tv Charlie Rose PBS November 23, 2010 11:00pm-12:00am PST
>> rose: welcome to our program. we begin this evening with a debriefing of david sanger, who writes about north korea for the "new york times." >> the overwhelming sense i got today, charlie, was that the administration wanted to manage this. they did not want a bigger confrontation. they did not want to threaten to take out the artillery sites from which this was launched. just as south korea did not threaten to take out the submarine base from which the attack on the ship was launched last spring. so they're stuck. it's an interesting thing a country that is as broke, that is as starving as north korea is holds all the cards because it has so little too lose. >> rose: we continue with steve
martin whose new novel is called "an object of beauty." it's about interesting characters in the art world in the end what you are is a writer. you wrote your own comedy. you perform it but you wrote screenplays. you wrote novell las, you write pieces for the "new yorker." you write songs. you are a writer. >> i guess. so but it's the strangest thing because i do it out of necessity because there would be no point for me to play the banjo if i wasn't writing songs because there are fantastic players. you know, they're so fantastic so they're going to play "foggy mountain breakdown" which is a classic-- i'm using it as a metaphor, really-- there's no point for me to play it. now play my own songs there's a point so i better write some songs. >> rose: we conclude with a short conversation with the novelist and nobel laureate v.s.naipaul.
>> i was telling people of the university and everywhere else i'm going to be a writer but i had nothing to say and i had to teach myself to find myself so the a gift was that. exposing know a vision of idea of grandeur. to have more exposure to the arts. maybe you want to provide meals for the needy. or maybe you want to help when the unexpected happens. whatever you want to do, members project from american express can help you take the first step. vote, volunteer, or donate for the causes you believe in at membersproject.com. take charge of making a difference.
additional funding provided by these funders: captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> rose: we look this evening at the tensions in the korean peninsula. earlier today, north korea fired a barrage of shells at a south korean island, killing two and wounding more than a dozen. the south korean military, which was conducting drills, returned fire and is currently in a crisis status. it's one of the most serious clashes since the korean war ended in 1953. president obama was woken up at 3:55 this morning to be briefed of the attack. as of this taping he was
expected to make a statement after speaking with the south korean president. u.s. officials have called for a restraint and unified response by describing the attack as particularly outrageous. the aggression comes as a time of rising regional tension and new concerns about the country's nuclear weapons program. this month north korea revealed a uranium facility to visiting american scientists. until now, their nuclear weapons have been made with plutonium, not enriched uranium. u.s. special envoy steven bosworth who was in beijing for talks on the six-party process answered a question about whether the violation would be brought to the united nations security council. >> that's something i would regard to the enriched uranium issue, that's something we're going to look at it will take... we don't have yet a view on that clearly as i said earlier we consider that a violation of u.n. security council resolution so it's something we're looking
at in the context of that. >> rose: joining me from washington, david sanger of the "new york times." i'm pleased to have him here. the "new york times" have been reported on this conflict. david tell me what's going on here. >> charlie, it's been a pretty remarkable week with the incomeens. it was only ten days ago they invited zig freed hecker from stanford university who used to run the los alamos laboratory to come to the main nuclear site and they showed him and industrial-sized uranium enrichment program. it was a very calculated decision to show this off. for more than ten years, the north koreans have been rumored to have been working on this since the time that they got the designs from a.q. khan, the pakistani scientist. but clearly in showing this off, i think they wanted to demonstrate that they're not only surging ahead with the
nuclear program but they would have the capability to make additional nuclear material, the unspoken part of that is they'd have the capability to sell it. now with this morning's attack on this island, they were reminding the south koreans how vulnerable their society was. if you look at a map of where this island is, it's fairly close to inchon, which historians remember is the place where general macarthur landed and which air travelers remember is the site of the gleaming beautiful new airport that the south koreans have opened and you land there on your way into seoul. so this was making it clear to the south koreans that the north has the ability to disrupt one of the world's biggest and busiest economies. and can, in its isolation and poverty, cause an awful lot of trouble. >> rose: so why are they doing it? are they trying to send a signal
to the united states or the south koreans or whom? well, to both. president obama, since he came into office, while he came in promising engagement of the world, carved something of an exception for, i think, some very good reasons for the north koreans. he... with north korea has engaged in what the administration calls a policy of strategic patience. which i think the rest of us would call a strategy of ignoring the provocateur. so the president has said he's going to break the cycle in which the north koreans do an attack, build a new nuclear facility and then sell it off to the united states or to the south koreans or to the japanese in return for food aid or in return for some agreement to evtually denuclearize. so the president has been in te position to say you can do this and we're not going to respond.
