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A Calypso-Themed Gillespie Reissue Flirts with Bad Taste

Jazz critic Kevin Whithead reviews "Dizzy Gillespie: Jambo Caribe" (Verve).

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Other segments from the episode on October 5, 1998

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, October 5, 1998: Interview with Allegra Goodman; Review of the album "Dizzie Gillespie: Jambo Caribe"; Interview with Phil Patton; Review of Lorrie Moore's book "Birds of…

Transcript

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: OCTOBER 05, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 100501np.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Allegra Goodman
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:06

BARBARA BOGAEV, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Barbara Bogaev, in for Terry Gross.

What is it like to live in an orthodox religious community that has intentionally cut itself off from the rest of the world? What would it be like to want to remain orthodox, yet want to be more worldly, as well?

This is what Allegra Goodman explores in her new novel "Kaaterskill Falls." It's set in a community in New York's Catskill Mountains, where orthodox Jews from the city come for the summer. In spite of the community's uniformity, there are religious conflicts between the generations, and even between siblings.

Allegra Goodman is also the author of "The Family Markowitz," a humorous book about three generations of a Jewish middle class family.

Goodman is in her early 30s, lives in Boston, but grew up in Hawaii, where the Jewish community was very small. Here's a reading from her new novel.

Elizabeth, who yearns to do things her community won't allow her to do, like run a business, is listening to the new rabbi preaching about the importance of remaining insulated from the outside world.

ALLEGRA GOODMAN, AUTHOR, "KAATERSKILL FALLS": Before I read this, I'd just like to define a few of the words. "Thoruv" (ph) means "the rabbi." "Drosch" (ph) is just another word for "speech," "his speech." And the word "kahila" (ph) is really the word for "community." "Shabiz" (ph) is the word for "Sabbath."

"Thoruv's drosch goes on and on. His voice is bright and strident. Shrill, and he repeats himself often. Again, and yet again he underlines his point.

"There is no room for compromise. There is no sustenance outside the community. Our strength comes from within. From our own convictions, our own families, and our own institutions. There are those who argue for leniency, for making sections. There are those who maintain dealings and friendships with Jews who do not observe Shabiz. Or who inter-marry, or eat traif (ph)."

That's non-kosher food.

"What, then, is the message that they send to their children? That these people are still good? That they are still worthy of attention and uncritical friendship? This is what our children learn. That we will tolerate this kind of behavior. Is this the lesson we want to teach them? How then should we explain it? That it is wrong for us, but right for other people? Or that it is wrong for anyone? But that people who do wrong are still worthy of our respect and of our friendship? Is this what we want to teach?

"Only consistency will sustain us. Only consistent thoughts and actions will keep Judaism alive.

"Of course, Elizabeth has heard all this before. This is Rabbi Thea's (ph) first major drosch, but the message is familiar. She is used to these formulations, and although she listens to them, she does not believe them.

"She has never seen the kahila as a fortress. Now, more than ever, the outside fascinates her. The people there. The way everyone moves about. The complexity of a world with such loose days and weeks. The time never delineated between work and Shabiz. The food never separated. The men and women mix together, as well. So many decisions made rather than received. Where to live, what kind of work to do.

"She sees it now. It was never the poetry she was after. Never the secular books, the paintings or the plays. It was the diversity of choices. The quick and subtle negotiations of the outside world. Elizabeth listens to the Rav (ph), but she hears him from a distance.

"Deep within her, she knows if she has scaled those bulwarks of which he speaks, she has scaled the kahila's wall and softly lowered herself down to the other side."

GROSS: It interests me that you've chosen as your subject this very tight-knit Jewish community, an orthodox fundamentalist Jewish community that wants to keep away from the rest of the world, wants to lock out the rest of the world; whereas, you grew up Jewish in Hawaii, in a place where there were very few other Jews. So you probably couldn't possibly have had that kind of community around you.

Maybe you could talk a little bit about the contrast between where you grew up and the world that you've created in your novel.

GOODMAN: Well, I did grow up in a much freer, more assimilated community. Definitely. And, in fact, most of the world is in that -- grows up that way.

And there were two things that inspired me to write about these people, and one reason was that they were exotic to me.

When I was a small child growing up in Hawaii, my parents used to -- our whole family used to go in the summers to upstate New York where my mother's family had a house. And there -- there were orthodox Jewish people and an orthodox Jewish synagogue. And we used to be part of the summer community there. And I saw the people there and it made a great impression on me. And so that was one of the things that inspired me.

And the other was, that artistically, the people that I am inventing here are so principled and they live a life of such structure that it gave me a stage in which to dramatize certain issues that interested me as a novelist. Issues about how individuals define themselves within a group and how people -- how people face moral dilemmas; people who are very, very principled, how they face those dilemmas.

