DATE January 3, 2003 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: Neil Baldwin discusses his book, "Henry Ford and the
the Jews: The Mass Production of Hate"
BARBARA BOGAEV, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Barbara Bogaev, in for Terry Gross.
When a person preaches extreme anti-Semitism and sees Jews as the center of
international financial conspiracy, you might presume this person is
uneducated, unsophisticated and easily duped. So how do you explain Henry
Ford, one of America's greatest industrialists? While he was building the
Ford Motor Company, and putting America on the road with his Model T, he was
also publishing excerpts of the anti-Semitic book the "Protocols of the
Learned Elders of Zion." In fact, Hitler became one of his admirers.
Neil Baldwin is the author of "Henry Ford and the Jews: The Mass Production
of Hate." It's now out in paperback. Baldwin is the author of earlier
biographies of Thomas Alva Edison and William Carlos Williams. Terry spoke
with him last January about Henry Ford's racist past. Ford owned The
Dearborne Independent, a country newspaper in Dearborneville, Michigan. For
six months after he bought it, the paper was an all-purpose,
publication, but then Ford began to use it as a platform for his
TERRY GROSS, host:
In 1920, he started publishing a series in The Dearborn Independent called
"The International Jew: The World's Problem." This ran for 91 weeks, this
series. What kind of information did he print in this series?
Mr. NEIL BALDWIN (Author: Henry Ford and the Jews): What happened was he
a lieutenant who was the general manager of the Independent whose name was
E.G. Liebold, who was of Prussian-German descent. And Mr. Liebold was a
self-styled scholar of anti-Semitism, and he began to assemble a complete
library of anti-Jewish literature going back to the 17th century. And Ford
gave him a budget, actually, to acquire these works. And at some point in
early 1920 Liebold met a Russian emigre named Boris Brasol, who was an
anti-Czarist, who had come to this country to spread the word of
anti-Bolshevism and Brasol had a transcript of the "Protocols of the Learned
Elders of Zion," which is probably the single most harmful anti-Jewish tract
It was a forgery that had roots in turn-of-the-century Russia around the
of the first Zionist congress, actually. And it was purportedly--the
"Protocols" is another word for minutes. It was purportedly the minutes of
worldwide gathering of the high rabbis gathering outside Prague, at the
cemetery of Prague, to discuss their plan for world domination. And Brasol
was able to get a copy of this into the hands of Liebold. And this tract
serialized in The Dearborn Independent, kind of like each article that
attacked the different aspect of the Jewish problem or the Jewish question
had an epigraph from the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" kind of before
lead paragraph to set the tone for whatever criticism of the Jews was being
GROSS: What were some of the main points that the "Protocols" made about
Mr. BALDWIN: Ford personally resonated so well with "The Protocols of the
Elders of Zion" because the main, kind of the informing theme of the
"Protocols" was world domination through financial means. The major theme
the "Protocols" is we, being the Jewish people, the Jewish race, as it was
called at that time, are going to infiltrate the banks and we are going to
become the wire-pullers of the world economy. We are going to become the
government behind the government. The way that we are going to subvert the
world rulership is through the economic system. And Ford accepted this
wholeheartedly, because he was so inherently defensive, anyway, about the
Eastern banking establishment and about Wall Street and about the
international bankers, the Rothschilds and the--you know, he had all these
generic terms for the--he even thought of JP Morgan as part of that group.
And he felt very, very threatened by the banking system.
GROSS: Can you talk a little bit about the conspiratorial language that was
used in the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion"?
Mr. BALDWIN: Well, the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" were written--as
I've sort of been implying, they were written in the first person plural.
whole premise of it is that someone was at this secret meeting of these
rabbis from all around the world and someone was taking notes and writing
exactly what they were saying. And they kind of took each dimension of
society and each dimension of culture and order, so they first discussed the
banks, then they discussed another sore spot with Ford, which was the
of Jews as warmongers, so it would say something like `We are going to
instigate the governments of European countries to go to war against each
other, so that we can then weaken their infrastructure and take over
The word `control' was a tremendous buzzword throughout the "Protocols."
