I. Mean. Good evening. I'm Ed Roeg whiskey and I'm honored to be your host for Metro watched 13 this week. I'd like to welcome you to the set of Metro view at the television studios of the City University of New York CUNY TV has been producing television programs for New York audiences since 1985 and is now a member station of walks. New York City's cable TV network. This week we'll take a look at some of our most memorable shows. Meet some of the people in the arts community who've provided inspiration to us over the years. And hear from some of our most distinguished alumni. First on tap this evening is an episode of the program métro view which has been Cunio flagship public affairs program since 1993. The program navigates New York's political cultural and social scene to bring you the movers and shakers
visionaries artists and writers who put the city on the cutting edge. This particular episode covers the 18th Annual New York as Book Country street fair. Guests include Pulitzer Prize winning author and CUNY alum Oscar while most American Book Award winner at Brooklyn College Professor Robert Viscusi novelist and CUNY alum sapphire and novelist Peter blücher. The host is yours truly. Welcome to Metro review. I'm Ed Rogo Askey.
Once again we're pleased to begin our new season with the New York whose book country show on the weekend of September 27 28 and 29 New York City again becomes the scene of our five borough wide group of activities culminating on Sunday afternoon. Fifth Avenue from forty eighth to seven the streets with a great book fair preceded in the five boroughs by events involving libraries and bookstores promoting reading and books throughout the city. This is the 18th annual book festival. And it reminds us about New York's preeminent role as a center for publishing as well as we'll hear from our guests today. A center for living and writing that is a place where authors live to talk about New York books writing and publishing. Our guests are Peter blücher whose new book The intruder is quite a suspenseful effort and drawing great attention.
Sapphire whose book push has gotten great critical acclaim. Welcome Robert Viscusi who is professor of English at Brooklyn College of the City University and the director of the Wolfe Institute in humanities there. His new book Astoria and ask a those whose 1990 book The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love is a Pulitzer Prize winner and whose new book coming out in paperback soon is Mr. Ives Christmas. Welcome all to Metro view and let me also take note of the fact that three members around the table. Not to exclude you Peter are part of the Kewney family. We've talked about Bob goosy as a professor at Brooklyn College if you got your B.A. at City College. City College in my college and I taught at Bronx Community College and high school your degree is from city city county MFA from city and B. And I also went to Bronx back in the when Abraham Lincoln was president. And it was on
189 school. That not not that long ago no wasn't at all so I wanted to mention Bob your your book is a winner of the 1996 American Book Award. Have I left out on this that push has gotten so far it's gotten such great critical response is it not. Not yet we know it. How come. How are we going. And the intruder I understand one of the things about books of course is that they may get turned into movies and there is a major movie deal for the intruder which you know is exciting you a good deal and we hope it gives you the wherewithal to continue writing good entertaining stuff about life in the city. Let me ask you to begin with about your book and that is how you came to write it. You all live and write in New York. Your books are about people and events that are happening here and elsewhere. Tell us about the intruder and what what prompted you to get going. Well it was a real life experience. I was walking on the Upper West Side one day pushing my one year old son in a stroller and I went by H and H bagels on 18th Street and
Broadway and a homeless man jumped out of a doorway cocked back his fist and started cursing and saying he was going to do violence to me and my son and I had a tremendous visceral violent response. Want to kill you before you kill me. And I looked down at my son in the stroller and thought up the snow going I'm going to get into a street fight with a guy on a street corner. Well my one year old son looks up and I push the straw across the street and I thought well that visceral response might be the beginning of a novel but it's not a novel in and of itself like fear and anger and all that. I mean a novel supposed to turn that over and look at it that way. But I thought about what about telling the story at least partly from the homeless guys point of view at all. So he in essence in a weird way became the real hero of the book and it's kind of a split screen throughout the novel so hopefully you get a view of New York from above ground and underground through the book and the tension between the two. Push is very much a New York book about a 15 year old in Harlem
and her life is this someone you knew was as a kid. Is that it's a composite of many different scenes I had. But I did have one student who had some of the issues that precious encounters in the book. Being pregnant being a survivor of incest being HIV positive in these in these Whereas I taught in literacy programs I taught in Harlem and in the Bronx you know the book seems like so shocking to people but it's what I think teachers in the inner city as it gets called encounter every day. I mean these are life conditions that students are going going through. And I actually started writing the book in an MFA program and I was supposed to be writing poetry and I you know you turn in your poem a week and then I would run home and work on my novel and I had I had entered into the MFA program in poetry because that's what I had done most of I had published poetry and I had a book that was coming out. But I also had this secret desire to write fiction in the fiction people didn't even talk to the poetry people most of the time you know the students and stuff but I just
kept working on the book and by the time I was graduating we were actually negotiating their contracts or getting my degree and the book was getting published at the same time if ever one wondered about the value of acuity education in terms of payoff. Exactly. Exactly the most directly we can think of yet in terms of what happens to her. And these are the events the language and so on and critical response has there been much difficulty as others have written about the book are they shocked by it. Some people are shocked. Other people are acknowledging that this is unfortunately reality. You know I had. A lot of people are embarrassed by this reality. You know there's that we don't I think black people are in a very interesting position. So we have one third of the black population still trapped in the same poverty. It's been around for centuries. And two thirds are not there anymore. We have a strong black middle class strong black working class and we have the Cosby family and all of them. And I think the appropriate response of
the black middle class to a book like push and pressure should be what can we do to help. How can we how can we lift the rest of our brethren who are suffering as opposed to shut up and don't talk about it. You're embarrassing them. Professor Viscusi Astoria or as one one reviewer noted last story of the Italian for the story the history is a complex book in which you talk about the great Italian immigration as if it were the French Revolution. What's the connection. Came as a surprise to Kewney story. I had gone to Paris. Everything is a community. I got to Paris at the end of February 86 to teach in the Paris exchange in Sydney. And I found myself walking around I'd never been to Paris although I knew French and I think made good movies and all that. Totally obsessed by a story. When my mother grew up as an immigrant child and when I was a child it was
totally We used to go every Sunday to my grandmother. My grandmother lived in. Antebellum mansion on the Hill. You could see the Triborough Bridge in Hellgate and one way in Manhattan and the other probably going I don't know exactly what it was called. That's a lot of possibilities. But. I found myself. Totally obsessed by it. And my mother had just died a year or two earlier. And while I was in Paris I had a startling experience at the Tomb of Napoleon of all things. I wanted in there by accident though is a very you know Paris is perfect everything is gray and exquisite. The tomb of Napoleon ain't. And it reminded me I describe it in the book at my mother's wake. You know here I am a professor at all that stuff and my sisters bought these exquisite floral arranging. I went to the flash and I got one of these big red hearts of roses and carnations. Just the thing that we were not supposed to do. And when I saw Napoleon's tomb
it looked exactly like that. That's actually what is this doing here and it just hit me. Napoleon was Italian. Napoleon grew up speaking Italian he never learned for example to do that. You know that fluted you that they haven't for that you could never have they made fun of him when it happened that day when I had this experience would have been my mother's 70th birthday. This is actually true. And I started thinking about the relationship between this one small dark determined Italian out of Italy and this other one you know my parents did very well in life. My father is still alive and still doing great. And what really struck me about him that was totally missing from all of the standard stories about Italian immigrants was tremendous ferocity that drove the whole thing appetite the hunger that was so ancient. And you feel that in Napoleon in Napoleon you know there's something very