GROSS: What was the Jewish community like in your part of Hawaii, and how much were you a part of that community?

GOODMAN: Well, we were very active in the Jewish community. It was a small. There was a reformed temple. And my parents when they came out there founded a small conservative synagogue which held traditional, conservative services.

And when I was very, very little, I remember the services were held in a quonset hut. And we used to hold them there. And so -- this is interesting, actually. When I was a child, we always came exactly on time to services. I was completely shocked when I became a grownup and saw that everybody comes late to services here.

But we always came on time, because my father was usually leading one of the parts of the service. And you know, they needed 10 men to start, and we didn't have you know all these extra people walking around. So later on the services were held in a Unitarian church. And after that they were held on Saturday mornings in the reformed temple, because the sanctuary wasn't being used on Saturday mornings. They had Friday night services.

And everybody knew everybody else, especially the people in the small group. And the children all knew each other. And I remember it as a -- it was actually a lovely time. We used to go to picnics and have seders at each others houses and all of that. It was very, very small.

GROSS: Since your family co-founded this conservative synagogue, did that place you in a special position of responsibility to -- to go...

LAUGHTER

... to go to services?

GOODMAN: Yes, oh, yes. We were always there every week. Definitely.

GROSS: And did you have to be the model child while you were there?

GOODMAN: I don't think so. My parents would probably know the answer to that, but I don't remember feeling that I did have. I mean, you know my father isn't a rabbi. And, in fact, we had no rabbi in the service. So it wasn't like sort of being the rabbi's daughter, and you know, it was none of that formality.

GROSS: Explain how there could be services without a rabbi?

GOODMAN: Well, you don't need one. You just need 10 men, and you know, to lead. We just had lay leaders that would lead the service. And one person read Torah, and one person did, you know, the various parts of the service were divvied up. So there wasn't any need for a rabbi. And we didn't have sermons either, of course.

LAUGHTER

Maybe that was a good thing.

GROSS: Was it everybody's dream to someday get a rabbi or did people like the idea of this non-hierarchical service?

GOODMAN: Well, of course, as in any good Jewish community, there was a split about this.

LAUGHTER

Some people liked a non-hierarchical service. Other people thought it should be more of an institution then have rabbi, you know. It's always going to be like that.

GROSS: What brought your parents to Hawaii?

GOODMAN: Well, what brought them there was they were -- my father is a professor of philosophy, and he had gotten a job in 1969 at the University of Hawaii. And so the job market being what it was, the academic job market, he took the job. And then my mother finished graduate school there and then also got a job at the university. And then they lived there 25 years.

GROSS: And did you find that Jewish and Hawaiian customs mixed in the family in interesting and unusual ways?

LAUGHTER

GOODMAN: Well, I don't know. We certainly had a little bit of a Hawaiian flavor to our lives, in that -- for one thing, and I tell people some of my fondest memories of growing up in Hawaii was every Passover, for our seder, we had our seder outside. So that was a little bit of Hawaii. That's an unusual thing to do here on the mainland. And I did wear a muumuu when I had my bat mitzvah. That is definitely true.

I don't know exactly, you know, what other customs we may have taken. Most Hawaiian food isn't kosher, so we didn't -- we weren't exactly going to luaus a lot. But living in Hawaii definitely influenced my family in some ways, and it's a beautiful, beautiful place. And we loved it there.

GROSS: Did you keep kosher while you were in Hawaii?

GOODMAN: Yes, we did. There is no kosher butcher there. So my parents used to order their kosher meat from a butcher in California, and it was shipped on a maxim (ph) ship and dropped off at the dock. They would get about six months meat at a time. And my mother would drive the stationwagon down to the dock and pick up all our meat; and we had an extra freezer.

LAUGHTER

A few other families did this, too. So, but we did.

GROSS: Now, I believe your mother ended up heading the women's studies program at the University of Hawaii. How did she reconcile feminism and some of the more traditional aspects of Judaism in which women are not given equal status to men?

GOODMAN: Well, she was an interesting woman. She -- she was a feminist, definitely, and a remarkable career woman, real professional. And at the same time she had traditionalism within her, so that she was a terrific baker, for example. A lot of the food in my novel is based on her food.

When I described the rugulach (ph) that that people make, I -- that experience is -- I drew from my own experience, watching her make rugulach. And she was a tremendous baker. And so she was one of these feminist women who made cookies, you know.

LAUGHTER

And so she was not egalitarian in the sense that she felt that she had to go up and read Torah in the service. That wasn't her styles so much. But again, she didn't live in a community the way Elizabeth lived in a community, in such a tight-knit, constricted community. She lived a very modern life and in an usual place and did unusual things.

GROSS: Your father wrote a book about Judaism, human rights and human values. What were some of the main points you took from that?