And, again, you have this sense of solidarity. There's a whole other
in the "Protocols" about--which actually sort of, in Ford's view, paved the
way for the Zionist movement because there's this other section about `We
going to establish a country especially for ourselves in Zion and we will
this country Zion and we will encourage all Jews to pay homage to this
and to gravitate there. And then we will establish the seat of our world
government there.' So there's all this kind of sense of solidarity and Jews
as one entity, one consistent entity, that eventually en masse is going to
GROSS: What is known about who actually wrote the "Protocols of the Elders
Mr. BALDWIN: In fact, very little is known. As a matter of fact, to this
day, the actual authorship of the "Protocols" is not known. What is
known--there's a school of thought that believes that the earlier iteration,
or roots for the "Protocols," can be traced to the period in France known as
the "emancipation" of the Jews, quote, unquote, which would be the late 18th
century. And the second iteration, which is the more concrete and
longer-lasting one, came at about 1897, to be exact. And that date happens
coincide with the first Zionist Congress, which took place in Basel, Theodor
Hertzl and so forth, which is why many scholars believe that the "Protocols
the Elders of Zion" were put forth to cast aspersions on the Zionist
They were put forth as an antidote, or as an opposition, to the Zionist
movement by an anonymous group of writers, anti-Semites, in czarist Russia.
GROSS: Had the "Protocols" spread much before Henry Ford published it, and
what was the impact of his publication?
Mr. BALDWIN: What happened was the articles in The Dearborn Independent, as
say, there were almost 100 of them, and starting in the fall of 1920, Ford
began to anthologize these articles into four separate pamphlets. Each one
had about 20, 25 articles in it. The pamphlets were called--had the overall
headline of "The International Jew: The World's Foremost Problem." The
earliest publication, 1920, 1921, they found their way over to Germany and
they were published by Theodore Fritsch, who was a virulent anti-Semite in
very early '20s--translated them into German. And they went through 21
printings in 1921 and 1922 alone. They took off like wildfire in Germany,
GROSS: So Henry Ford, in a way, helped stir up anti-Semitism in Germany?
Mr. BALDWIN: If you were a visitor to Adolf Hitler's office in Munich, in
waiting room of Hitler's office, on a sort of low coffee table, was a sort
display, like spread out, kind of fanned out across the table of The
International Jew in German versions. And then when you were finally
into the inner office, you would find a portrait of Henry Ford on the wall
behind Hitler's desk. And this is 1922. This is 16 years before
Kristallnacht. In "Mein Kampf," he specifically gives credit and admiration
to Henry Ford as being the only American--he says, `There is only one great
American, Ford, who understands what we are trying to do here in Germany.'
GROSS: How did Jewish groups respond to Ford's anti-Semitism and the
anti-Semitic tracts that he was publishing?
Mr. BALDWIN: The dialectical nature of this problem was what first sucked
into the exploration in the first place. I felt, as you've just implied--I
mean, I felt that if--how would the Jewish leadership go up against somebody
of this popularity and this clout, this household name, this brand,
human brand, in a sense? How to deal with Ford came down to this very
essential problem: Do you go up against him in a very aggressive, public
i.e., petitions, boycotting the purchase of Ford automobiles, letter-writing
campaigns, telegraphing him, etc.? Do you take the public, aggressive view,
or, as Jacob Schiff, the elder statesman of the Jewish community,
at the time, do you assume that Ford is a "lunatic," quote, unquote, and
quote, "this will pass"? And as Jacob Schiff advised his colleagues very
strongly, `If we go up against Henry Ford,' I think he wrote in a letter,
`this will light a fire that will never be extinguished in our lifetime. We
must allow him to essentially burn out and not dignify him with opposition
any way.' That was the huge quandary that the American Jewish community
when Henry Ford started publishing those articles.
BOGAEV: Neil Baldwin, speaking with Terry Gross. Baldwin is the author of
"Henry Ford and the Jews: The Mass Production of Hate." It's just out in
paperback. We'll hear more of their conversation when we return. This is
(Soundbite of music)
BOGAEV: Back now to our interview with Neil Baldwin, author of "Henry Ford
and the Jews."
GROSS: How did Ford's public display of anti-Semitism end?