so he may well end up breaking the sig. clearly the north koreans are testing him. but the down side of this is as one administration official said to me earlier today, there is something worse than not negotiating th the north koreans and its it's negotiationing with the north koreans. they just can't find a path here. and these provocations may continue as long as the north thinks they can do them without any fear of retaliation and the last big provocation was the sinking of the south korean chip the cheonan and there was no military retaliation. >> rose: so what are the choices for the president? >> well, this is the special envoy for the six party talks for the obama administration. put it the other day the land of lousy option. and when the president came back from indiana today and went down to the situation room and saw secretary of defense gates, secretary of state clinton there
tom donelan his new national security advisor, they began to review the lousy options. let's case through them. they could ignore this one again and say we're not going back to space walks because you're shelling the island... six party talks because you're shelling the island. that may prove the long-term point of breaking the cycle. but it could also encourage the north koreans to do more attacks like this. after all, if there's no penalty if there's a free biwhy not? he could try to go again to the united nations, get another relatively weak set of sanctions but, you know, north korea at this point is the most sanctioned country on earth. so there are limited options for cutting them off even further. he could escalate. he could put a real naval blockade around the country so they inspect ships coming in and out. you know, what's interesting about that uranium enrichment plant is that it looked to dr. hecker as if it had been built out of fairly modern equipment. so clearly the sanctions were
not stopping good equipment from coming in to north korea. to do that though could be interpreted, would be an act of war and the one thing the obama administration seems to be determined not to do is make these incidents escalate into a general war. >> rose: what do the south koreans want the united states to do? >> well, it's the south koreans who decided after the attack on the cheonan not to retaliate. so they're looking for the u.s. to stand by. the south koreans perhaps run some more military exercises and so forth. but they also have argued against provocations. now, the question is, where's the line. at what point do you indicate to the north koreans that the south and the united states would not put up with these kind of attacks? you know, you really is two kinds of problems here. you have to short-term problem of these kind of artillery attacks which are very
disturbing and very visible on t.v. you have the long-term problem of a nuclear program that has, since 2003, really sped forward. the bush administration managed to get an agreement that would close down some of the plutonium production, now there's new uranium production. is and that, of course, always raises the possibility that the north is going to do the one thing that the u.s. worries about the most, which is sell its material. remember, it's the north koreans that tried to buy that reactor. >> rose: and the chinese are saying what? >> the chinese did sort of a place holding statement today. they called for all parties to come back to the six party talks. exactly what president obama did not plan to do. they called for restranlt on both sides, as if to say perhaps the north koreans were pro verdicted. they didn't make a judgment about what who started this but they're trying to take a neutral position and the reason for that
charlie, i think is that this great transition the st under way. the current leader, kim jong il is very sick. his 25-year-old son-- we now think he's 25-- has just been promoted to a four-star general after having no military experience. one of the pieces of common guess work is that he's establishing his credentials by helping launch attacks against the south and indirectly against the united states, which stores 28,000 troops there. so the possibility is very ripe there that there's a succession crisis going nonwhich these attacks are more about what's going on in north korea than they are about us. >> rose: so what's the next step? >> well, the president is supposed to have a conversation this evening with lee myung-bak, his counterpart in south korea. i'm sure he will issue statements condemning this. there may be a return to the united nations.
