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Classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz

Classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz brings us classical music news from Boston. Seiji Ozawa is leaving the Boston Symphony Orchestra after 29 years as conductor. James Levine will replace him. Also, Lloyd will explain how the events of September 11th have changed the BSOs programming.


Other segments from the episode on November 16, 2001

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, November 16, 2001: Interview with Andrew Solomon; Commentary on the Boston Symphony Orchestra; Review of the film “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”


DATE November 16, 2001 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Andrew Solomon discusses his book "The Noonday Demon"

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Barbara Bogaev, in for Terry Gross.

This week, Andrew Solomon won the National Book Award for non-fiction for his
work "The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression." Solomon is what you might
describe as a self-taught expert on the subject of depression. He suffers
from it and has had several breakdowns. After one of his recoveries, he
plunged himself into research on the condition. "The Noonday Demon" recounts
his own experiences and those of many men and women he interviewed. It also
explains the biology of depression, the latest pharmaceutical and alternative
treatments and how depression is understood and treated in different cultures.
Solomon is a contributor to the New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine.
Before we listen to Terry's interview with him, recorded this summer, let's
hear a conversation Terry had with him yesterday after the Book Awards were


Andrew Solomon, congratulations.

Mr. ANDREW SOLOMON (Author, "The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression"):
Thank you very much.

GROSS: Very nice to have your book win. So is it helping your mood to have
won the award?

Mr. SOLOMON: It is. I said last night I thought there was nothing more
effective an antidepressant than winning the National Book Award.

GROSS: Were you surprised to win? And how did you find out you won?

Mr. SOLOMON: I found out I won sitting at a dinner for 1,500 people in the
Marriott Marquis in New York when they announced it from the podium. I was
extremely pleased that I won. I had hoped that I might win. I'm pleased not
only because it's very gratifying to one's ego and very reassuring to have
that kind of response to one's work, but also because I think that even 10
years ago a book on depression would have seemed to people almost frivolous
and that the seriousness with which the book has been treated reflects an
improving national attitude toward mental illness. So I was very gratified
for that reason.

GROSS: Is you psychiatrist happy about it?

Mr. SOLOMON: I've just seen my psychiatrist not half an hour ago, and he was
delighted. He gave me a big hug.

GROSS: Good. So I feel the need to have a kind of post-September 11th update
with you before we hear the interview that we originally recorded. I'm
wondering, if you were writing a post-September 11th chapter in the book, what
are some of the issues you might want to address in it?

Mr. SOLOMON: Well, I would look, first of all, at how much of an increase in
depression there's been around the country. Sales of antidepressants are up
between 20 and 25 percent. People reporting anxiety disorders--numbers have
gone up dramatically. There have also been increases in the rates of both
domestic violence and child abuse, which I think reflects a general mental

I think one of the first things that I would have to say in a chapter like
this is that right now people are very depressed, and they're depressed with
good reason. But, you know, if you fall off a ladder and break your arm,
you've broken your arm for a good reason. You fell off a ladder. But you
still need to set it and you still need to take care of it. And that now
looking at this post September 11th time, there's this great crisis in
American mental health and there's a good reason for it, but we need to
address it and we need to address it responsibly.

GROSS: Now what about you and friends of yours and other people who you know
through your book who have more chronic problems with depression? Is
terrorism making that depression worse?

Mr. SOLOMON: The tendency right now has been for people who have had
depressive episodes to relapse and to have further depressive episodes, and
the tendency has also been for people who have never had depressive episodes
to have them. But the worst-hit population are people who've previously
suffered from depression. And though I'm doing fairly well now, I have to say
in the period immediately after September 11th, I was aware of sort of
profound feeling of instability and unsafety that was just overwhelming to me,
and part of it was the appropriate response to what had happened and then part
of it was spinning out of control so that I felt there was no point doing my
work, there was no point connecting with other people, everything felt futile,
everything felt desperate. That part, I think, is the depression part.

GROSS: What do you think got you out of that?

Mr. SOLOMON: I increased the dose of one of the medications I was on, only
for 10 days, but it helped to pull me through that trough. And as time
passed, I adjusted to the new reality and that also helped. And I think I
focused very hard on trying to think through rationally what I was
experiencing and trying to gain some kind of knowledge and control over it.

GROSS: Is this something you've been talking about a lot with friends and
professional contacts?

