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tv   Cities Tour New Orleans Louisiana  CSPAN  July 6, 2018 6:36pm-8:01pm EDT

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>> book tv wants to know what you are reading. send us the summer reading book tva twitter at or instagram at book post it totv or the facebook page, tv. book tv on c-span2 sell vision for a serious reader. next, a book tv exclusive. city's tour visits into or leans, louise man. to learn more about the literarystory and life, for seven years now we traveled to u.s. cities bringing the book scene to our viewers. you can watch more of our tour. 88888888888888888888888888888888 8888888888888888888888♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪
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>> welcome to new orleans, located in southeastern louisiana along the mississippi river. the city was founded by the french in 1718 and later stole the u.s. government in 1803. major portame the city during the atlantic slave trade and was the largest slave market in the country. today it has a population of and 340,000 people visited around 10 million tourists per year. with the help of our communications cable partners for the next 90 minutes, we'll feature the city's literary community. we gin with a visit to authenticity a to learn about
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the hest riff view doo in new orleans. >> people assume, on the scholars, that history of orleans is as old as slavery in new orleans equate they enslaved population with the origins of voodoo in the city. best evidence we have of voodoo actually comes from writing about the prosecution of voodoo practitioners because voodoo criminalized for the majority of the history in earliest, and the reliable reports we found have to do with the black folksof practicing voodoo in the 18th century. now again, that doesn't tell the practice is like or if it resembles what we dice now or we knee people are being religious for practice that the authorities
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label as voodoo. does have ans history.have voodoo voodoo came to new orleans via the slave trade so the that were taken and brought here brought weditions with them and had slaves that were taken from different areas, so different spirits. people always wonder, they orleans voodoo the tradition of you a new eclectic. be there is a reason for that, because if you go to one area you will see how view doo ow this he tradition whatever they arele kag it in you will see how they are practicing it there. area, go to another you well see how they are practicing it there. then, you have new orleans which is this gumbo of people ofm all different parts
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after carve so we have many here.ent spirits 6:00 we have african spirit. whoave people like marie are just really in new orleans. some people have come to new orleans and love her so much, they have taken the honor of her and include them into the practice elsewhere, but marie is new orleans spirit. >> so marie la vo is probably famous voodoo queen in new other leans he is push ren the 16th century. argue still. she's, as far as we can tell, historically, she is african-american woman of racial decent so the breakdown of that is very, um, the research on still a little sketchy. she looks because
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like what people think women in mu orleans look like, supposedly fair distinctive kind of mixed race hair texture, people think of new orleans as space where interracial relationships are common and like that, looks or she is reported to have looked like that. photos, have any then she becomes the exemplar of not only voodoo in its practice but the way we read flies the practice of voodoo in new orleans. voodoo is viewed overwhelmingly with a negative lend end new orleans theory for almost entirety of the history and the 19thd of century. the negative stigma around voodoo is so pronounced when marie dies and they do obituaries for her, her out of the way
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to disassociate her from voodoo all together and won't to any practice and they identify her as devout want to and don't say anything or speak at all about voodoo. is characteristic of the way voodoo is treated for most of its history. during the 19th drin, before again, voodoo is criminalized for most of its history during the french colonialring the period it is criminalized under something called the where people are forbidden, especially black folk from practicing any religion that is not catholicism. after the french are xone, the americans come win the pretenses toward religious freedom, voodoo practitioners are practiced or are prosecuted because their practice involves gathering people together who should not be together peoplecally enslaved
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and free people of color who are not allowed to mix in certain spaces and certain numberses so voodoo gatherings are broken up and areoo practitioners jailed for mixing. after eman nation, and slavery is no longer an issue. areoo practitioners criminalized for breaking economic laws around fraud looked ats aare fleecing their clientele theuse obviously, authorities don't view the religious practice or the voodood power that practitioners claim to have as legitimate, and so anything they say that they money, the you a thirst view as fraud and so it has been criminalized for df rent reasons throughout history but for most of the history, it has been an equating of drew with crime. i have been practicing new voodoo for pretty much all my life. acan't really remember time that the spirits were
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not calling to me. consciouslythat maybe somewhere between seven to ten, i started to investigate the were in my grammar school library. with those,blem some of the older books is they are not practitioner lot oft wherein, so a what the person was seeing when they were describing a ritual, yes,doo they were witnessing a voodoo didn't but they understand a lot of the elements that they would see there. representation of a skull, they would assume that this was some kind of cult of death and instead of people honoring the ancestors. see a doll present with a pen they would assume it was to hurt someone instead of to heal someone. so the snake, they would assume it is a sign of evil of representing the
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spirit of wisdom and balance, so a lot of these older publiccations and books and articles that were contained write older books they it literally of what they are witnessing then they draw their own conclusions with no knowledge of what voodoo is really about. a lot of times when people come in to vau due authenticity a and i am sure shops they have some misconceptions. they will think that they are to buy a doll because they saw some movie where magician autoed a doll that they called the voodoo doll and really they were just doing black magic. they took the doll and stuck a pin in it. someone's leg break and one street over, one town the, one country over, truth about the way we use today and i believe the way most people
