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Michael Stipe Pays Tribute to Patti Smith in New Book

Singer Michael Stipe with the band R.E.M. Earlier this year he published a book of photographs "Two Times Intro: On the Road with Patti Smith" (Little, Brown & Company). The band also has a new album, "Up." (Warner Bros.) (Originally aired 5/11/98)

21:09

Other segments from the episode on October 16, 1998

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, October 16, 1998: Interview with Michael Stipe; Review of Philip Roth's novel "I Married a Communist"; Interview with Simon Callow; Review of the film "Beloved."

Transcript

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: OCTOBER 16, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 101601np.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Michael Stipe
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:06

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

The band R.E.M. has a new CD. On this archive edition, we have an interview with its lead singer and songwriter, Michael Stipe.

The band was formed in 1980, and for several years it was a critic's favorite with a devoted following among alternative rock listeners. But despite its emphasis on
making non-commercial music, R.E.M. went on to become a commercial success. Last year, the band was thrown into a tailspin when its drummer, founding member Bill Berry, left.

The band members say they used that as an opportunity to reinvent their sound.

Let's hear a track from their new CD, "Up." This is "The Apologist."

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP OF MUSIC -- R.E.M. PERFORMING "THE APOLOGIST")

They call me the apologist
And now I'm at peace
You know, at first it really hurt
We'd joke about these t
hings

I've skirted all my differences
but now I'm facing up
I wanted to apologize for everything I was
So, I'm sorry
So sorry, so sorry, so sorry, so sorry, so sorry
Did you understand

GROSS: Michael Stipe has been an inspiration to musicians starting their own bands. Stipe recently paid tribute to the performer who most influenced him, Patti Smith. Last Spring, when I spoke with him, he had published a book of photos that he took of Smith on tour. He wrote that he first found out about Patt
i Smith when he was 15 and stuck in high school detention hall.

I asked him to tell the whole story.

MICHAEL STIPE, LEAD SINGER, SONGWRITER, R.E.M.: There was an article that the writer Lisa Robinson had written about the CBGBs (ph) singing in New York, which was just starting, I think, in '74, '75 was when it really kicked in with Patti and bands like Television, and I think the Talking Heads and Blondie came a little bit later.

But she wrote an article comparing that scene to the music of the time, sa
ying that the music of the time was very Technicolor and very blown out and very colorful. And this was very stripped down and visceral and raw and much more like black and white TV, like a staticy old TV.

And there was a photograph of Patti Smith leaning against a wall, looking at the camera. And the picture was so haunting and so mesmerizing. I think I immediately felt like, you know, there were something here that was worth investigating. And so I started trying to find out about this music, and trying to
find out about these people that were making it. And I bought her first record the day it came out.

And was very epiphinal. I decided then and there that music was what I wanted to do with my life.

GROSS: So at this point did you have any sense that you could sing or you could write songs?

STIPE: Not really. I mean, I played accordion when I was in third grade. I really want to play organ, but they ran out of organs so I played accordion. But I never really sang very much, and I didn't really have
an idea of what I wanted to do with my life.

But the punk ethic in the mid-'70s, when all this stuff was going on, Patti Smith and Television, are really the two bands that I looked to. The ethic was kind of do-it-yourself, that anybody could do what they were doing. It didn't take a special person to do it. And I took that very literally, and decided then and there at the age of 15 or 16 that I was going to be a singer.

GROSS: Excuse me for being sidetracked here for a moment, but accordion? What were yo
u playing on those accordion books. Did you have one of those beginning accordion books with the horrible songs in it?

STIPE: I don't think I could read them. I mean, I don't think I could read the music. But my third grade class, Mrs. Swindle (ph) was our teacher, had a band. And we would play various songs of the day, I think "The Green Green Grass of Home," and stuff like that.

Me and my best friend, Mike Rooney, played accordion. At one point we asked Mrs. Swindle if we could yell things out, because
we weren't allowed to sing. We had to play the accordion. I guess that took greater concentration than singing. But we asked if we could yell things like, "go daddie-oh." And so the two of us would stand on the side, and in the middle of "The Green Green Grass of Home" we would be, like,"yeah, man, yeah, go daddie-oh."

GROSS: Oh, that's really great.

STIPE: That was my auspicious musical beginnings. But I just decided -- I mean, I felt, really, like I had discovered something that I felt very much a par
t of at that pretty young age. And I stuck to it.

GROSS: In your book of photos of Patti Smith, you say that when you were 15 and you discovered her, you were a dork nerd. What qualified you for dork nerdome?

STIPE: Well, I think I'm still kind of a geek, you know. Most of my really good friends are, too. It's just -- there's that old adage that the world is divided into two types of people, those that's snore and those that admit that they snore. Is that how it goes?

GROSS: I don't know it.

STIP
E: I can't remember. Anyway, I think we're all pretty geeky, you know. We're up a pretty geeky species, and I'm just smart enough to admit it, I guess.

But I didn't -- I think in high school I felt very kind of very much an outsider. I didn't really feel like I fit in anywhere and this music gave me a place where I felt like I fit in.

GROSS: Back in 1992, you told "Rolling Stone" magazine that no one has picked up on how much you lifted from Patti Smith as a performer. What do you feel like you lifted fr
om her as a performer?

STIPE: Well, just there were things about her vocal style that I really admired. And there was a certain freedom and loosement to -- almost a scatting quality that she has, and a fearlessness; I mean, more than anything I think I feel a fearlessness. That's not to say that throughout R.E.M.'s career I've really embodied that. And I'm not sure that I have, but I think in moments here and there we produced stuff that has that same energy to it.