Mr. SOLOMON: Yes. I've been discussing it with professional people. I've
done consulting in several occasions, including recently at Columbia
University, on how to address the current crisis. And I've just been amazed
by how many people have written to me or sent me e-mails or come up to me when
I've done public appearances to say, `You know, I had a depression once and I
thought everything was OK, but just since September 11th, I've been feeling
really terrible.' I hear that over and over and over again. Or, `I was OK
even with September 11th, but with this anthrax stuff I just feel afraid all
the time. I don't want to leave my house.' And again, I feel like the point
at which it prevents people from functioning is the point at which it crosses
over into clinical territory, and I do hear a lot about people not functioning
well, people getting to work, starting on something, getting partway through
it and then thinking, `Who cares whether this magazine comes out?' or `Who
cares whether this contract gets closed?'

GROSS: Do you have any advice?

Mr. SOLOMON: My advice is to take your emotional temperature carefully, and
if you feel as though you actually are becoming depressed, don't write it off
just because there's an occasion for the depression. Instead, go to see a
mental health professional, consider taking medication if you haven't taken it
before, or adjusting your dosage if you're on medication. Consider various
kinds of talking therapies. But don't expect the depression to just go away
magically when we win the war in Afghanistan. I think once it's been
triggered, it's a serious matter and it has to be dealt with seriously. And I
don't think the changes in current events will necessarily snap everyone back
into perfect condition.

GROSS: Well, Andrew Solomon, I wish you the best through this difficult
period, and I congratulate you again on winning the National Book Award. And
in a moment, we'll listen back to the interview that we recorded together in
early June, when your book was first published. Thank you so much.

Mr. SOLOMON: Thank you so much. It's a pleasure.

BOGAEV: Now let's hear the interview with Andrew Solomon from last June.
Terry asked him if he'd found any solace in seeing how widespread depression
is or in better understanding the nature of it.

(Soundbite of June 2001 interview)

Mr. SOLOMON: There's been considerable solace in understanding depression
better. I think the more one knows about it, the more one feels in control of
what happens. And the better informed one is about depression, the more one
recognizes what one goes through.

The extent of depression was the thing that I think most startled and
surprised me as I began working on this book. If you go to parties and say to
people that you're writing a book about depression, as long as there's a group
of people, everyone laughs, but people begin to take you aside as soon as you
are with them one-on-one. And everybody I met has some kind of a depression
story, either their own affliction or the afflictions of people who are close
to them. It's just the family secret everyone has. It's a universal

GROSS: I'd like to ask you to describe your experience of depression. Why
don't we do the most extreme form of depression, the breakdown? And you've
had a couple of them.

Mr. SOLOMON: I have. I had my first really severe breakdown in about 1994.
I had been going along about my life and I'd been through some things that
were quite traumatic and quite difficult; the most striking one being the
death of my mother at the end of a long battle with cancer. And I was feeling
very down and very blue and rather grief-stricken. I had some additional
personal traumas. And then I began to feel really increasingly sad, and then
I began to feel sort of numb, and then I began to find that things were just a
little bit effortful and that I didn't seem to be able to muster very much
emotion about anything. And then things began to become more effortful.

And I would get home and have messages on my answering machine and I would
think, `All those people. I need to call back all of those people.' And I
would think, `I have to go out and I have to get things to eat, and I have to
get through the day.' And it all seemed like somehow more than I could manage
to do. And I thought that was very strange, but I was still able to keep up a
facade of functioning reasonably well, and I assumed that it was just a
temporary thing, and I didn't really pay very much attention to it.

And then it began to get more severe, and I began to have this feeling of
dread and anxiety, which was sort of like the feeling you might have if you
had tripped and you were about to fall, that sort of middle-of-the-air feeling
before you quite hit the ground. But it was extended, and this feeling of
dread got worse and worse. And I began coming home and hearing messages on my
answering machine and thinking not simply that I didn't want to call people
back, but that I didn't know how I ever could. I would think, `Who are those
people? How am I ever going to catch up with them? What am I ever going to
do? How am I going to'--and there were just messages from friends and people
who wanted to be in touch. And I would think, `I have to get dressed. I have
to put on my clothes. I have to put on both socks. I have to put on both
shoes.' And the whole business of ordinary daily life began to see so
effortful and so overwhelming.