naked about Napoleon. And. So I started doing a kind of an archaeology of that and I wrote a story backwards starting at the end with my mother's death which Napoleon's death and then going back to the first part of it is about the invalid's lives I have lived with Napoleon's tomb and the second part is about the reign of terror which I paralleled to that whole part of our life when we were tearing off the Italian things and trying to become Americans and you know wagging muslin curtains in the household that sort of stuff. And then finally the revolution itself which I paralleled and I should've examined it next to the migration. These people lived in one spot. It was against the law for them to leave the towns that they were born in. That's why all of these towns have their own dialects. These people could never go anywhere. And for them to get up and go whatever reason they have to come here to try to make America safe finally maybe
was the equivalent in the lives of the revolution and the lives of the peasants of freedom. And so I followed that and I mean there's a slippage between the two things and that's really what made the book for me interesting. I scare you or your Pulitzer Prize winner on the Mambo Kings is also about the immigrant experience here of Cuban Americans. But your most recent book Mr. Ives Christmases is a different kind of story. Tell us about the origin of the first and then the second night in 25 words or less well. I enjoyed listening to everybody else and I was hoping you'd all go on so now that you know what we all there aware authors inspirations come from well my books basically with some one exception. Fourteen sisters are based in New York. I mean I just I think living in New York is sort of like living in Dickens London. You know in the 19th century or like ancient Babylon I mean. There's no such thing as being a
small town person if you're from New York. But if you come from a neighborhood that's closely knit it's like coming from a small town in a conglomeration of towns small town where I grew up which was on the Upper West Side was basically composed of Latinos and blacks and you know Irish and Germans and Italians. It was really a conglomerate of people and a lot of energies and a lot of different kinds of soulfulness. So when I think of New York even as a kid I mean I grew up listening to jazz and gospel music and music. You name it music and I wanted to write a book about that kind of energy and also about what was going on with the people participating in this city. To cut to another image that I had in my head when I was growing up in my house my family came up from Cuba in the 1940s I was born in New York City I'm very new
york. But I remember my father used to watch the I Love Lucy show and his favorite you know the star of the show as far as I was concerned was Desi Arnaz and that's the way it you guys would walk on to the show. So that led to me writing this novel about. To the fellows who appeared on the I Love Lucy show but it's basically set in the same neighborhood as Mr. Ives Christmas as my first novel our house in the last world as certain elements of 14 sisters. Well I'll pretend I'm holding up the cover. Mr. Ives Christmas here and what you see on the cover is a snowy street scene. And actually that is a picture taken after a snowstorm of the street where I grew up on 118 Street between Morningside drive and Amsterdam Avenue. The shop was photographed by a friend of mine and. I don't know I just wanted to do a different take on identity. Mr. Ives is a good pious Catholic man who
whose son is murdered around Christmas. And I just sort of like we all try to do is reconcile good with. Goodness and having religious beliefs with what actually happens in the world. But also I like to use books to put things that I love into them and I love Christmas and I love holidays and I love religion and I love people's energies when it comes to that. And I love a certain kind of soulfulness that I have to say you mainly find or you more often find in New York City than you do in localities. No offense to the Midwest but it's showing here I limit it to the five boroughs as we are you know like lizard living in Byzantium. I mean this is the crossroads of the world and a very crazy time the 20th century with all kinds of people coming. I mean I think it's sort of like living in Hong Kong and London and Rome and.
Madrid and wherever. I mean Tangiers at the same time. I mean it's a really amazing city and I think if one kept his mind eyes open you could write book after book after book. So it was kind of good that if you look at a lot of the great writers like Dickens they actually didn't move around that much. They found their niche in a city or neighborhood and that's partly because they got to see how the narrative came out after a certain number of years they who got married who died who grew up to be a bum who grew up to be a wonderful person in spite of it. And so New York is great in that level is there their memory of that of those experiences over them becomes the substance upon which they build their books. Listening to you describe it as you know it really anticipates the next thing was going to ask all of you and I think you've covered it so well. Living in New York does that help you to write. Well clearly you're saying the richness of the experience is an infinite amount that one could draw upon. And you're confirming Sam and you talked about how you came to write pushed the same
way you always is about New York but it's not because it's about the Italian migration to America to Astoria New York is a big part of it. There's a couple of things. You mentioned Dickens and you mentioned Byzantium and that's the two that really I always think Dickens learned of but learned to do what he did by just walking around. He was always walking around and I do I walk up and down and are constantly constantly conscious that absolutely Byzantium and just just mean it's really what New York is new. But first is what I talked about in the book from my grandparents coming from Abruzzi way up in the mountains. The animals had to sleep in the same house only in my mind but they came from a life that was really basically the 12th century. And from that to New York in the middle of you know aband Douglas is Manhattan. Wow. I mean and it was very difficult for them. At one point in the book I
describe New York as a location in the ocean discussed by sharks and whales as the source of all. Because really that's what it's like when you're here you're almost in the ocean you're totally surrounded by flocks and constant changes water everywhere. My grandma in this house at my grandparents house all right there was the East River and the only part of the oak that's attached to the mainland in fact every other part of New York is around the event or even the Bronx has had its water on many so all around all different kinds of water and different kinds of Fire Island whirlpools where with Long Island Meets the Harlem River. That's where a story. And that incredible churning vortex of life in Manhattan and the surrounding I mean almost like other countries the marvelous Well you know one thing about New York is it's sort of like living in an outdoor museum in this sense you
know so many people live their lives out in the streets. But one thing that always hits me I mean if we displaced ourselves by a hundred years. I mean I always wondered if I would if I could live 100 years ago if I had my great great grandfather's life I would have been living on a little farm either in Spain or in Cuba or riding horses and dying. I mean I mean I think that we as big city people more so than people out of small towns were living a life that is even further removed. I mean from anything our ancestors know. So in a way you have to cope with the displacement. Also you have to cope with trying to figure out new ways of expressing what things are about. That's what novelists do anyway. And you do it through your books. But I'll tell you it's I always feel like I'm living on another planet from the rest of the world. Well it is very much the case a good deal of the rest of America tends to treat us as being another planet the provincial like this is from know cut them over let them float
out so that you see the richness of life in New York is what is so much a part of what you experience and what you can then come to write it out. That's living in New York make it easier or harder to do the writing. It makes it easier. I mean for me I'm now working on more work based in Harlem and I and I just get on the train and I go up there and I walk around and I see what's changed and I talk to people and I you know I skills take dance classes up there and stuff and I and I watch things change and I watch things grow and I and I go back and I check my notes and oh there's you know there's a bodega there instead of the hospital you have that corner wrong and it's like it becomes an even when I'm writing you know things can be said 10 years ago and I remember what was on 124 street 10 years ago now. You know I remember when I was there 15 years ago and and that becomes part of part of the novel. You know it's it's like my research is real. You know I mean it's
not you know it's done it the Schomburg I you know pass Schomburg by I'm living I'm living what I'm writing about. I don't know what I'd do if I was in the burbs like I was looking for Rob. I mean like you leave the house in New York and you immediately get great dialogue great description thrown at you. The trick sometimes is to tone it down enough to make it believable. I mean I remember I've always been trying to use this I remember being gimbals many years ago in walking by a little girl and her nanny and the little girl started to pull down her underpants in middle of the store and the nanny said Stop that you're as bad as your mother. I could come up with that in a million years. Can you get the quiet the isolation which we usually associate with you know the low rider meeting needing that separation that space to do you're going to put in a plug right quick for the writers room and the Mercantile Library which is two spaces that you can rent
