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Book Review: 'A Ship Made Of Paper'

Book critic Maureen Corrigan reviews A Ship Made of Paper, the new novel by Scott Spencer (Ecco).


Other segments from the episode on March 5, 2003

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, March 5, 2003: Interview with Barbara Lee Toffler; Interview with Dan Gordon and Nick Bonner; Review of Scott Spencer's "A ship made of paper."


 TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
 PROGRAM Fresh Air

Interview: Barbara Ley Toffler, co-author of "Final Accounting,"
discusses the fall of Arthur Andersen

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

In 1995, Barbara Ley Toffler signed on with Arthur Andersen accounting as a
partner in charge of their ethics consulting group. It was her job to advise
Andersen clients on responsible business practices. But soon after arriving
at the firm, Toffler, a former faculty member of the Harvard Business School
and the author of a book on business ethics, began to notice troubling
ethnical behavior within the company itself. Her new book, "Final Accounting:
Ambition, Greed, and the Fall of Arthur Andersen," is her analysis of the
flawed corporate culture, business strategies and fractured leadership that
led to Andersen's being implicated in the Enron scandal two years ago.

Arthur Andersen was the auditing firm for Enron. It was found guilty of
obstruction of justice for shredding documents related to the Securities and
Exchange Commission's inquiry into the corporation. In her book, Toffler
writes that Andersen's indoctrination of young employees created a culture of
conformity which was more extreme than in most accounting firms. Andersen
sent new hires to a training facility in St. Charles, Illinois, which Toffler
likens to a boot camp.

Ms. BARBARA LEY TOFFLER (Author, "Final Accounting"): Every young person who
was brought into the firm had an accounting degree and was recruited right out
of their undergraduate education. They were 21, 22 years old, and they were
then brought in, sent to this St. Charles facility, and basically--Oh, what
shall we say?--transformed into what they called androids. The process by
which they learned to do the kind of audits, to follow the kind of accounting
procedures that a public accountant does was one that was carefully worked out
so that each year of approximately seven or eight years they acquired new
skills, they performed new activities and they learned to behave in a certain
way. They learned to dress in a certain way. They learned to eat lunch in a
certain way. They learned a variety of particular activities so that you
recognized worldwide an Arthur Andersen person.

BOGAEV: It sounds as if the young recruits, at least at Arthur Andersen, were
taught to follow the rules and also follow the leader, follow their leaders.
What were they taught about business ethics?

Ms. TOFFLER: I don't think that they were taught anything that really
translated into what ethical behavior should mean. One of the things that, at
least in the time--by the time I came there, I found the most unsettling was
that I had no sense that any young person was taught that the primary
stakeholder they served was the investing public. That was something that did
not seem to be part of their ethical training. My experience led me to
believe that the primary stakeholder they learned, the young people learned,
to attend to was, in fact, the partner who could control their future career.

BOGAEV: Now conformity works as long as the leadership is ethical and decent
and has a certain amount of integrity. But you write that when the game and
the leaders changed direction, the culture of conformity led to disaster. You
write about the practice of boosting revenues, which was a companywide
practice of overcharging. In fact, it was referred to as `billing your brains
out.' So what were some of the techniques that Andersen used to inflate
client fees?

Ms. TOFFLER: Well, of course, our hourly rates were enormously high.
Partners were billed out at anywhere from maybe $350 an hour when they started
to about $500 an hour. And we found problems within the firm. I actually
talk about something that was known as the planned fee adjustment, which was
sort of the hook to pull in clients, and this was a plan by which you would
offer for a first job a substantial discount. We want your business, you're a
good client. I think we referred to it as something similar to what used car
salesmen do, and it was very, very similar. And then on that first job,
though you've already set such a high fee by exploding the number of hours
that you're going to be working, you then say, `But we're going to give you
this wonderful discount.'

Part of the practice, then, would be while delivering the service that you had
signed on to deliver was, indeed, to find a variety of other problems, and
when those are presented as you're walking out the door and the client says,
`Oh, but we need you,' you say, `Well, yes, of course, but our regular fees
are such and such.' And that, of course, then allowed you to come--well,
perhaps stay in--rather than even come back in with these higher fees and
hopefully, carte blanche, to be able to expand the services and deliver them
as richly as you could.

There was the other side of the problem, of course, which is that the client
said, `Look, this is the amount of money we're spending, and that's it. We're
capping it at this.' Then, of course, there was the question as to whether or
not you really got very good service.

BOGAEV: On the surface of it, again, none of this is overtly illegal,
certainly, or even unethical. I mean, someone might say, `Well, why'd the
marketplace put up with it? A client can always go elsewhere.' Is that how
people within Andersen, I guess, rationalized this kind of
billing-your-brains-out behavior to themselves?