And I really didn't understand what was happening to me. But I kept trying to
battle through it, still thinking, `This doesn't make any sense. This is so
weird.' And then I became more and more anxious and more and more null, and I
had more and more of this feeling that was a mix of sadness and fear until
finally I felt I simply couldn't do anything. And I found myself at last
lying in bed one day thinking, `I can't get up.' And I lay there thinking, `I
can't put the toothpaste on my toothbrush. I can't brush all of my teeth.'
It just seemed like such an overwhelming task. It seemed much more
frightening and much more overwhelming than at this point, it seems to me, for
example, to come and do an interview on National Public Radio. And I thought,
`How am I going to get out of bed?' And I lay there in bed just shaking with
fear and feeling completely unable to do anything and feeling no emotion of
any kind except that fear and anxiety. And I thought, `I have to call
someone. I have to get out of my apartment,' and I couldn't reach for the
telephone. I lay there staring at the telephone thinking, `You just pick it
up and you dial,' but I simply couldn't do it. And fortunately, someone
called me and I said, `Something has gone terribly, terribly wrong with me.'
And at that point, I started going to see a psychopharmacologist and trying to
do something and begin to emerge.

GROSS: You say in your book that people are often relieved when a doctor
says, `Your depression is chemically based.' When you learned about the
biology of depression, was that any comfort to you? Did it make you think,
`Well, now this will be easier to overcome'?

Mr. SOLOMON: Well, certainly, when I realized that what I had could be
explained in part biologically and that it could be treated in part
biologically, that was a great comfort. But as I continued to work on the
book and as I continued to work with my own personality and depression, I came
to believe that everything about us is to some extent chemically based, and
that personality is chemically based. And some of the time, I think people
say depression is chemically based as a sort of way out. I think you can use
chemical treatments to ameliorate depression, but I think depression itself is
a very complex phenomenon. It's chemically based. It's also a part of who
you are and a part of your character.

GROSS: I'd like you to run through some of the pills, for instance, that
you're taking now and what they're supposed to do for you in terms of changing
your body chemistry or alleviating panic.

Mr. SOLOMON: Well, my primary antidepressant now is Effexor, which I expect
that I'll be taking for a long time. It manages to keep me from getting to
that low level of being genuinely dysfunctional. It does not prevent me from
being sad, but it prevents me from getting overwhelmingly sad for absolutely
no reason whatsoever in the way I did when I was depressed.

Then I also take BuSpar, which has a mild anti-anxiety effect. And then I
take Wellbutrin, which is helpful in allaying some of the anti-sexual side
effects of the Effexor. I take Zyprexa, which is a mild anti-anxiety drug
which is also used for psychosis, though I don't take it for psychosis. And
then I also take TOPAMAX because the Zyprexa tends to cause weight gain and
the TOPAMAX, which is a mood stabilizer, tends to prevent the weight gain. So
it's a very delicately balanced cocktail.

GROSS: You must feel very dependent on these pills and very afraid to not be
without them.

Mr. SOLOMON: I feel very dependent on them. And I sort of hate being
dependent on them, but I just feel so relieved every time I look at that
handful of pills and think, `OK, if I take these, that horrible business of
depression won't happen to me again.'

BOGAEV: Andrew Solomon's new book on depression is "The Noonday Demon." It
just won the National Book Award. We'll hear more of our interview with him
after the break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

BOGAEV: Back now to Terry Gross' interview with Andrew Solomon, author of
"The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression."

(Soundbite of June 2001 interview)

GROSS: You've had psychiatrists who did talk therapy with you, and others who
took a more pharmacological approach. Are you still combining the two?

Mr. SOLOMON: Yes, I am, and I think I will permanently. And my biggest
piece of advice to people who are going through a depression is to use a
combination of therapies. I think too often, people want to take medication
and not think too much about their own personalities. I think there's strong
statistical evidence now that a combination of talking therapy and medication
is much more effective than either one of those treatments alone. I think
that when you've had a depression, you really have to come to a new
understanding of who you are.

I think one of the urgent messages of "The Noonday Demon" is that depression
feels while you're in it, and is while you're in it, a bleak, empty, barren
experience. But in fact, when you come out of it, there are many lessons that
can be learned from depression. It's an enormously intense experience. It
involves a kind of emotion that you don't necessarily experience anywhere else
in life. And part of what I would like to do is to help people to find, in
retrospect, whatever richness or whatever depth can be extracted from
depression. And I think going through talking therapy is one of the ways in
which you can discover those things about your personality that you might
never have known if you hadn't been through this particular devastation.

GROSS: What's an example of something like that, that you discovered after
one of your depressions?