in New York kind of like the urban writers colonies that are why you have access to and that you can go right. I couldn't write in Harlem I lived on on top of two teenage deejays. And they had to practice their craft with blasting music product. So I had that and they also end up in the walk to where I had to find some place else. Right. I could not write where I live. I asked what do you do your attic. I wrote my first novel our house in the last world while I was working full time in an ad agency in transit agency on the evenings and on the weekends. I have no idea how I did that Mambo Kings was written all over the place. I read parts of it in Italy where I lived for a while. And parts of it upstate New York and parts of the city. Fourteen sisters was written mostly in New York in Mr. Ives definitely completely in New York although I'm going away in the fall not to the writers room but up
to Jano which is a writer's colony in this colony and I need a little. The thing is you need peace of mind and I can write for five hours in New York on a good day. But they get 12 hour days which is what you need sometimes. You have to get lost. I wouldn't wouldn't writing. I live on a dead end street in Flatbush Midwood vine for a novel right. It's the first down under a bunch of trees. I can walk to my office. Brooklyn is a very peaceful college I have a nice little place to write there too but mostly I write at home. This book I wrote part of it in Paris Parvin in Brooklyn and part of it in Rome and Rome was of course amazing. I can write in the morning I can write from dawn until noon and then I have to stop. That becomes too stupid anyway but then it becomes impossible. Can I just add one little thing. Sure. What I love specially about you back to Mambo
Kings was on the news because now that's a whole new york that isn't on a map. But when I was 15 16 I used to go to what was called welfare island. Then Roosevelt when my mother died there in that hospital but I used to go there as a kid every Sunday as Sodality boy for Regis High School push people to mass in the wheelchairs and the nurses used to have gospel music radio. The first time I ever heard changed my whole sense of life in New York. And the guy who lives upstairs from us played at Xavier Kuga played the trumpet. And so all of that was when I read your book it was like there's this whole fruit of like a concentric sphere that you mapped and that the sound the sounds of the place you yeah what about your writing you. Well I mean like I say whenever I get stuck on a scene or dialogue or I need something for a character I find if I just walk around for about an hour I'm going to find the answer
coming comes from one neighborhood or another yeah yeah. And you know I'll go there and occasionally I actually and some critics might say my writing shows that I have written on the subway. I mean just like I have a good idea comes I'll find a matchbook cover or whatever you've got and scribble it as long as you're not sitting in one of those cafes looking dreamily. Because I've never seen a novel written that way. Publishing is changing because of electronics and computers and all the rest. But it sounds from what you're saying that writing doesn't change that it's drawn from your life and your experience which is often why we hear people giving advice to those who want to become authors which is go live a little bit that you'll have something to write about the richness of what you do comes across in how you describe it. Are there any concerns for the future of writing and publishing in New York because you see it in the very few seconds we have left before you get off the. I don't want to yeah I'm very happy. I think that 10 years ago my book would not have been published. I
think publishing is opening up for black people for women for working class people who are dealing with certain themes. So I'm I'm ecstatic. For me the publishing world is opening up. I don't know that much about electronic publishing but I do think that the whole business is becoming falling under the auspices of corporate life and I'm a little worried about what will happen in fact to the more obscure books. But I think it's good for expanding readership. And what gets people into bookstores is good for all writers. Yeah I'm one of the founders of Italian-American Writers Association because we couldn't get New York publishers to take our serious books seriously. This book was published by a small press in Toronto the fact that it won a prize is a miracle no new publisher. Everyone I sent it to wrote me back this little time paper about how sensitive how brilliant something this and no one will
buy this book because books about Italians have to have gangsters in them. Or you know that sort of stuff. And bone in the throat has both. Got it right Peter. I remember something I read when I was young that Raymond Chandler said that if Dickens and Shakespeare were alive today they'd find a way to adapt to the contemporary medium and I guess if you're a writer you're right if you're a fighter or you're fighting I guess that's what you are and you and you find a way to get it to get it through. Well listening to all of you this is what the excitement of writing of creating is all about. New York is big country because you will make it so. Thank you so much for joining us here on Metro view and enjoy. New York is a big country. So.
You're watching that show. It's 13. Welcome back to Metro watch 13. I'm Ed Roeg ASCII as the host for Metro view I really have to keep up on my reading to bring you the issues and personalities so important to New Yorkers. Next we have another original Kewney TV production for you. Women to Women. A one on one in-depth discussion devoted to pertinent contemporary women's issues and the women who championed them produced by community TV since 1994. The series is hosted by Frances Diegan Horowitz president of the city university of New York's Graduate School and University Center in this particular episode Frances interviews novelist poet and author Erica Jong Zhang's most recent novel is an epic story of four generations of a Jewish family in America. As told by the women who held it together here's Francis Diegan Horowitz
and Erica Jong discussing inventing memory a novel of mothers and daughters on women to women. And. Hello I'm Francis Diegan Horowitz president of the city university graduate school and university center. Welcome to women women a series of programs for and about us. And this one especially so I'm delighted to welcome Erica Jong. Today. She burst into our consciousness 24 years ago with fear of
flying. And I might add she wasn't afraid of much else. And then how do you save your own life. And since then she's written more novels poems and nonfiction. Her latest book Inventing memory a novel of mothers and daughters has just been published by Harper Collins. It's a four generation saga which has residents far beyond this particular family. It is a tribute to independent women everywhere and every child. And now Eric John welcome. Thank you Francis it's very nice to have you here. You've been writing a long time. How did you decide to become a writer. Well you know writing is a curse not a profession. And in fact if we thought of it as a profession it would be it would be sort of foolish I think writers are born you are born with that feeling that if you don't get it down on paper you will die. Robertson Davies says somewhere that every book must be written as if if you didn't write it you would die. Otherwise it's not worth writing. So I don't think of
writing so much as a profession as a calling really. And I think I knew from the time I was 10 that I was that I had to be writing kept notebooks but I didn't think that you could actually make a living writing. So I was going to be a doctor and go to medical school. And I met my Waterloo with the fetal pig cornered and tried to dissect a fetal pig in my freshman year at Barnard and found that I was cutting up all the organs that I was supposed to be studying and I went in tears. I was very good at the book learning but not too good at the dissection. I went in tears to my freshman English teacher who was a poet and I said I can't dissect the fetal pig and he says never mind never mind you're a poet. So having that external validation made me feel ok to think of myself as a writer. And since then I've been writing I mean I began writing seriously in college.
But you went on You went on for a doctorate and you were going to become a professor as opposed to a writer. Well because I thought that I would be writing these slim volumes of poems that would make that never never would make any money and therefore I had to have a profession. I had to have a day job. And since I loved teaching and was a good teacher I thought this makes sense. I loved 18th century English Lit and I was doing my I was doing my studying in that area at Columbia. And people kept giving me fellowships to graduate school which I couldn't turn down. And so I went on but at a certain point I wrote fear of flying and suddenly I was able to support myself as a writer. My first two books were books of poetry. Fruits and vegetables and half law. Actually fruits and vegetables has just been reissued in a 25th birthday edition by Ecco press. Oh how nice. Do you think that fear of flying and the kind of. Popularity it had is overshadowed some of your other writing.
Absolutely. But you know it's impossible for a woman to become famous in this world without being stereotyped in various nasty ways. And we are stereotype. No matter what. I mean I was stereotyped as the vixen sex symbol 24 years ago. I always say to my daughter they're going to try to put the zipless you know what on my tombstone. And it's true. But when you think of the roles the public roles that are available to women in our world they are not very many you can be the young rebels sex symbol. You can be the agony aunt you can be the schoolmarmish prime minister like Margaret. Margaret Thatcher are gold in my ear but we don't have very many roles for women and that's something that I've been trying to change in my work that women should be allowed to be intellectual and also sexual and sensual that we should have a wider range of public views of women.