Ms. TOFFLER: Well, I think there was certainly the belief that kind of we're
worth it, we're Arthur Andersen, we're the best. Certainly some of these
things were practices across professional service firms, other accounting
firms, and I daresay some law firms, as well. So what we are talking about
is not necessarily something that is illegal. That is what is so insidious
about this. You know, if they had been doing things that were illegal, that
were egregiously unethical that you, I, and everyone else could say, `That's
outright unethical,' they wouldn't have gotten away with it.

The fact was that this all came within the way we do business. This became
certainly in the last years of the firm with the new economy and the dot-coms,
this became the way we do business around here, long forgotten the way they
used to do business. But that's what's so important about this story is the
fact that these were standard activities that just kept moving further and
further, whether you call it down the slippery slope or outside the acceptable
way of doing business. But they were not egregiously unethical, not illegal,
and that's why it took so long and I guess became so very, very dysfunctional
before it destroyed the firm.

BOGAEV: Now one of the key charges in the Enron fiasco is that Andersen had a
conflict of interest in that they were both an auditing firm for Enron and
they were also hired on as financial consultants so they had a vested
interested in maintaining this illusion that Enron was in good financial
order. How common is this among accounting firms, to serve both as financial
consultants and as auditors?

Ms. TOFFLER: In the last 10, 12, 15 years, it has become more and more
common. In fact, I believe all of what were Big Six at the time, developed
consulting services, among them the outsourcing of internal audit which, for
many people, and I would include myself in this, became the ultimate of
conflict of interest. In this case, you have one firm, Arthur Andersen, doing
both the internal auditing for a firm, and the external auditing. It's a
conflict. That's all there is. One side is doing the work and the other side
is essentially assessing whether or not the work is done properly and they're
all the same group.

BOGAEV: So you would think that the checks and balances you would need in
order to avoid that conflict of interest, it sounds as if they simply weren't
there, weren't even thought of, there wasn't even a nod to it.

Ms. TOFFLER: That's exactly right, and it was a blindness, I think, and
again, a blindness driven by the desire for revenues. That became the driving
force, and the mantra in the firm became `Keep the clients happy,' because by
keeping the client happy is how, in fact, you bring in more revenues. Keeping
the client happy, of course, had disastrous outcomes because it meant you
don't want to tell a client anything that may upset them.

Just to go back briefly to the original Arthur Andersen, early on in his
career, he stood up to a very major client, basically said, `I am not going to
change these numbers to make you happy. If you want to take your business and
walk, you can take your business and walk,' which the client did, but it
established who that firm, Arthur Andersen, was going to be. By the time I
came in, there was not this sense of if the client doesn't adhere to the way
we want to do it, then we'll have to lose the client. The point was `What's
the client want? Let's give it to them.'

BOGAEV: I'm talking with Barbara Ley Toffler. She was a partner in charge of
Ethics and Responsible Business Practices consulting services for Arthur
Andersen accounting firm from 1995 to 1999. She's co-written a book about her
experience at Andersen. It's called "Final Accounting: Ambition, Greed, and
the Fall of Arthur Andersen." Barbara Ley Toffler now teaches at Columbia
University Business School.

We'll talk more after the break.

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

BOGAEV: If you're just joining us, our guest is Barbara Ley Toffler. She was
the partner in charge of the accounting firm Arthur Andersen's ethics
consulting group in the late '90s. She left before Andersen was implicated in
the Enron debacle.

She has a new book about her understanding of the business practices that led
to Andersen's demise. It's called "Final Accounting."

What did these problematic business practices and corporate clashes amount to
in the late '90s for Arthur Andersen?

Ms. TOFFLER: In the late '90s, we began to see the first of a series of
client disasters. Probably the first most prominent one was Waste Management,
which was followed then by Sunbeam and the Arizona Baptist Foundation, and
then subsequently, of course, Enron, WorldCom, several others. But what was
coming out--and it wasn't just Arthur Andersen, remember, there were a number
of these, none quite as dramatic, I think, as Waste Management and Sunbeam,
that led to a couple of things. One, in 1998, BusinessWeek had an article
that was headlined Where Were The Accountants? which enumerated the many
accounting failures that were starting to emerge and then in September of
1998, Arthur Levitt, then head of the SEC, of course, raised then the big
concern about managing earnings and basically put the accounting firms on
notice that something was awry and he and his team were going to do everything
they could to look into it and correct whatever was going on.

