Nadine Gordimer, a Nobel Prize-winning author known for her portrayals of South Africa under apartheid, passed away yesterday at the age of 90.
Gordimer spoke to Fresh Air in 1989. You can hear our tribute to her here.
Marja Mills, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, spent 18 months living next door to Harper Lee and her sister Alice. Maureen Corrigan reviews Mills’ book about the experience, titled The Mockingbird Next Door:
Rather than warmed-over gossip, what The Mockingbird Next Door does offer is a rich sense of the daily texture of the Lee sisters’ lives. By the time she moved to Monroeville, Mills had been diagnosed with Lupus and was out on disability from the Chicago Tribune. Consequently, she entered easily into the world of the Lees and their “gray-haired crew” — all of them shared aching joints and free time to talk about books and local history, to go fishing and take long car rides into the country. Mills says she had to watch herself with Harper, who had more of an “edge” than her older sister Alice. Whereas Harper could shut down a conversation with a frosty stare or a few choice cuss words, Alice comes off as gracious, grounded and principled. During her long legal career, she was a steady proponent of The Civil Rights Movement, prompting Harper Lee to refer to Alice admiringly as: “Atticus in a skirt.”
Photo: Book author Harper Lee and Mary Badham (in the tire swing), who plays Scout in the film version of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” are shown on a film set at Universal Studio in 1961.
Journalist Beth Macy documents the collapse of the American furniture industry and its human cost in her new book Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local, and Helped Save an American Town.
She profiles John Bassett III, a determined owner who fought back against the foreign onslaught — both by filing anti-dumping charges with the U.S. International Trade Commission against Chinese firms, and by making his own company more competitive.
When Chinese companies started manufacturing furniture, the Bassett Company, based in Virginia, watched their once vibrant Virginia town become vacant. Thousands of workers lost their jobs.
In today’s interview Macy tells us how the Bassett family tracked down a Chinese knock-off of their product in China:
There’s a dresser that’s just come on the scene [in 2001] in the American market and it’s a Louis-Philippe [style] dresser. It’s wholesaling for $100 and [John Bassett III] can’t figure out how the heck [the Chinese company is] able to sell it. “They can’t be making money,” he says. He has his engineer take it apart and deconstruct it piece-by-piece and price out the pieces. And he knows they have to be “dumping,” which means selling it for less than the price of the materials.
So he sends his son Wyatt, who is kind of his head business guy, he sends him and a … translator, who is a family friend, to Dalian because the stick on the back only says “Dalian, China.” It doesn’t say exactly which factory it’s from. And he sends them off to do a secret spy mission. They’re pretending that they’re looking to buy — but what they’re really looking for is that one particular dresser.
They find it after days and days of searching. They finally end up in this remote section of the province, almost to the border of North Korea, and they find it there… The gentleman running [the factory] actually meets with them and he has this very chilly one-on-one dialogue with them that’s all translated. But the guy says, basically, “Close your factories.” (Bassett’s got three factories left at the time.) “Close your three factories and let me make all of your furniture for you.”
… The translated word, and John [Bassett III] remembered it very well, was “tuition”… “This is the tuition of [China] being able to capture your market share. We’re going to sell it so cheap and with government subsidies — we’re going to be able to make all of your furniture for you.”
They ended up driving them out to this furniture industrial park, out in the country and there [are] just stacks and stacks of timber… When [Wyatt] saw all that Russian timber laid out they knew [the Chinese] were serious. And they knew they were going to war.
Photo: An abandoned lumber mill in Martinsville, Virginia, 2010. via the New Yorker
Stunning murals by Fiona Tang leap off the walls.
We got more bounce at Fresh Air.
Molly and Sam (Sam working a little bit harder) and staying on the ball. Phyllis, Dorothy and Terry (!) have balls on the way.
Linklater has always used time as a character. It’s in the titles of his Before trilogy, featuring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as characters at different junctures: Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight. They have to reconnect in each film—and fast, because the clock is ticking. I love these films, but they’re talky. Linklater is so literal about time he never seems to use the full, transcendent resources of cinema. He does in Boyhood.
Linklater has always used time as a character. It’s in the titles of his Before trilogy, featuring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as characters at different junctures: Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight. They have to reconnect in each film—and fast, because the clock is ticking. I love these films, but they’re talky. Linklater is so literal about time he never seems to use the full, transcendent resources of cinema.
He does in Boyhood.