Some of my favorite songs are the ones th
at really just seem like I didn't even know what happened. Suddenly, there was a song and there were words, and somewhere in some very obtuse way they made sense.

GROSS: I think it's time to listen to some more of your music. And I thought we'd start pretty close to the beginning. And here's something from the first EP that R.E.M. released, called "Chronic Town." I think it was recorded in '81 and released in '82. And the song I thought we could hear from it is "Wolves Lower." Would you say something about
the song, about writing it, or about this moment in your life when it was recorded?

STIPE: I don't really remember much about that. I was kind of nervous to be in a recording studio, and I had not at that point -- I hadn't really learned how to write words. So I'm not sure how many actual real words there are in the song. But it's got a nice vibe.

GROSS: Well, let's hear it.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP OF MUSIC -- R.E.M. PERFORMING "WOLVES LOWER")

Suspicion yourself
Suspicion yourself don't get caught
S
uspicion yourself
suspicion yourself let us out
While the lower wolves
Here's a house to push
Wolves at the door

In a corner garden, while the wolves
(unintelligible) -- ah, ah, ah, ah
(unintelligible) -- ah, ah, ah, ah
(unintelligible) -- ah, ah, ah, ah
(unintelligible) -- ah, ah ah, ah

GROSS: That's R.E.M. My guest is singer Michael Stipe, singer and songwriter.

So let's get back to when you were a teenager, when you just started singing. You're telling us that you didn't real
ly think seriously about music until your were 15 and discovered Patti Smith. So when he started thinking that you were serious about music, what happened next? Did you start singing?

STIPE: Well, when I was 17, I guess, I answered an ad and joined a band that was, I guess, kind of like a punk rock cover band, pretty much. And we had a real good time. We never really played out in public very much. It was mostly just kind of a garage band. And then when I moved to Athens at the age of 18, I really wanted to
find somebody that I could click.

GROSS: This is Athens, Georgia.

STIPE: Athens, Georgia, yeah. That's what I met Peter Buck, and he was very resistant to the idea of forming a band, because he felt like people in bands were assholes, and he didn't want to be that. He also didn't feel like he was a very good guitar player, which at the time he wasn't. But I didn't know how to sing and had never written a song in my live, so after months of urging he finally caved in and we started R.E.M.

GROSS: My gue
st is Michael side of R.E.M. We'll talk more after our break.

This is FRESH AIR.

BREAK

GROSS: Let's get back to our interview with Michael Stipe, recorded last spring. In some of R.E.M.'s earlier recordings his voice was mixed behind the music. When I asked him why his voice wasn't more up-front, he said it had to do with his own insecurity.

STIPE: You know, at the time, in the early '80s everybody was mixing the drums louder than the vocal. I just thought that was really embarrassing. We didn't
want to be a disco band.

I was somewhat reacting to the music of the day, but I was also just kind of embarrassed, because I never really -- the thought process of being a singer, of being in a band, putting out a record, and then it's like: whoops, well, I've got to write words -- because people expect words.

And then: well, the words should make sense. I mean, if you listen to our records starting with "Wolves Lower," which we just heard, and progressing, the first really three or four records, including
"Chronic Town," you're basically watching four guys learn how to write songs.

And you're watching me learn how to write a lyric. I find that kind of fascinating, you know, these records mean a whole lot to a lot of people. Sometimes they are a little hard for me to listen to. But I do appreciate them for what they are.

GROSS: Right. I'm wondering if you were influenced by any soul singers?

STIPE: I think I must have been, but I can't think of anybody right on. My -- you know, growing up as a child
, my parents were not huge music fans. It was like a lot of Gershwin and Mancini and the 1812 Overture with real cannons, and what else...

GROSS: Your father was in the military, right?

STIPE: ... "The Sound of Music." Yeah, but we lived in Texas for a stint, and there was country radio and that was bubble gum -- when bubble gum pop radio was really big. And so that was certainly an influence.

I didn't really have an older brother or sister that turned me on to the Beatles and turn me on to the Who a
nd turn me on to all the music of the '60s.

And so, you know, I kind of discovered stuff via radio as a child. And then, really up until I found that magazine article and heard "Horses," I was just kind of coasting along. I mean, I think before that the only one music artist that I thought was really interesting was Elton John. When "Benny and the Jets" came out, I thought that was one of the most amazing -- and I still do. For me, "Benny and the Jets" and "Rock On" by David Essex are two of the most amazing
-- they are in my Top 10 of best pop songs ever.

GROSS: Now, I know because your father was in the military you moved around a lot as a kid, as he got transferred to different military bases. What impact did it have on you to always be the new kid in the neighborhood?

STIPE: Well, the positive aspects are that my family and I am very close. And when you're forced to make new friends fairly regularly, it kind of brings you together as a unit -- I hate that word.

LAUGHTER

We were a great loving fami
ly and very close, and we still are. And that's about the greatest gift that could ever be given to me, is to have my two sisters, my mom and dad be very supportive and to unconditionally, you know, love me the way that they have all along. And, of course, that's returned.

GROSS: When you started performing, what were your -- what were your, like, rock values, you know, the things that you really loved about rock, the things that you never wanted to become that you've seen other bands become?

STIPE: My band
always -- I feel like a broken record, because I say this so much, but it's really the truth. We always kind of operated by process of negation. We knew everything that we didn't want to be, and the things that were left were our options.