So that is what started to happen in the late '90s. Now something else was
happening at Arthur Andersen, too, at the time, was that it was becoming very
intrigued by the new economy. As we say, we believe Arthur Andersen had
jumped into the arms of the new economy like a teen-ager with raging hormones.
I'm not sure we say it just like that, but basically that was the case, so
that while there were concerns on the part of the oversight committees, there
was also this wild abandon on the part of Arthur Andersen and several of the
other firms as well.

BOGAEV: Now at this point, and this is around 1998, or so, late '90s...

Ms. TOFFLER: Right.

BOGAEV: ...before Enron. At this point did Andersen take any action to clean
up its accounting?

Ms. TOFFLER: 1998 should have provided Arthur Andersen the opportunity to
both clean up its business and to be a leader in reshaping the accounting firm
and I fault them perhaps most of all for not taking advantage of the
extraordinary capability that they had at that point to have made a phenomenal
difference. In 1998, I was invited to attend two meetings of an existing
committee called the risk management executive committee. This committee was
made up of top partners in the firm. It was made up of people from the
Professional Standards Group, it was made up of attorneys, and leading
partners nationally. At these two committee meetings, discussion took place
at which it was clear that the Arthur Andersen leadership was absolutely aware
of the many kinds of problems, both internally and externally, that the firm
and the profession were facing. In point of fact, they laid out a document,
which we were all asked to comment on, that enumerated the internal risks, the
external risks, and even went so far as to stating in one place that there
should be real concern of the impact of aggressive accounting when the economy
tanks. Now if you know this in 1998, and disasters that occurred in 2000 were
still allowed to occur, I feel that that was the greatest tragedy that we saw
at Arthur Andersen.

BOGAEV: They had this risk management committee and this kind of landmark
meeting. What came of it?

Ms. TOFFLER: As far as I know, almost nothing. There was a single document
that in point of fact my group was asked to design to make it one of the
pieces of material going out that would grab everyone's attention that came to
be known as the `cooking the books' memo. This went out in, I believe,
October of 1998. That basically said our clients are at risk; we are at risk;
there's cooking the books going on; we've got to pay attention; we can all
suffer great harm. And it went out. What happened? I don't know. I don't
think there was any major effort that was taken. I never heard anyone stand
up and say, `We have just gone through Waste Management. We have just gone
through Sunbeam. This is a sin, a shame, that a firm like Arthur Andersen
should be engaged in this. It's horrifying. We are going to change and
we're going to lead the way to change others.' That's what should have been
done, and it was never done. The words that I heard about Waste Management is
`We didn't do anything wrong. We've paid and we've put that all behind us and
we're going forward.'

BOGAEV: They paid settlement fees.

Ms. TOFFLER: Yes, they paid settlement fees, no indication, as they would
say, that they had done anything wrong.

BOGAEV: You resigned in 1999.

Ms. TOFFLER: Right.

BOGAEV: What was the final straw for you that prompted your leaving the

Ms. TOFFLER: There were several, certainly, final straws. I went through a
series of events and certainly at the time of the global risk management
committee presentation I had high hopes that maybe we--this was really going
to finally turn around and the firm was going to start to pay some attention
to its own concerns, and to--we hoped--the ethics group as well. But I think
for me the fact that there was no follow-up to that and that ultimately I
signed onto a project in which I egregiously inflated my proposal--this was a
large project for a international bank that was merging--that I inflated my
proposal was part of an uncomfortable presentation to a client who should have
been a wonderful client and I suddenly became so terribly embarrassed about
what I had done and about the proposal that we were presenting that I actually
called up the client. No one will know until they read the book. I don't
think anyone knew at the time. Said, `We're ripping you off.' Hung up the
phone. And said, `That's it. I really cannot stay in this firm any longer.'

BOGAEV: What do you see as the moral of this Enron-Arthur Andersen story?
What lessons does it teach about reforms that are needed in the accounting

Ms. TOFFLER: Probably the most important lesson is that there must be a
greater awareness of conflicts of interest, of the broad range of conflicts of
interest. There must be greater recognition that accounting firms are there
to serve the public, that they are there to clarify and assure the numbers are
accurate and that we at least for the near future need some very strenuous
regulation and oversight. There are some perhaps lesser issues. Our public
accounting firms are partnerships. I think that structure probably has to be
looked into because it is a structure that allows the diffusion of
responsibility, and it does not allow independence in the leadership who are
completely subject to the whim and will of the partners.

But that is probably secondary right now to the kind of very strong oversight
that is going to be essential. And the firms asked for it, unfortunately,
and I think, or hope, that they're going to get it.