This is very troubling in the last 24 years. Do you think that's changed a bit but not entirely. Not to not to the degree one would hope. I mean one sees it everywhere you see you know great journalists like Barbara Walters reduced to doing celebrity interviews because that's what there is out there. I mean she is a great journalist but why is she narrowed in that way. Because that's one of the roles that's expected for women to do soft celebrity journalism. I think that if you look out there you see the way we are still constricted by stereotyping but it seems to me that women have begun to make their way in the corporate world certainly in academia. That the landscape is changing. It's changing not nearly as fast as I would like. FLATOW inventing memory haven't you come to write this one. Well you know I wrote a midlife memoir called Fear of finance and when I wrote that memoir I began to interview my relatives and talk to them about what they
remembered of their childhoods and their grandparents and their great grandparents and so on and I realized that there was an extraordinary story to be written about a Jewish family in America. And the women in that family and I felt that many many times these women had been narrowed in their range. I mean we saw the Jewish women in America as Mrs. Portnoy or we saw her as the Jewish American Princess. But when you actually went back into history and you read memoirs and oral histories you found an extraordinary cast of characters you found women who established labor unions women who came alone to foreign to a foreign country not speaking the language and established dynasties. You saw women who were the the force behind their families and the force between Many be behind many movements. I mean you can't look at the Settlement House movement or the labor union movement in America or indeed the feminist movement without finding these women behind the scenes. And yet they've been stereotyped in this ugly
way as Mrs. Portnoy. So in a way I wanted to write inventing memory to save the Jewish women in America from the clutches of Philip Roth. Have you discussed so I left her off. No I don't. I actually he's a writer I admire and think is is brilliant but full of a kind of self-hatred. And I think that my work is more celebratory and my sense is he's very ambivalent. More than self-hatred these days. But. That may be a brilliant writer. Yes very. I mean and one of the ones that I always read because he stimulates me and excites me. Did you have to do a lot of research for this book. Well I had to study Yiddish. I had bits and pieces from Yiddish. I had bits and pieces of phrases from my grandparents and I grew up with my grandparents and my parents and a great big European style extended family. And so I had a storyteller's childhood I had all these these
wonderful stories from my grandparents inventing memories not a literal story of my family but I had a lot of stuff to start with. Then I studied Yiddish at EVO. I began. I mean I am really a defrocked academic and I do my homework. So I went and read oral histories and when I research I didn't never understand writers who ask others to do their research because with research you never know where it's going to take you. So I read a lot of oral histories of first generation people who came to this country not only Jews but Irish people and others. I tried to get a sense of what the world was like when Sarah the great grandmother character arrives in 1995 a very vivid period in American history. And I just read and read in a very undisciplined way letting it take me where it would I found in the end interestingly that the photo archives that I used were almost more
important than the oral histories that I read although I used a lot of both because there happens to be in the 20th century as opposed to the 18th a wonderful photographic record. Right. And some of those photographs absolutely take you back into the scenes of the lower east side of Ellis Island of the immigrants and so on. Where did you find these photographs. I found a lot of them that Evo Museum of the city of New York. I mean it happens that New York City is a wonderful place to do this kind of research. Ellis Island we happen to have all the archives that you would need for that research. Research here. How how much Yiddish Did you try to learn. I didn't learn a lot but I did. I did learn a little. And I I also did my own informal study. I use all this these wonderful Yiddish Proverbs at the head of each chapter right. And I asked people what their favorite Yiddish Proverbs were and what their parents had said to them and so on. So I kept a notebook for a couple of years and some of these proverbs are marvelous.
How how long was this book in gestation. About two and a half three years. Yeah. I don't think you can write a book in much less. Not a good book. It takes you a while. I mean it usually takes a while to get into it and to research it and then it takes a certain amount of time to step back and edit it afterwards so. But some books are written faster than others but usually two and a half three years. Some people say that all writing in the end is autobiographical. How much autobiography is in this volume. Well I think all four of the women are in some sense me but I've transported them in time. I think that Sarah the new immigrant who is very tenacious has certainly aspects of me. She's a she's a portrait painter. I come from a family portrait painter. I was very nearly a painter myself. I think salomé the wild flapper who goes to Paris and tries to write the great American novel and starts a little magazine and
has an affair with Henry Miller. I think that her rebellion and her sexuality is an aspect of myself certainly Sally sky the folk singer. I wanted to be a folk singer when I was 12. I was saved from being a folk singer only by my astonishing lack of talent. Young Sarah who is the archivist and the historian and the scholar is the part of me that that loves to be in a library and submerge into the research. So obviously I mean all the characters are part of me. What I tried to do was imagine. Different women at different times in history and I tried to imagine what it would have been like through the character of salomé to be a fierce feminist writer in the 50s in a time when you could not have published a book like fear of flying even if you had written it it would not have been possible to publish such a book. I think the first really openly.
Feminist novel. I don't mean crypto feminist novel is 1963 the go notebook by Doris Lessing which openly. Tackles those themes but I think that in 1952 would have been impossible to publish such a book so I imagine a character who has that book in her. But who can never publish it. And then young Sarah is of course my daughter's generation born in 1978 and I think that generation has a very interesting point of view. They are the children of divorce. They're quite skeptical about the world. They're more cynical about love than than my generation was. And I try to put myself in the head of somebody born in 1978. Through knowing my daughter and her friends. This is in many ways a saga as I said in the opening about independence and how independence is transmuted across generations and takes different forms in terms of the cultural
context. Did you set out specifically to deal with the issue of independence. Yes because I believe that we that we become natural feminists through our mothers and that feminism gets transmitted from mother to daughter. And even in paradoxical ways. I mean women who have had mothers who were insufficiently feminists often rebel and become feminists but I try to show through these different mother daughter relationships in inventing memory the way that the thirst for independence gets passed along the female line. The alliterative aspect. Sarah salomé SALLY SARA without the h and then dove. Did you purposely break that or was that not a part of the last baby who is the angel of the family the baby who was killed in the pogrom at the beginning of at the beginning of inventing memory is called Dove That does it right or does. So I wanted to at some point bring that baby's soul back
to Earth. But of course through a woman. This this book is really a female version of the Old Testament and it is not the usual. It's not the usual family saga because it's not told by an omniscient narrator standing above the action looking down. It is told in the women's voices themselves either through letters and journals or through an imagined oral history. In other words all these different elements come together to make the book photographs and oral histories and letters and so on and that I thought was important because I think collage is the art form of our time. And in a sense inventing memory is a collage. I was interested to read I think it was in the New Yorker profile of you that. Your favorite or one of your favorite writers is Isaac the Chevez singer. And I did. I didn't know that when I read the book and I
just had this kind of. Not exactly the surreal aspect that he sort of built into his fiction but a kind of feeling for the tempo of singer in this writing. Is he a conscious influence on you. What a great compliment. I mean what I love about his writing is its simplicity tremendous simplicity simplicity of storytelling. And acknowledging the I of the of the narrator as no matter how crazy the narrator you you completely identify with that narrator at all times. So that would be a great compliment. I did read a lot of singer while I was writing this book. And just because I thought I wanted to find that on most folk simplicity in the voice of Sarah the old Sarah the matriarch of the family. She's somebody who is writing speaking in English although it's not her native tongue and she's peppering everything she says with Yiddish.
And her worldview is informed by Yiddish which is this sweet sour humorous diaspora vision of the universe which I think is very particular and. A wonderful attitude towards the world. What I thought was interesting except that the initial experiences of the first Sarah. This is not a book shot through with poverty which is very often associated with the immigrant and the assimilative experience of Jews in America. Well you know the first generation of Jewish American writers like Michael Gold and Henry Roth chronicled the extreme poverty of the lower east side. What interested me here was to describe a family that had risen out of poverty but affluence presents its own challenges. You can take affluence and use it for spirituality or you can use it to become completely burdened down by commercialism.