And we're fortunate to, fortunate enough to be a small band that had to work very very hard to get to the place that we finally got to. And we also had no expectations, no goals. So every time that we had a success it was kind of a surprise, and we were all kind of, like, t
hrown back by it. And it kind of took us to the top of the heap which is a pretty cool place to be.

GROSS: What didn't you want to be?

STIPE: I didn't want to buy my own myth, I didn't want to be a cliche, I didn't want to be typical and mediocre.

GROSS: Let me play another R.E.M. track. And I think I'll choose one of your most famous recordings, your big hit "Losing My Religion." Is there story behind this song?

STIPE: Yeah, I was embarrassed about it at the time, but I finally fessed up to being
a huge fan of the song "Every Breath You Take," by the Police. And I thought that that song was like, really, kind of an intense -- it was a beautiful pop song. And it was very lovely, but you could take it more than one way. It seemed very kind of creepy and obsessive on one hand, and very kind of, like, intense and loving on the other hand. I wanted to write a song that was like that. So I wrote "Losing My Religion."

GROSS: OK. This is it.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP OF MUSIC -- R.E.M., "LOSING MY RELIGION")

Oh, life is bigger
It's bigger than you
And you are not me

The lengths that I will go to
The distance in your eyes
Oh, no, I've said too much
I set it up

That's me in the corner
That's me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep a view
And I don't know if I can do it

Oh, no, I've said too much
I haven't said enough

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you cry
Every whisper...

GR
OSS: That's R.E.M. My guest is lead singer and songwriter Michael Stipe.

I think a lot of people have a personal story to tell about that song, particularly about the lines "Oh, no I've said too much, I haven't said enough." I think a lot of people have stories about times when they really weren't sure about whether they said too much or said enough. Do you have a story that matches with those lines?

STIPE: Well, no, I didn't really take it from any real life situation. I just think it was more about fe
ar of rejection, you know. When you're like, really crazy about somebody and you want to tell them but you're trying to give them hints. And then they're maybe not getting it or they're same something back to you and you're taking it the wrong way. And that's really -- it's that kind of weird, uneasy area is what that song kind of covers. I think it's very successful. I really like that song a lot.

GROSS: Oh, me, too. I'm glad you still like it a lot. People get tired of their own hits, and then they get a
ngry with you if you play them.

STIPE: Yeah, I know. It's what gets them.

GROSS: You still play it in performances?

STIPE: We try to. Yeah, we do.

GROSS: How do you think fame has affected the band? You talk about all the values you didn't want. And I think there's some values that become almost difficult to avoid once the to spotlight hits.

STIPE: Yeah. The guys have always been really supportive of me being the front person, and the fact that I would get more attention and I would be the on
e that photographers wanted to take pictures of and wanted to push to the front of the picture, and that I'm the one that gets recognized in restaurants or, you know, when we walk down the street or whatever.

They've always been really, really supportive. I know that Bill, before he quit the band, our drummer, always said that he wouldn't trade places with me for anything in the world, and sometimes really felt sorry for me, because he would be able to say -- be able to say -- call a restaurant and say: I'm in R
.E.M. -- or call the baseball people and say: I'd like tickets, I'm in R.E.M. And they would give them to him -- where he could go anonymously into that restaurant or into the baseball place, I maybe couldn't; and especially after "Losing My Religion," because that was the song that really -- that really made us international, you know, pop stars, if you will.

And at that point, you know, I really had kind of come to terms with that, because I was being recognized just about everywhere that I went. And that c
an kind of throw you, you know.

But I had had -- you know, I had had, whatever, 13 years of being in a band and being a star in my own head to kind of build up to that. So it wasn't that horrible.

GROSS: Right. I'm sure, like, you know, shaving your head also helped people recognize you.

STIPE: Yeah, it was easier when I could grow my hair different lengths, but my hair started to fall out so I shaved it off.

GROSS: Right. Right. I think a word that's most often used to describe you is the word "e
nigmatic."

STIPE: I hate that word.

GROSS: What you think of that?

STIPE: I think stupid. I mean, I hate that word. That word followed me for years and years and years. You know, I did say early on and I did feel, and I still do, that an air of mystery around a public figure, but also just in life, is not altogether a bad thing. You don't ever want to really give everything away, and at whatever point you do, you know, in might be too much.

GROSS: Michael Stipe, recorded last Spring after the pu
blication of his book of photos of Patti Smith. R.E.M. has a new CD called "Up." Here's another track from it called "Day Sleeper."

I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP -- R.E.M. PERFORMING "DAY SLEEPER")

Receiving department, 3 am.
Staff cuts have sucked the (unintelligible)
Directives are posted
No callbacks, complaints
Everywhere is calm
(unintelligible)
I see today that the (unintelligible)
(unintelligible)
Day sleeper
Day sleeper
Day sleeper..

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

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

Dateline:
Guest:
High: Singer Michael Stipe with the band R.E.M. Earlier this year he published a book of photographs "Two Times Intro: On the Road with Patti Smith." The band also has a new album, "Up." Originally aired May 11, 1998.
Spec:

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

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: OCTOBER 16, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 101602NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Philip Roth New Release
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:20

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Philip Roth's new novel is called "I Married a Communist." Book critic Maureen Corrigan says her review should be called "I Read a Master Work."