BOGAEV: Barbara Ley Toffler, I want to thank you so much for talking with me
today on FRESH AIR.

Ms. TOFFLER: Barbara, thank you for having me. I was delighted to be here.

BOGAEV: Barbara Ley Toffler's new book is book, "Final Accounting: Ambition,
Greed, and the Fall of Arthur Andersen."

I'm Barbara Bogaev and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)


BOGAEV: This is NPR, National Public Radio.

(Soundbite of music)

BOGAEV: At the 1966 World Cup, the scrappy North Korean soccer team beat the
favorite and more brawny Italians to become the first Asian team to make it to
the quarter-finals. It was considered the most shocking upset in World Cup
history. That game is the subject of a new documentary, "The Game of Their
Lives." Coming up, we meet filmmakers Dan Gordon and Nick Bonner, and Maureen
Corrigan reviews Scott Spencer's new novel, "A Ship Made of Paper."

(Soundbite of music)

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

Interview: Dan Gordon and Nick Bonner discuss their documentary
about the events at the 1966 World Cup

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Barbara Bogaev.

Every sport has its legends, the stories of victories or upsets that fans come
back to again and again over beers at the corner pub. For soccer fans, one of
those legendary events was the 1966 World Cup when an underdog team from North
Korea defeated Italy. The North Koreans became the stars of the Cup even
after losing to Portugal in the quarterfinals. They then returned to North
Korea and were never heard from again. Now filmmakers Dan Gordon and Nick
Bonner tell their story in the new documentary "The Game of Their Lives."
Gordon and Bonner spent five years tracking down the players and working to
get permission from the North Korean government to film in private homes,
which the Western press rarely has access to.

They found that the story of this long-ago soccer match has political
dimensions that resonate today in this period of rising tensions between the
US and North Korea. Just to get a sense of how exciting this match was, let's
listen to the end of the 1966 World Cup game, North Korea vs. Italy.

(Soundbite of World Cup game)

Unidentified Man: ...(Unintelligible) an uproar. And they've won! Good
heavens, they won! North Korea have beaten Italy. What is going on here?
They are delighted. This is fantastic. And North Korea will be in the
quarterfinals. And the crowd rising to them, and they're in tears. They are
weeping tears of joy.

BOGAEV: Dan, can you give us an idea just how legendary this 1966 upset was?
Is this a story that you hear soccer fans tell all the time?

Mr. DAN GORDON (Filmmaker): Yeah. This is quite well-known as the greatest
shock in World Cup history. It's really a story that I knew a lot about just
in the bare facts of the Koreans beat Italy 1-nil, legendary game in 1966 in
Middlesbrough, which is in the northeast of England. That story's quite
legendary, and also what's legendary is the Italians were so shamed on their
return, that they returned to a hail of rotten tomatoes from their fans.

BOGAEV: How did this North Korean soccer team come to qualify for the World
Cup in 1966 in the first place? I mean, this is only--What?--13 years after
the Korean War and they didn't have diplomatic relations with the sponsoring
countries, did they?

Mr. GORDON: Yeah. I mean, the more we researched the story, the more we
realized it was far more than just, you know, one match in Middlesbrough. And
they qualified by playing Australia in a playoff game, the qualification at
that time. There was only one place open to Africa, Asia and Oceania. It was
very, very dominated by South America and Europe, the World Cup at that time.
And all the African nations withdrew as a boycott, which then led to them
getting a place at the 1970 World Cup. So it left South Korea and North Korea
and Australia, and because North and South didn't want to play each other, the
South actually withdrew, so it left two teams to qualify for one place.

And in football parlance, they murdered them. They won 9-2 in aggregate, 6-1
and 3-1, and that was a huge shock because the Australians were made up of
mainly British players, who had been lower league players but still

BOGAEV: Now I think you say the average height of the North Korean players
was--What?--about 5"5'.

Mr. GORDON: Five-foot-five, yeah.

BOGAEV: And the first game they had to play before they played Chile and the
Italians were USSR, the Russians.

Mr. GORDON: Yeah.

BOGAEV: They must have towered over them, the Russians.