GOODMAN: I don't know if I took points directly from his book, but I have certainly been influenced by his ideas about Judaism and his conception of a liberal Judaism that embraces philosophy. He's a Jewish -- he studies Jewish philosophy and is a Jewish philosopher. And he has an idea about that there is such a thing as Jewish thought, and Jewish thinking about ideas, not just a Talmudic kind of Judaism, a scholastic sort of learning that goes on that the Rovingages (ph), for example, in my book. But Judaism that embraces Western philosophy, as well.

So I think that ideal was something that perhaps I played off of in my novel with some of the characters who can't -- who aspire to it or don't reach it. Perhaps that was an influence of mine.

GROSS: Now the orthodox life that you write about in your new novel "Kaaterskill Falls" is a life that's really carved from another century. It strikes me that in some ways you're literary interests are from another century, too; you know, specializing in Jane Austin and Shakespeare. What about writing of earlier centuries speaks to you; its pacing in some ways so different from writing today.

GOODMAN: Well, that's interesting. Well, I think this book, in particular, this book was definitely influenced by some of the 19th century novelists like Jane Austen and George Eliot, Trollope, Dickens, those people who -- who wrote about a whole community and delineated and talked about the way individuals struggled to find a place in that community, and developed a landscape. It's ambition is inspired by those brilliant novels in many ways.

Now whether -- I think that my pacing is quite a bit quicker than that of some of the 19th century novelists, in that my narrator is less obtrusive often. But -- so I don't really consider myself, you know, a complete -- as living in the past in any way in this book.

But I think the kind of people that I was talking about, as you suggested, they live a live which is -- which is perhaps more 19th century than 20th century, and that their lives suggested a form that was inspired by that kind of literature.

But I think that a different kind of people that I would write about might inspire a different kind of writing.

BOGAEV: Terry's guest today is Allegra Goodman. Her new novel is "Kaaterskill Falls." We will here more of their conversation after the break. This is FRESH AIR.

BREAK

BOGAEV: If you're just joining us, Terry's guest is writer Allegra Goodman. Her new novel is "Kaaterskill Falls."

GROSS: Writing seems to come easy to you. You wrote a whole collection of stories that were published while you were in college. And those stories ended up being your first book, your first collection called "Total Immersion."

But you write so well about somebody for whom nothing comes easy, and this is a description of the character Rachel in your new novel. She's a rabbi's daughter who becomes a rabbi's wife.

And you write: "nothing in life comes easily to Rachel. She struggles with herself, even when she sits down at the piano; the music isn't relaxation for her. She practices relentlessly. And with a kind of existential pessimism, believing that despite her skill she will never really capture the soul of the music, and that for her music will always be a discipline and not a gift. She believes this although she plays beautifully."

Again, since it seems that writing comes no naturally to you, how did you get such an insight into someone for whom music is such a struggle?

LAUGHTER

GOODMAN: I guess, I -- when I write about these characters, I just get inside, I just try to enter into them, and it doesn't seem hard to me. It's like being an actor or something and I could feel her perfectionism crippling her.

LAUGHTER

And I could feel it as I was writing it. It was so -- so -- it's hard to articulate. But that's how it was. It wasn't hard for me to write about that.

And perhaps deep inside of me, you know, I have some perfectionism, too, or something like that. I don't think so.

LAUGHTER

But it was just imagination.

GROSS: Have you ever shared her, as you describe, "existential pessimism"?

LAUGHTER

GOODMAN: No, I think I'm more of an optimist, actually. I -- for me art is about joy rather than pessimism. And when I do my writing, even though, even if I know that it's not perfect, I know that I can go back and change it and fix it and revise. And so I'm optimistic about the process, that somehow I'm going to be able to make it better. And I guess there's so much joy in the work.

This book was my greatest joy for me, apart from my family, during the time that I wrote it and even re-wrote it. I could hear the voices of the characters in my head. I could see the places that I was writing about. And I could feel the whole thing coming through me. So, no, no, I didn't have any pessimism when I was working on it.

GROSS: Many of your stories have Jewish themes about them. The characters are Jewish, a lot of what they concern their selves with has to do with Jewish ritual and whether they should support Israel or not and how religious their children are and so on. And I'm wondering if you had Jewish-themed literature that spoke to you when you were growing up. I mean, some of the like classic American Jewish writers include people like Saul Bellow and Philip Roth. They are of a different generation than you are. They were writing about different times and they're also male and not female. And I'm wondering if -- if their writing spoke to you?

GOODMAN: Well, when I was growing up, when I was younger, the Jewish writers that I -- perhaps made the most impression on me were people like Sholem Aleichem -- especially his humor -- influenced me a great deal in my short stories.

And I remember my father used to actually read his work a lot in English. None of us knew Yiddish, and we would just laugh and laugh. And that was sort of an ideal for me to create work in which people would just laugh. And just have a wonderful time that way.