Mr. BALDWIN: Finally, in the summer of 1927, there was a libel suit brought
against Ford in federal District Court in Detroit by a man named Aaron
who was a former rabbi and attorney from California, who had actually
the collective bargaining farming movement in America. He was a pioneer in
educating farmers to get together and act in solidarity and help them raise
prices and control the flow of their products and so forth. When Ford got
wind of Aaron Sapiro's activities, he ordered a series of slanderous
against him as a Jew daring to infiltrate farming and agriculture, which was
complete anathema to him.
And Ford was sued by Sapiro, and the trial commenced, and Ford's lieutenants
were called to the stand. And slowly, the testimony unfurled. The
attribution of Ford being, quote, unquote, the "spark plug" of the Jewish
series. The fact that even though he hadn't written these articles himself,
he was the instigation. It was his money. It was his ideas. It was his
philosophy. And on the brink of being called to the stand himself, Ford
issued a retraction, an apology to the Jewish people, which was drafted by
Louis Marshall, the head of the American Jewish Committee, and it was
published in hundreds of newspapers through the Hearst syndicate throughout
the country, and Ford, you know, essentially settled out of court with
rather than have to go up and actually talk himself about what he had or had
not been doing.
GROSS: So when Henry Ford issued his retraction, a retraction that was
actually written by a leader in the Jewish community, what did the
Mr. BALDWIN: The narrative of the retraction is as if he's saying, `First
all, I unwittingly cast aspersions on the general populous of Jews. I
really mean to create such a furor by these unprovoked reflections.' He
admitted that the pamphlets had been distributed in other countries, and he
said that those now had his, quote, "unqualified disapproval," and that
henceforth, there will be no more writings against the Jews in The Dearborn
Independent. These are points that Louis Marshall, as an attorney, was
to score. And once he found out that Ford was going to allow whatever he
wrote to be published, he went ahead and covered as many bases as he could.
The historical fact of the matter is that the major premise of this apology,
which was the cessation of any further publication did nothing, of course,
prevent the dissemination of everything that had come before. And Ford
actually promised that he would no longer allow the "Protocols" or The
International Jew to be published with his name on it. But since it was
copyrighted by him or by Liebold or Cameron, there was no way that he could
enforce that. That's a very important point.
GROSS: So the "Protocols" continued to be published, continued to be spread
around the world, in spite of Henry Ford's repudiation.
Mr. BALDWIN: That's right.
GROSS: You know, although after the trial that you discussed, Ford stopped
publishing his anti-Semitic tracts, his anti-Semitic influence didn't end
there. Would you talk a little bit about what Ford's influence was and what
Ford's financial interests were in Nazi, Germany.
Mr. BALDWIN: Hitler sent an emissary to America in the early years before
had even ascended to full power of the Reich. He sent an emissary to this
country named Kirk Ludikey(ph), essentially a fund-raiser for the Reich, and
he instructed him to be sure and pay a call on Henry Ford. This was in the
early 1920s. And Ludikey came to Detroit and he was able to get a private
meeting with Henry Ford, and Ford denied subsequent to that that he ever
funding directly to Nazi Germany or to Adolf Hitler. I think that Ford's
support of Hitler is ideological rather than financial. In my research, I
not able to uncover any paper trail directly leading to Hitler from Ford
a financial edge to it.
Now that being said, Henry Ford knew very early on that Germany could be a
rich potential source for his company. In 1924 and 1925, he already had a
factory in place in Berlin and was producing cars over there. And there's
question that for about a 15-year period there, Fords were a popular brand
Germany leading up to World War II. And again, I must qualify that by
that many American companies were participating in the economy of Germany at
that time. And it's ironic because General Motors actually had a much
share of the market for the first decade or so that American car companies
a presence in Germany. Starting in the earliest years of World War II,
however, Ford began to produce material and trucks and Jeeps and vehicles of
more useful nature to the Germans.
GROSS: What has Ford done since the death of Henry Ford to make amends for
all of the anti-Semitism that Henry Ford was responsible for?
Mr. BALDWIN: As soon as Henry Ford II took over the chairmanship of the
company, which was 1945, Hank the Deuce, as he was known--as he was called
Lee Iacocca and others--he immediately--immediately--issued various
and declarations, public pronouncements about the Ford Motor Company
on Jews and its philosophy of equality for all people. And Ford as a
was one of the most ardent supporters of the nascent and emerging state of
Israel, financially in terms of producing cars over there. And in the five
six decades since then, there's no question that the Ford family and the
Motor Company no longer--you know, has no trace of the legacy of its
This was something that began with Henry Ford and ended with Henry Ford.