but the overwhelming sense i got today, charlie, was that the administration wanted to manage this. they did not want a bigger confrontation. they did not want to threaten to take out the artillery site from which this is launch. just as south korea did not threaten to take out the submarine base from which the attack on the "cheonan" was launched last spring. so they're sort of stuck. it's an teresting thing a country that is as broke, that is as starving as north korea is holds all the cards because it has so little to lose. >> rose: and because china is not prepared to do anything. >> well, the chinese are very conflicted. when there is a nuclear provocation, they tend to step in. they voted last year for those sanctions in the u.n. after the north korean nuclear test. but when there are attacks like this, they tend to be much more cautious and what they say privately is that they need to
keep their lines of communication open to the north koreans so they can retain some influence on this new generation that didn't grow up understanding how to deal with the chinese. well, that's fine, but so far all of the chinese efforts to bring about restraint don't seem to have accomplished very much. >> rose: david, always good to have you, especially on short notice on a breaking story. thank you. >> great to be with you, charlie. >> rose: david sanger of the "new york times." back in a moment. steve martin. stay with us. >> rose: steve martin is her the legendary actor and comedian is an avid writer. he's written plays, children's books, magazine pieces, a memoir and novella. now his first book "an object of beauty" is the story of an art dealer. in addition to his writing and film work, martin tours the country as a professional banjo player. his debut album "the crow" won a grammy award in 2008 and is
still a best-selling album. i'm pleased to have steve martin back at this table. welcome. >> thank you very much, nice to be here. always nice to catch up with my career. >> rose: (laughs) we'll have more, i promise you. (laughs) >> i don't know what's been going on until i hear you introduce me. >> rose: here's what's funny. i heard that you're now in the late stage of your life it was basically three periods of your life. one was the early comedic period two was the acting period and now we're in-- as an artist might describe-- the late period. >> the late period. >> rose: is there something true about that? >> well, absolutely, that's true can't deny it. unless there's a new late period that begins at age 90. >> rose: and do you get better and better? >> i was talking to my wife the other day and i said i don't know what happened. this is an odd year or an odd... since i turned 60 because i have produced a book two records, because one niece the can, and a
very fine movie that i just acteded in. but they're going to use one of my tunes on the sound track and so i'm pretty pleased with what i've produced in this orth of late period. and i said... and it feels like the things were good that i've been doing. i'm not kidding myself that i'm just spitting in the wind? turning my wheels? spinning my wheels. i can't think of a good metaphor. >> rose: did you say "i want to write a novel" or did you say "i have something... i want to write about the art world"? >> i said i want to write something. i had published two navl las, a memoir... i call it a full-length memoir. >> rose: all of which you were here to talk about. >> right. and i'm back for more punishment. and i... but i wanted to write something longer. and i was in the mood to write it.
sort of like... it's a strange urge that comes over me if i want to write a song i just this urge to do it. and i'm in a very lucky spot in that i do not earn my living from any of these things. i guess you'd say i earn my living from movies. so i don't really have to do it. i do it when i want to. and it's... i'm in a small way compelled to do it. so i thought i want to write something. i want to write something... it was an old stand by saying... >> rose: write what you know. >> write what you know. so i know, i feel, the art world. i know enough to get going. >> rose: that's an interesting point. you've said in something that i read "i know enough about it to write about it interestingly. i probably shouldn't write about show business because i know too much." >> i'm a little bored... i'm on
the bored side of show business. but i'm on the excited side of the art world. i want to write something that i'm excited about. but i also... but that's... the art world only represents a milieu to me. the important part of this book, to me, what i wanted to write, is the character. and the character to me brings the book to life. the art world is really the back glund sayshe c do thi, she can do this, she can do this. >> rose: "she" is a metaphor for the art world? >> not at all. she is a kharker if in life of that that the art world allows me to bring out her character. she's not heroine. she's tricky. and she's complicated. it's very hard for know find words to express what she is like. >> rose: let me tell you what some people say.