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were using them back in the as well was as a tool of healing. kind of like a spiritual acupuncture. imagine someone is having a heart issue the physical heart, a relationship went awry, they are hurting, they are having a heart spread assist themwill to send protective energy, healing energy to that region. the doll is a tool of madge k.ic so we're taking the doll. we are going to take let's hail, a nail clipping even a little it from the american we need to affect, so the person they had the heart attack. they had a break uptheir girlfriends. they want to feel better about it. whateverdition to else they are doing, that is healthy for them. we would take the doll, a hail and nail
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clippings place it inside of the doll and then use it. don't always use pins but if a pen was used it is to focus that healing end are of the doll. we will r using the doll to represent that person's body that person's energy. >> in the 16th century, the early decades of the american period, when american authorities are arresting voodoo practitionerrance gatherings with their most concerned with again is the social mixing of beple who should not together. african or free people of african-americans who are not slave mixing with slaves and mixing with white theps this that i found was most surprising when i started three search was that voodoo was not quite black as i thought it was. i thought of this as a very tradition, and it is una lot of respects, earliestrom the reports where we have documentary evidence the
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newspapers report there are always white folks there when the arrest happened so a lot of the problem that people have with voodoo is that pit crossing not only this class line between free and enslaved, but crossing this racial line, in a period when unacceptable especially to the newly american population that views the black white divide as a very polar kind of a thing. are beingwho arrested are almost always black even when white folks seem to bedon't jailed as far as the newspapers tell us. they mentioned newspaper arrestsabout the mentioned there are white folks there then completely gloss over that fact to get the corrupting influence of black people. whitewashing of white participation in voodoo practice has to do with this stigmatizing of all things the u.s. south, part
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sothe reason voodoo p.m.s americanized in this early becausetury is everybody has just accepted this cultural landscape where all things black, all things african are negative and so even voodoo practitioners who sworn into the american are having this notion of blackness as in future or ty so a lot of the charge view tu, aloft of the critiques of it have to do with the notion that voodoo is backward and voodoo isage and that the presence of voodoo degrades the local population specifically the local white population and african-americans don't want to be associated with voodoo practice for that same reason, so a lot of the persecution has to do with rationalizing of the tradition. there is some notion that it is sohe reason
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backward is because it is not christian, so that is too, since most voodoo practitioners are born a christiann space and think of themselves as christian. nothe slaves were allowed to rack is voodoo. they had catholicism forced they did so something pretty indeneas. the would substitute catholic saint for their spirit force let's say the slave master would come quarters andve see an alter set up and there would be a picture of the virgin mother while that fun and well, i would say, yev wince being good catholic. well, they may have been honoring another voodoo the catholic saint. that point, though, it has grown to be people kind of
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grew into the practice. beyond just masking using catholicism as a mask there were similarities in some of the pomp and circumstance and today like my godmother is haitian, mama she is responsible shade kneeing the haitian tradition of vau duism as priest. loves a haitian love and abundance and is represented think one of the aspects of the virgin mother in you pictures she also loves the virgin mother for herself. loves the catholic saint. she of los the haitian represented by the catholic saint at the same time and has combined them
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at the same time as honoring them both. is hard to understand it because i do the same thing. it is hard to understand unless you do it. saintu can love the and love and they can all identitiesown whether someone is themselves as a priestess they are still m corp operating some voodooof magic or into their life typically. sometimes they may not realize they are dict. orleans, for example, orll do something that is has nothing to do with cleaning. you will see people, older young people, cleaning their front porch steps with red bricks. that is not cleaning anything. that is a spiritual protection.
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keeping out anybody, anything negative. we still use it today. they don't know why. their mom did it. did their great-grandma did it. it is just tradition. they just say it is a tradition. not realizing that at it is a tradition and a lot of times it is voodoo. would say that there is, there is a group of folks toe who are working change the stigma, right? to mark voodoo as a legitimate religious practice practice, disassociated from all of the stigma. whether that stigma be religious because of christian or social economic because it is associated with oration because it is associated with just being african-american. voodoo pracs ners in the city
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have gone out of the way to a better word to introduce other foam the practice to spread abroad men other folks in and to take control of the narrative about what their is like and what it means to them. >> came to new orleans in late 1924 and was staying with the wife of another camer when anderson back home, he suggested that the apartment was too small for all of them, sew sent them over here because he knew the man who rented the whole house was subletting and the others in mississippi thought of as a
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dreamer with nothing that could really recommend him to local community. they got him a job as library butt the disastere was there, closed it whenever wanted and read all of the magazines that came in before he put them into box posser the customers, and so .ventually lost the job and it to new orleans was important for him because lotsw that there were of dreamers here and dreaming was ok. so i think it was altered in and burst of creativity heund he stood what being a itter might entail and dream and to to
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make up stuff so i think he was always critical in his development. >> he had publicked a self published a book of poetry and he came to new orleans with the hope of being able to get enough copies -- to paris, france. he met anderson, as i said, turned him from his mediocre poetry he storytelling. probably one of the most popular fiction writers in at the time, so it was a wonderful break for associate with him. hisrson turned him from what anderson called mediocre storytelling.