Eudora Welty was sort of my other ideal of that kind of writing. And so it was much -- and so he was much older and of a different generation, even than Philip Roth and Saul Bellow.

I came to them much later when I was -- in life -- and I find their work brilliant, and I don't know if it has influenced me. I think I'm probably quite different from them in many ways. I live in a different time and I have had a very different experience.

I do remember though reading "Goodbye, Columbus" for the first time, and, again, felt this sort of energy and this humor. And I was -- I was -- that book knocked my socks off when I first read it. So you know, although again -- different place, a different time. I felt it coming through, the energy of that work.

GROSS: When you started to publish while you were in college, since you were still so comparatively young for a writer, did you worry about not having worthy subject matter?

LAUGHTER

GOODMAN: I think maybe a little bit I did. I did a little bit. Especially because, of course, what I was studying in college was, you know, 17th century English poetry. And I wrote my senior thesis on "Paradise Lost," so you know, when you compare that to the short stories that I was writing, which were light, humorous, very, very Jewish, you know, I did -- I did sort of think: is this -- is this -- am I going to be a great writer?

LAUGHTER

This isn't great like Milton, no way. So -- but, again, maybe that was good for me. Maybe it was humbling and kept me in perspective.

GROSS: Well, you live in Boston now. And you're married and have two sons. And I wonder how your sense of what it means to be Jewish in terms of the larger community has changed, living in Boston, as opposed to Hawaii.

GOODMAN: Well, I -- you know I have a sense of how -- how much bigger the Jewish community really is. And what amazed me at first also about the Jewish community here on the mainland...

LAUGHTER

... the way -- there are so many institutions. You know, they have these palatial Jewish community centers everywhere in the suburbs, and it's you know, it' Jewish camps and Jewish schools. And so that made a big impression on me when I first came from Hawaii and really lived here and understood that. And often I go to -- like, I will go give a talk in a Jewish community center, and you know, people will ask me what life was like in Hawaii as a Jewish person.

And I will say: well, we didn't have a complex like this with this pool, and this banquet hall or anything like that. So it was different.

And also, I guess coming to the East Coast from so far away, you see some of the parochialism that can happen even in big cities, where people look out from Boston or out from New York and they don't -- they see a wilderness beyond there. They can't even imagine people growing up or living in a place like Hawaii, really living their lives, or being Jewish in a place like Hawaii.

So that -- that became clear to me, as well.

BOGAEV: Allegra Goodman's new novel is "Kaaterskill Falls." I'm Barbara Bogaev. And this is FRESH AIR.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

TO PURCHASE AN AUDIOTAPE OF THIS PIECE, PLEASE CALL 888-NPR-NEWS

Dateline: Barbara Bogaev, Philadelphia
Guest: Allegra Goodman
High: Terry's interview with Allegra Goodman, the author of the novel "Kaaterskill Falls," about an orthodox Jewish family in upstate New York. This is Goodman's first novel. Her previous work, a collection of stories "The Family Markowitz" was hailed by critics. One critic for "The New York Times" writes: "Goodman is brilliant at capturing the clutter of both interior and exterior life ... These stories sound like no one else's as she sharply appraises the shifts and quandaries of one variety of American Jewish life."
Spec: Media; Allegra Goodman; Art; "Kaaterskill Falls"

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1998 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1998 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Allegra Goodman

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: OCTOBER 05, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 100502NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: "Dizzy Gillespie: Jambo Caribe"
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:35

BARBARA BOGAEV, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Barbara Bogaev.

Trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie was a pioneer of Afro-Cuban jazz in the 1940s, a hybrid of American and Spanish language, Caribbean music. In 1964, Gillespie made an album inspired by Anglo-Caribbean music, calypso, in particular.

That record has now been reissued. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead has a review.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP -- DIZZY GILLESPIE PERFORMING, CHRIS WHITE, VOCALS)

The eighth of June was the (unintelligible)
(unintelligible)
The eighth of June was (unintelligible)
You can't imagine how I was feeling
To play mass in Barbados, the morning
Men jumpin', make up all the notes
(unintelligible), singing calypso

KEVIN WHITEHEAD, JAZZ CRITIC: Dizzy Gillespie, with Chris White on guitar and lead vocal.

Beginning in the mid-1950s, calypso became so much a part of the American musical landscape, you could barely call it a fad. The music came from the West Indies, stemming from sources as diverse as West African work songs and English ballads.

Harry Belafonte popularized it in the States, but other pop singers like Nat Cole took a stab at it, too.

Some folkies were attracted to calypso from the lyrics which leaned toward acerbic social commentary.

Yet the instrumental "Yellow Bird" was an easy listening hit for Arthur Lyman (ph) in the early '60s. Even Robert Mitchum made a calypso record.