MAUREEN CORRIGAN, BOOK CRITIC: Last Wednesday night, on the eve of the announcement of the Nobel Prize for literature, I got a phone mes
sage from a New York radio station asking if they could call at 7:00 the next morning to get my hot-off-the-press critical assessment of the winner's literary merits.

I didn't return the call, wisely, as it turns out. I'm not as well-versed in Portuguese magical realist novels as perhaps I should be. In fact, when I first heard the phone message, I turned to a friend and clairvoyantly said: "the Nobel Prize will probably go to somebody I've never heard of. If they ever gave it to Philip Roth, then maybe I'd ha
ve a few words to say."

Here, I'll take the opportunity to make another prophetic pronouncement: the Nobel Prize will never go to Philip Roth, though it should. He's too coarse, too mean, too comical, too self-reverential, too political, too Jewish; or as his detractors have charged, to self-hatingly Jewish to ever ascend to the pantheon of Nobel laureates.

I hope history proves me wrong, but Roth isn't helping his candidacy any with his latest reckless performance called, "I Married a Communist." There's
the novel's outlandish 1950s-type drive-in movie title; its arrogant resurrection of Roth's fictional alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman as its framing narrator; it's touchy political subject, the 1950s witchhunts; it's nasty pee-in-your-pants funny, insider swipes at Roth's ex-wife Claire Bloom; and about 100 other crimes against literary decorum, proportion and tolerance.

"I Married a Communist" is great, but it's great in Roth's signature way. It's too too much. He's always going to irritate too too many of the rig
ht people. And it's too talky. That's at least one critic's complaint about "I Married a Communist." Roth, too talky. That's like saying Shakespeare is too iambic pentameter.

Talk, glorious, informed, vivacious, wide-ranging talk, is the structural and substantive essence of Roth's novels.

Unlike most people I meet in real life, I wish his characters would never shut up. "I Married a Communist" is composed as a long, impassioned reminiscence about betrayals, personal and political, during the McCarthy
era. The novel finds Nathan Zuckerman living a recluse's life in Western New England.

"I came hear because I don't want to story any longer. I've had my story," Nathan tells us.

But one day, he runs into a story from his past in the person of Murray Ringold, his beloved high school English teacher, who, at 90, is enrolled at an elder hostel at a nearby college.

Murray visits Nathan's cabin every night for six nights, and fueled by martinis, Murray "the Ancient Mariner," passes on the true tale of hi
s brother Ira, who also deeply influenced Nathan when he was a teenager in Newark during the 1950s.

Ira was a big shot, a charismatic radio actor known by the stage name, Iron Rin. We learned that Ira's early career as (unintelligible) actor was fostered by the Communist Party, of which he was a card-carrying member. At the height of his fame in the late 1940s, Ira married the celebrated actress Eve Fraim (ph), AKA Paula Framken (ph), and porcelain doll dead-ringer for the former Mrs. Philip Roth.

The marri
age was doomed from the start by the presence of Eve's sadistic harp-playing adult daughter. Ira eventually strayed, and to get even Eve conspired with two Red-baiting gossip columnists to publish a tell all book about her marriage called "I Married a Communist."

Mirrors within mirrors; that's what Roth's fiction is made out of. But there's always a larger purpose than self-display to his reflections. Here he engages big think issues like the role of art in society, and the inevitable treasons built-in to the
parent-child relationship. Along the way, he sketches indelible images of the Italian war in Newark in the 1920s; and in the audacious final paragraphs of the novel even makes us see anew the transcendent symbolism of stars in the night sky.

Then there are those characters and their talk. Even the walk-ons have unforgettable lines. In recognition of the great debt of pleasure I owe him, I'd like to cede the floor to Nathan's teacher, Murray, the champion talker. Here's a fraction of Murray's very relevant-to-
today riffs on how politics changed during the 1950s.

"I think of the McCarthy Era as inaugurating the post-war triumph of gossip as the unifying credo of the world oldest democratic republic. In gossip we trust. Gossip as gospel. The national fate.

"McCarthyism as the beginning, not just of serious politics, but of serious everything as entertainment to amuse the mass audience. McCarthyism as the first post-war flowering of the American 'unthinking' that is now everywhere."

Keep the offensive insight
s coming, Philip Roth. We need them more than you need the Nobel Prize.

GROSS: Maureen Corrigan teaches literature at Georgetown University. She reviewed Philip Roth's new novel "I Married a Communist."

Coming up, a talk with actor Simon Callow about Orson Welles. Two of Welles' movies are back in theaters.

This is FRESH AIR.

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

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

Dateline: Terry G
ross, Philadelphia
Guest: Maureen Corrigan
High: Book critic Maureen Corrigan reviews Philip Roth's new novel "I Married a Communist."
Spec: Philip Roth; Art; "I Married a Communist"

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

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: OCTOBER 16, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 101602NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Philip Roth New Release
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:20

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Philip Roth's new novel is called "I Married a Communist." Book critic Maureen Corrigan says her review should be called "I Read a Master Work."

MAUREEN CORRIGAN, BOOK CRITIC: Last Wednesday night, on the eve of the announcement of the Nobel Prize for literature, I got a phone mes
sage from a New York radio station asking if they could call at 7:00 the next morning to get my hot-off-the-press critical assessment of the winner's literary merits.

I didn't return the call, wisely, as it turns out. I'm not as well-versed in Portuguese magical realist novels as perhaps I should be. In fact, when I first heard the phone message, I turned to a friend and clairvoyantly said: "the Nobel Prize will probably go to somebody I've never heard of. If they ever gave it to Philip Roth, then maybe I'd ha
ve a few words to say."