>> okay. rose: she's more man than woman in terms of sort of killer balance. >> well, i think there's been characters in fiction who are women before her... >> rose: or non-fiction, cleopatra. >> yeah. who you could say, well, they're not men... not men-like. i think that's true. there's a masculine element to her, but that would insult women because they can be just as tricky as men. (laughs) >> rose: nobody uses power just as much or anything else. >> right. but i think that i think the character of lacy yeager, she would define herself as honest. she would say no, i'm telling you... for example, this is not in the book. she's saying "i'm telling you right now i will never love you. but let's go have a date." >> rose: or she would say sex is
recreation. >> yeah, she might say that. but on the other side, the man would say "she doesn't really mean that." but she did s that early on. so it's a little tricky to call somebody moral... amoral. >> rose: so all of us want to know, is there some one somewhere you had a relationship with... >> oh, no. >> rose:... who reflects all of the characters of lacy and is somehow sered in your brain and you wanted to write about that character? >> truthfully, it really represents many people i've met, both women and men and i have always pondered that for years after the relationship whether it was romantic or a working relationship. they stay in your head for years and i've seen other people have their relationship with these kind of really exciting people
and i can see that six months, a year, two years after that relationship is over they're still trying to work it out. >> rose: so why does she need a narrator? why does she need someone who tells us... >> well, i'll tell you why. because i thought abou it f a year before i started writing the book. that was one of the hardest choices i had to make. who's telling this story? and at first i thought, well, the... it should be first person inside lacy's head. but i thought wait a minute, lacy is inexplicable. so i can't be inside her head because the idea is that no one can understand her, including the writer. so if i had to be inside her said, i would have to explain what's going on. and the ea is you don't know what's going on. so an omniscient fish yent narrator would not know... also what is going on. but an observer, her different,
would be watching her over the 17 years that this book takes place. >> rose: 199 to 2009. >> right. would be the bewildered observer who can report what is going on and it started to make sense to me. >> rose: this is on the fly leaf. "i am tired, so very tired of thinking about lacy yeager yet i worry that unless i write her story down and see it bound and tidy on my bookshelf i will be unable to ever write about anything else." so writes danielle frank, the narrator of the story about the woman who's been unable to let go... he's been unable to let go of for years in the latest novel by you. how do you create daniel? what is it about him? is it mainly he there's to share with the audience his fixation and fascination to this woman? >> yes. it's a thing i've learned in movies, actually that often when you do a joke over here the
laugh does not come until you doubt the person on the street who's watching it. so if you have a silly scene going on, the laugh is not... really when you cut to this person going like that, that's when the laugh comes. and i really thought this needs to be scene and interpreted through someone's eyes and also in the course of this story you need to see what she inadvertently does to him. you know, he sort of represents the naive normal person. >> rose: you once said to me about standup that what you did was in part about process because you would never give them a... what's the word? you would never give them the line that sums it up. the joke. you sort of found humor in letting them find humor. >> right. >> rose: somewhere along the line. is that applicable to any of this? >> no, i think a novel you have to... it has to be more
satisfying. >> rose: what's the satisfaction here for you? is it the language? because you said about writing the idea of being precise, finding the right word is a term... >> it's all of that. you know i think "shop girl" was more poetic and inciteful kind of dream like book. i think "the pleasure of my company" is more about heart break and recovery. and this is more about watch this. look at this happen. and also i think the art world is completely fascinating. enough happens with nothing happening that still makes it interesting. >> rose: why is it fascinating to you? other than the fact that you like pictures.
>> one is that if you're dealing with absolutely exquisite and beautiful objects that at the send center of it then youe dealing with intrigue. you have stolen pictures. you have fakes. you have isabella stewart gardner museum where beautiful pictures were heisted and have never been recovered. you have questions of authorship. you have questions of provenance. then enters the world of dealing and... >> rose: and commerce. >> and commerce. buying and selling and the personalities of these dealers and the collectors and their dreams are high-mindedness and thei low-mindedness and what they wanted for and the pride of owning something and i discuss hit in the book. i tried to get into collector's head and kind of explain why there is this lust.