Mr. SOLOMON: I feel like I became a kinder person because of the depression
that I'd been through. I became more empathetic. And in addition, I think I
discovered a joyfulness about daily life.

GROSS: Yeah. But at the same time, don't you feel this dread that at any
moment, the depression might come back?

Mr. SOLOMON: Yes, there's a constant dread of it. And depression is a
cyclical and a recurrent illness. And what we have for depression now are
treatments rather than cures. Once you have really serious depression, you're
never completely free of it, and that can be a terrible burden--is a terrible

GROSS: What are some of the things that you feel you get out of talking to a
psychiatrist that you wouldn't get if you were just taking drugs?

Mr. SOLOMON: I think you come to an understanding of what the predisposing
factors are to depression so that when you begin to move toward what might be
a depression episode, you can recognize it much better and much more quickly.
You can decide whether you ought to increase some of your medications or shift
some of your medications or do something about them. You can recognize
behaviors of your own that seem to trigger some of your depressive episodes.
Because a depressive episode usually is linked both to life events and to
chemical shifts in the brain.

You come to understand yourself better and more profoundly. You understand
how you move toward depression in the course of your ordinary life. You
recognize the kinds of events that trigger your depression. You learn how to
regulate your own emotional life and have greater control over what happens in
your emotional interior so that you can steer clear of depression. You gain
greater and more profound self-knowledge.

And I think part of what happens in depression, also, is that you experience a
terrible aloneness. And I think in a really successful therapy, you have not
only the company of the therapist--which has a certain value--but you also
learn more and more about how to connect deeply and truly and honestly with
other people, with the people who are your friends or the people you are
married to or the members of your family. And that by learning how to have
those connections be more profound, less troubled and less ambivalent, you
develop the kind of connectedness and the kind of absence of aloneness that
are extremely useful in staving off the recurrence of depression and that make
it easier if you go into a depression to battle your way back out of it.

GROSS: Does your particular brand of depression come along with a degree of

Mr. SOLOMON: When I'm in the depression itself, it absolutely comes with
self-loathing. I mean, part of what you experience during a depressive
episode is a sense that your life is worthless and has no value. You begin to
feel suicidal and part of that suicidality is thinking, `I'm worthless. I'm
useless. My life is useless. The world would be just as well if I weren't in
it.' Yes, absolutely. That's a big part of what happens.

GROSS: Have you found that talk therapy has helped you through that feeling
of hating yourself?

Mr. SOLOMON: I have found that it's been very helpful in establishing really
a rational platform that I can oppose to the emotional feelings that come
washing over me. Even if I feel emotionally as though I'm worth nothing, I
have a rational piece of my mind which keeps saying, `Now you know perfectly
well that you have great value, that you have people around you, that there
are very good reasons to live.' I think it's important to have a good base
established so that your rational mind retains a certain validity when your
emotional mind seems to come washing over it with all of that negativity and
it's part of what I hope the book is able to do is to give people a sense of
how to establish that rational control so that their emotional mind doesn't
completely colonize the rest of their brain.

GROSS: Through your book, you quote several poems about depression. Some of
them are from people who you know; others are from Emily Dickinson, Jane
Kenyon. I thought it'd be nice if you read us one of your favorites that
you've collected.

Mr. SOLOMON: I think that the one that always seemed to me to be the most
compelling description of depression is Emily Dickinson. It's the poem, "I
Felt A Funeral In My Brain."

`I felt a funeral in my brain, and mourners to and fro kept treading, treading
till I thought that sense was breaking through. And when they all were
seated, a service like a drum kept beating, beating till I thought my mind was
going numb. And then I heard them lift a box and creak across my soul with
those same boots of lead again, then space began to toll, as if the heavens
were a bell and being were an ear, and I and silence, some strange race
wrecked, solitary here. Just then a plank in reason broke, and I fell down
and down and hit a world at every plunge and finished knowing then.'

There we are.

GROSS: I should mention you know that one by heart. That was not something
you read from a page. That one you just know.

In writing about your own depression, you talk about how when you're very,
very depressed, every minute hurts. And it strikes me as being so similar and
at the same time opposite to the whole idea of meditation where you strive for
living exactly in the moment, but you're living exactly in the moment when
you're depressed. You say there's no past and there's no future; all there is
is the pain of the present.