Here, I'll take the opportunity to make another prophetic pronouncement: the Nobel Prize will never go to Philip Roth, though it should. He's too coarse, too mean, too comical, too self-reverential, too political, too Jewish; or as his detractors have charged, to self-hatingly Jewish to ever ascend to the pantheon of Nobel laureates.

I hope history proves me wrong, but Roth isn't helping his candidacy any with his latest reckless performance called, "I Married a Communist." There's
the novel's outlandish 1950s-type drive-in movie title; its arrogant resurrection of Roth's fictional alter ego, Nathan Zuckerman as its framing narrator; it's touchy political subject, the 1950s witchhunts; it's nasty pee-in-your-pants funny, insider swipes at Roth's ex-wife Claire Bloom; and about 100 other crimes against literary decorum, proportion and tolerance.

"I Married a Communist" is great, but it's great in Roth's signature way. It's too too much. He's always going to irritate too too many of the rig
ht people. And it's too talky. That's at least one critic's complaint about "I Married a Communist." Roth, too talky. That's like saying Shakespeare is too iambic pentameter.

Talk, glorious, informed, vivacious, wide-ranging talk, is the structural and substantive essence of Roth's novels.

Unlike most people I meet in real life, I wish his characters would never shut up. "I Married a Communist" is composed as a long, impassioned reminiscence about betrayals, personal and political, during the McCarthy
era. The novel finds Nathan Zuckerman living a recluse's life in Western New England.

"I came hear because I don't want to story any longer. I've had my story," Nathan tells us.

But one day, he runs into a story from his past in the person of Murray Ringold, his beloved high school English teacher, who, at 90, is enrolled at an elder hostel at a nearby college.

Murray visits Nathan's cabin every night for six nights, and fueled by martinis, Murray "the Ancient Mariner," passes on the true tale of hi
s brother Ira, who also deeply influenced Nathan when he was a teenager in Newark during the 1950s.

Ira was a big shot, a charismatic radio actor known by the stage name, Iron Rin. We learned that Ira's early career as (unintelligible) actor was fostered by the Communist Party, of which he was a card-carrying member. At the height of his fame in the late 1940s, Ira married the celebrated actress Eve Fraim (ph), AKA Paula Framken (ph), and porcelain doll dead-ringer for the former Mrs. Philip Roth.

The marri
age was doomed from the start by the presence of Eve's sadistic harp-playing adult daughter. Ira eventually strayed, and to get even Eve conspired with two Red-baiting gossip columnists to publish a tell all book about her marriage called "I Married a Communist."

Mirrors within mirrors; that's what Roth's fiction is made out of. But there's always a larger purpose than self-display to his reflections. Here he engages big think issues like the role of art in society, and the inevitable treasons built-in to the
parent-child relationship. Along the way, he sketches indelible images of the Italian war in Newark in the 1920s; and in the audacious final paragraphs of the novel even makes us see anew the transcendent symbolism of stars in the night sky.

Then there are those characters and their talk. Even the walk-ons have unforgettable lines. In recognition of the great debt of pleasure I owe him, I'd like to cede the floor to Nathan's teacher, Murray, the champion talker. Here's a fraction of Murray's very relevant-to-
today riffs on how politics changed during the 1950s.

"I think of the McCarthy Era as inaugurating the post-war triumph of gossip as the unifying credo of the world oldest democratic republic. In gossip we trust. Gossip as gospel. The national fate.

"McCarthyism as the beginning, not just of serious politics, but of serious everything as entertainment to amuse the mass audience. McCarthyism as the first post-war flowering of the American 'unthinking' that is now everywhere."

Keep the offensive insight
s coming, Philip Roth. We need them more than you need the Nobel Prize.

GROSS: Maureen Corrigan teaches literature at Georgetown University. She reviewed Philip Roth's new novel "I Married a Communist."

Coming up, a talk with actor Simon Callow about Orson Welles. Two of Welles' movies are back in theaters.

This is FRESH AIR.

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

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

Dateline: Terry G
ross, Philadelphia
Guest: Maureen Corrigan
High: Book critic Maureen Corrigan reviews Philip Roth's new novel "I Married a Communist."
Spec: Philip Roth; Art; "I Married a Communist"

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

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: OCTOBER 15, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 101503NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: "Beloved"
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:50

TERRY GROSS, HOST: Our film critic, John Powers, has a review of
the new film adaptation of Toni Morrison's 1987 Pulitzer Prize-winning
novel, "Beloved." The movie stars Oprah Winfrey, who also produced
it.

JOHN POWERS, FILM CRITIC: It's an enduring cliche that Hollywood
treats literature with vulgar disrespect. Yet the truth is often
exactly the opposite. Our filmmakers approach literary classics with
such hushed reverence that they often smother the movie with their
fidelity.

That's what happens in "Beloved," a Gothic tale about the scars
of slavery and the power to move beyond them. Set in 1873 Ohio, the
movie stars Oprah Winfrey as Setha, a strong-willed, heavy-spirited
ex-slave, who 18 years earlier escape the Sweet Home plantation, who's
owners violated her and whipped her so badly that her back still shows
the tracery.

Now Setha lives in a small, dingy, haunted house with her
daughter Denver. One day she gets a surprise visit from the amiable
Paul Dee -- that's Danny Glover -- a long-lost friend who is also a
slave at Sweet Home. Although Paul Dee finds Setha's house creepy,
they set about making a home, until their life is suddenly invaded by
an otherworldly young woman, who croaks and simpers and has the herky-
jerk motions of a puppets.