A lot of West Indians lived in New York, and their music was in the air. But in jazz, almost nobody got into it. Those three chord songs were too harmonically simple to attract many improvisers.

Two exceptions were Sonny Rollins, himself of Caribbean descent, and Dizzy Gillespie.

Dizzy had worked briefly in a West Indian band before World War II, and had used calypso singers on a tune he recorded in 1951, with John Coltrane on saxophone, by the way.

In 1964, Gillespie recorded his only West Indian-flavored LP, called "Jambo Caribe."

Here's Gillespie on vocal, impersonating an African talking drama on a brief intro.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP -- DIZZY GILLESPIE, VOCALS, TRUMPET; JOE WILLIBY (ph), VOCALS)

Now the neighbors who live next door to us
Night before they had a fuss
A gimme me so money, said the wife
He replied, not on your life

Don't try to keep up with the Joneses
Live as we used to live
Don't try to keep up with the Joneses
They have more money than we

Now we used to have a joint account
Zero! is down the amount
You spent it all on fancy clothes
And the shoes with open toes

Don't try to keep up with the Joneses
Live as we used to live
Don't try to keep up with the Joneses
They have more money than we

WHITEHEAD: They don't make records like that anymore. For one thing, because those fake island accents that were so much a part of the calypso fad won't fly these days.

Another track, "Poor Joe," like that last one by West Indian tune smith, Joe Williby, flirts with even worse taste.

It's an oddly gleeful cautionary tale about spousal abuse. Gillespie again tells the story.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP -- DIZZY GILLESPIE, VOCALS, TRUMPET)

Smoe and Joe went to Benny's
Joe had one just too many
So when she said, it's time to leave
He started rolling up his sleeve

Poor Joe
He tried to beat his wife
Poor Joe
He nearly lose the life
Poor Joe
Every time he raised his hand
She knocked him in the head
With the frying pan

Poor Joe
He got up off the floor
Poor Joe
He tried to reach the door
Poor Joe
But he got him as ran
She knocked him in the head with the frying pan

Joe went out a little later...

WHITEHEAD: On flute there is James Moody, who is also the band's saxophonist, and a Gillespie aide off and on since the '40s.

The CD "Jambo Caribe" also includes instrumental pieces that place calypso in a larger Caribbean context.

Gillespie said that in playing any Caribbean style he wanted to put his own stamp on the materials.

His tune "Fiesta Moe Joe" is jazz with an island backbeat, courtesy of drummer Rudy Collins and percussionist Kansas Fields. Kenny Barron (ph) is on piano and Chris White on bass. Gillespie takes a slinky solo, coloring his trumpet sound with a harmon-mute.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP -- DIZZY GILLESPIE PERFORMING)

WHITEHEAD: Dizzy Gillespie's "Jambo Caribe" is in a new re-issue series called "Verve by Request," which also includes a Count Bassie album of fetal (ph) songs. Like that CD, "Jambo Caribe" is a no-frills release with no new liner notes, no additional tracks, no rare session photos, and no absurdly-fancy packaging. And no complaints from me, given their lower price.

These records are no masterpieces, but it's not like every jazz reissue is or should be deep or profound. Sometimes the "Dizzier," the better.

BOGAEV: Kevin Whitehead is the author of "New Dutch Swing." He reviewed "Jambo Caribe" by Dizzy Gillespie on the Verve label.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

TO PURCHASE AN AUDIOTAPE OF THIS PIECE, PLEASE CALL 888-NPR-NEWS

Dateline: Barbara Bogaev, Philadelphia
Guest: Kevin Whitehead
High: Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviews "Dizzy Gillespie: Jambo Caribe." Kevin is the author of "New Dutch Swing.
Spec: Dizzy Gillespie; Music Industry; Entertainment

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1998 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1998 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Dizzy Gillespie's "Jambo Caribe" is in a new re-issue series called "Verve by Request," which also includes a Count Bassie album of fetal (ph) songs. Like that CD, "Jambo Caribe" is a no-frills release with no new liner notes, no additional tracks, no rare session photos, and no absurdly-fancy packaging. And no complaints from me, given their lower price.

These records are no masterpieces, but it's not like every jazz reissue is or should be deep or profound. Sometimes the "Dizzier," the better.

BOGAEV: Kevin Whitehead is the author of "New Dutch Swing." He reviewed "Jambo Caribe" by Dizzy Gillespie on the Verve label.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

TO PURCHASE AN AUDIOTAPE OF THIS PIECE, PLEASE CALL 888-NPR-NEWS

Dateline: Barbara Bogaev, Philadelphia

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: OCTOBER 05, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 100503NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: UFOs and Conspiracy Theories
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:50

BARBARA BOGAEV, HOST: Phil Patton's new book "Dreamland" is a travel guide to a place that doesn't officially exist. Dreamland, also called Area 51, is a site about the size of Belgium in the Nevada desert, where the Pentagon tests top secret, experimental military aircraft.