Mr. SOLOMON: I think that's actually an incredibly good parallel, and I've
never heard it phrased quite that way. One of the people I interviewed said
to me that she felt like it was that moment when your fingers get slammed in a
car door and you're just stalled forever in that exact instant. But, yes, it
is a feeling of incredible, constant pain. And you think to yourself not,
`How am I going to get through the next 20 years?' but, `How am I going to get
through the next second of being alive?'

GROSS: Part of your book is devoted to your mother's suicide, and you also
wrote a New Yorker article about that. Your mother had ovarian cancer and she
was very, very sick during her final chemotherapy. You describe her mouth as
being `one big sore. She could hardly eat. She had no strength. She had
become allergic to nearly everything. Life was hell and she wanted to end
it.' She asked the family to help her commit suicide and to be with her as
she did it. Her plan was to take Seconals and overdose on that, which is what
she did. How did she explain wanting to involve you in her suicide as opposed
to just doing it and having you find out about it after the fact?

Mr. SOLOMON: She said that she didn't want to go through the final
indignities of dying in a hospice or in a hospital. She was someone who had
always very much cherished dignity and control. At the time that she killed
herself, she had been told by doctors that she was not treatable, that she had
a clearly terminal cancer and that she had very little time left to live, so
it was a matter of dying only a few months before she would otherwise have
died in much more extreme circumstances of pain. And she said that she
considered committing suicide all on her own, but she felt that it would be
terribly upsetting for us to find her dead and not to know what had really
happened and not to understand. And she said she felt she wanted to die
quietly and peacefully at home, and she wanted us to feel that we'd been with
her at the end and to understand that this was not something she'd done in
despair or something she'd done in anger or something she'd done because she
couldn't manage to get through what lay ahead of her, but rather, something
she'd done because she wanted peace and quiet and dignity, and that for her it
was the right choice and a happy choice, and that she had things she wanted to
say to us right before she went.

And indeed, she had an extraordinary death scene, which I describe in the
book, which concluded with her looking at my father and my brother and me and
saying, `I want you to know that in the course of my life, I've looked for
many things, so many things, and all the time paradise has been in this room
with the three of you,' and then she closed her eyes for the last time. And
it was a very moving and very compelling circumstance, and it was very
difficult to watch her die. We didn't exactly assist her, we were just
present while she did it, but I think it was probably, for all the trauma that
was involved, a better way for me to see her go than to see her emaciated and
in pain in a hospital bed the way that I've seen other friends die of cancer.

GROSS: You quote what your mother said to you just before she died, and she
said, `Don't think you're paying me some kind of great tribute if you let my
death become the great event of your life. The best tribute you can pay to me
as a mother is to go on and have a good and fulfilling life, enjoy what you
have.' That's really beautiful advice. Did you try to follow that?

Mr. SOLOMON: It took me a while. I mean, as I said, there were a number of
life circumstances that precipitated my depression. The loss of my mother,
with whom I'd been extremely close, was one; the end of a relationship that
I'd been involved with was another. I went through extreme physical pain with
a very bad case of kidney stones. There were a whole catalog of other things
with which I will not bore our listeners today. They all led into a
depression. The depression was very severe, and so there was a period,
certainly, when the bad things that had happened to me were the subject of my

But some people have said to me since, `Well, how did you fight your way back
out of your depression, and how did you get to the point at which you were
able to write a book about it, and how did you get to the point at which you
were living a life that you found rich and rewarding and interesting?' And I
have to say, those words were in the back of my mind a lot. I felt as though
one has a limited number of days on Earth, and one has to struggle to get to
the point at which one lives them well.

One of the things that I found astonishing when I was working on this book is
that there are some people who have got really relatively slight symptoms by
their own description of depression. That is, depression somehow devastates
and ruins their lives and becomes the only thing that there is in their lives.
And there are other people who have got symptoms that are unbelievably extreme
and that are almost intolerably painful, but who somehow, in between episodes
and around episodes, manage, nonetheless, to have lives in which they really
connect with other people and lives in which they, themselves, see
considerable value. And I became fascinated by the borderline between
personality and illness. Now I don't particularly hold myself up as an
example, but I do hold some of the people who are in the book up as examples
of those who are able, one way or another, to have rich lives despite their

You can't have a rich life during your depression. And it's a terrible
mistake to take someone who's in a depression and say, `Well, pull yourself
together. Life is wonderful. Life is meaningful. Get some of the richness
out of life right now, despite what you're going through.' But I think it's
very important for people who experience depression to spend the time when
they're in depression thinking of what complexity life has to offer, and when
they begin to come out, to try to grab onto the things that will offer some
meaning in their lives. That, I think, is the message of hope that there is
in the end in this book.