This mysterious creature is named Beloved. She's played by Tandy
Newton (ph). And Setha believes her to be one of her dead children
come back to life. Beloved's presence sets off a wild chain of events
that eventually reveals the full horror of Setha's past, including a
crime she herself committed in the name of love.

This dark secret is so dreadful that even the good-hearted Paul
Dee is driven to confront Setha about it.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP OF MOVIE -- "BELOVED")

DANNY GLOVER, ACTOR: Love is two things, Setha.

OPRAH WINFREY, ACTRESS: Love is or it isn't, Paul Dee. Your love
ain't no love at all. I stopped her. I put my babies where they'd be
safe.

GLOVER: It didn't work though, did it? Boys gone, you don't know
where. Little girl is dead. The other can't get any further then
they are. It didn't work.

WINFREY: They ain't at Sweet Home. Schoolteacher ain't got him.

GLOVER: Maybe it's worse.

WINFREY: It's ain't my job to know what's worse, Paul Dee. It's
my job to know what is and to keep my children away from it. Because
I'd rather know they got peace in heaven than live in a hell here on
Earth, so help me, Jesus.

GLOVER: What you did was wrong, Setha.

WINFREY: I shoulda' gone back there? Took my babies? Back to
Sweet Home?

GLOVER: There could have been a way. Some other way.

WINFREY: What way, Paul Dee?

GLOVER: You got two feet Setha, not four.

POWERS: It's an act of courage to try to adapt Toni Morrison's
original novel. And director Jonathan Demme remains resolutely
faithful to the book's often obscure style: the magical realist
flourishes, the constant skipping between time periods, and the long,
slow, moody buildup to the story's lacerating climax.

What dances across the page can often lie dead on the screen.
And for its opening 90 minutes -- the movie is nearly three hours long
-- "Beloved" is punishing to watch. The colors are desaturated. The
supernatural intrusions are badly done. The dramatic scenes are flat
and uninvolving.
It's as if Demme doesn't want to sully his story with anything
that the audience might find pleasurable.

Here is serious filmmaking with a vengeance, and though it's far
more artistically audacious then Demme's last film, "Philadelphia," it
suffers from a similar self-importance. Every frame says: this is
good for you.

It's less good for the actors, whose performances are shockingly
uneven.

While Glover is solid as Paul Dee, Tandy Newton's Beloved is
wincingly misguided. Rather than making us feel Beloved's witchy
power, her cooing, burbling, cutesy turn verges on parody.

She seems to belong in a different movie than little-known
Kimberly Elise, who gives the film's strongest, loveliest performance
as Setha's daughter Denver. She's the character who grows the most,
and in the final hour, which rises to moments of genuine emotional
force, we realize that the movie is actually about Denver's liberation
from the haunted house, her mother's thick love, and the psychic
wounds of slavery that sets the (unintelligible) as her true stigmata.

Of course, everything revolves around the towering figure of
Setha, who we see doing everything: working, making love, peeing,
going mad, committing murder, and guttering like a spent candle. It's
a great seething role for Oprah, who hits every emotion so smack on
the nose that I expect to see her waving an Oscar next March. Yet as
I watched her performance, my mind kept drifting from the fictional
Setha to the real-life Oprah, one of our country's genuinely amazing
creations.

Born poor and Black, she has a gift for showing empathy so
profound that it seems to transcend race. It has taken her to the
point where she is powerful enough to make her own wildly
contradictory fantasies come true.

In the very month that she can be found staring glamorously from
the cover of "Vogue," she's also starring as a woman brutalized by
slavery. In the abyss separating these two Oprah's lies an amazing
story, a truly American story. And I hope you won't think me
facetious when I say that I find this story far more fascinating than
anything in the honorable but disappointing "Beloved."

GROSS: John Powers is FRESH AIR'S film critic.

I'm Terry Gross.

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

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

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest: John Powers
High: Film Critic John Powers reviews "Beloved," the new film
adaptation of Toni Morrison's novel. The film shot largely in the
Philadelphia area, stars Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover.
Spec: "Beloved"; Movie Industry; Entertainment; Oprah Winfrey; Toni
Morrison

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

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: OCTOBER 16, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 101604NP.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Orson Welles
Sect: Entertainment; Domestic
Time: 12:45

TERRY GROSS, HOST: Two great movies which Orson Welles directed and starred in, "Touch of Evil," and "Citizen Kane," have been re-released and are playing theatrically in selected cities. "Touch of Evil" has been re-edited and re-mixed to closer approximate the vision Welles had before the studios did the final edit.

"Citizen Kane" is widely considered among the best films ever made. Welles plays newspaper publisher Charles Foster Kane. Here's a scene from early in "Citizen Kane" where Kane is arguing with his banker, who's angry about an article Kane's paper just published because it indicts the public transit company which the banker and Welles own.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP OF MOVIE --"CITIZEN KANE")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR PORTRAYING MR. THATCHER, BANKER: Charles, I think I should remind you of a fact that you seem to have forgotten.

ORSON WELLES, ACTOR PORTRAYING CHARLES FOSTER KANE: Yes.

ACTOR: That you are yourself one of the largest individual stockholders in the public transit company.