Mr. GORDON: Yeah, they did. And again, we didn't know this until we looked
more into the, you know, research side of things, but they had actually gone
on a tour of Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the August before the World
Cup, and they'd played, you know, some of the best teams in Russia and beaten
them. And the way they'd beaten them was with their speed and, you know,
their nimbleness and, you know, their skill. And the Russians, you know,
certainly weren't stupid, and they learned from that and they realized that
they've got this enormous physical presence, and whilst the North Koreans
weren't scared, they were certainly well and truly beaten around. I think
there was a foul every three minutes, which, you know, for that time--well,
even for now--is quite an exceptional foul rate. And they weren't just niggly
fouls. They were smashed around the pitch. But the amazing thing is, I mean,
they were well-built, the Koreans, just on a slightly smaller scale than the

So they certainly didn't--I think that the amazing thing is in England, people
thought, `Well, you know, we've wondered what these Koreans are like, and now
we've seen they're not really up to much.' But the Koreans themselves said
they went back to the dressing room or locker room, as in America, and, you
know, they said, `Right. Well, you know, we've been defeated, but, you know,
we've still got two more games to play, and we'll show people.'

BOGAEV: Now this Russian game was played in Middlesbrough, and apparently the
townspeople of this northeast town in England just went crazy over the North
Koreans. How fanatical did they get?

Mr. GORDON: Initially, they were disappointed that it was going to be the
North Koreans based in Middlesbrough rather than, you know, a more glamorous
side like Italy. But then there was this huge curiosity about these little
men. And, you know, again, some of the media had sort of said, you know,
they'd be little evil Communists and, you know, really hard. And when they
met them, the townspeople went to see them train, they realized immediately
that, you know, these were really, really nice people and, you know, we'll get
behind them. And then they got the sympathy vote after the Russia game. And
then suddenly, it just seemed to turn in the Chile game. The crowd was
screaming and chanting and, you know, screaming for Korea. And at that time,
that didn't really happen in the English leagues. And as, you know, the BBC
commentator says, you know, they've never cheered Middlesbrough like this for
years here. And it was incredible. The people just seemed to be carried
along with this fervor that was developing, and they did completely identify
with these North Koreans as their team.

BOGAEV: Let's talk about the famed game against Italy. How'd the game shape
up and how good was the Italian team in 1966?

Mr. GORDON: Well, the Italian team was one of the favorites for the
tournament. They were a young team and they would win the European
championships two years later, and they would be the runners-up at the World
Cup in 1970, and Facchetti was an incredible player, Mazzola was a real
leader, and Rivera, you know, was the Golden Ball winner, which is like the
most valuable player in Europe. So they should have been on a real high. But
I think they approached the World Cup quite nonchalantly. They assumed that
they would easily get through this group and they'd probably, you know, win
all three games.

And the easiest thing was that, you know, they beat Chile in that first game,
and they thought they would then beat Russia and stroll--you know, play a
reserve side against North Korea and still stroll through. They actually lost
to Russia in their second game, so there was a number of things that were
going wrong within the camp. There was a lot of disquiet and the manager,
Fabri, you know, he recognized--in the local papers, he said, `You know, my
players have lost faith in themselves.' And so you've got this real, you
know, Italian crisis within themselves and a fading of confidence.

And in the meantime, the Koreans were getting better and better. They'd lost
their first game. They drew the second with this amazing last-minute
equalizer, and they approached the game thinking, `Yes, we're going to win.'
But again, I think the Italians did approach the game thinking, `Well, we only
need to draw. You know, if we tie the game, then that's good enough.' And
there's a big--you know, no one ever learns from history, but so many teams
have approached a game thinking, `We only need to tie this game, and we'll be
fine,' and they end up losing and going home.

And that's what happened. The Italians started amazingly well. Rechum
Yung(ph), the goalkeeper, was, you know, in really, really fine form and saved
lots of shots, and the Italians missed. Then their captain was injured and
taken off and there were no replacement players at that time. And slowly, you
could see the Italian players lose heart and the Koreans gaining confidence.
And then, you know, Park Doo-ik scored this legendary goal four minutes before
halftime, and then they held on in the second half.

And it's amazing. You can see--you know, the BBC commentator says, you know,
`They've won. Good heavens, they've won.' And, you know, it was the greatest
shock in World Cup history. Now the Koreans say they weren't shocked by it.
They believed that they would win. But in Italy, it still remains a national
disgrace. And, in fact, you know, it's still known, if anything goes wrong in
Italy, they call it another Korea, and that's the extent to which the Italians
sort of--you know, they still suffer from that fateful day, July the 19th,

BOGAEV: Now a big part of the story and part of the mystery and the mystique
of it is due to the fact that these extraordinary players went back to Korea
and virtually disappeared to the West and to the world of sports. And you
point out in the film that there were rumors about what happened to them when
they returned. After they beat Italy, they lost in the quarterfinals to
Portugal. And what were the rumors?

Mr. GORDON: Yeah. The r...

BOGAEV: That they were censured or punished in some way for their loss?

