest: russell baker started when he was 37. we never figured out which was youngest in the time. it makes me feel in excellent company. host: can you see yourself writing a column 30 years from now? guest: no. i can't. in my case i don't think it would serve me or serve the
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reader. i feel like sometimes columnists outstay their welcome. i want to be as fresh and as passionate and as on top of my form when i write my last column as i was when i wrote my first one. so i can't imagine that i can last that long. host: what else do you want to do in this profession? guest: i don't know the answer to that. i mean, i love writing fiction. i love writing novels. ki see doing that full time, boy, newspapers have always made my heart go thump, thump, thump. it is hard to think about giving those up. i can't go to being a street reporter. it would be real hard to ask the readers to accept me as a third person objective again. i don't know what comes next. host: your kids getting training in reading a newspaper? guest: yes. my kids are pretty good about
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that. although my oldest has developed a certain reputation in current events. they have to take a story out every week and tell the whole class about it. on grandparents day, all the grandparents were treated to an explication by my eldest son of marla maples pregnancy, which the teacher thought was perfectly all of one piece with his previous performance, which have included two stories about amy fisher. if he winds up in my business i'm afraid he is going to end up on a tabloid paper. host: you haven't had any influence? guest: i don't know about that. i have had considerable influence on imhim. i would have urged him to pick something more nuzie. host: you write about mcnamara and whitewater.
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>> there was a piece about atwater in life magazine when he was six, maybe six months before he died. the pictures were dreadful to look at because from the therapy from his brain tumor he was so bloated he wasn't even recognizable. in the course of the piece he expressed really profound regret about some of the tactics h had used to get candidates elected. he talked about how he wants to apologize to michael dukakis. he said sometimes when his little daughters wanted to get his attention they would pretend to interview him for television. "time" magazine had an interview with mcnamara who expressed proregret about the course of the vietnam war. when he was asked who really knew him that he couldn't answer that question. that he couldn't say that his
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children did. that was a hard thing to have to admit. it was a combination of the deep regrets about personal decisions that had ir revocably shaped public policy and the sense on the part of both men they had missed out with their own children seemed so compelling. and to say something about how macho can lee you cold and lonely after your days of power and influence are done. host: when you look ahead, what do you see in this country? guest: oh, gosh that is a tough question. i'm always amazed at the ability of americans to bounce back from almost anything. and on a micro level to do the right thing. you know, so often we look at
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the macro level at which people are calling in saying, you know, that gay people shouldn't be allowed in the military. they should be taken out and shot or that, you know, hillary ought to get back in the kitchen. although, in fact the polls are showing great approval for mrs. clinton's performance. i feel that way about how she's done. but on a microlevel on their own communities you see how people take care of each other and worry about each other. when i travel around america i always come back optimistic about the future because i feel that so many of the people i meet are basically good at heart. and still really want to hang a welcome sign out in this country, despite all the things we hear to the contrary. host: is this country better or worse than it was when you got to new york in 1970?
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guest: in some ways it is much, much worse. for people who live in the cities. for the poor. for people trying to make due on just one income. for people who want upward mobility for their children, which really seems like an impossibility. i got to the city in 1970 and overall since then things have become much, much better for women. a profound change in a lot of ways that is directly affected the course of my life. i mean, so many of the things we were arguing about as possible for women then in a way that made us seem like creased radicals are now taken for granted in america today there is nothing strange about a woman in the pulpit. there is nothing strange about a woman in the precinct house. there is nothing strange about a little girl pitching in
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little league. nothing strange about women in the senate and hopefully there will be more and more of them all the time. things have changed greatly for the better for women in this country, but some things in this country are clearly much, much tougher than 20 some years ago. host: in your lifetime will you ever see a women editor of "the new york times"? guest: executive editor, the whole sh mere? maybe. host: what is it going to take. guest: the right woman. host: is there one at the paper now? guest: i'm not entirely sure. there are any number of people i know who would be good candidates and certainly as goods the male candidates. but it's always a -- it's an odd combination of being in the right place at the right time whenever the right time happens to be and being the right person for the job. i think at any given time there are maybe half a dozen people
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who could run "the new york times" well. it depends on what the paper needs at any particular point in time. but i certainly think it is coming soon. i don't know how soon. host: in the event that somebody is watching this and saying, what is the big deal about having a col numb "the new york times." they don't live in new york. they don't read it. what would you tell them? guest: well, that millions of people read you every time you appear. that some of them are people who are in a position to change some of the injustices that you're writing about. that some of them are people in a position to give money to some of the good causes that you write about. and that maybe you can affect the national discourse by changing or just moving a little bit along the way we talk about certain key issues.