There's no question in my mind about that.
GROSS: Well, I want to thank you very much for talking with us.
Mr. BALDWIN: Well, thank you so much for having me.
BOGAEV: Neil Baldwin's book "Henry Ford and the Jews" is just out in
paperback. Terry Gross spoke with him last January. I'm Barbara Bogaev,
this is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
BOGAEV: Coming up, the "Autobiography of a Face." We remember writer Lucy
Grealy. She died last month at the age of 39. As a child, Grealy had a
of cancer that left her face severely disfigured. And book critic Maureen
Corrigan reviews "Marriage: A Duet" by Anne Taylor Fleming.
(Soundbite of music)
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Interview: Lucy Grealy discusses treatment for childhood cancer
that left her face disfigured
BARBARA BOGAEV, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Barbara Bogaev.
Today we remember Lucy Grealy, a writer who died in December. She was 39
years old. The New York Times reported in her obituary that no cause of
was announced. Friends said she'd been despondent over operations she
underwent two years ago. Grealy was the author of the 1994 memoir
"Autobiography of a Face," about her experience growing up with extreme
disfigurement. One critic wrote of the book, `So many memoirs make you feel
that you've been sealed up inside a wall with a monomaniac. A really good
one, like "Autobiography of a Face," makes you feel there's more to ask and
learn. You're not just seeing the writer, you're not trying to see
you're seeing the world in a different way.'
Many of us are dissatisfied when we look in the mirror, but that's very
different from the extreme anguish Lucy Grealy experienced when she saw her
reflection. By most standards, her face was ugly, even repulsive. Grealy
cancer in her jaw as a child, for which she underwent five years of
The surgery and other therapy left her disfigured. Over her lifetime, she
more than 30 reconstructive operations. In her memoir she wrote that `the
pain from feeling ugly made cancer seem minor in comparison.'
Terry spoke with Lucy Grealy in 1994 after the publication of her
autobiography. They began with a reading. In this passage, Grealy is a
sophomore in college, a year in which she was recuperating from an
eight-hour-long reconstructive operation.
(Soundbite of 1994 interview)
Ms. LUCY GREALY (Author): `While I was in the hospital, I had been so ill
that I hadn't put much effort into thinking about my appearance. My mother
had been given the use of an apartment on the Upper East Side for the
and afterward I went to stay with her. One whole living room wall was
with mirrors. I walked into the apartment and almost fainted at the sight
me. The graft had been applied, not just to one side of my face, but from
ear to the next, and was obscenely swollen to the size of a football. A
large piece of pale skin from my hip had been left in, not just a small
like the last time. This strip was a foot long and four inches wide and on
either side of it were long rows of sutures.
`If feeling like a freak had been more in my mind than in my face at other
times in my life, the visage I saw now staring back at me was undeniably
repulsive. The feeling was confirmed for me whenever I went out on the
street. People would stop in their tracks and stare at me. One afternoon a
beggar ran up behind me demanding money. I stopped and turned around to
at him. He stopped in mid-sentence, looked at me for a minute longer, then
politely apologized and handed me a dollar bill before turning away,
to himself. My self-esteem reached the bottom of the deepest, darkest pit.'
TERRY GROSS (Host): Lucy, I'd like you to describe what your face looks
Ms. GREALY: It's funny you say that, and my immediate reaction is to sort
give you my opinion of my face rather than my actual face. Like I could
`Well, it's a nice face,' or it's a this face. I mean, if I were to be
Ms. GREALY: ...clinical about it, most of the upper half of my face is
normal. I have a slight swelling on my left eyelid from a lot of surgery
which has blocked the lymph drainage. But it's not very noticeable. I have
slightly--they're not buck teeth, but they're--you can see my teeth in a way
that you wouldn't necessarily, if it weren't for the fact that my lower lip
a little bit collapsed on the left side. There's a patch of white skin on
right side of my face which is covering a small defect in the bone where two
different bone grafts on either side of my face join up. And they join up
slightly imperfectly, so there's a slight lopsidedness to my lower jaw.