>> rose: well, you understand that, you're a collector. >> yeah. >> rose: what is it? >> well, i went to great pains to explain hit in the book. >> rose: is it easier for you to explain in the a novel than write a piece for the "new yorker"? >> you know... >> rose: that idea. >> yes, it's much easier to put it in the book because here... if i were writing a piece in the "new yorker", that idea can be... has to be a beginning, middle and end. but in a novel it can come and go. in the middle of a story, a sentence here a and there, a small paragraph that comes... doesn't have to have... hit you with a hammer. it can be a small moment. it can be a collector speaking. >> rose: you also put in here actual images of art. >> is vy important. >> rose: tell me. >> well, i realized with the... when you're writing, the computer at home it's very easy to drop images in like on your
own computer. i'm writing... at first i was going to write it conventionally without images thinking well, that would be cheating, i should describe these pictures. and i thought i'm wasting sentences going "in the left of picture there's a lamp and there's a river and there's a vase." and i thought i'm not really interested in describing a picture that you can see so easily. i'd rather kind of interpret the pointing and let the reader look at it. but it became compelling for me to do it when i was talking about a painting that relates to the plot, which happens to be andrew shea's los angeles county museum on fire. and i wasn't going to trust that i could describe it so well or make it come to the readers' mind so well that they could know exactly what i'm talking
about when it relates to a specific moment in the book which i won't ruin by telling it >> rose: you set out to learn the ban owe and did, pretty well. i think this is still number one on amazon in that category. >> in bluegrass, yes. >> rose: the question is have you tried hard to be a painter? >> to be a what? >> rose: a painter. a person who does art. >> i would never touch in a million years. >> rose: ever? >> i have absolutely no talent. >> rose: how do you know? >> i knew from a kid i couldn't draw. i cannot draw at all. my interest in art-- until now-- has been a quiet... >> rose: it was to get away from other things that you do? >> yeah, it was a private enterprise and i say that not only has art itself enriched me, not only the things itself but it gives you something to do all the time.
you have... when you ld in a city, go to art museums. you meet artists. you meet collectors. it's a whole life. >> rose: it's a milieu, it's community. >> yeah, it's a community of people with common interests and... >> rose: and they're in the book. >> yes, they are. >> rose: real people in the book. >> that was done intentionally, i'll tell you why. i mixed real people in the book-- real dealers, real artists, real collectors-- because i didn't want this... i didn't want people to read it and be guessing "oh, is that supposed to be..." so i put them intentionally so there wouldn't be this guessing game about real people mingling with... or, you know... "oh, is that supposed to be the evil...". >> rose: is that tricky to integrate people into a novel? >> it actually turned out to be quite easy. >> rose: lacy, does she like start >> i think she does.
she has... >> rose: or is it a means to an end? >> no, she likes art, nerve the book likes art. >> rose: and you would have it nother way. >> yes, because in life i found that everybody in the art world likes art. and i've had fantastic conversations with dealers, collectors, artists that have nothing to do with money. they're like... i even say that there's a scene where a dealer and a... two collectors or... they're left alone in a restaurant and someone had overheard their conversation you would have thought they were talking about girls. >> rose: it had that kind of passion. >> that kind of passion for it. and in fact lacy comes to new york to enter the art world because she's studied art in college and her narrator friend studied art. they both came to the art world
and then lacy labors down stairs in sotheby's going through these paintings, cataloging them. and then there's a moment later in the book where she has her first real experience with a painting. and she... it's inadvertent because she's trying to deliver it. she can't so she has to take it home to her apartment and she's thinking well, it's here i might as well unwrap it. so she unwraps it, hangs it up in her apartment. she's alone with it. it's late and she's drinking scotch and she comes to have a moment where she recognizes that it's beautiful and her life changes. she realizes she wants nice things. >> rose: an object of beauty. do you know where that is and what page that is? that particular... find it for me. >> okay. let's see, i hope i didn't just make that up. >> rose: (laughs) you didn't. >> "her window was cracked in
and her eyes meandered around the dim room, move slowingly high and low from a vase of flowers across her half kitchen to a photograph to a lamp. her eyes drifted towards a closet door and the avery-- that's the painting she has-- that leaned against it. it's here, she thought, why not hang it? she unwrapped the avery with care, more care, she felt, than was given at the national gallery and hung it on the wall. she took a lamp off her chest of drawers and put it on a low stool in front of the avery so the light was thrown upward on the picture from below. and she lay back again without looking she reached out and her hand landed perfectly on the scotch. in lacy's apartment, where nothing exquisite had ever been, where just the two of them looked back at each other, the avery was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. this moment was a secret among avery, the scotch, and lacy. and she saw clearly something that had eluded her in her two years in the art business. in the first minutes... in a few minutes of unexpected communion,
she understood why people wanted to own these things. she rescanned the room. where before she saw a photograph, a kitchen, a vase, she now added an adjective. she saw a student's photograph, a student's kitchen, a student's vase. the painting was an adult object by and for beam grown-up eyes. this apartment, these things, were instantly in lacy's past. >> rose: very well. you've had that same moment and you have that moment everyday for you in terms of the work of art that you buy. >> well, i've had it happen to me slowly over the years. >> rose: slow slowly over the years? >> well, it wasn't... >> rose: it wasn't like that but you said you buy a work of art and everyday you look at it and see different things everyday and you appreciate it more or less. >> that's right. >> rose: what happens when you
decide to sell. is it because... what? >> sometimes it's because you want to build a war chest to buy something else. sometimes the time is up for that object or that painting. >> rose: because you have exhausted it or... >> maybe. or maybe it didn't quite fit anymore. >> rose: fit in your life or your head? >> with your other things or your head or... >> rose: you had an edward hopper you sold. >> i did. but i had two. >> rose: (laughs) makes it easier, doesn't it? >> makes it easier. i still have one. >> rose: do you have a picasso? >> i have a small drawing. i have a small drawing. >> rose: because art was the setting, in fact, for the conversation that you wrote in the first play.