And I was I was really interested in what happens to this family what happens to their money. How do they take their money and what do they use it for. And I hope the young Sarah in becoming an historian and the family historian is taking it to another spiritual level. I hope that's the case because I think there's no purpose for money other than that. Is there also a story here weaving in and out of the saga of Jewish identity in America. Yes I think so. And I think people have been very gloomy about the loss of Jewish identity. I mean Bill Safire has written all these columns about how the Jews in America are disappearing their intermarrying and so on. I don't see that I see the first generation turns its back on the Old World and looks toward America. That's their job after all. The second generation becomes thoroughly American. The third generation becomes thoroughly American but with a fair amount of nostalgia for the past. And the fourth
generation submerges itself in its roots. I mean that's the story I've told and inventing memory and I think it is the story of the Jews in America. I think we're going to see a lot of the young people of my daughter's generation very interested in reclaiming Yiddish. In fact it's already happening in reclaiming their roots and in seeing something valuable in their heritage. It's it's interesting because you know logically. Jewish identity being a Jew passes down to the mother. And you passed it down to the mother even though many of your These women married or had liaison with non-Jews and yet the the thread of Jewish identity comes down to the women. Absolutely. And what is also fascinating to me is the is something that I discovered at some point while writing inventing memory which is that women bear the same mitochondrial DNA as their grand grandmothers great grandmothers et cetera. Men do not.
So there is an actual physical basis we feel like we're becoming our mothers and grandmothers. But there's a physical basis to that. Isn't that a little depressing of mothers and grandmothers were exactly what you. Well they called our DNA. You know too we don't have to become exactly their replicas. Well that will be comforting to me. Let's talk a little bit about independence because we've had an amazing world event in the death of the Princess of Wales and the tremendous sense of identity that women especially had with her and in grieving over her death. Do you understand that. Well I think she became a symbol for women's yearnings for independence women's feelings that they had married badly that they had looked for a Cinderella myth and that myth proved to be dross that in laws were not nice to them that they had
to fight very hard to keep their children and all those other things she became a symbol of that whether she was really these things I question but she became a symbol of these things and these are very powerful. For women. The whole story of Diana is complicated. I mean when Diana came on the scene in 1981 I remember people saying now we have a virgin princess and I was quite alarmed because I thought Here we are in 1981. Ten years on and the second wave of the feminist movement and we have a young woman being lauded for her virginity. What can this portend. And as she went along in her story she became a symbol of a liberated woman. She started out the other way but I honestly think that what women identified with was the disappointment of the Cinderella myth. And how. We have to be disappointed again and again and again that's that the Cinderella story isn't true that the prince cannot save us. And so I think you
have Diana another example of that of women trying to come to terms with the fact that the sapphire ring the big wedding is not the answer and that you have to go beyond that and find your own identity in Diana becomes a symbol of that. Which shows us how many women there are who are still fighting with those those myths. They're very powerful. Do you think that explains the almost surprised reaction of many people who thought themselves not interested in Princess Diana and all the doings around that who became glued to the television. I've heard of people who set their alarm to get up at 5 o'clock in the morning who previously had not really paid much attention to her. I mean it was such an emotional response of people who we wouldn't expect to be involved in this.
I was glued to the television as well. I think that celebrities in our culture have come to play the role of the you know the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece that in the absence of these figures on whom we can project our deepest feelings with figures of deities we choose various celebrities and make them symbols of things in ourselves. And this was certainly true with Diana. It was true with Elvis Presley it was true with Marilyn Monroe with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis with many they become figures of projection. And it is less about who they really are. People don't really want to know who Diana was. They want to know what she evoked in them. And that's and that's really like the figure of a saint or a deity who resonates with something deep in ourselves. I think the whole Diana madnesses is interesting. For what it shows about where women are and how susceptible we are to the cult of personality. And how much longing we have
to find an independent heroine that we can follow. Did the writing of inventing memory change you. Well every book is a kind of revolution of the soul. It is. I mean that's why I went right. Hopefully writing is a process. Of enlightenment one hopes. And nobody is more changed than the writer of the book. It gave me a great deal of freedom. I mean it made me realize that I could speak in different voices. I could invent other worlds women of different ages. I had attempted two other books that had historical dimensions and fanny pack about Jones my 18th 18th century picturesque novel and in the summer which is a novel set in Venice partly in the 16th century but I had never attempted such a wide canvas. And so many main characters and I like the men in inventing memory too I think they're interesting and
and and varied. Yes especially in the Wicki whom I think you painted so so very well you sort of want to know more about the adult lives and where they all ended up is you kind of went on in terms of the saga. Are you going to bring him back in some other flight of love the Wicki Libicki changes throughout incensing memory and that's really the hardest thing to do in a novel. He he changes from being a very very strong anarchist who believes that politics can change the world to being somebody who does not believe politics can change the world. And I think also that's one of the points of inventing memory. I once asked my mother what was the big difference between being young in her time and being young in my time. And she said we really believed that human nature was perfectible we really believed that socialism communism
labor unions whatever could make the human being more just. She said you don't believe that. And I thought that was extremely profound. And you see that transformation in inventing memory. You start out with people in around 1985 who really believe that ideals can change the human being. And you wind up with another generation born at the turn of the next century. Who really do not and who are searching through their ancestors praying for a kind of strength. And and that's a crisis that we're in today. I worry about that very much. I worry that the lack of belief that we have and our children have. Well do you think dove will will have a different life. I hope that we'll have a different life. But I think. When people start believing that they can impact on their culture. That is dangerous and maybe that connects also with Princess Diana. Because
she becomes a symbol of somebody who was metamorphosing transforming herself into something better. And people certainly resonated with that. Well we're running out of time and I didn't get to ask you what you can do next but we'll save that for another discussion. I'm sorry that we're out of time. Thanks to Erica Jong for joining us today. Her book Inventing memory a novel of mothers and daughters has just been published by Harper Collins for the City University graduate school and university center in women to women. I'm Frances Diegan Horowitz. And. You're watching.
Are 13. We're happy to have you back with us on métro watch 13. I'm Ed Roeg ASCII from Kewney TV. We shift gears now from our studios to the world of painter and video artist Paul Twinkle Twinkle has been documenting contemporary New York art and artists since 1980. His work has been shown at New York City's Whitney Museum the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and across the U.S. Europe and Japan Kewney is proud to have Paul Trinkle on faculty as a professor of art and photography at Queensborough community college. In this episode of Art New York Trinkle creates a profile of American artist Chuck Close. Originally produced in 1998 the program coincided with a retrospective of Close's work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Fundamentally redefining the genre of portraits your closest exhibit featured psychologically charged portraits of distinguished fellow artists as well as anonymous sitters.
Here's palter ankle's Art New York. Nothing has the urgency that painting people has for me. And I am absolutely surprised. And shocked that I found to engage in 30 years. If anyone had asked me 30 years ago would I still be making portraits today. I would of sure laughed hysterically. I I couldn't have imagined that I would have sustaining and interest. For this long. And I've just found that all the other variables are the more interesting ones to vary. Rather than subject matter. The one constant has been saltless subject matter and I've tried to mess around with all the other conditions and techniques and processes. And scales and tools and.