This is where the U-2, the SR-71 Blackbird and the F-117 Stealth Fighter were first flown.

But ever since something fell out of the sky in 1948 and littered mysterious materials all over ranchlands in nearby Roswell, New Mexico, conspiracy theorists and UFO buffs have believed that the government is hiding something other than earthling aircraft in the desert.

Phil Patton is a contributing editor of "Esquire," "Wired" and "ID" magazines. When he was writing "Dreamland," Patton spoke with mechanics, pilots and engineers who were once involved in the top secret projects.

I asked Patton how they kept their work under wraps.

PHIL PATTON, AUTHOR, "DREAMLAND: TRAVELS INSIDE THE SECRET WORLD OF ROSWELL AND AREA 51": The key phrase for secrecy and all these things is "need to know." If you're working on the Stealth bomber, and I'm working on the Stealth fighter, we don't need to know about each others projects. And, in fact, I talked to some of the engineers who had worked on a program called code name "Tacit Blue," which was a whale-shaped Stealth plane that was built in the hangar right next to the Stealth fighter.

When one of the planes was brought out for testing, the other team had to stay inside its hangar. They couldn't catch site of the other aircraft.

BOGAEV: What's the official government line on Area 51?

PATTON: Well, the most you will hear them admit is that there are quote "activities at Broom Dry Lake area." And each year, the president has to sign a special letter saying that it's vital to the security interests of the United States that it will remain secret.

The president does this each year, in part to defend against lawsuits that are now in the courts from workers who claim to have been exposed to toxic chemicals there; and there are a lot of dangerous chemicals associated with particularly the Stealth fighter.

This latest case is on its way to the Supreme Court to see if they will consider it; the principle being: does secrecy and the need for supposed national security enable the government to hold back evidence of potential criminal activity; in this case, breaking environmental laws, but potentially much higher, more serious crimes, right up to murder.

BOGAEV: You went to a ridge that overlooks this Area 51. It's called Freedom Ridge, and it's where the "UFers" as you call them, the UFO watchers, and also the people interested in catching glimpses of secret airplanes, spy down on Area 51. What's the scene like there?

PATTON: I went up to Freedom Ridge before it was taken over as it was about a year-and-a-half later by the Air Force, just to look for these aircraft.

But what I was astonished by was the whole cast of characters I found up there, and the way that the place functions as a kind of weird magnet for theories and a mirror to the predilections of the people who come up there. There were characters with names like Agency X and Psycho Spy -- a whole group I referred to as the "decentral intelligence agency" -- who picked together little bits of information.

But there were also the flying saucer buffs who believe that the -- that they were using Nazi technology developed from theories of Nicoli Teslet (ph) down in there.

There were guys who had previously believed in the flying saucers, but now believe that they were holographic representations, and that "Dreamland" stood for Data Repository and Management Land, all of it part of a plot to drive us into the arms of the so-called "new world order," wrapped up with the Book of Revelations.

So I was fascinated by what was in the sky, but I was much more fascinated with the people who were fascinated with what was in the sky.

BOGAEV: When did the first UFO conspiracy theory start floating around -- around both Roswell and Area 51? And did it start with the so-called "Roswell, New Mexico incident"?

PATTON: The thing you have to remember about Roswell is that while it was one of the first noted episodes -- and it was the only time that the United States government ever officially claimed to have captured as the base commander did at Roswell, to have captured a flying saucer -- it was forgotten for years and years, and only revisited later by UFO researchers.

But it's really been sort of a neat 50 years since the concept of the flying saucers arrived, almost simultaneous with the beginning of the Cold War, and we're talking 1947.

It's really, for me, I think a new kind of folklore; and we had in the past folklore about nature, and now we had folklore about culture that was created not around the village square or around the camp fire but in the media.

The very name "flying saucer" was produced by a wire service reporter, undoubtedly on deadline -- and I know what that feels like -- he jammed some words together from the account of the man who first reported seeing mysterious objects darting across the sky. He said that they skipped like a saucer would skip if thrown across a pond.

That got jammed together from flying -- into flying saucer. Flying saucer was circulated around the world as a phrase. And a few months later came Roswell, and the sheep farmers and the eager young Air Force guys in Roswell thought they definitely had a flying saucer. I don't know if they did or not. I do know that the Air Force must have lied, because they've told different stories over the years, and not all of them can be true.

BOGAEV: All that anyone agrees on is that in 1947 in Roswell, New Mexico, something crashed. Something fell out of the sky. And the Air Force came and collected it up under certain -- a certain level of secrecy.

PATTON: They collected the wreckage. There were tales that the wreckage included strange metallic foil that could not be -- could not be torn or bent, that there were -- there was strange writing on the back of one piece of it.