WELLES: The trouble is you don't realize you're talking to two people. As Charles Foster Kane, who owns 82,364 shares of Public Transit Preferred, you see, I do have a general idea of my holdings, I sympathize with you. Charles Foster Kane is a scoundrel. His paper should be run out of town, a committee should be formed to boycott him. You may, if you can form such a committee, put me down for contribution of $1000.

ACTOR: My time is...

WELLES: On the other hand, I am the publisher of the Inquirer. As such, it's my duty -- and I'll let you in on a little secret: it's also my pleasure -- to see to it that decent, hard-working people in this community aren't robbed blind by a pack of money-mad pirates just because they haven't anybody to look after their interests.

I'll achieve in on another secret Mr. Thatcher, I think I'm the man to do it. You see, I have money and property. If I don't look after the interests of the underprivileged, maybe somebody else will.

GROSS: On this archive edition we have an interview about Orson Welles with Simon Callow recorded in 1996 after the publication of the first volume of Callow's biography of Welles. It concludes with the completion of "Citizen Kane."

Simon Callow is an actor who also wrote an acclaimed book about Charles Laughton. Callow is best known to Americans through his roles as the villain in "Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls," the character who is buried in "Four Weddings and a Funeral," and the reverend in "A Room with a View."

Callow writes that Welles worked hard as a director but never really pushed himself hard as an actor. Welles simply accepted that he had the temperament and physique to be a leading actor.

SIMON CALLOW, ACTOR; DIRECTOR; AUTHOR, "ORSON WELLES: THE ROAD TO XANADU": He knew that he had certain great national endowments. A voice the like of which no other actor has had this century, I would say. A commanding physique, you know, he was six-foot-two, and tremendously broadly built, a very, very powerful, imposing man. And he's very, very intelligent. And he more or less brought these three gifts to his performances.

But there was no question of him searching within himself for the character. And there was not terribly much ambition in terms of the actual physical gesture of the character. He had a view that acting essentially consisted of suppressing certain elements of yourself. And, in addition, putting on things like noses and various -- in fact large quantities of makeup.

But the next stage of that, which is an approach favored by many actors which is generally to then give in to the thing that you've created -- you put on your false nose, you put on your makeup, you look in the mirror, you see somebody else looking back at you, and you start to become that other person -- that last bit was the bit Welles resisted. He didn't want that, he wanted to be in control all the time, so that he was on top of the character as it were, presenting the character to the audience at one remove.

GROSS: Do you think because his personality was so outsized he didn't want to make it subservient to the character's personality?

CALLOW: I think that's right. And I think he also had developed this, as you say, outsized personality and was the last thing he wanted to do was to investigate alternative possibilities of who or what he might have been. This was it. This was -- this was the Orson Welles that he wanted to be, and he stuck with it.

GROSS: You know, I'm a big fan of your earlier biography of Charles Laughton, and as I was telling you before when we recorded the interview, a quote of Laughton's that I quite like is Laughton saying, "People don't know what they're like, but I think I can show them." Which I think beautifully sums up acting at its best.

When I mentioned this -- my admiration for this quote to you, you said this is something that Orson Welles would never say.

CALLOW: Yes, absolutely.

GROSS: Why not?

CALLOW: He didn't believe -- he didn't think of acting or indeed the theater as a mirror of human life in the way that Laughton obviously did, and to some extent that Brecht, to whom Laughton made the remark, did. Instead, Welles, I believe, saw it as the telling of big fables, which to some extent gave a model of human life. But in no sense, I believe, did he think that it was a personal statement or a personal revelation.

Whereas Laughton absolutely fed off his own inner life to an extraordinary degree, to an almost morbid degree, but to a degree that meant that his finest performances are piercingly human and disturbing in a way that nothing, I think, that Welles as an actor ever did.

This is not that, you must understand, to denounce Welles as an actor, he had many remarkable qualities and was a very exhilarating performer on many occasions. But what's Laughton was trying to do, I suspect, was more creative than what Welles was attempting, more creative and more courageous, and in the end cost him more, a price that Welles wasn't prepared to pay or didn't think worth paying.

GROSS: Now Welles didn't -- maybe Welles didn't push himself hard as an actor, but he sure seemed to push the actors who he was directing really hard. Particularly in "Citizen Kane," where he did take after take after take until he felt that it was exactly what he wanted.

CALLOW: Absolutely. When I say he didn't push himself very hard -- I mean he, frankly, a rather lazy actor, that's in a nutshell what Welles was -- but he did push himself quite far physically sometimes and he certainly pushed his actors very far physically. If there was a sequence that involved coordinated action, then Welles would work it and work it and work it.

But Welles was by no means of the persuasion of, shall we say, Stanislavsky (ph) or Harold Clurman (ph) or even a Guthrie McClintick (ph). He didn't actually require the actors to delve into themselves. He didn't -- he wasn't challenging the truth, as it were. What he was challenging was the physical execution.

GROSS: Well, he even transforms himself for "Citizen Kane." What did he do to make himself the handsome young man that he thought Kane needed to be for the performance?

CALLOW: Yes. Welles was even as a young man in a constant struggle with his waistline, and for the early Kane he, first of all, was taking quite a lot of dietary tablets, which were mostly amphetamines. And he was wearing a fierce corset, and his whole face was pulled back with the use of fish glue. The whole -- he gave himself, as it were, a facelift with makeup.

Morris Siderman (ph), his makeup artist, devised this incredible sort of cage to pull back-- rather in the manner of the later Marlene Dietrich -- to pull the whole of the muscular face back. And, indeed, he looks pretty dazzling as a result of it. He was very funny about it in later life.