>> yi, that was a story of picasso and a... a hypothetical story of picasso and einstein theoretically meeting in a bar >> rose: and a conversation about art and science. >> and they were both young men about to change the world. >> rose: you've often... you've always enjoyed philosophy. >> well, i majored in it in college and... don't ask me a question about it because i don't remember it. but i do feel it deeply affected my life. kind of makes you think about the big view and i do remember it's overview of things. in you know that, its questions. i studied logic. and fallacy. that was very important to me. i learned how to be a skeptic, which was very important to me.
especially now. >> rose: why especially now? >> with the internet. >> rose: oh, yeah, yeah. >> (laughs) i don't know. it was a really good... >> rose: you continue... go ahead. >> no, i have nothing good. >> rose: you continue to act because it enables you to do other things? >> i like it. when i did "it's complicated" i hadn't done a movie for a couple years. >> rose: a great part. >> it was a great... i loved the movie. i loved working with meryl streep, alec baldwin, nancy the director, nancy meyers. when i walked on the set, i hadn't worked in a couple years, i was stepping over these cables and walking on the backs of these sets looking at thgs holding them up and i thought "home." >> rose: home. >> yeah. and i've been doing movie my whole life and it was a strange
feeling of boy do i know this. and i finally after all these years i felt i'm really comfortable here. it's a strangely hard life, too. people go "oh, please." but it's a very long commitment when you're older you don't really want to go live in a foreign country for three months. >> rose: but are you saying that's home but in a sense it's a place that you visit, it's not a place that you live? >> no, i like doing it. when i did "the big year" it was great. it was really great doing those scenes. jack black and owen wilson, really fine actors. >> rose: this is about bird watching. >> yeah. >> rose: how did this come into being? >> i was offered the role. >> rose: that's it. >> yeah. >> rose: you're an actor for hire. >> yeah. and i really like the script, really liked the director, david
frankl and it was a good opportunity. >> rose: what has this given you? >> music? >> rose: banjo. >> oh, gee, it's just... the strangest thing to be using a part of your brain that you... that i hadn't used. that is non-verbal. and i honestly don't know where this comes from. i'm talking about the music writing because the playing is kind of physical and emotional. but the writing of the song... you know, i can't explain it. i really can't. i just fool around until the right thing comes out. and... >> rose: are you most... most of all in the end what you are is a writer. you wrote your own comedy. you perform... you wrote screenplays. you write novell las, you write pieces for the "new yorker," you
write songs. you are a writer. >> i guess so. but it's the strangest thing when it comes to banjo playing. i do it out of necessity. because there would be no point for me to play the banjo if i wasn't writing songs. because there are fantastic play you know they're so fantastic. so they're going to play "foggy mountain breakdown" these fantastic players are going to play "foggy mountain breakdown" which is a classic, i'm using it as a metaphor, really. a classic banjo song. there's no point for me to play it. but to play my own songs, there's a point. so i better write some songs. >> rose: but you realize you're not the best banjo players on stage. that's okay. you like them almost in a way. >> well, i think i play well because i play heart felt. and i play musically. i don't play technically. i mean i don't... i'm not up and
down the neck all over it. i think the banjo has great emotion and i think i play with great emotion. so i'm not putting myself down i'm just saying, you know... >> rose: i want to talk about art and the creation of art. this is painting a picture, playing a banjo, making a move and writing a book is all about art, okay? is it... the process for you. is it hard, is it laborious? is it mostly trial and error and a lot less inspiration so that it's just like you open your veins and it flows? >> well, i think you sort of ebb and flow between inspiration and conscious work. and i can feel myself writing along, writing along and then go
oh! >> rose: it's in its place. >> yeah. it's almost like you're writing something... sentence, noun, verb. whoops, what happened there? and all you have to do is create the space for that to happen. >> rose: and you love when you find the write word... >> well, i love that. everybody would love that. but i really believe that creative work is unconscious. and i believe... >> rose: and how do you tap the subconscious? >> i think it's by practice. you have to practice in the conscious world, start to trust, slowly trust that subconscious, that's why i think pick write those songs.