Try in whatever way I can to keep myself engaged in what I'm doing by changing my activity rather than changing the subject while. Chuck. Puts his friends and family in his paintings so you go to the studio and there is the huge huge camera and you sit right in front of it so the thing is right in your face. And then Chuck says smile you know. So I said cheese which is the way to smile as you say. And then as I say cheese you have to drop your smile slowly until he says stop. And. So she is. And somewhere you know there's this place where you're not really smiling but you're not really frowning and stop and then you hold it and the pictures get taken. When an artist is taking a picture of you you're not really going to be you as you
think you are you're going to be what they think you are and the whole magic for me is in the paint. And I suppose that my interest is in an unmarked making and in kind of gesture an invention of Mark and that's what I really like and saying I love the image you know that you know has an aggressive strong kind of upfront image which is OK but that but what I'm really involved with is is the way the paintings are constructed. And that's what I that's when I go to his shows and you know there he is he's got he's done he's sort of moved in his life through different ways of constructing a painting. That's the fascination for me. He took. Several pictures of me in succession and it was very interesting because he gave me tiny bits of direction like Look down look you
know blink open your eyes again do this do that. And there was one point at which he said I remember this very specifically. He said Just open your mouth a little bit and I did. And I I was looking at him with my mouth slightly open and I suddenly thought Oh now I looked like one of his pictures. Now I look like one of his. Portraits. I'm wearing this face. He gets even this point where your mouth is just a little bit open and then all of a sudden boom you know here which is interesting too because it's. It's a particular look of I think a kind of a vulnerability or accessibility might even be a better way of putting it. But there's that point at which your mouth is open a little bit. It's like in between a thought or a word or or speech or whatever. And I think that there's something about that point at which you become actually less of a person more like an object but not depersonalized. Chuck took a straight. Uncompromising mugshot type photo for information and he
literally in a 10 almost page paged the photograph and transcribing the information so he wasn't interested in the in-between position of personality feeling. Getting in touch with yourself it was pretty much a very cold detached way of trying to resurrect that form around the grid. And that's what I thought was the most amazing thing. So they became large tapestries of weaving this information. Up. I didn't actually expect Chuck to do a large painting when I went over to the studio to be photographed. I thought he was going to do a drawing. So it was kind of stunned. When the painting was done. And it's a little frightening because you're I mean. That. Wasn't something that Chuck talked so much about them. But I think a lot of his subject matter almost. Doesn't that almost but definitely has to do with a
modification of flesh. So you kind of see yourself as a member to figure this very grand scale. It's a little overpowering and intimidating. I mean not just me but. Several other people that posed for cherch like physically either changed before they went in front of the camera or after they went in front of the camera. In my case I shaved off the list that I was wearing what he photographed. Shortly after I saw my portrait. There wasn't the only reason I did it but it certainly added on to it. And I remember it shows Uecker what he was going to be photographed by Chuck slick David is here with the grease and parted it in the middle. So he would look different than he did in his every day. So there is I mean it's not exactly the same as being portrayed ticed. The people who first embraced photography the most were artists. They did
not see it as a threat. It was too early to jot things down. And you know there are all kinds of people that we don't normally think of as working for 40 year olds like thank God people like that actually work from photographs a lot. So there is a whole history and tradition of photo generated paintings. And I guess I was I was looking for a way to work that was as self-effacing as possible in terms of. Virtuoso brush friendship. I wanted to get my hand out of there. I wanted to get the the news of. Art marks. Out of the picture as much as possible. So working from paragraphs allowed me to slowly build that image and to try and do it in such a way that it was not the the normal
kind of painting experience that is where you. Would see how it was made with. With a brush and paint. The one thing that strikes me about your early work today is skill. My daughter mentioned to me that is a very basic. Skill. I wonder about that. Yeah I wanted them to say that somewhat facetiously that the reason that I made them this big was that the bigger they are the longer they take to walk by and therefore the harder they are to learn. I definitely wanted I didn't want people to come to an exhibition group exhibition and say I was there a truckload of that show. If. I didn't see. They loved it or they hated it but I at least wanted them to see it. And one of the things that I wanted to do was rip it loose from the way we
most often look at photographic evidence that is holding a magazine where you can completely see the whole thing. I wanted to make it so big that I had to scan this thing and move around and make decisions about pieces and then put the pieces together in your head to make the whole rather than being able to comfortably see it as a whole to begin with. Who are the kind of artists that you. Admire and like. I only in the last few years. Really sort of came out of the closet as a portrait painter and and acknowledged to myself and then to other people that connectedness to the conventions and traditions of portraiture which I never had thought much about. But I found myself going to museums and looking at art and at the end
of the day thinking to myself Now what did I spend time looking. For one reason or another. What is the most time in front of what is almost always portraits. So I had to belatedly and begrudgingly admit this kinship with with those people who made fortunes over the years. But I also I am also very interested in sculpture probably more predisposed towards sculpture painting. I probably am. Generally more interested in extraction. Decoding is my favorite. Painter. You know of my post-war period I learned the most from him
I learned the most from looking at the field and I learned the most from. Thinking about right and Reinhardt was very influential even though people would not guess that from looking at my painting because an ad would probably hate what I do. But but he made the choice not to do something a positive decision. And he had incredible list of rules that really were very liberating that once you chose not to do something it would push you towards something else. That's been my sort of modus operandi my whole career is to try to operate out of a series of self-imposed limitations to keep moving and to keep changing. Chuck Close has been working and showing in New York for nearly 30 years and during this time has produced a remarkable body of work. He's exhibited widely both in the United
States and internationally and he's in the collections of all the major museums. In 1981 the Whitney Museum of American Art mounted a large retrospective that surveyed his development since his arrival in New York in the late 1960s and this year from February 25th to May 26 1998. Another large retrospective of Close's work will be on view at the Museum of Modern Art. Over the years close has explored the many facets of making a portrait in systematic logical ways. He's exploring the use of the camera as a tool for making an image and painting and with structured self-imposed limitations such as scale assorted tools grids etc.. He's not only created numerous portraits but he's produced groundbreaking work in photography and printmaking. In 1988 However fate imposed an unexpected limitation a collapse spinal artery left him partially paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair.
Despite this handicap Chuck Close continues to work and in recent years has produced a body of work that is both brilliant and joyous in his New York studio close talks about becoming an artist. I. Wanted to be an artist and so I was about four years old. I think as soon as I understood that there was such a thing as an artist. I wanted to be one. I'm not. Sure why I don't. Now looking back at it that. I wasn't. Very well coordinated I wasn't athletic. And what a learning disability which in the 40s and 50s people know a lot about dyslexia but. The one area in which I've felt special was the one area that I felt I did better than other things that I tried to do and did better than.
Other people. And so I'm sure I just gravitated towards it. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out as an only child ways to have people stay stay around me. So I would do puppet shows and magic acts like that. So I think I got used to the idea. Of making things that entertain people to have friends. I had never once in my whole life considered doing anything else. I mean the only only slight. Difference was for a while I thought maybe I wanted to be a commercial artist. I took one commercial because I realized I didn't like it but. I had incredibly narrow person and narrow focus. And if you're focused. Early on in that that's all you do
and you pour all your energy into it. Pretty soon you distinguish yourself from other people and people take notice and then you get scholarships and then you get grants and then you get. Other things that everything starts starts. Falling your way and doors open and there you are. So you are. Sometime ago. I taped you making out a painting of. Robert rationally. How did that whole process start. I mean do you do you. I take my own photographs and then I pick the image which seems the most interesting to work from are several of them that are potentially interesting. And then I slide around on top of the photograph various grids of various size that are that are drawn on clear sheets of acetate or my.
And I slide those around the photographs and I see how the the image would be broken down what the repeated. Bit of that information would look like and I either have a horizontal vertical grid or diagonal grid. And of course one or a fine one. And by sliding these these grids around on top of the images I pick one image which is always more interesting to work from than all the others at one scale and one that's one kind of incremental unit and then that determines the size. The painting is going to be the size of the mark. And then I'm off and running. Now. How do you make a painting piece by piece chunk by chunk and I start in the upper left corner and I walk away. And after I get through going through the whole image once which is sort of stream of consciousness
very very intuitive and very on plans I just do something and. I just make this more or less arbitrarily put downs colors to begin with and then I just try to move from there to where I want to go. Yeah. And then four or five stages or corrections. And so I look at it look at the photograph and I think well I want to build that color. And I also want to put some English on the structure to sort of make the drawing that makes an image. And so at the same time I try to find the color. I'm also. I'm also finding the I can graphy but there is no direct relationship with the shapes don't have to do with the shapes or in the photograph. The colors don't have anything to do with the colors or the photograph directly.