But Roswell was a really interesting place, and in 1947 -- I think it illustrates a certain pattern about the whole lore of UFOs -- Roswell in 1947 had a base with the only atomic capable bombing in the world. It had down the road the test facilities where Vernon Von Braun and his German scientists were firing off captured V-2s, now renamed. It was not far from the Trinity Site, where the first U.S. nuclear explosion took place.

And for a populace devoted to worrying about rain and crops to believe in a flying saucer was a very easy step from believing in all the amazing things that had happened technologically in five or 10 years before that; to step from atomic weapons and rockets to flying saucers is no great leap.

BOGAEV: Well, you speculate that starting then and also over time, that the Army might have actually encouraged the UFO buffs, again, as part of an elaborate secrecy scheme. What makes you think that? What evidence do you point to support that?

PATTON: While I was working on the book, the CIA historian -- and I was pleased to find that all these agencies have really great history departments, by the way -- but the CIA historian came out with a report saying that a huge proportion of so-called UFOs sightings in the West in the late '50 and 1960s were U-2 spy planes, and later A-12 and SR-71 spy planes.

Clearly, the government was not in a position to jump up and down and say: sorry, these are not actually flying saucers. They're only multi-million dollar spy planes we've been trying to keep secret from you.

At that same time, talking to Office of Special Investigations guys, they are very forthright about the need to surround black or secret programs with a high level of "noise," as they say, keeping the real story confused.

And I am very confident that they have not been adverse to making people who spotted real "black aircraft" be considered nuts, who are only interested in flying saucers.

BOGAEV: You bring up a kind of interesting footnote that Karl Jung was fascinated by UFOs theories. He called them "symbolical rumors." How did he understand them as a mass-cultural psychological phenomenon, because I think that's what fascinates people today about it.

PATTON: I think 50 years now after the saucers emerge, we're really understanding that they do have this central role in our culture. I mean, something like Elvis sightings, if you will. And Jung was on to that really early. He understood that this was a kind of folklore emerging in front of our very eyes, so to speak. And he tied it probably a lot further than I would to the Mandella-menda (ph) archetypal round symbols, the eye in the sky. And yet I think the eye in the sky in some way was the right thing.

We were fearful at that time and Jung made this association -- we lived in an atmosphere of fear spawned by the Cold War. We needed eyes in the sky to see what was happening on the ground in the Soviet Union. The U-2 and the satellites were to provide those eyes in a literal, technical way. And many of those that are out there are along the highway by the jumbled hills, outside Area 51, or in a way, sort of fulfillments of all that Jung was talking about.

BOGAEV: You grew up on an Army -- on an Air Force base. Your father was a pilot, who flew was it in the Tokyo fire bombing?

PATTON: Yes, he served under Curt LeMay, later head of the Strategic Air Command; of course, and has been the model for the character in "Dr. Strangelove," in many of the raids over Japan, including the most famous, the fire bomb raids of March 1945.

BOGAEV: He was wounded, hurt his eye. Blinded. Did that happen in the fire bombing?

PATTON: My father flew in the fire bombings of March of 1945, but -- and he continued to fly until June of '45, when he was badly injured over Osaka. And he was blinded and had other problems, and as a result he never saw me or my mother or my brother.

And it -- for me, as I worked on the book I found that a lot of what had drawn me to seeing strange things in the sky may have been related to explaining to him and to the whole issue of seeing and imaging. It wasn't something I started out with as a primary goal. But it became a kind of guiding theme underneath. And I found in the language of the book once it was finished, that I was constantly coming up with people who said: you didn't see that -- as a way of ensuring security; or: did you see that? Can you imagine seeing that?

And it was a theme that grew out in a very strange and natural way, I think.

BOGAEV: Phil Patton, I want to thank you a lot for talking today.

PATTON: Thank you. I enjoyed it Barbara.

BOGAEV: Phil Patton is the author of "Dreamland."

Coming up a review of a new short story collection by Lorrie Moore. This is FRESH AIR.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

TO PURCHASE AN AUDIOTAPE OF THIS PIECE, PLEASE CALL 888-NPR-NEWS

Dateline: Barbara Bogaev, Philadelphia
Guest: Kevin Whitehead
High: "Guest-host Barbara Bogaev interviews journalist Phil Patton, author of "Dreamland: Travels Inside the Secret World of Roswell and Area 51." Patton writes about the place in the Nevada desert where the U.S. government tests top-secret experimental military aircraft. It doesn't exist on a map, and drawings, photography, and any such depiction of the area is prohibited. Conspiracy theorists, followers of UFOs, and secret plane enthusiasts, have all latched on to the place. Patton writes the "Public Eye" column for "The New York Times," and is a commentator on the CBS news show "Up to the Minute."
Spec: "Dreamland: Travels Inside the Secret World of Roswell and Area 51"; Military; Government; Roswell; Area 51; Aviation

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1998 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1998 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: UFOs and Conspiracy Theories

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: OCTOBER 06, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 100504NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: The Birds
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:50

BOGAEV: Lorrie Moore's new short story collection is called "Birds of America," perhaps because birds make cameo appearances in her stories, like Alfred Hitchcock did in his own movies.