There's something distinctly odd about it. If you were to see me, you would
definitely know that something had happened to me.
Then we start getting into the more subjective accounts of what my face
like. There would be many times in my life when I would just simply answer
that question by saying, `I'm ugly.' Now I'm willing to concede that my
is actually quite interesting, and not only interesting but I think there
aspects of it which I find attractive. And that sounds like some kind of
result of a lifelong self-help program, but it isn't. It's more to do with
finally, at the age of 31, conceding that there is no one specific face to
which I should be aspiring.
I think my relationship to my face changes a lot, although perhaps not quite
as much as it was when I was younger. In my book, I say at one point that I
was unable to distinguish between saying, `I'm depressed,' and, `I'm ugly,'
because the two had become completely linked in my mind. I really did not
know the difference. And now I'm really just like anybody else. I have
where I wake up and I think, `Oh, God,' and then other days I look in the
mirror and I think, you know, `Hey, you know, I don't look so bad.'
GROSS: Your cancer was diagnosed when you were in fourth grade.
Ms. GREALY: Yes.
GROSS: And you missed most of fourth grade and fifth grade between surgery
and chemotherapy and then radiation. And you write during that period you
really felt most comfortable when you were in the hospital.
Ms. GREALY: I loved the hospital.
GROSS: Why did you love it there?
Ms. GREALY: I felt very--I think we just love the familiar, you know, even
when the familiar is objectively unpleasant or even horrible. I'm a very
independent person and I liked my independence at the hospital. I didn't
like I had to answer to anybody. And a lot of my suffering was emotional
suffering. I mean, there was a definite physical side to it. There was a
large physical side to it. But I saw that as rather easy as compared to the
sort of emotional assault of guilt and shame that I was continuously
upon myself. And I never felt the need to do that in the hospital. It was
like a refuge.
GROSS: What did your face look like then?
Ms. GREALY: It looked so--it changed weekly, practically, which is part of
the--you know, really the story and the dilemma. It's not really so
story is not so much a story about being disfigured. It's really about
a face that changed so continuously that I never really identified myself as
connected to it. And the easiest moments in my life had been, or rather the
most damaging moments in my life had been that easy fall into saying, `I'm
ugly,' just like defining it and closing the door on it that way, rather
looking at the fact that my face was different almost continuously and that
actually put off developing that sort of social sense that most people have
come to terms with.
On the other hand, I always was able to feel special. I never had that
familiar adolescent worry of fading into the crowd. I was special and I
to use that to my advantage and I tried to use it as a power almost over
GROSS: I found it interesting when you were young and your chemotherapy
treatments were ending--this must have been still in grade school--you were
almost afraid of them ending because you wouldn't be special anymore.
Ms. GREALY: I think, too, that has to do with the familiar, like the love
the familiar. It was what I knew, and it also--I was very intent on trying
be brave all the time. Like I really wanted to be brave so that my family
would recognize my lovability because I was always worried, you know, that
they didn't love me and that they would only love me if I could somehow
personally take on this task and prove my worthiness. And I was afraid that
if I weren't having chemotherapy then there would be no place in which I
distinguish myself in that way.
GROSS: What has your relationship with mirrors been over the years? Has
there been periods when you've looked and periods when you didn't want to
look; periods when you liked to have mirrors around and periods when you
Ms. GREALY: It's certainly alternated. There have been a lot of times when
I've been fascinated by my image and I'll just stare at it sort of
And, you know, we all have those mirror faces that we see each other
when we stand in front of a mirror, look in front of a mirror. And I would
that a lot throughout different periods of my life. There was a time when I
spent almost an entire year not looking in a mirror, which was very
It really was not very easy to do, to avoid my image. I had no idea how
times you see your own reflected image. I mean, it really is very constant
once you become aware of it. It's almost like when you're dieting that you
become aware of how many people are eating around you. And I suddenly
aware of, like, how many reflective surfaces there were.