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host: anybody important ever call you on the phone after one of these columns come out? guest: members of the senator will call me from time to time because the column is something they are keenly interested in. writers and foundation heads, feel like that. people -- lots of those people will write to me. i remember one day my assistant called me and she was very, very excited. she said paul simon wrote you a letter. paul simon really liked your column. i said that is great. we hung up. i called her back and said the singer or the senator? it was the senator. host: at the very end of your book in one of these columns you write that she gave me my anger back. who is the she. guest: my daughter. it is a column i wrote for maria's second birthday. host: why did you want your anger back?
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guest: because i think when you first experience sex discrimination and when you first understand that in many ways things are tougher in the world for women than for many men, you learn how to deal. i mean, either that or you can walk around incredibly angry and not particularly useful all the time. and so i got used to some of the way things was. it was the equivalent in the office of picking your fights in terms of somebody who might make an inappropriate remark or say something sexist. but once i had this little girl who was incredibly feisty and incredibly strong willed and incredibly smart i just thought i cannot pass along to her exactly the same world i got and say to her, oh, you know these bad things, you know date rape, and sexual arassment and the glass ceiling. don't worry. you'll get used to them as time
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goes by. i just love her so much and i want her to have so many good opportunities open for her that all over again i looked at the world and said, you can't do this to my daughter. host: how old is she? guest: she is 4 now. host: how is she doing? guest: i tell you, she could either manage the yankees or run the white house or -- she's just an incredibly strong willed and feisty little girl. i have a lot of admiration for her. i want to do my best to see she hangs to that sense that she's a pretty important person. host: does she read your column? guest: no. but she is in the stage where she pretends to be able to read. host: here is the cover of the book. a group
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>> alex kershaw's lay the book is "the envoy." mr. kershaw, who is "the envoy"? >> some people say that he saved 100,000 lives neared the end of the second world war. he became -- there are only two ornery americans, winston churchill and raul wallenberg. reagan made him an honorary american to recognize the fact that he saved over 100,000 lives which today some people say is
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1 million. so you have one guy who went up against the greatest evil of modern times and the result is that there are 1 million people alive today, who would not be. >> how did he do that? >> he was very clever. he used, he bribed, he cajoled, he did whatever he could as a swedish diplomat in hungary in 1944 to try and stop adolph eichmann from killing the last of europe. in 1944 there was only one country where you had any jewish left alive and that was hungary. eichmann went into hungary and early 1944 on a mission to kill the last jews of europe. wallenberg was sent there funded by the americans on behalf of roosevelt and managed to save over 100,000. so, it is an inspiring story. his story about how one person can make a huge difference. >> how did his life and? >> we don't really know.
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there's a big question and a good question. the russians still to this day won't say exactly what happened to him. many people believed that he was killed by the russians, shot by the and kb in 1947 but there is note definite. the russians to this day won't reveal all that they know about his fate and the question is still open. the fate of the holocaust's greatest heroes are yet to be decided. >> why did the russians have it out for him? >> a good question. he was taken into russian custody in january 1945 as were many many people caught up in the soviet advance as they swept into eastern europe. he was one of many diplomats taken into custody, many people in the russians basically wanted to use him. they said to him look, you work for us as a spy, go back to sweden and work for us and you can live


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