GROSS: To just hold on till it's over--till that depression is over.

Mr. SOLOMON: To hold on till the depression is over, but then when the
depression is over, to come to terms with the depression; not to turn your
back on it, not to run away from it and not to allow the shadow of it to take
over the rest of your life.

GROSS: Now you mentioned that you went to different cultures, different
countries to understand depression there. You went to Cambodia. This is
after the Killing Fields, after Pol Pot had practically performed genocide
on his own people. The amazing thing there is that not everybody is
depressed. That some people kind of carry on without depression. What are
some of the things that your experiences looking at depression in Cambodia
made you realize about depression?

Mr. SOLOMON: Well, one is that I realized that people are incredibly
resilient. I mean, I discovered as I looked around at the world that there
are some people who are in poverty-stricken countries, who have had entire
families die in famine, who have been through the most unbelievable,
horrendous circumstances and who, nonetheless, absolutely cling to life, who
you see sort of doing whatever they can, eating whatever comes to hand, just
in order to stay alive. And I thought `Look at all of the people who commit
suicide in the most supportive and prosperous and comfortable societies on
Earth. There is a difference between the people who are subject to depression
and the people who seem not to be subject to depression.'

But in Cambodia in particular I had a really amazing experience with a woman
who treats depressed people in Cambodia and who described how she worked with
survivors of the Khmer Rouge who were severely depressed. And she said she
tried to work with them in three stages. She said they all were people whose
minds were so crowded with horror that they could barely get up and function.
She said there were women who had been through these terrible traumas in the
Khmer Rouge period and couldn't take care of their own children because they
were simply disabled to the point at which they didn't feed the infants who
were sitting next to them. She said, `And I tried to teach them three
things.' She said, `First, I tried to teach them to forget. And I did that
by asking them to remember what had happened, to talk to me about it and then
to talk about other things so that I could begin to fill up their mind with
some other things that would take up some of the space that was taken up with
their terrible memories.'

`And then after they had begun to forget, I tried to teach them to work.
Sometimes all they would be able to do is to clean up their own houses and
maybe to gather firewood in the jungle.' She said, `Whatever it was, but I
would teach them to do something so they had something they could start and
do and say, "This was my thing, and I did it today."' She said, `And then,
because I was working with groups of women mostly in resettlement camps,' she
said, `I taught them to perform manicures and pedicures.' I said, `You
taught them what?' She said, `The women of Cambodia who had been through
these experiences had been in a country in which half the country turned
against the other half of the country. And I taught them to do this because
it was a system in which they touched each others hands and feet in a way
that was at once intimate and non-threatening. And in doing that, they began
to talk to each other. And they were enjoying the idea that they were being
made somehow more beautiful while they did it.' She said, `And it taught
them to begin to open up to other people and to trust again.'

`And when they had learned to forget and to work and to trust, then I tried to
teach them that those three activities were not separate, but were part of a
single sensibility. And when they had learned that, they were ready to go
into the world again.'

And as I listened to what she was saying, I had a sense that here was a
culture that was really quite foreign and quite different from American
culture and a society that had been through enormous traumas, but that the
basic building blocks of reconstructing personalities that had been ripped
apart by going through such enormous trauma were really quite similar to the
ones that people go through using very sophisticated, Western techniques of

GROSS: Andrew Solomon, thank you so much for talking with us.

Mr. SOLOMON: Thank you so much, Terry.

BOGAEV: Andrew Solomon is the author of "The Noonday Demon," which just won
the National Book Award for non-fiction.

Coming up, Lloyd Schwartz on the Boston Symphony Orchestra. This is FRESH

(Soundbite of music)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Profile: Change in leadership in Boston Symphony Orchestra and
the orchestra's programming since September 11th

Four of the five major American symphony orchestras, in New York,
Philadelphia, Cleveland and Boston, have been undergoing major upheavals in
leadership, but none more radical than the 121-year-old Boston Symphony
Orchestra. But classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz says that's not the
only music story coming from Boston.