It's like translating from one language to the next if you try to translate a poem from German into English. And if you do if you do it. Really specifically that is a direct translation that doesn't make any sense. You just have to understand the poem in the first language and then you. Do something in the second language that stands for it. That means the same thing but it won't be a direct. Word for word translation. Say. You. Oh sure it isn't like making money. Making mistakes. Or. A lot of them are simply like I just made a mistake and that
oranges to orange. So I'm going to go over it with another quarter. Move. Now it's now the next color that I put on has a chance to get where I want to go. Most things are not ever irreparable mistakes. They simply couldn't be altered or whatever. Sometimes you know I'll get all the way through the painting and then I'll come back and I'll be doing the fine tuning and I'll say why the hell did I make that decision. That's. Crazy. And. And I have to change that whole area it's more like writing a way working incrementally it's like reading a book. There's never any time when you're writing a book ever doing any more than shoving one word up against the next.
So. Similarly building this whole image like building a novel is putting a lot of little bits and pieces together the way he was done. This is sort of like doing the first draft and just sort of doing it and not worrying too much about it. Later or turning the other quarter or go through it again. And I'll do some editing to get the equivalent of the second draft. I might take whole sections out the way you might write it might take other words out or a sentence or something or sometimes I'll just change a single cover to change a single word. Then finally I will do the fine tuning which will mean that I will make. The final edit and in that case is generally just a little touch here. There probably will be major areas removed or altered. How important is it that someone looks like someone.
Like this is an automatic byproduct. I don't even have to think about it. It's just this just happens. The curious thing is that even though I'm working just a few inches from the painting and I don't have a chance to step back and see how it's going. I still. And even though I do a little pieces incrementally. Somehow. The paintings always look more like the people than the photograph I'm working from. So unconsciously and subconsciously I must be slipping in. More about what I know to be true of those people and their personalities and things that I know about them and that just shows up in the photograph and so there are a number of things about working from a photograph that make it different from working from life. I of course never wanted. To have some of my paintings have
taken as much as 12 or 14 months. Now I wouldn't want to sit or the subject of the painting to be in my studio for 12 or 14 months. We'd drive each other crazy. And the other thing is that people would gain weight and lose weight they'd be happy they'd be sad their hair would grow long they cut it off they'd be awake they'd be asleep. So the painting becomes a mean average of all those. All those changes that the that the sitter goes through plus all the different attitudes you have towards them and you get pissed off or annoyed by them. The nice thing about taking a photograph is it's the frozen moment in time. It's the kind of home like cutting across time that then could be dealt with with as a more novelistic time frame over the months working and slowly completing the piece. But hopefully we'll still have some of the immediacy of that frozen moment in
time that quickly take an. Image. I think really important art or interesting or it always makes you aware of time and particularly after you know the kind of present transcendental presence of art that someone like Chuck Close really makes you aware of time you look at that face first of all how different do we look from something that only happens you know 25 years ago 30 years ago. I mean how different is that face. He does say Phil evoke a certain time and yet not evoking in any obvious way just by the hair etc.. So there's that. But you know you also know instantly when you see that face that that man who has that face doesn't have that face now. Right. And you just think Wow. Yes the face that I have I'm not going to have in a little bit it's going to be
a different face. And I think that alone it just is like unnerving you know so there's a kind of permanence given to something very transience and yet you don't necessarily think of yourself or your existence as trancing and you do think it'll last you know. And of course that's an illusion and he's taken away that illusion in some way. And I think that's that it's inspiring and you know unnerving simultaneously inspiring that a big could be that process of time and unnerving because you become that aware of your own mortality. I think those are disturbing things to put together you know. But I think what underlies a great deal of Chuck's work or all of it and what gives that some of its power and that sort of eeriness is a kind of obsession with the mortality of the flesh that you can't get away
from you know these these very overt skilled. Portrait heads. That are so mesmerizing without thinking of their dissolution somehow because they're always made up of like this incredible mosaic of parts. So they do. I mean I mentioned this earlier they have like a feeling of you know a death mask sometimes or you know. So there is there's there's. They come with a low edge of their disintegration somehow and in that sense you know I think allude to you know a little more subtly to a great deal of the work that's going on that's been so bodily oriented. Really is painting in this country certainly in European tradition as well. It is one of the longest and least appreciated I've on guards in the sense that most pictures that have images in them are stylized
represent ideal States beautiful situations exceptions to ordinary life. And the real work of art presents. A piece of life. In a much more direct almost raw fashion. And it's a radical position rather than the conservative one. And what Chuck does is to remind people that that there is maybe less comfort in realism than in certain kinds of abstraction. That realism and the concentration on the human figure does not necessarily create a work which is. Useful. It's not something where you know exactly where you stand it's precisely because you're dealing with something that appears familiar but through the description of the artist seems less familiar you're encountering something as it has sort of it's more disconcerting if you will. Than than than mere picture making. And in a sense
his role in art history is to put that problem in utterly contemporary terms and to use the tools of abstraction which are such things as system and repetitive mark making and the kind of rhythms of an abstract nature. To put those tools to the service of representing a kind of naked reality if you will. I think the early work of choccies is characterized by its austerity its restraint. Its severity. And I think my responses to that work had to do with feeling. The rigor and also feeling the distance. I think many of the same characteristics are there in the current work and the sort of the lightness the sort of dancing quality of the line colors has altered that I think the one thing is very clear though is he's enjoying this. I think he gets great pleasure from painting these paintings. I think he's in a sense. Taken away some of his.
How would you say. He's allowed himself to paint for pleasure. And I think that comes through even though the method is just as strict. And I think also. Having had very difficult times in his life over the last eight years really 10 years. He's discovered not only the pleasures of paint. But a very strong identification with the subjects of his paintings. This is the art world. And Chuck is somebody who believes it to be a real community and I think feels very very considerable attachment to the people he paints even if they're not his closest friends. That the enterprise of being an artist is a positive thing it's saved his life for sure. But I think it also is something that he sees as a sort of. Real freedom if you will. In a world where a lot of people see only restrictions.
You're watching Metro Arts 13. Our final program this evening came to Kewney TV by well taking a long way home in this episode of rhythms that speak German producers trace the evolution of Afro-Cuban music and its transformation into salsa in New York City during the 1970s by Puerto Rican Cuban and Caribbean musicians. The program
features some rare archival film clips as well as some uptodate hit performance footage salsa. Next here on Metro whites 13. At. Least.
New York the great melting pot of peoples and racemes most immigrants here from Latin America. Renacci news from Puerto Rico Cuba Colombia. Do not feel at home in the harsh reality of New York City. They're out on the fringes of a society that has little in common with the way they like to live their lives. Most of them the American dream has never come true. Music can often be the only way people can hold on to their own identity. In the 70s a new kind of music was born in New York and went on to conquer the world. Salsa. A blend of Caribbean magic and the tough reality of New
York salsa means home to every immigrant. It's an act of musical resistance to an alien North American culture. One Citadelle of salsa is Madison Square Garden. All the stars perform here including the queen of Latin American music Martina De La Salsa the Cuban sing at Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz has been singing for 50 years. She started her career with the legendary Cuban band Natsume Norma Johnson. The greatest of the Cuban dance bands of the 50s and went on to perform with all the top salsa orchestras outside Cuba. She's singing with Venezuela's Oscar De Leon known
as the devil of salsa. He started at the very bottom before he turned to singing. He was a bus driver in Caracas. It's. Not. A good idea.