And I stopped looking because I was having something called a tissue
which is this very bizarre process where they put a balloon under your cheek
and very slowly inflate it with saline solution over a period of several
months so as to stretch out the skin so that then, when they remove it,
they'll have skin to cover whatever bone or muscle graft they were going to
put in. So I was having one of those and I was walking around looking like
had a balloon under my face. It was very bizarre. I mean, it got so absurd
that I started to feel like I was in some strange kind of myth or story or
something. And it just sort of went on. I couldn't bring myself to look;
even after the tissue extender had been taken out, I couldn't bring myself
look. So I just didn't. And even after, you know, that problem was solved,
kept not looking and I kept not looking.
And it actually led to one of the greatest revelations in my life,
I was sitting with somebody, you know, like a year after not doing this, and
it suddenly occurred to me--I was with this man that I was actually
to and I wondered what I looked like to him. And I realized that I really
absolutely no idea of what I looked like because I had not looked in a
for so long. And I realized that that was an almost prehistoric state
there is almost nobody in the world who does not know what they look like.
just doesn't happen. And I realized that most of the time when I'm with
somebody, I'm looking at myself for them. I have this idea of what I look
Ms. GREALY: ...and I hand it over to them and I look only for the negative
ways in which they would sort of reflect it back at me. And that was the
first time in my life that I literally had no image of what I looked like to
hand over to somebody. I really just had no idea what he saw when he saw
GROSS: Do you remember the first time at the end of that year when you did
look in a mirror?
Ms. GREALY: I did it sort of surreptitiously. I didn't, like, march on up
a mirror. I kind of like looked. At that moment, I looked into the window
behind him because it had gotten--it was in Scotland and in Scotland it gets
dark at about 2:00 in the afternoon. So it was already dark. So I looked
back and I could see the whole, like, cafe that we were sitting in sort of
sitting behind me. And I could see the back of his head and I could see my
hair. And I just like sort of gazed my eyes, so I kind of saw my head or
shape of my head and my hair without actually looking at my face. And I
gradually let it sort of sink in, I let my eyes focus and rest on my own
And I was actually, you know--I wouldn't say I was pleasantly surprised, but
it was me. It was really like the first time that I thought, `Oh, that's
BOGAEV: Lucy Grealy from a 1994 interview with Terry Gross. Grealy died
month at the age of 39. Her memoir is "Autobiography of a Face." More
a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
BOGAEV: If you're just joining us, we're featuring a 1994 interview with
writer Lucy Grealy, author of the memoir "Autobiography of a Face," about
growing up with extreme facial disfigurement. Grealy died last month at the
age of 39.
(Soundbite of 1994 interview)
GROSS: You know, I found it interesting you described how sometimes you'd
walking down the street and, you know, a guy would whistle at you. He'd see
you from behind and, you know, you're thin and you had long hair. And he'd
whistle, and then you'd turn around and he'd see your face. And what would
Ms. GREALY: Well, initially--it would depend. If he was by himself, it
just get quiet. If he was with, say, a group of people or men, because it
always men, it would--sometimes they would say things to each other like
things, like, `Oh, go ask her on a date,' in this very sort of teasing way.
That was very damaging because ultimately that was about sex and about
sexuality. That wasn't just making fun of the way I looked.
It's one thing to be called--I don't know, there are many disparaging terms
that we call each other, relate either in men to any kind of like power or
potency, like that's what you--if you want to get a man, you say something
about him being a wimp or something like that. With a woman, like, you
refer to her sexuality, whether you call her, you know, some term for a
prostitute or some term for somebody who's undesirable, like ugly. I was
called ugly a lot. And that was a direct assault on my sexuality, or my
of it, as it was perceived.
GROSS: Yeah. Well, you know, I mean, the face is a sexual organ in the
that that's where you kiss. And you use the mouth to make love. So it--I
mean, your disfigurement was very connected to probably how people saw you
Ms. GREALY: I think so. I mean, yeah, it definitely was.
GROSS: And how you saw yourself sexually.
Ms. GREALY: Yeah. I mean, I was a late bloomer. As I say, I was convinced
would be a virgin for my entire life. I just sort of gave myself over to it
in this martyr kind of way.
GROSS: You wrote your only solution to dealing with your face was to stop
caring, so you became pretentious.
Ms. GREALY: I was very pretentious. Some people would say I still was, but
won't go into that.