(Soundbite of classical music)


Seiji Ozawa is leaving at the end of this season after having been music
director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for 29 years, longer than any other
conductor. He'll be taking over the Vienna State Opera, which is one of the
few positions in the classical music world that might be considered even more

On the other hand, James Levine, who has been leading the Metropolitan Opera
for 30 years, now wants to devote himself more seriously to the symphonic
repertoire and has agreed to come to Boston, where his handful of BSO
concerts, unlike most of Ozawa's, have been major artistic successes. One of
the reasons he said he wanted to perform in Boston is Symphony Hall, which is
one of the concert world's acoustical marvels. In celebration of the hall's
centennial, the BSO has just released a 12-CD set from its archive of live
radio broadcasts; a disc each to former music directors, Serge Koussevitzky,
Pierre Monteux, Charles Munch, Erich Leinsdorf and William Steinberg; two
discs to Ozawa; four discs of such diverse guest conductors as Leopold
Stokowski, Aaron Copland, Guido Cantelli and Klaus Tennstedt, but not Levine;
and a disc of encore pieces and bits of rehearsals with Koussevitzky and
Leonard Bernstein.

Followers of the BSO might argue about the selections or the conductors
themselves, but no question, the best things here are extraordinary mementos
of a great orchestra.

(Soundbite of classical music)

SCHWARTZ: That's Koussevitzky conducting one of the masterpieces of
20th-century music: Bartov's "Concerto for Orchestra," which Koussevitzky
himself commissioned for the BSO. It's the first broadcast performance,
December 30th, 1944, barely a month after its world premiere.

I also love hearing the great French conductor, Pierre Monteux, in some
unfamiliar repertoire for him, like these stylishly Viennese waltzes from
Richard Strauss' opera "Der Rosenkavalier."

(Soundbite of classical music)

SCHWARTZ: For a relatively conservative organization, the BSO has had its
share of controversy. Back in 1982, the orchestra invited Vanessa Redgrave to
narrate a production of Stravinsky's "Oedipus Rex," directed by the brilliant
young Peter Sellers. But the BSO canceled the performances, claiming it
feared angry protesters against Redgrave's pro-Palestinian position.

The events of September 11th have also led to changes in BSO programs. This
month, Robert Spano was scheduled to conduct the choruses from John Adams'
opera "The Death of Klinghoffer," with a libretto by Alice Goodman(ph) about
the Palestinian terrorist attack on the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro in
which a Jewish-American, Leon Klinghoffer, was murdered then tossed overboard
in his wheelchair. These seven choral sections contain some of Adams' most
eloquent music, several depicting natural forces: ocean and desert, night and
day, and two in the voices of Jewish and Palestinian exiles, both given equal
time. Here are excerpts from the choruses of exiled Palestinians and exiled
Jews on a new Nonesuch John Adams CD conducted by Kent Nagano.

(Soundbite of classical music and singing in foreign language)

SCHWARTZ: Both Robert Spano and the BSO management now feel that this is an
inappropriate time to perform passages from a work about a terrorist act,
especially since the husband of one of the chorus members was a victim of the
September 11th attacks. But Adams and Goodman strongly disagree with this
decision. `The time for escapism is past,' Goodman has said. It's hard to
sort this out. This piece has, from its inception, been difficult,
controversial material. It would surely have been painful to perform and
painful to hear right now. But I'm worried about an attitude that wants to
protect audiences from confronting painful subjects, especially when that
subject has such immediate relevance to what we're all living through.

(Soundbite of classical music)

BOGAEV: Lloyd Schwartz is classical music editor of The Boston Phoenix. His
latest book of poems is "Cairo Traffic." Coming up, Harry Potter on the big
screen. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: Movie, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone"

"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" opens today. The novels about this
young wizard have sold over 120 million copies in 46 languages, and so it's no
surprise that the film version of the first in the series is the most
anticipated premiere of the season for many people. Ken Tucker, who has read
the books with his children, went to see the movie. Here is his review.


J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books are small wonders of contemporary pop
culture, hugely popular works of genuine literary merit; wildly imaginative
children's stories that also delve headlong into the nature of family, love,
loyalty and evil. This is important to remember right now when the hype over
the $125 million movie "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" might make some
people feel like Jonathan Franzen in the land of Oprah, suspicious that books
chosen by so many millions of readers, adults as well as kids, couldn't be
that good, could they? Well, the books are; the movie isn't quite.

As an adaptation of the first book in Rowling's series, the film has the
difficult task of introducing a multitude of characters and the creation of an
alternate world, Hogwarts, a magical boarding school for the training of
wizards. Harry, played by the young British actor Daniel Radcliffe, is a
young orphan with a jagged scar on his forehead that brands him as the most
powerful wizard of all. But when we first meet him, he's just a hapless boy
leading a miserable existence with his unloving aunt and uncle in a drab
corner of London. Harry is summoned to Hogwarts by its headmaster, Albus
Dumbledore, played here with a very long white beard by Richard Harris. This
is every miserable child's fantasy, to be whisked away from adults who don't
understand you and taken to a land where everyone recognizes your uniqueness.