Norman Mailer had said of him that he was, at that age, the most beautiful young man who had ever lived. And Welles, very self-mockingly, said that it took five hours to get it that way.

GROSS: Right.

Do mind talking about "Citizen Kane"? Because I know you started off to write about the theater life of Orson Welles, not his film life.

CALLOW: Well, delighted, nothing pleases me more. After all, the book is called "The Wrote to Xanadu." And Xanadu is where Citizen Kane exists. So, the whole point really of my -- once I changed my idea of writing about it, it was just to show how all that early life and all that theater fed into his work on the screen.

And it's fascinating that the cinematographer that he worked with, Greg Toland (ph), favored long takes and wasn't keen on a fussy cutting techniques where you keep cutting away to people.

GROSS: Let's me back up a second here. When Orson Welles made "Citizen Kane" it was his first movie, he had just come to Hollywood, he hadn't acted on screen before, he certainly hadn't directed before, and so he had to surround himself with talented people. And one of the people who he worked with was Greg Toland, the cinematographer, who had done what other films? What, "Wuthering Heights," "Grapes of Wrath"?

CALLOW: And most importantly a film called "The Long Voyage Home" for John Ford, which is where he began the experiment that he continued with "Kane." Experimenting with deep focus photography, using ceilings, and all of that stuff.

GROSS: Explain a little more what this approach to deep focus was and why it was unusual at that time.

CALLOW: Well, the prevailing cinematographic language was one in which there was an attempt to distill a kind of pleasing, realistic picture. The idea was to make it look like life. And what Toland favored was a much more dramatic conception, much more visually charged.

So as you could, for example, have a scene in which people were a long way apart from each other but both was in focus. Whereas normally the sort of lenses and the sort of lighting that was favored by the mainstream cinematography was to favor the close-up and the foreground figure. So a background figure would be in soft focus.

And what it does is to make the dynamic impact of each frame hugely, it's quite a shock. Every frame of "Citizen Kane" punches you between the eyes. That's what, Toland put it, cinematography should be.

Curiously enough, he thought that was more realistic than the other approach to cinema. But, in fact, we now feel that it's very intensified, and indeed, somewhat expressionistic, which is really where the techniques evolved, in the German cinema of the '20s and '30s and early '30s.

GROSS: Did Toland's cinematography work well with Welles' experience as a man of the theater?

CALLOW: Oh, tremendously, because Welles was, you might say, for the most part he was a sort of expressionist theater director, and he favored the extreme contrasts in lighting that is also characteristic of the expressionist cinema. And he used shadows a great deal, which is another very common feature of that kind of shooting.

And what he strove for in the theater was exactly what Toland strove for in film, which was maximum expressive impact. So as you are absolutely electrified by the physical production of a Welles show.

GROSS: You describe Welles has being almost ruthless at rehearsals because he'd rehearse his actors so much and then have them do take after take until he felt the scene was perfect.

CALLOW: Yeah.

GROSS: What can you tell us about what the rehearsals were like? And what interests you about that as an actor yourself?

CALLOW: You mean the rehearsals for "Kane"?

GROSS: For "Kane."

CALLOW: Well, first of all, he did a lot of rehearsal, which is quite an unusual thing in film. It was unusual then, as still unusual. He sort of stole time out of the studio schedules by pretending that they were just read-throughs, and they were really very clearly and vividly planned and rehearsed before they got in front of the camera.

As I said, Toland's cinematography played very well into Welles's theatrical experience because he wasn't interested -- one of the first you have to decide as a director is how you're going to dispose the shots in the scene, how are you going to break it down. So, you know, as the camera goes beyond me during my speech and then cut to somebody else, we will have a wide shot, will we have a close-up? All that grammar of film is very hard to master.

Fortunately, Toland, as I said, favored rather long takes in which the camera followed the actors. So Welles could stage the thing however he liked, more or less as he would do on a stage in the theater, and then Toland devised the camera movement which would follow them around. So there are wonderful sequences, like the party at the Inquirer, in which the camera never stops moving and follows everyone. It's a long time before you actually get a cut to anything.

And so that terrible anxiety -- I speak from experience, since I directed a movie and one of the hardest things for me to really come to terms with was the question of the breakdown of the shots. But Welles didn't really have that problem.

And, indeed, it made it a great deal easier for editing, too, because by and large the editing was sort of done in the camera. Robert Wise, who edited it, didn't really have all that much to do. It had all been shot in the camera. Instead of having acres and acres of footage in which you decide shall I cut away to this or cut away to that; on the contrary, in "Kane" the scenes really hold from beginning to end.

GROSS: Simon Callow, recorded in 1996 after the publication of the first volume of his biography of Orson Welles. Welles films "Touch of Evil" and "Citizen Kane" are back in theaters in selected cities and will be opening in more cities in the next few weeks.

Coming up, a review of Oprah Winfrey's new movie "Beloved."

This is FRESH AIR.

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

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

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest: Simon Callow
High: Actor, director and writer Simon Callow. Last year, his acclaimed biography of Orson Welles, "Orson Welles: The Road to Xanadu," was published (Viking); Callow has appeared on stage and in many films, including "Four Weddings and a Funeral." He's also written two books on acting and a biography of Charles Laughton. Originally aired 2/12/96.
Spec: Orson Welles; Entertainment; Movie Industry

Please note, this is not the final feed of record

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