Mr. GORDON: Yeah. I mean, the rumors had spread that they'd been imprisoned.
But the stories were so conflicting that we weren't really sure, you know, of
their authenticity, anyway. The big thing was no one had ever asked the
players what had happened and, you know, to a man, they all said, `Well, you
know, we came home as heroes. You know, look at the footage. You'll see.'
And they are still regarded as heroes.

Mr. NICK BONNER (Filmmaker): Some of the allegations were that
they'd--particularly the ones that came out from England, but that they threw
the Portuguese match by womanizing and drinking beforehand. And we went to
sort of try and find out about this theory, and we went up to Middlesbrough to
see if they'd been womanizing. And they're very good-looking lads. I mean,
even now, you've got girls going, `Whoo-hoo, what a team.' And there was no
incidents. This is a very small town, Middlesbrough, and you'd soon know if
anything had been going on there. And at that time--we looked in the
records--there were no sort of pregnancies going on with Korean kids going

We then went up to Liverpool to check about the drinking allegations, and much
to sort of Dan and my shock, you know, the man we interviewed who was the
original chap around the bar, said, `Yes, you know, they did. They drunk the
bar dry.' And Dan and I went, `Oh, no. This is awful.' But, `Oh, no, soda
water.' And that sort of gives you an idea. I mean, they were there to play

BOGAEV: My guests are Dan Gordon and Nick Bonner. Dan Gordon is the director
and producer of the documentary film "The Game of Their Lives." Nick Bonner
is the associate producer of the film. It's about the North Korean soccer
team who upset the favored Italians in the 1966 World Cup. It was a
performance that made sports history.

Dan and Nick, we're going to take a break now, and then we'll talk some more.

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

BOGAEV: Back with filmmakers Dan Gordon and Nick Bonner. Their new
documentary, "The Game of Their Lives," is the story of how an unknown
underdog soccer team from North Korea in 1966 brought off the greatest upset
in the history of the World Cup.

Now let's talk about the making of the film, because that's a big part of this
story. How did you get access to the players in their homes? It's very
difficult for the press to get into people's homes in North Korea.

Mr. BONNER: Yeah, it is...

BOGAEV: And I understand, Nick, you have business connections in North Korea.
What are they? What's the nature of your business there?

Mr. BONNER: I don't know if it's really business connections. But what
happened is I was a landscape architect lecturing in Leeds in Sheffield
University in England and in 1993 went to Beijing to teach at one of the
universities there and do some more studying, and started playing football
with the British Embassy team. And one of the players--he was an attack, I
was goalkeeper--happened to be a North Korean. And for the past 10 years
we've been best mates, and we just get on very well.

And then when Dan came on with this idea of making this film, the first thing
I thought was, `Well, who is this man, Dan Gordon?' No one goes into North
Korea to make--if you're going to North Korea, you're going as a journalist,
you're going for something certainly more than a football story. But we met
up and I spoke back to my North Korean friend and said, `Is it possible for us
to go and see if we can find these players?' And he sort of knew about the
story and said, `Yeah, no, certainly.' But even at that time we thought we'd
only have access to the most famous one, Park Doo-ik, and also one other, the
goalkeeper, Rechum Yung, who was still coaching, and they'd been out with
their team to Beijing beforehand. And it was from there that we--that sort of
initial trust.

In North Korea, the reports we get are from journalists who go in, mostly
Western journalists; very few journalists from South Korea get in. And, of
course, if they're only there for a week, there's only so much they can learn
about the country. Having been there for 10 years, I've got a lot more
access, and I think there's an enormous amount of trust.

And so when we came in with Dan--and Dan, who can actually head a ball for
about sort of 10 minutes in the air--we realized that--you know, I think the
players very soon realized that this is an expert in football and they
relaxed, and suddenly the doors opened.

BOGAEV: What rules and restrictions were placed on your filming? What were
you allowed to show and what not?

Mr. BONNER: We thought, like everyone else, I think, who questions us, that
we would be wholly restricted and we wouldn't be able to this and we wouldn't
be able to do that. We got everything that we asked for and more. We were
assigned two minders, as you always are when you're in North Korea, but they
actually, you know, were our interpreters and really guides rather than

We asked to go to Park Doo-ik's house. We got it. We asked to go on the
trams. We got it. Everything that we wanted to get we got, which, you know,
for a filmmaker is just unbelievable. You wouldn't get that sort of
cooperation if I was making a film about the English World Cup team of '66.