Harry quickly makes two close friends, the bookish Hermione Granger and the
mischievous Ron Weasley, superbly embodied by Emma Watson and Rupert Grint.
And he gains a bodyguard of sorts in the gentle giant Hagrid played by Robbie
Coltrane whom cable TV viewers will know as the considerably more dissolute
mystery solver called Cracker.

The screenplay is by Steve Kloves, who has proved he could be wittily adroit
at transferring literature to the big screen last year with the Michael
Douglas film "Wonder Boys." `With an adroitness' are not, however, adjectives
that spring to mind when considering the director of "Harry Potter and the
Sorcerer's Stone," Chris Columbus. Columbus gave us the "Home Alone" movies
and the Robin Williams' cross-dressing opus, "Mrs. Doubtfire." He makes big,
obvious movies whose tones could not be more antithetical to J.K. Rowling's
sly, glancing one.

The sorcerer's stone of the title is a craggy jewel that's the source of
immense magical energy. It's being sought by the book's embodiment of
ultimate evil, Lord Voldemort, and must be kept from him by Harry and his

(Soundbite of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone")

Unidentified Child #1: Hagrid...

Mr. ROBBIE COLTRANE ("Hagrid"): Oh, hello. Sorry. I don't wish to be rude,
but I'm in no fit state to be entertained today.

Children: (In unison) We know about the sorcerer's stone.


Unidentified Child #2: We think Snape's trying to steal it.

Mr. COLTRANE: Snape? Blimey, you're not still on about him, are you?

Unidentified Child #3: Hagrid, we know he's after the stone, we just don't
know why.

Mr. COLTRANE: Snape is one of the teachers protecting the stone. He's not
about to steal it.

Unidentified Child #1: What?

Mr. COLTRANE: You heard. Right. Come on, now, I'm a bit preoccupied today.

Unidentified Child #3: Wait a minute. One of the teachers...

Unidentified Child #2: Of course, there are other things defending the
stone, aren't there? Spells, enchantments.

Mr. COLTRANE: That's right. Waste of bloody time, if you ask me. Ain't no
one going to get past Fluffy; ain't a soul knows how except for me and
Dumbledore. I shouldn't have told you that.

TUCKER: Director Chris Columbus has made a movie solely for young kids. He's
drained off the pleasure older children and adults get from Rowling's juicy
jokes and English boarding school parodies. The director's one visual triumph
is the Quidditch match, a sort of airborne combination of hockey, rugby and
polo played on broomsticks. Columbus captures the rough and tumble rowdy
confusion of the game. But Columbus squelches the actors in favor of action.
Daniel Radcliffe gave a serious nuanced performance in a BBC version of "David
Copperfield" a couple of years ago, but Columbus doesn't give the kid any
breathing room here. He's called upon primarily to either open his eyes in
wide amazement or to grin in happy triumph.

One of the great pleasures of Rowling's books is their lack of narrative
drive. She's less a novelist than a writer of chapters, each of which
meanders in a pleasingly rambling way. This, of course, is precisely the
opposite of what's deemed essential in most Hollywood movies, what
screenwriters call an emotional through line, a theme to thread through the
movie, pulling it taut at the end. Columbus and screenwriter Kloves know what
Rowling's message is; it's the same as The Beatles, `All you need is love.'
The problem is that the moviemakers don't trust in the power of such
simplicity, so they waste gobs of screen time with frenetic chases and
overblown special effects and some of the most intrusive bombastic music John
Williams has ever composed.

Chris Columbus is already at work on adaptations of the three Potter sequels.
Having gotten this polite, throat-clearing introduction out of his system,
let's hope his next movies do what Rowling's books have done: become deeper,
funnier, scarier.

BOGAEV: Ken Tucker is critic at large for Entertainment Weekly.

(Soundbite of music)

THE BEATLES: (Singing) All you need is love. All you need is love. All you
need is love, love. Love is all you need.


BOGAEV: For Terry Gross, I'm Barbara Bogaev.

(Soundbite of music)

THE BEATLES: (Singing) There's no way it can be that's not the way it's meant
to be. It's easy. All you need is love. All you need is love...
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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