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anderson told him to start talking about that little stamp of country he came from in mississippi. oxford and surrounding areas and lots of store there is that is what he ought to be writing about. he did. he spent the rest of his life writing about that part of mississippi. writtent novel was here, soldier's day. and it is not set here. it is set more in georgia. the first novel, it was fairly good and it certainly door tohe unpublishing the later novels. the same organization published the mosquitoes which was a second book and so, you know, fairly well. they were not printed in large kwanties. maybe 2 or 3,000 copies. the promise saw
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and the future of what to expect and you know, he certainly got enormously better when he went back to mississippi and began writing about the people there that and associated with '25 hethe summer of went to paris. he poonly got to paris. he went with a man who was renting a house and they spent about six weeks in back and then came he spent much of the rest of probablyhere and moved back to mississippi. he opened the bookstore on in 1990 and we bought the building in 1980, and thisen closed had been years and probably years ash and so it was not in the best of conditions hp the man who owned it was a
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retired man living in mississippi answer kept a the secondrs on floor where key come visit to make thought night an apartment building and he had had it subdivided or six little apartments and learned quickly that running houses when you are remote and away is not a good idea so he closed it up and our idea was and shareopen it it and it has worked. in andlove coming walking through the bookstore and realizing that this is lived, and we have it books, and 1:0 1:00 and so has been a successful venture, it really has. when he came to new orleans in 1938, up next we learn about the time in the city and the
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>> state your way before it was -- he did not
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stay here very long, he did not have that many experiences here, but this was already famous preservation hall, for the last years of tennessee's life. sure he liked the poetic symbolism from the fact that for jazze became known and blues all of the world. the music and streetcars, that is all tennessee williams. >> at this point in his career when he came here, he had already been writing since he was a teenager. whenblished a short story
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he was in a magazine, called weird tales he was 16 years old. pre had that background, but he had already produced several college and so he was sort of on the brink of breaking out. period in new orleans, he entered a playwriting contest and it was for one act plays. writers 25 or to under, and he was 28. his father forced by to work for the shoe company in st. louis. his father had been with the
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shoe company many years and got tennessee a job there. he said those three years in the shoe company did not count. he entered the contest under the name of tennessee williams. it stuck. tennessee byalled his fraternity brothers in college because they knew he had a southern accent, and he never lost it. his grand parents in tennessee so they assumed he was from tennessee, and he let them use it. why he did not call himself mississippi williams, since he was born in mississippi, and is spent early delta,n the mississippi and he said if i had called
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myself mississippi williams, my friends would have called me miss williams and he did not want that. his success was the glassman injury. menagerie." he wrote a script for it in hollywood, hoping they would make a movie of it. it was too literary for them at the time. they would not do it. managed to get it placed with the right people, and that was in the early 1940's, just after the period of living in new orleans. a considerable amount of money off of that book. >> [indiscernible] , is the peters street
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where tennessee williams completed "a street car named desire." it's also where he got the inspiration for its title. he said he was listening to the rumbling of the streetcars himing by, and it struck [indiscernible] it was used as the motive and title. if you were never come at the beginning, ranch -- if you remember, at the beginning, came to new she orleans, and got on a streetcar named desire.
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stanley and stella lived at the same address where tennessee was living at the time, 632. you might remember the mexican flower seller. crying, flowers for the dead. that care after was based on his partner's mother. -- that character was based on his partner's mother. [indiscernible] relationship. the one of the sticking points was the way his mother was portrayed. those of you who visit new orleans today will say, there is no streetcar on royal street
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today. streetcar -- "streetcar" made its premier and tennessee had his success, and he probably thought he was pretty lucky to stumble into this address, because the following year, the city removed the streetcar line. >> it was an immediate success. of course, it made his name. and making money. from the poor, impoverished writer that arrived in 1938, at the time of his death, he became million.e $10 at now the estate is valued much over $100 million. aboutre are stories
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tennessee and this house. he bought this house in 1961. tennessee was known to stand on the balcony in the middle of the coat and ask black swimds to join him for a in the cold water of the unheated pool. >> the first time i met tennessee williams was when i was first -- i was still a bus boy. period of training to become a waiter because i was barely 18, i was 18 and able to serve liquor, drinking age at that time was 18. estimation,s, in my
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a perfect gentleman at all times. but, having read his memoirs and books about him and known about him from other people, he had quite a volatile temper at times. he could be extremely talkative and the life of the party once he got going. when i met him in new york, he did not remember me. , his secretary at the time came up to me after we , it was a fairly big party, and his secretary came up to me and said, i have a family emergency and tennessee doesn't have anybody to have dinner with tonight.