Soul singer and songwriter Bobby Womack died June 27th at age 70. Today we listen back to a 1999 interview with him. Womack started singing gospel with his brothers in the mid 1950’s. They were discovered by the great soul singer Sam Cooke, who recorded them on his record label. After recording several gospel albums, Cooke changed their name to The Valentinos and had them record secular music, with Bobby singing lead. The Valentinos had a hit with Bobby Womack’s song It’s All Over Now. The song was covered by the Rolling Stones and became their first international hit. Bobby Womack and wrote and recorded several other songs that other singers did well with. Janis Joplin recorded Trust Me, J Geils covered Looking for a Love. Womack wrote several songs for Wilson Picket, including I’m a Midnight Mover. Womack wrote a recorded the title song from the 1972 film Across 110th Street, which was also used in Quentin Tarantino’s film Jackie Brown.
The Art of Dog-Earing: Yes, Terry Reads The Books
Maureen Corrigan reviews the 10th anniversary edition of Jacqueline Winspear’s English mystery, Maisie Dobbs, set during WWI:
"Rereading Maisie Dobbs has made me appreciate anew its subtler strengths—the strengths of a mystery that does a really fine job of playing within the traditional boundaries of the genre. It’s Winspear’s command of the period detail of Maisie’s Georgian and World War I world, as well as Maisie’s own quiet smarts that make the novel compelling. Born working class, teenaged intellectual prodigy Maisie toils as a maid in a London townhouse until the day her aristocratic employer catches her in the library reading the philosophical works of David Hume and sends her to Girton College at Cambridge. I know, I know. This fantasy of benevolent despotism is as bad as the more cloying aspects of Downton Abbey. But, the occasional sentimental weaknesses of Maisie Dobbs are more than offset by the novel’s sober awareness of all its heroine must give up in order to make her class climb. When young Maisie leaves the scullery for university, one of her fellow servants comments that: “Fish can’t survive long out of water… .” Indeed her solitude puts Maisie in the alienated company of every other first-class detective from Edgar Allan Poe’s Auguste Dupin onward. “
1907 St. Pancras Train Station, London via Topical Press Agency / Getty Images
Usually when characters age in movies, they’re covered with makeup and outfitted with prosthetics – or directors use different actors as the character ages. But in the new film Boyhood, none of that is necessary.
The film takes place over the course of 12 years, and it was shot over the course of 12 years. So we watch the actors getting older for real, which gives their characters a sense of authenticity.
Director Richard Linklater told what it was like to cast a 6 year-old boy (Ellar Coltrane) not knowing who he would become:
"It was a huge leap. I just went with a kid who seemed kind of the most interesting. I liked the way his mind worked — he was a little mysterious and sensitive and very thoughtful. He was cut from no ordinary cloth. He was homeschooled and his parents were artists and I thought, "Well, that’s cool, there’ll be some family support for this undertaking. It will be a fun thing to do in his life."
So I think I had the family support but as far as he goes, you kind of have to admit that your main collaborator here has a really unknown future. But I would have each year to incrementally adjust and maybe go toward who he was becoming. That was sort of the design of the movie.”
Boyhood .gif of Ellar Coltrane via CBC
2014 Emmy Award Nominations are out today.
We’ve got interviews with several of the nominees:
Bryan Cranston, Jon Hamm, Matthew McConaughey, Tim Gunn, Jimmy Fallon, Lena Dunham, Edie Falco, Amy Poehler, Louis C.K, Fred Armisen/Carrie Brownstein, Tina Fey, Key & Peele, Amy Schumer, Jenji Kohan (Orange is the New Black), Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad), Noah Hawley (Fargo)
Laurence Packer loves bees. "Passion is a bit of an understatement, maybe I’m obsessed," he tells us. His book, Keeping the Bees: Why All Bees are at Risk and What We Can Do to Save Them, explores what exactly bees do and why its so important that we protect them. In today’s interview he explains how pollination can affect fruit and vegetable crops:
"A nice, economically valuable watermelon that’s large and quite round and not malformed requires a couple of thousand pollen grains to be deposited. And that might require seven or so different visits of a bee to the flower.
In California, where these studies have been done in the most detail, there are 40 different species of bees that will perform that service. If not enough pollen gets onto the watermelon you get a [misshapen] one. And if you don’t get any pollen, you don’t get any watermelon at all.
Some crops are entirely dependent upon pollination. Others don’t require pollinators at all, such as cereal grains. Others are pollinated by the wind, such as grapes. But most of the tastiest products from plants — such as most fruits and vegetables — these require pollination for the development for the fruit or the vegetable, or at least for the propagation of the vegetable plants through seeds.”
The Haunting Beauty of World War II Bomb Craters by Henning Rogge via City Lab
"Little evidence exists of the violence that created such landscapes. Rogge’s photographs of these places point to this disconnect—the way violent histories can later appear as placid sites of remembrance. In their pairing of current serenity with past rupture, he asks the viewer to consider the healing effect of time: If this scarred landscape has recovered from the war’s violence, can a country, or a person, heal in the same way?”