It's. A whole. Salsa originated in Cuban music. I have always emphasized that when I started out his son or Latin Sara the word Sal said did exist but not in the musical sense. In my opinion Salissa does not exist as a rhythm. It is a name that has been applied to all kinds of Caribbean rhythm especially Cuban weapons. You'll see this back what I think people should know is that I recorded numbers with Sonora Martin Cera. With Johnny Pacheco. I did yeah Betty told my dad no less Oprah and. And as goddaughter. So Yamamoto's that was Cuban music gone and kwacha and then we rerecorded them the Salissa. Which is why I'd say that's the roots of salsa in Cuba. Even if the names outside originated between the USA and Puerto Rico
it was. A. Long way. From. Havana the heart of the Caribbean the song cheel much Amon Diskos. Mother. I want to know where the singers come from. I'd like to get to know them with their fascinating songs. Where are they from. Havana. Or Santiago. The great country they come from the mountains and sing in the valleys. The mother replies you see. You see. That. I. Have Anna in the 50s was a vibrant city with countless bars and nightclubs a capitol of pleasure on the doorstep of the United States.
Cuba was the cradle of many a musical style that went on to conquer the world. Sacha's Cha-Cha Mambo rumba and Sansome the big dance bands played in the many dance halls such as the Tropicana. Here the proud Louis Neptunian. The most important pioneer of salt so was Beni-Mora the great genius of Cuban dance band music a public Idol moreI was called the Barbarian of rhythm and remains a legend to this day in the Caribbean. He too started at the bottom shining shoes and singing in cheap bars. He knew nothing of note so composition but his music won the heart of Cuba. The music of Benny morays big band Lakshmi Abu Dhabi the primitives is still an influence on Cuban musicians. Among them one for men the driving force behind the Cuban salsa band
Bon-Bon. Menomonie. Albania. They are. So many Morais Bennett or Cubans. It was an extraordinary Cinar but it was an extraordinary musician too. His work was very important for musicians here and so at the end of the 60s we been carrying on with what is now called salsa. Many many Boston US achieved I myself have taken Bennie's work to heart he had an instinctive gift for getting through to the masses. I have that from him. How do you think. He is so well. Would you go with you. I feel that his spirit is expressed in my music. Most musicians who play sounds are is very grateful for Benny's legacy. I would go with you on the whole they are. The.
Only. Only and when. We get. Many more days. Big Band was an orchestra in the style of a jazz band the first to play Cuban music. He used three trumpets five saxophones a piano and a trombone and conducted spontaneously flying his own in a rhythm.
In. His one salsa band in Cuba that everyone knew this land line there on every radio station and have been tremendously influential in the evolution of sound music in the
Caribbean. And was started by bass player Juan Forman. A. Lot like. A front runner started up in the 70s at that time young people needed the Cuban music to dance to. And there was a gap for that music to take a new direction of wanting. To recreate the musical style that was different from what people had been used to hearing. And you. See. THE STYLE recreated his owner Songo which is simply the traditional song Gabbana with a new tonality and a different song and updated in the past 25 years when being the Birnam the Cubans most like dancing. One day on Google. Son.
Sun. San. Man.
See what else can
be done. Santiago de Cuba in the east of the island the birthplace of Guantanamera and the son Cubano. In the old heart of Santiago the famed house of the troubadours the Casa de la Rosa is still going strong every day. Audiences can hear traditional bands free of charge and it's the best place to hear the African roots of this kind of music. But. In.
The style that was the origin of salsa and its guiding light as it developed was the song GUBA. Originally expressed the lives of blacks living in poverty. The lyrics are about everyday things. Grovels. Love stories. She. Often made on the spur of the moment over a basic rhythm while young and old alike danced to the music. SCENE. Queuing outside Havana's most famous dance club. The salon Rosario Beni-Mora
known as the tropical fish all. The tropical is where young Cubans go to dance at the weekend for the great famous salsa bands performing at this traditional venue is both a duty and an honor. But new salsa bands often meet the audience here for the first time to. Salsa star Jose Luis contests one of the leading salsa performers in Cubano is introducing a woman the sounds of and he's taken under his wing for the first time. They play under the punning name some domus. They are all women that is and they are ladies of The Sun stop. Me except for a few female singers the salsa scene is dominated by men.
This reflects the position of man in Latin American society. Recently in Cuba and elsewhere in Latin America numerous women's bands have been started. Their songs tend to be about social problems. Correlations between men and women should be. We. Should. Be
whatever of see loose contests is the leader of the number two assaults aband in Cuba after Angie la Banda and G stands for Nueva SUNY New Generation. This song is about poverty and hungry. Oh baby. I. See. Ingela bandas song is about the rich and the poor and. Having nothing to eat and the
importance of sticking together and getting things done sensibly and with things. This is an important aspect of Sancia it articulates people's everyday concerns and problems. Closeouts has songs aimed to raise people's awareness and prompt them to seek solutions to their poverty along. I see. I. But. I found. Out. The thing
we she thought is he going to yes a seltzer radio station that Cailean Columbia the annual festival is on. Hulu. Connie is not a Caribbean town. It's on the Pacific coast. It is the name of the capital of salsa. In the last 20 years it's the foremost sugar
producing region of Colombia in Cali the musical talents of the blacks and the latter is put salsa in the fast lane. The festival runs from Christmas Tanuja complete with bullfights and processions. But above all a huge dance festival out on the streets and squares and in open air dance. The. Salsa dancing is a physical expression of the rhythm melody harmony and sound of sounds of music. Through competition for South Sudan. And being a good self Sadananda is always good for the reputation. We. For. The big band festival some 30 national and international bands are performing in a 12 hour musical marathon. Among them are the top stars of salsa senior recruits Ruben Blades and Oscar de
Naomi. The. Most. Bankia on Colombia's Caribbean coast is famous for its colorful cornhole.
The town is another major center of Sensa land in Kenya adopted son says it's an overachiever. Really brought salsa from New York to Columbia. The. Special attraction is the competition for three days international salsa bands compete for the favor of the audience. The event is broadcast live to several countries. The first prize is the coveted trophy for salsa. I. Go out on only eight times winner with a big band prize and recipient of the
company of Joe Arpaio who was born in the deepest poverty has now had a musical career spanning 20 years. His band La. Truth have a secure place in the hearts of South Africans. Jay Gerano is a modest man which gives more credibility to his sessions. Salsa is part of what being alive means in Latin America. Musician Domingo Ivory's put it this way. On music quite simply expresses our way of living in Haiti understanding and feeling living out our daily lives in defence's would full of the sun and Ryndam see on the horizon with a vast sky wonderfully blue and cloaks us in our truest hope. The Caribbean. Oh.
You're watching Necho Arts 13. Thank you for joining us here at métro watch 13 as we salute the City University of New York. All this week. Tomorrow night we'll take a look at art centers in the other boroughs of New York City outside of Manhattan. Dr. Roscoe C. Brown interviews Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis who recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. We'll also take a look at these monthly French cultural program canopy. Rumor has it we may even take a look at some archival programs of our own. Each evening before we leave we'd like to share with you a special message from one of our favorite CUNY alumni. Tonight Nat Leventhal president of Lincoln Center gets the nod hello i'm not Leventhal president of Lincoln Center and a graduate of Queen's College class of 1963 Lincoln Center is to the performing arts what city university is to
higher education. I'm proud to be part of these world class institutions. Doctor Lawyer singer dancer engineer entrepreneur City University is the place to get your start. Kewney the best investment in New York's future for Metro March 13. I'm Ed Rojansky. Goodnight. Go. To
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