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even though he knows quite a few youle at this party, it is he wants because of the new orleans connection, and also because you remind him of someone he once knew. but unfortunately, or stupidly , imy part, i said no because had to decline because my partner was waiting for me at home, and this was the days , we had to phone rendezvous at home at a particular time and there was really no way to let him know in advance. jeffrey was angry at me after work, he said, you passed up a dinner with tennessee williams? flattered butvery also amazed you would do that. said, i know tennessee
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through his literary agent, and we will get you to meet tennessee. to have a dinner, and actually get to talk to him this time. unfortunate, it did not happen. i'm not sure about the dates exactly. in 1981, mayberk 1982. it might've been 1983, when i finally moved to los angeles. shortly afterwards, at least in retrospect, i learned tennessee had died in new york. >> i saw him the last time he 1983. new orleans, it was it was maybe two months before he died, and i was leading a literary tour of the french quarter. i have a literary tour i lead for years before i ever created the tennessee williams tour, and i did not create the tennessee
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williams tour until after tennessee williams was gone, because i thought it was obtrusive. leading the tour, and tennessee's biographer, who wrote the best biography on tennessee that has been written, even know it only goes up to ," but he wasrie coming out of the gate, and a friend of his was in my tour and introduced me to lyle, and the rest of the tour. it was a small tour. we chatted, and lyle and i became good friends after that. we looked up, and tennessee was standing in the window of his second-floor apartment and he
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waved to us. he was wearing a greek sailors cap he often wore in later years, and he left a few days then went to new york and died. lyle said he had reached the point where he could no longer right. -- longer write. he was very depressed, and i am not exactly certain what happened, because he had been, i suppose, borderline depressed all of his life. but that was the last time he was in new orleans, 1983. just a month or so before his death. i think in terms of his importance to the literary history of new orleans, he is probably the most important writer. tennessee williams, i would say, was the major literary figure
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associated with the city. and continues to be. that does not mean that more of him,opulation knows about but he has left his mark here. >> takes a much longer piece than it does -- so here takes a much longer piece than it does anywhere else. we live to eat. you can stand on the street corner and you can hear someone walking down the street talking about what they had to eat yesterday, what they will have for dinner, how they will cook the duck they just shot at their honking -- there hunting camp. we are city assessed with food. one of the biggest confusions about the food of new orleans, is it creole or occasion -- or
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cajun? originally, they were two different kinds of cuisine. pot cooking,s big done by the cajun people in southwest louisiana. fromal, -- creole comes the hispanic word meaning native. were offspringe of the french and spanish settlers, and their food is really city food. it is more refined. not as spicy as perhaps cajun food, but very well seasoned. we are situated right across from the french market, the site of the old french market, and there was an active market in the city from 1718. it was a bounty of everything available in season, fresh, and
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local, using french and spanish traditional preparations with true -- reparations, a true indigenous cuisine developed, and that is creole. a hallmark of creole cooking, first of all, we have to say, no matter what we are cooking, it almost invariably starts off, first you make a roux. it is a combination of flour and oil. it was a french preparation originally. in france, it is butter and flour, but in new orleans, the nutter woodburn -- would bur before it gets to the dark color we like. that, celery, bell pepper, and onions. a traditional creole
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start. when the first french people got seedsundoubtedly they rot -- they brought seeds and ingredients come intending to carry on like in france, and we are painfully aware of being at least seven feet under sea level. how are you going to grow car rots? you can't, the water table is too high. car's why i believe the rot came out and the pepper went and. -- went in. the most important thing is the dark creole roux with celery, l pepper, and onions. it is also typified by tomato.