just go "oh, yeah, that's it. oh, yeah, that's it." >> rose: is this something you were born with? >> no, i think i developed it. >> rose: i want to show you a tape we did with richard serra, the sculpture in a conversation at this table about the brain and about creativity. roll tape. >> i've always said... for a long time i said inspiration is for amateurs. the rest of us just show up and get to work. because everything grows out of work. you do something and that kicks open a door and you do that do i want to go there. everything comes from that kind of approach to... you don't want to sit around and wait for the clouds to part and be struck in the wednesday a bolt of lightning because it may never happen. >> what's the difference between everybody that has capacity to engage in a process and make
decisions. and a richard serra who's done it at a level that at the end of the road there is something extraordinary that people pay homage to. >> i think that it has a lot to do with internal motivation about what... why you're driven. and i can't answer that question. i mean, i was in analysis for eight years and i still can't answer that question. >> rose: the question of why you're driven? >> why you're driven. why i'm driven to want to invent form. >> rose: do you know why you're sdplichb >> i think i actually feel alive when i'm doing something. and when it's being put out and received i do feel a little more alive. >> rose: an object of beauty, a novel by steve martin." it's always great.
>> rose: thank you very much. >> rose: v.s. naipaul is here. he has published 30 books of fiction and non-fiction including "a bend in the river." he was awarded the nobel prize for literature in 2001. the academy praised him for having incorruptible scrutiny in works that compel us to see the presence of suppressed histories. this new book is called "the mask of africa." i am pleased to have him back at this table. welcome. it's always good to welcome you to this program. >> thank you. >> so tell me what i have here, the mask of africa understand again you have taken to travel. >> rose: and you've talked about african beliefs. >> yes, yes, yes. well, i didn't want to talk about the politics of africa or the financial side of africa. the world knows all about that.
everyday it's on the news. i wanted to talk about belief. what drives people. that is what i have... i travel to... the hope of finding. >> rose: and what did you find? >> well, one of the more interesting ideas which is quite new to me was the idea of energy. that africa is such a difficult place to live in. the extremes of climate, water, people need to hold on to such energy as they have to keep going ahead. and that becomes religion. and that's very interesting to me. the idea of energy.
>> rose: and how did you discover that? >> well, very simply. a man spoke to me about it. he's an academic and i liked him he's a man of mixed african and french parentage and what he said held me. because his idea was that africa such a difficult continent. it's really made for animals and not men. that's a big idea. i didn't go along with that big idea, but i thought it should be examined. that's one of the things i examined. >> rose: how do you go about your voyage of discovery as you are putting together the thoughts that you want to incorporate into stories? >> well, i talk to people.
i find out what they interests are. they guide me in that direction, i go and have a look. >> rose: how do you find the people to talk to that will be enlightened for you? >> yes. well, that's one of the problems of travelers. i see travelers who travel to write books. they have to find people to talk to. they have no know when they can persevere, when there's some material to be had from the person or when there's nothing. so it's all of the skittles of travel writing. very important skill. >> rose: what did you discover about the practice of magic? >> it's universal and it's necessary. >> rose: she is in >> it's necessary. yes. >> rose: in order to do what? >> most people find it necessary to survive, the cope with the world.
you need magic. some people say better for them to have philosophy, better for them to have a kind of religion. but they might have all of that together with the magic. and i don't run them down for it. >> rose: and how about sort of pagan beliefs? >> always there. always. >> rose: so there's magic and there's pagan beliefs and this is all part of... yes, yes, y. >> rose: the mystery that you found. >> yes, yes. i'm interested in president birth of things, the birth of religion. the beginnings of ideas. so i was always interested in finding what i call the earth religions.