And the amazing story is that they took a documentary crew in 1966, and I knew
they had this footage and I assumed that they would have kept it in their
archive. And when we asked to see it, they showed it to us. And it was quite
good, but color--which the English TV was black and white at the time--so it's
color film from '66. And they said to us, `We don't think it's good enough
quality for you. We'd like to take it back to negative and then reprint it to
brand-new color positive.' And, you know, I thought that there is no way in
the world that we can afford to pay for that. And they said, `No, no, no. We
will give that to you, because we want you to have the best possible film.'
And again, you wouldn't get that in England from anyone.

BOGAEV: Now relations are so tense right now between the US and North Korea.
And you two are probably among very few Westerners who have spent time in
people's homes in the DPRK. So on this tour have you been approached by
anyone from the US government or from foreign relations, policy organizations,
who want to get more of a handle on what daily life is like inside North

Mr. BONNER: Certainly, no. I think what is interesting, under Clinton what
was happening in North Korea was suddenly America was not being touted as sort
of the fire-wielding enemy across the border. Madeleine Albright had been
over; the various exchanges were happening. They even thought there was going
to be an American cultural office set up in Pyongyang. And the rhetoric had
been turned down over the last 10 years. In 1993, it was very, very serious.
There was the threat, which, in fact, 10 years later is the exact same threat
now, both from North Korea having the nuclear capability. In 1993 there was
the idea that the States would go and take a strike on one of those
manufacturing bases for that. But since then, things calmed down.

And when Dan and I started going in in 2000, it is almost like North Korea had
lost this enemy, that it wasn't every so often `The Americans are responsible
for this, the Americans have done this,' and there was positive press. What
is so sad now is that there's such pressure that they feel that they're
getting from America that, in fact, all it does is refocus them on saying,
`Oh, yes, my gosh, there is an enemy across there. This is why we are what
we're doing.' Unfortunately, now it's back up to the old levels.

BOGAEV: So when you were talking to those people on this trip while filming,
were you able to talk politics?

Mr. BONNER: Yeah. I mean, we talk everything. I mean, I obviously prefer to
talk football with anyone that would care to listen. But, you know, we talked
politics. And on this trip recently, you know, we were talking about the
situation, and really, you know, we can see, you know, both sides. But from
their point of view, you know, they were saying--you know, they've done the
air raid drills and they've had blackout practice. They're completely ready
for war, which is frightening for us. But they, you know, again, just feel
like 50 years on nothing's changed. They still have this enemy that wants to
destroy them.

And from their point of view, all they can see is that America wants to
attack, and they're ready for it. And we think that, you know, it's tragic
really that we're back at square one. And they say that they're not
frightened, you know, of the enemy, but I'm sure that underneath it all, you
know, it scares everyone that this, you know, potential standoff, you know,
could end in absolute catastrophe.

BOGAEV: So what kind of sense do you have after making this film about the
relationship between sports and politics?

Mr. BONNER: I've always believed that football, you know, will transcend all
boundaries, and that certainly was the case in '66. And what we found is that
it's the case now. We took the players back to Middlesbrough in October, and
they received a standing ovation from 33,000 people there. They also received
a standing ovation from 40,000 at Aveton. They were received by the speaker
of the House of Commons, received by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office; I
mean, from the highest political level to the man in the street. And they
were welcomed as people, and they've never forgotten that, to the extent that
Middlesbrough's talking of twinning itself with Pyongyang and having a North
Korea day on July the 19th to commemorate that achievement and raising the
North Korean flag from the town hall.

So on a people-to-people level, you know, football, and sports in general
actually, transcends all boundaries.

Mr. GORDON: It was obviously beautiful when we took the players--I mean,
Middlesbrough to the North Koreans is home; it's their sort of home abroad.
And we walked on with the remaining players, some players, and we weren't too
sure what the reception would be like. And just before a football match, the
stadium's normally pretty empty. But we walked on, the stadium was full. And
33,000 people stood up to a man and a woman and a child, and it was the stuff
out of movies. You couldn't have asked for a more beautiful reception for

Mr. BONNER: Yeah. And basically, I mean, Park Doo-ik said that, you know,
the thing he took, you know, the English people took them to their hearts.
And really the most important thing he learned was that football isn't about
just winning; you know, playing football wherever we go can improve diplomatic
relations and help promote peace. And I think that's what, you know, a lot of
our audiences have taken from the film and really has been the main message of
the film, and especially at this moment in time, that, you know, there is an
alternative to the vitriol that's being spoken at the moment.

BOGAEV: I'd like to thank both of you. I really enjoyed talking with you
about soccer, about the story today. Thanks.

Mr. BONNER: Thank you.

Mr. GORDON: Thanks.

BOGAEV: Filmmakers Dan Gordon and Nick Bonner. Their new documentary about
the North Korean soccer team that made World Cup history is called "The Game
of Their Lives."