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cajun food tends to be brown. creole food is often read and tomato based. nothing is as delicious as a creole tomato in season. that is another important element. of new orleans great culinary gems, it is the second oldest continually operated restaurants in new orleans, dates back to 1856. there have only been to owners. so everything has remained authentic. gumbo is probably the most emblematic dish of new orleans. sometimes the word boat is used to describe even who we are as a people -- word gumbo is used to
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describe even who we are as a people. it is a very personal thing. here, we have a gumbo. some of the thickening comes not just from the roux, but from powder from sassafras, introduced to the original settlers by the choctaw indians. it has an interesting side effect, when added to a hot liquid, it thickens the liquid. will have this as a thickener, and some will have okra. the most fastening -- fascinating thing to me is the name, the choctaw indians, the
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powder,y used for the they called the sassafras leaves kombo. the african-american slaves here in america -- in new orleans, many came from west africa. they spoke the language there, was gumbo.d for okra gets itsle think it name from gumbo, but how can we ever tell? or thethe choctaw african-american slaves? this is a mystery i don't think we will solve. ades is really a lot -- remul
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ulade. it has capers, pickles, and parsley in it. but when the sauce came across the atlantic ocean, it changed. it probably changed because of refrigeration or lack thereof. issue ife is a dicey you don't have refrigeration. consequently, instead of the possible deadly consequence of a mayonnaise base, the sauce dramatically changed in new fierys and became a kissing cousin with a base of what is known as creole mustard. coarse-grained, dark brown, kind of like a german mustard that is spicy and delicious.
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that forms the base. you can even see the mustard seeds in there. again and again here in new orleans, we will find dishes that perhaps came in a very form from france but got tweaked a little bit when he got here. this sauce is a perfect example conversely, wet also here in new orleans operate almost food museums. in some of the older restaurants, places like antoine's, you will see a magical french fry called a pom me souffle. it was invented in france by accident in the 1800s. it is like a french fry, but aoked twice, giving you
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delicious, every, christie bite delicious, airy, chrispy bite. they have forgotten about it in france, but here in new orleans, it continues because we are sticklers for tradition. they are specific foods centered around our traditions. king cake. it is not carnival time in new orleans and less there is king cake everywhere. that goes on through the entire 40 days of lent. boy sandwich is one of our most iconic dishes, created in 1929 during the streetcar strike. the strikers were originally the poor boys. one of the things most important to understand is that it is
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really all about the bread. new orleans french bread is distinctly different. it is crusty, soft and beautiful on the inside. oy loves werepo b designed to be a sandwich big enough to feed an entire family with one sandwich. the sandwich was invented at the martin brothers groceries. two brothers who had originally been streetcar conductors felt poorsorry for the starving boys striking for a living wage. so they set out with their french bread baker, and intelligent man -- an italian man, to create a salmon's big enough for a whole family. he sketched out how long the loaf would have to be, and they
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did one other innovation. instead of being slightly pointed as a traditional blunted would be, they the end so that whoever got the end of the sandwich would not get the short end of the deal. so the sandwich gets its name from the streetcar strike, and a poor boy boy loaf was a result of that. a off the menu, special meal. it has been on the menu here since about 1914. andowners were partners, two of them have been working
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thisomeone before it was restaurant. thiss where she learned special preparation. it is unique and delicious because the chicken is fried oating. any coding -- c the potatoes are fried in the same oil, and the whole thing is sprinkled with fresh garlic and fresh parsley chopped together. it is delicious, but you have to order it in advance because it takes almost an hour to prepare. we are standing at america's oldest stand up bar here at the restaurant. the most famous cocktail invented here is the grasshopper. the grasshopper, that famous dessert cocktail, invented in 1918, on the eve of prohibition. were going to show you how to
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make it. are you ready? you start off with an equal poor of white and dark creme de cocoa, then white and green creme de menthe. you add heavy cream, and the whole thing is of course over ice. you give it a good shake. you blended well and make it all frothy and beautiful. then, it is poured into a topped with aand little brandy floater. beautiful. here it is. that perfect grasshopper cocktail. cheers. hurricane katrina changed the whole game, because basically
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for the first time since 1718, we had a completely clean slate. well, sort of, it was messy after the flood, that the slate was clean. consequently, we had an opportunity to do two things. number one, the populace of the city realized how endangered our life here really is, and consequently, how endangered our food traditions are. a suddenly, whether it was poor boy sandwich or a cocktail, it all seemed to matter more. it seemed to matter more that it was preserved and the tradition was being carried forward. however, at the same time, hurricane katrina brought an enormous influx, very bright people from all across the country, who moved here in
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droves and decided they wanted to live here. based on the change of population for one thing, the food began to change. we have seen a greater diversion in the kind of food served, the kinds of restaurants we have, and an explosion in the restaurant business like nothing new orleans has ever seen before. , almost 14 years after katrina, we have over twice as many restaurants operating in new orleans as we did before the storm. when visitors come here, the most important thing to me is that they have an authentic food experience. whether it is trying a poor boy sandwich or having a bowl of gumbo, trying to pick crawfish for the first time. it is all delicious and it is a