>> rose: how much were you influenced by joseph conrad's "heart of darkness"? >> not at all, actually, because the book itself is very difficult and to me unsatisfactory. the narrative sprawl, it's a very short narrative, it sprawls and it ends in a rather corny way with the narrator going to look for mr. kurtz's fiance and to tell her "i saw mr. kurtz." i can't understand the point of that. much better than that fictional narrative of conrad is the non-fiction account of taking a steamer up the river. that's very grand. >> rose: people are fascinated by your personality.
>> yes. >> rose: they write about it. >> yes. >> rose: does it anger you? i know there was a book you didn't like. >> yes, yes, yes, yes. >> rose: what is it about you that attracts all this, do you think? 12k3w4r i'm a kind of sitting duck in a way. >> rose: (laughs) >> sitting ducks attract that. >> rose: but do you think it's unfair? unreasonable or simply... >> it is unfair and it is often poorly done. and because it's so poorly done i can get irritated. but that's wrong. i musn't get irritated. so i try to tell myself not to be irritated. >> rose: does it work? >> no. >> rose: (laughs) i get irritated. i shouldn't be, i shouldn't be. >> rose: i would think the worst would be when they talk about your relationship with other people. that's what would make me the
angriest, i think, if i were you. >> yes. >> rose: your late wife or whatever it might be. your relationships with women. that would be the thing that is personal. >> yes. >> rose: and it involves another person. >> yes, yes. >> rose: and i right? >> all that pretty shabby, actually. >> rose: exactly. >> all that's pretty shaap bi. >> but you don't feel necessity of answering? >> no, no. >> rose: you let it lie? >> the thing... why i object to that is that if people come to look at your life and you give them permission to go anywhere and everywhere they should reciprocate. they should behave with justice and fairness and decency and they should not, as it were, inter... invade your privacy. >> rose: so you felt like you'd been betrayed. >> i'd been toll rabbbly betrayed, yes. >> rose: because you authorized and opened the door... >> yes. and this happened. >> rose: and you felt like you'd
been violating. >> yes. you understand it perfectly. but what will happen is that in time these things solve themselves. in time there will be another book. another biography, another point of view with the same material. and so the score will have evened itself out. >> rose: here is the question. >> yes. >> rose: what is it about you that you hope they get? >> (laughs) >> well, i would like them to pay atopgs this extraordinary gift i've been given, the writing gift which came to me, as it were, through my father. i would like that to be understood. i would like the biographer to work a little bit at that and to find out the sources of that
sort of inspiration. >> rose: do you understand it? how it came to you, this gift from your snaert >> yes, i know how it came, yes. he actually educated me. he actually read to me. there's a time when nearly everything i had read had come through his reading. so i was educated that way. and he also was a writer. he had ambitiouss to write. now if i were wiser at the time and reading his work, i had advised him what to do. his writing might have been better known. i'd have told him certain simple things. i'd have told him avoid mystery, give people proper names, give them problemer jobs, set them in proper places, give them an understanding of if world
phenomenon which they are and then once you do that you're write... your write willing alter. but i couldn't do that so his writing is fading away, i fear. and no one can understand how much it means and meant to me. but i would like that to be understood. >> rose: was the gift a skill? the command of language, the ability of... the narrative ability or was it simply exposing you to the ideas of genius. >> you're putting it very well. it is exposing me to the idea. because for a long time, of course, i got... i had the wish to write. but i had no book to write. so i was telling people at the university and everywhere else
"i'm going to be a writer." but i had nothing to say and i had to teach myself to find things out. so the gift is that. exposing me to a vision on idea of grandeur. i think that is important. the idea of grandeur. i still have that, actually. so the stuff i've inherited in this way has been a great source of comfort and strength to me. >> rose: it's great to see you. thank you for coming and sharing this. >> rose: thank you. captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org