Coming up, a review of the new Scott Spencer novel. This is FRESH AIR.

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

Review: Scott Spencer novel "A Ship Made of Paper"

Scott Spencer's latest novel is called "A Ship Made of Paper." It gets its
odd title from an old song called "Just to Be With You," with lyrics like `On
a ship that's made of paper I would sail the Seven Seas.' Book critic Maureen
Corrigan says that Spencer's novel makes you feel the heroism and the futility
of those lines.


Long before extreme adventure tales became such a hot literary genre, novelist
Scott Spencer was charting perfect storms of the heart. His most famous
novel, "Endless Love," describes teen-age passion run amok. Reading "Endless
Love" is like sitting in the eye of a hormonal hurricane and watching as
ripped pillows, bloodied bedsheets and the broken psyches of the two young
lovers swirl madly around you. But though the love stories Spencer describes
are typically out of control, his writing never is. He's such a precise and
lyrical writer that feelings, experienced but possibly never expressed in
language before, materialize in his words.

It took me an unusually long time to read Spencer's wonderful new novel, "A
Ship Made of Paper," because I kept rereading sentences, savoring the shock of
their insights, delaying, I guess, what I knew would be the inevitable
discovery at story's end, of the wreckage of his latest expedition into the
thin air of peak emotional experience.

When we first meet the main character here, 36-year-old Daniel Emerson, he
foolishly thinks he's retreated from danger. Formerly a socially conscious
lawyer in New York City, Daniel, who's white, was beaten up by some black kids
working for a client whom he failed to save from jail. Badly shaken, Daniel
moves back to his quaint hometown of Leyden in upstate New York, along with
his lover, Kate, a novelist, and her four-year-old daughter, Ruby, whom Daniel
adores. But this escape into the quiet life boomerangs when Daniel develops a
colossal crush on Iris Davenport, who's also one of the few black residents of
Leyden and whose son is Ruby's best friend.

Issues of race run throughout this book. It's the autumn of the O.J. trial,
and black/white relations are on everyone's mind. And because we readers
enter into every principal character's mind here, we're privy to the knee-jerk
prejudices, fears and fantasies members of each race harbor about the other.
We also learn pretty early in the story that Iris shyly reciprocates Daniel's
desire, but their feelings are kept in check until one afternoon in October
when nature decides to conspire with the unconsummated lovers--a freak mammoth
snowstorm hits Leyden. And because the trees still have their leaves, the
weight of the snow snaps them in two all over the countryside, downing power
lines, blotting out roads and isolating Daniel and Iris together at her house
after she's picked up the two kids early from their day-care center. They
kiss, they couple and then the sky really begins to fall down.

Iris' husband, Hampton, a stockbroker who works during the week in the city,
suspects that something's going on, but his self-regard is so towering that he
can barely admit that Iris might be cheating. Kate, who's ironic, brittle and
drinks too much, is also not a naturally endearing victim. Such is the
brilliance of Spencer's storytelling, though, that you feel degrees of
sympathy for all these characters, felled like the trees by a blizzard out of

In this passage late in the novel, for instance, Daniel, who's still living
with Kate, gazes at her at a party. As he describes his diminished feelings
for her, I think Spencer astonishingly manages to make our emotional
allegiances ricochet from Kate to Daniel and, finally, back to Kate again.
`She is wearing a black skirt, flattering and tight, a bolero jacket, clip-on
pearl earrings. Her hands are on her hips. She looks lithe, high spirited.
If he didn't know her, he would want to. How strange it feels not to love
her. That love had once felt so stable, dependable. Its very lack of drama
made it feel eternal. And now to feel so little, to feel almost nothing,
outside of respect and a desire not to hurt her too badly, is like waking up
one morning and finding that you can no longer enjoy the taste of bread.'

Just when you think these characters simply can't go on in this tumult of
misery any longer, a horrible accident occurs that pretty much freezes them
into place. Because of the accident, all that snow and, of course, all the
wretched passion in this tale, I have a hunch Spencer may have intended "Ship
Made of Paper" to be a black/white retelling of that grandmother of all
American over-the-top illicit love stories, Edith Wharton's "Ethan Frome." If
so, it's a stunning contemporary literary companion piece. Like Ethan, Daniel
is a man who risks all for one dizzying ride of a lifetime, and then finds
himself stuck headfirst, flailing in a snowbank, a heroic fool of fortune and
stormy weather.

BOGAEV: Maureen Corrigan teaches literature at Georgetown University. She
reviewed "A Ship Made of Paper" by Scott Spencer.


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

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