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delicious adventure. and that's what i want our visitors to experience and then go home with a really special food memory they created here in new orleans. the winner of the national book award for fiction is just ward.rd -- >> i had been obsessed with the idea of history and how history blends with the present and how our past is not really our past, it is also our present. i think this is one of the abouts that i wrote prisons, and incarceration of black people, like men, like
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men and boys. , and howatic that is the specific circumstances of mass incarceration may have changed. maybe our prisons today don't look much like prison did. they are not working sanitation, but they are still dehumanized in places. , like ae still places generation of lack -- black men and boys are dehumanized. i amnk another theme writing about, that i have been writing about recently, intergenerational trauma. what does it mean for the
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traumather to suffer while he was incarcerated? how does that affect his relationship with his wife, how does it affect his relationship with his children? how does that affect his behavior? does the trauma affect his behavior so that he passes it on to his children? how do -- how does their sense or themacy or family idea of safety, how does it affect the way they interact with each other and their children? think those are two things i've been thinking about lately a lot in my work. the reason my work is fiction and not nonfiction is because
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nonfiction is really hard for me. [laughter] writing fiction is easier, it comes easier. the process is more intuitive and it feels more organic, creativehen i write nonfiction, not only do i have to work against my usual process, because my usual process, i begin with my main characters, i have a vague idea of where they're going. but nothing is plotted out. in nonfiction, i have to plan everything from the beginning. only is the process much different and harder for me because it is much more creative nonfiction is also more difficult for me because it demands honesty and a intimacy andt of
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making yourself vulnerable on towarde, and writing uncomfortable situations and subject matter. especially when you're writing about trauma and the way that history bears on the present. that is really hard stuff to write about. when i write about those ,ubjects in creative nonfiction it takes me a very long time just to get a rough draft, and then i have to revise again and again and again and again, because a lot of the times in my first two or three or four or five drafts, i'm avoiding the painful subject, lighting around it. i don't want to confront it or liquid it -- or live with it in the way that creative nonfiction demands.
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that's why i mainly stick to fiction. writing about difficult subject matter and fiction is easier for readers because, in a way, they can read it and say, this is made up. i mean, i think they understand that something of the truth is in fiction, that it is a different experience for the reader between reading a made up story that has some difficult subject matter and reading a story that is based in real life. i think people are resistant to it a little bit. i think it is easier for them to sort ofce a painful story in fiction than it is in creative nonfiction, in memoir. why works oft's creative nonfiction about
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difficult subject matter, i think they are harder to sell. sometimes people just want to escape, right? i think fiction allows a certain amount of escapism. whereas creative nonfiction really doesn't, in a way. you are able to escape into someone else's experience, but if you know it is based on real life, i don't think it feels like an escape. >> i am so happy to be here and to tell you who the winner is. unburied sing. >> that was a surprise. even more of a surprise when i won. i don't know, i was convinced that i would not win twice. it has been done, has happened so rarely. i thought, i am not going to win twice. it is an honor just to make the list.
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there is no way they're going to give this to me again. i was completely shocked. and of course, very happy and pleased when they gave it to me for the second time. throughout my career, when i have received, when i have been rejected, there was sometimes subtext. it was this -- people will not read your work because these are not universal stories. i don't know whether some doorkeepers felt this way because i wrote about poor people because i wrote about black people or because i wrote ess.t southernn even after i got some confirmations, a found myself encountering this again and again. there were some reluctant readers who did not want to read my work because they said, what do i have in common with the pregnant 15-year-old? why should i read about a 13-year-old poor luck boy or his
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-- black boy or his drug addicted mother? my fellow writers and publishers and editors, you answered -- 20. answered, -- you plenty. you looked at my work inside yourself. you saw your grief, love, loss, regret, joy, and hope. i am deeply grateful to each and every one of you who read my work and find something that moves you in it. i hope to continue this conversation with you for all of our days. >> i do feel a certain amount of treasure -- of pressure. it is pressure i have to resist because it is the kind of escher that makes me very aware of my audience and how the audience has responded to my previous
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work. , i do feel a certain sense of pressure because i am wondering, how will they respond to whatever this story is i am trying to tell and working on now? is this what the audience wants of me, do they want something else, will they accept something else, will i disappoint them? that was especially problematic for me after the national book award, i became very aware of the audience. when i sat down to begin working on my next book, i cannot write anything really difficult because i was very aware of audience and i choked. poet whoi spoke with a won the national book award for
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won,y in the same year i and i was telling her just how difficult it was for me to get anything down on the page and she gave me the best advice. she said, forget all of this. the acclaim, the prizes, forget all of that. when you sit down in front of the computer, remember the emotion that drew you to storytelling, that drew you to the page in the first place and try to hold that close to you and forget everything else. important, that emotion, that feeling on the page. and i took her advice. that is the only way i was able push away that sensation, get rid of the sensation of pressure and awareness of audience and