GROSS: So what was your brand of pretension?
Ms. GREALY: Oh, I was going to be the noble seeker of truth and beauty, and
thought that if I was never going to get, you know, love with a lowercase L,
or be beautiful with a lowercase B, then I was going to find out about
with a capital B, you know, through art and life and nature, and find out
about love as, you know, like some sort of--I think I was on some kind of a
spiritual quest for a long time. I mean, I still am, but in those days it
started out as a protective mode.
You know, gradually, luckily, miraculously it became more. It left the
of mere sort of defense and it became a genuine journey. But it was spawned
out of just fear of the world. I wasn't rejecting the world because I
disdained it. I was rejecting the world because I feared that it would
GROSS: You went to an out-of-town college. I assume you were still feeling
very uncomfortable sexually then, too. And you write you had a close friend
who was gay, and he started taking you to the gay clubs, which must have
a very interesting experience for you because the gay clubs were very much
about sexuality but it wasn't a sexuality you were part of.
Ms. GREALY: Yeah. It had really nothing to do with me, but I was so
aligned with it. And I think even at the time, I didn't realize that this
how I was exploring the issue without any danger to me whatsoever. You
I didn't even recognize that I wouldn't have associated myself with any kind
of like, you know, mere seeking of earthly pleasures, as it was. And it was
really only recently when I was at another gay club--I went to a gay club
someplace--you know, and there were, like, just, you know, all these, like,
half-naked men gyrating around me. And I thought, `Lucy, you twit,' like,
`how could you not think that that had anything to do with sex back then?'
know, when it had a lot to do with sex, just not necessarily my own.
GROSS: Do you think writing is at all connected to becoming very inward
during the years that you were so self-conscious?
Ms. GREALY: I think I would have been a writer or some kind of an artist,
probably a writer, anyway. I think what being sick did was it afforded me
very interesting things. One was the opportunity to lie very still and
a lot. Even when one is, you know, sort of imprisoned by other physical
needs, one still reads or watches TV or is distracted. And there were a lot
of times when I couldn't read or watch television even because I really just
felt so ill. So I had a lot of time to lie around and think. And I think
that was very valuable.
What I also had was this disease, as we were talking about in the very
beginning, that was not just physical; that was very much emotional. And I
suffered a lot physically and I would go through all kinds of different ways
of thinking and ways of viewing the world and this and that, all kinds of
philosophies, to try and, like, and not make myself suffer as much
And sometimes I would succeed. I would, like, forget my physical suffering
for a while. And it would be incredibly joyous, like I experienced true
You know, meanwhile, emotionally, you know, you can have very good days
you're thinking right, positively, everything seems very good, and then you
have some kind of a relapse where you're just convinced that everything is
horrible, you know, your life's going down the toilet and you're not going
anywhere. And the worst thing about that is that you then also can very
easily be seduced into thinking that just the other day when you were
so positively about life, you were deluding yourself...
Ms. GREALY: ...and you actually negate something that happened in the past.
Whereas opposed to pain, you know, if I wasn't suffering, I simply was not
suffering. Whereas the complexity of emotional suffering is that even when
you're not suffering, you can believe that you're suffering. And it was
almost like a testing ground, like I was able to find out through--like when
was very sick with the chemotheraphy, I would be ill and ill and ill for
and days. And then there would be this brief moment where I would know that
was going to get better. And I would feel this profound joy. And then in
next moment, I would feel very ill again. But that illness was somehow
different. It was not necessarily lesser than the illness I had been
before that moment when I knew I would get well, but it was a physical
that was suffused with this knowledge that it was an impermanent state.
And I had enough time to lie around and think and realize that it was this
knowledge which changed the way I suffered, which alleviated my suffering.
And it was a knowledge that had to do with just simply moving forward into
next moment and being very honest and not dragging my fear of suffering,
because it's the fear of suffering which we suffer from far more than actual
physical ailments themselves. And I transferred that onto sort of the
emotional plain, and I realized that a lot of my emotional suffering came
about from fearing, like sort of taking fears that were accrued in the past
and projecting them into the future, like an unforeseen future.
BOGAEV: Lucy Grealy speaking with Terry Gross in 1994. Her memoir is
"Autobiography of a Face." Lucy Grealy died last month. She was 39.