Book critic Maureen Corrigan says that gratuitous birds sightings are only the most obvious of the oddities about Moore's writing.

MAUREEN CORRIGAN, BOOK CRITIC: The thing I really like about Lorrie Moore is that she's such a quiet weirdo. Other writers conceivably might be able to dream up characters like the orphan Transylvanian librarian in the story called "Community Life," where the heroine -- four calling birds -- who is mourning for her dead cat and seeks out a cut-rate psychotherapist who guarantees cures by Christmas.

But I think those other writers wouldn't be able to restrain themselves from nudging their readers in the ribs and saying, in effect: look at me. Look at how odd I'm being.

Except for the first story in this new collection, a story called "Willing," about a has-been movie actress whose self-destructive behavior is a bit too stagy, Moore never permits herself or her characters to congratulate themselves on their own eccentricity.

In her two earlier short story collections, and especially in her haunting novel "Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?" Moore has been developing what's come to be recognized as her trademark tone, composed of witty one-liners that bob up and down on waves of grief.

This is an especially tricky effect to pull off, given that many of the stories in "Birds of America" deal with illness and death, often involving children.

One of the most vivid stories in which Moore weds the unthinkable to the impish is "Dance in America." The unnamed narrator is an aging dancer who now makes his living by visiting schools, caustically regaling the students which what he dismisses as his rented charisma, and spreading dances' holy word. Stuck for a stultifying two weeks in Pennsylvania Dutch country and fed up with the creamed chicken on waffle dinners at the Quality Inn, he accepts an invitation to stay with an old friend, Cal, who teaches at one of the local colleges.

Our narrator is shocked by the rickety house Cal and his family live in. It's a former frathouse, with maple seedlings sprouting through the dinning room floorboards.

But he's even more disturbed by Cal's seven year old son, Eugene, who has cystic fibrosis. Eugene is beautiful and goofy, and like his father's house, he's been invaded with something like strong life-sapping roots.

The last we see of our narrator, he's dancing around the living room with Eugene. Dance is liking flipping death the bird, he earlier told his student audiences in an attempt to shock them, to play the hip visiting artist. Now dipping, gliding and sliding around with Eugene, our narrator sweats out most of his sarcasm and energetically affirms the truth of those words.

I think "Terrific Mother" may be the best story in "Birds of America," but that might be because it's the last story in this collection. And so it caps every other story that I've in turn thought was the best.

"Terrific Mother" opens on a description of a mildly tedious suburban barbecue that swerves into horror when the main character Adrienne falls off a bench, and the friend's baby she's holding flies out of her arms and fatally cracks its head on a stone wall.

Moore's brilliance as a storyteller is evident in the fact that this awful scene is the opening premise, not the climax. Adrienne subsequently locks herself away in her apartment for seven months, and then marries her solicitous boyfriend, who whisks her away to an Italian villa, a retreat for scholars whose intelligence is only outweighed by their meanness.

Squirming through a scholarly dinner, Adrienne thinks: "at times like these, it was probably a good idea to carry a small hand puppet."

And here's how she regards her hasty marriage:

"She had bonded in a state of emergency, like an infant bird. But perhaps it would be soothing, this marriage, perhaps it would be like a nice war bath, and nice warm bath in a tub flying off the roof."

The more I read of Lorrie Moore, the more she reminds me of a poet I love who I never thought I would be comparing anyone to, Stevie Smith.

Stevie was another morbidly loopy writer who was irreverent about the right things: death, cosmic meaning, academics, which he called "smug pugs" and "smarties."

Lady birds of a very strange feather, both Stevie Smith and Lorrie Moore are distinguished by their signature shrieks of inappropriate laughter.

BOGAEV: Maureen Corrigan teaches literature at Georgetown University.

She reviewed "Birds of America" by Lorrie Moore.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

TO PURCHASE AN AUDIOTAPE OF THIS PIECE, PLEASE CALL 888-NPR-NEWS

Dateline: Barbara Bogaev, Philadelphia
Guest: Maureen Corrigan
High: Lorrie Moore's new short story collection is called "Birds of America," perhaps because birds make cameo appearances in the stories, like Alfred Hitchcock did in his own movies. Book Critic Maureen Corrigan says that gratuitous birds sightings are only the most obvious of the oddities about Moore's writing.
Spec: Lorrie Moore; Art; Media; "Birds of America"

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1998 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1998 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: The Birds
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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