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really right again -- write again. i started working on my memoir, but also later my next novel. not only do i try to forget everything as i am writing and remember the emotion that brings me to storytelling, i also take all of the awards i get and i bring them to my mother's house. because if i don't have them, it helps me to forget about them when i am sitting in front of my computer and just really concentrate on the story and characters and telling the best story that i can about those characters. think when you write about history, you have to realize that human memory is fallible. even if you are looking at people's oral histories done
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right after a meeting, they may contradict the notes that were taken in the meeting. as a journalist and historian, i like to go into the archives, look at the documents the way a historian would, but when possible, interviewing people and saying, what was it really like? what happened in that meeting? you have to get multiple sources before you say, here is where i think the truth is. when you are doing somebody who is alive, kissinger and steve jobs in my case, you can keep grilling them, but you then have to find other sources to corroborate what they said. >> when you are writing about contemporary figures, do you have to try and find the balance of, you don't want to make them
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upset, or is that even something you consider? me i tendthink, for to like the people i write about. i deeply admired and respected steve jobs, that he had a lot of aspects to his personality that were difficult. he was tough on people. when i was dealing with him, especially when he was ill, i would reconsider and parts of him,ook or other talk to your former partner says this, and he would almost give me permission to put in the book. i think this industry with kissinger -- the same was true there was time i criticized in the narrative his lack of appreciation for the values of american democracy and how they needed to be included in foreign policy. i had to push myself not to sugarcoat everything. some journalists, woodward and
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bernstein, they are very good at being cold eyed and tough about their subjects. for me, it is a little more difficult and i have to push myself. >> why do you find it difficult? >> i tend to like the people i write about. whether they are contemporary or not. iliked steve jobs a lot and respected him and admire him, but i like ben franklin a lot, too. when you're having to do the downside, the story in the biography that is rough, you flinch a bit because you almost feel like these are your friends. you don't want to say anything unnecessarily harsh about them. i think that makes me less of a good biographer in a way, that i tend to try to find the good light i can use on a particular anecdote or subject, but i know
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that people read my books, including the subjects of the books, and they sometimes feel i was too harsh. that's what you try to balance. you try to do it honestly, but not just rigorously honestly, you also try to do it with a good heart, or i do. let me see if i can understand why somebody did it this way even though i don't think it turned out the right way. >> did you get any pushback from anyone you have written about who might not have been particularly happy? >> henry kissinger for a while was not happy with my biography of him. ownink if he reread his nobel peace, he would not be happy. , over the years, and i have certainly spent a lot of time with him, we have a good enough relationship and i think he understands, even if he
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doesn't agree with, the interpretations i put in the book. he was somebody who early on after the book came out pushed back and felt i had been to critical of some of his actions. you likentioned that to choose people you particularly like and have a certain amount of respect for. what goes into your decision-making process and who you are going to write? write about people who are creative and imaginative. some people write about great heroes or george washington or ulysses s. grant, other people write about military people or sports heroes, or even literary heroes. to me, people who stand at the intersection of the art and science is who are able to love all sorts of subjects, humanities to technology. they tend to be very creative.
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that is ben franklin, that is albert einstein, that is steve jobs and leonardo da vinci. i look for people who have a creative mind and whose creativity comes from the type of thing you and i can appreciate, in other words, it is not just unfathomable like isaac new, it is like leonardo school,, drop out of they are a bit rebellious that they become very observant and curious and very much in love with connecting beauty with technology. those are the type of people i get most passionate about. >> has the been someone you have wanted to write about but have not taken on yet? >> i started to write a biography of louis armstrong. here we are in new orleans, i love new orleans, and i thought he would be a way to show how a different mix of ethnic groups
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and people coming back from the spanish-american war, spiritual songs from the old limitations, all melded together around 1900 through 1950 to be the birthplace of jazz. i think i learned almost everything you could learn about louis armstrong except who he was. notnnot quite -- i could quite get behind that mask, that smile, i could not quite figure out if he was really happy, what did he like? aside, and someday i may try to take on that period of time. . may work with wintun marsalis have things you go back to. >> can we talk about your connection to new orleans?
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>> i was born and raised in new orleans, here we are at tulane. my grand parents and grandparents and anson uncles all went to tulane. i love the city. the house i grew up in my brother lives in, but we have a house in the french quarter. especially after the hurricane 15 years ago, i came back as the vice chairman of the louisiana recovery authority, the entity for rebuilding. you realize that a city that is so embedded in your heart and soul might not recover, it just reminded me of the importance of home. it reminded me of the importance of the community. themore recently, with dysfunction and poison in national politics, i was living in washington and i said, you know, this is not going to be
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solved, this ripping apart of america, i politicians in washington. we should all take time and move communities and maybe work on the neighborhood level, the community level, and try to make sure we do things that are healing and bring people together. i have always felt i was a new orleannian. a year ago, i came back full time. any booksu written about new orleans, and if not, do you have a coming up? >> i have written a book called "american sketches," a series of essays and reported pieces mainly dealing with the heroes of the hurricane, and dealing with new orleans and its culture. it begins with walter percy, a novelist from here.