Coming up, "Marriage: A Duet." This is FRESH AIR.
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Review: Book "Marriage: A Duet"
BARBARA BOGAEV, host:
Journalist Anne Taylor Fleming is known for her on-air essays on "The
with Jim Lehrer" and as a contributor to "NewsNight with Aaron Brown." Now
she's published her first work of fiction, a pair of novellas called
"Marriage: A Duet." Book critic Maureen Corrigan has a review.
My new year's resolution was to be less judgmental, an admirable way to live
but a stupid way to read. Accordingly, last week I spent way too much time
embracing big chunks of mediocre to bad new books trying to convince myself
there was something to like in each of them. I started with the fat new
by a master non-fiction writer who shouldn't write novels, abandoned that
for an earnest first novel with a weak voice, and then moved on to a New
travelogue whose Zen pointlessness irritated rather than soothed me.
By the time I stumbled on to Anne Taylor Fleming's two novellas,
called "Marriage: A Duet," I was worn out from the effort to be affirming.
That's when Fleming's writing reminded me that when a book is genuinely
falling in love doesn't take work. Staying in love, however, that's another
matter, as Fleming herself demonstrates.
Both of these smart, sexually frank and tightly constructed novellas are
solid marriages that have been cracked by infidelity. In the first, called
Married Woman," the fracture is decades old but still noticeable, so to
speak, on X-rays. The novella opens in a hospital room where an older woman
named Caroline Betz(ph) attends her comatose husband William's bedside.
joined sporadically by her two middle-aged children, Kate(ph), a no-nonsense
lawyer, and Steven(ph), a restaurant owner.
Kate and Steven are shaken by the fact that their mother, instead of growing
haggard during her vigil, has gotten prettier. Her clothes are stylish,
wearing more makeup. And one afternoon in the hospital bathroom, she even
dyes her gray hair brown. What they don't know is that Caroline
wants to make herself look good in anticipation of the deathbed reappearance
of William's mistress, a younger woman for whom decades ago stalwart William
came very, very close to leaving Caroline.
In supple language that delights because of its surprising shifts in mood,
Fleming captures the terror and tedium of the hospital. And she makes
understand how Caroline, while steeling herself for the ultimate abandonment
of death, would be overwhelmed by memories of William's earlier near
abandonment of her. There's also an element of gallows humor here, as when
Caroline looks down on her formerly noisy, opinionated and garrulous husband
and takes some pleasure in the fact that he's been permanently silenced.
But humor in all its ghastlier shadings really comes to the fore in the
second, superb novella, "A Married Man," in which a youngish successful
financial adviser named David Sanderson(ph) takes a psychological nosedive
after his wife, Marcia, confesses to a quickie bout of car sex with one of
his clients. Then she matter-of-factly expects forgiveness. Meditating on
Marcia's emotional efficiency, David goes off on this riff:
`This was the new breed of women. Never before in the history of the world
had so many women been so competent at so many things. They had their
and their babies, they were gourmet cooks and self-aware lovers. They could
do the carving and the barbecuing. Where had they come from? He thought of
his own mother. She was from a whole different species of women, from a
whole other planet, the planet of the aprons, of the perennially overcooked
pork chops, of the intractable postpartum pounds, of the public and no doubt
private prudery. She and her friends got old young. Marcia and her friends
were determined to be young old.'
David is a mess and fights for his right to be one with the therapist he and
Marcia are seeing, an adultery counselor who's made a fortune by writing
his own adulterousness. It's easy to take cheap shots at therapy, and
David, Fleming gleefully takes them here. She also captures the antic joy
small children--David and Marcia have two little boys--the physical symptoms
of heartbreak and the strain of living with open-endedness.
Both of Fleming's novellas, but particularly the second, reminded me of the
greatest novella I've ever read about adultery, Jane Smiley's "The Age of
Grief." By virtue of their wit and emotional power, Fleming's novellas
deserve a coveted perch near Smiley's shady literary company.
BOGAEV: Maureen Corrigan teaches literature at Georgetown University. She
reviewed "Marriage: A Duet" by Anne Taylor Fleming.
BOGAEV: For Terry Gross, I'm Barbara Bogaev.
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