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he had a theory on hurricanes many years ago, when i was young kid, he told me that people are actually happy, happiest when there is a hurricane, because we know how to pull together. we will be tested and we have to work together to survive a challenge. so i start the book with walter percy's there he of hurricanes and i go through the great quebecin the city of after the storm and rebuilt it, andher it is -- in the city came back after the storm and rebuilt it, whether it was the education system. it was important to gather my thoughts. am a may be interested in louis armstrong. st ot, story though -- oryville, which is where he started playing, it was the red
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like district in the french quarter and it was a great mixing of socioeconomic groups, different ethnicities. a light-skinned free person of color, she had the biggest hall and was the guest businessperson there. andmusic and sex and race all that jazz would be a fertile ground. i keep poking at that to see if there is a good book. >> your latest book has been a biography on leonardo da vinci. kimmitt talk about how -- can we talk about how did you choose in and where did you start in the research process? >> i chose leonardo da vinci because over the years i began to notice a pattern of how attracted i was to people who connected the arts and humanities, sciences and
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engineering and all of these fields. whether it was ben franklin, a great scientist as well as a great diplomat and humanist and einstein, whoeven whenever he was stumped by equations would pull out a violin and play mozart because he said it connected him to the harmony. when i wrote about steve jobs, he kept emphasizing that all of my books have been about people at the intersection of arts and technology, and that steve jobs indeed was part of that tradition. and he said, the ultimate in that tradition was leonardo da vinci. people write about him who are historians and they treat him through his works of art. he said somebody should treat him as the way he thought of himself, which is as an engineer as well as an artist. and bill gates pushed the same thing.
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ofbought the most wonderful leonardo's notebooks, filled with earth and geology and astronomy and the flow of rivers and waters. when bill gates bought it, he said, you have to look at leonardo through the lens not of just an artist but a scientist. over and over again, i thought of how cool it would be to ascend that mountain, to take on the greatest of all creative geniuses, leonardo da vinci. i approached it by going through his notebooks. as i said, other writers approached him by going through his artworks, but he left more notebooks.ages of on a single page you could see a sketch for the last supper but also trying to figure out how to
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square the circle. how waters flowed past an stab at the then a mathematics of it. and in the question, why is the sky blue? ungue --s the to ngue of a woodpecker look like? a lot of places to look at the notebooks, florence, madrid, windsor castle. it was a lot of fun. no one has ever collected fully all of his notebooks. you get to go to the places like library where the notebook on the flight of birds is, in malan -- milan. and there is something thrilling
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about being in the actual presence of a notebook page, man -- at the truby and itvian man and staring at and saying oh my goodness, look oves on the paper where he put his protector. >> was there anything you discovered doing research that really surprised you, that you did not expect to come across? >> i was surprised with leonardo to pitching, how he connected all of these disciplines, how andrstanding facial muscles how the eyebrow touched the lives, how that is reflected in the smile of the mona lisa. also how theater affected him. during his 20's, his main work
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was a theatrical producer of pageants and plays. like thetraptions helicopter, that was started as a prop to bring angels to the state. at the last supper, you look at how the walls come in fast, it is like scenery drawing in his onebook, when you do scenery a stage, you make the walls come and faster. looking at how his theatrical work connected him to science and art was one of the many wonderful discoveries about leonardo that i enjoyed. do you ever see yourself going back to washington? >> i could imagine, but i do think that most of the creativity is happening at the local level. binding of the
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nation together stopping at the community level, the people pulling it apart operate on a bigger stage. this is why c-span, not just on this type of trip, but for 40 or 50 years, c-span in my mind is always at its best when it's on a bus going somewhere and stopping in local communities. i have watched that for 40 years on c-span, how they capture what is happening locally. love withm deeply in new orleans, but i also believe in the concept that if we are to get it right in this nation, whether it is innovation, ,reativity, talent, diversity all of those things, we have to start by getting it right or keeping it right at the local level. >> our visit to new orleans, louisiana is a book tv exclusive and we showed it today to
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introduce you to c-span cities tour. for seven years, we have traveled to u.s. cities, bringing the book seen to our viewers. you can watch more of our visit >> coming up tonight, attorney general jeff sessions on immigration, the opioid epidemic, and religious freedom followed by republican senator cory gardner, both speaking of the western conservative summit. kerry severino of the judicial crisis network on her organization's role on who will be the next supreme court justice. welcome our speaker. >> good afternoon. it is a


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