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tv   In Depth  CSPAN  February 7, 2016 12:00pm-3:01pm EST

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watch past after words programs online at >> authorer and former fox news host eric burns is live next. >> author and journalist eric burns is journalism the first draft of history. >> yes, and it is one of the reasons histories makes so many mistakes. journalism is done quickly, done according to deadlines, very often wrong, and i understand this is self-serving, peter, but something that is meticulous in
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writing history is there are a lot of mistakes and that is because journalism can be the first source. >> what is one of your favorite mistakes in history? >> you mean in terms of how it is written? i have to pass and let that percolate. >> we will do that. from your book all of the news unfit print you write that samuel adams told more lies in print than any other figure of his time. a distinction history not has forgiven but honored him.
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>> adams made up incidents of british soldiers on the streets of boston -- they were there, having their way with american women, starting fights with american men, abusing, not sexually, american children. he had a form, the boston gazette, if i remember, was the leading paper in boston at the time and he thought of himself as a patriot whose weapon so to speak was journalism. he was forgiven by history and allotted by history because history proved our being independent, great britain, was a good idea and however we got there, even if it meant a lot of
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contrived journalism means justifying it. >> where did the idea for all of the news unfit print come from? >> actually it wasn't a book i really wanted to do. the book before that, infamous scr scriblers, i am sure you will get to that, but it was about journalism in colonial time which was so abusive that people who think highly of the founders, which they should, would be surprised. a publisher got in touch with my agent and said can he, meaning me, bring that information up to date about falsified journalism. i could and i did. but by that time i was a little tired of writing about
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journalism. so you are holding the book open and if you found a mistake it is because i was getting tired of writing about journalism. >> you write the sense of omission in journalism are often calculated. >> sins of omission are a good way to tell lies without telling lies. i don't say to you that is a gasly looking tie, which it isn't -- ghastly -- i just don't mention your tie. that is hardly a sin. but leaving out major facts. the presidential debates are a wonderful example. you can easily, and i am not saying people have done this because now that i am not in journalism anymore i don't pay any attention to it. it is wonderful. i recommend it to most
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americans. but if you are bias against a candidate, and that candidate does something foolish and behaves in a foolish manner you omit it and therefore you tell a lie about the overall scope of the debate by not including information that is delterious to your point of viedto your po. >> what is fox news watch? >> it was a show that analyzed how events are covered. fox is a controversial place and doesn't reflect my political views. people who were of the liberal
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persuasion watched my show and were very defensive about telling me they liked it. i don't usually watch fox. happened to be on in the background and we heard your show and it sounded okay. but there always had to be a caveat at the beginning. that was fine. i understood that. but someone from the far right would say that is eric burns you go get them liberals. i wasn't going out to get anybody. i had four panelist and i would call on them to speak. >> what kind of topics did you cover? >> the topics all of the other sunday morning talk shows covered. but we covered how they were covered. the two liberals on the show -- there were four panelist. two liberals on the show strangly always found
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conservative bias and vice versa. -- strangely -- we were all friends. i tried to be light hearted, wh whity and comical in the green ramsey we went on stage in good humor and we all liked each other in all of the ten years so there was never contention like you see on other shows. one thing i want to say about fox is people misunderstand what it has done to journalism. there is nothing wrong with having a television network that has programs on it that slant to the right. there are newspapers, magazines
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and radio shows that do that. what fox did that was more harmful to society is it introduced a degree of argumentativeness to an argument to an interview that had never been there. >> did the show end? >> well i ended. i had a contract that wasn't renewed and the so went on for a while and i am told it is now not on. there is a show that does the same thing. but it has a different name. one of the other things i treated myself to in addition to political ignorant is i don't watch television much.
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if the steelers are not playing i am not watching. so the super bowl is just three hours of filler to me. >> eric burns, you say you don't watch it, but you spend a lot of time at fox and at nbc and at kmsp in minneapolis, st. paul. you write about television. your book innovativasion of the snappers and in your book does ainesworth deserve a statue in the capitol? >> considering the influence television has had had in this culture, yes. with any invention, including the light bulb and the automobile it is hard to see who the inventor was.
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henry ford didn't invent the automobile and there were light bulbs before edison. the people we created as the inventors are people who got things working to a certain point of view. and this was done with television and when the man wanted his patton rights he came up against nbc who had more money and that means more lawyers and even back then the legal system was the same as today; if you had enough lawyers and money you won the case. he came as close as any one man as inventing television. one of the things i like about that book, and the book to me is
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not so much invasive mind snatchers. it is not so much a book about television as it is the history of the '50s as television portrayed it. i wanted to write the history of the '50s which was done many times but it never was done as television portrayed it. religion, bishop sheen had a highly rated prime time show that which among other things e denounced abortion. >> eric, you bring in the intersection of policy and television as well. you use an example in the book and talk about who that was
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>> estus k faver is the only member of the house and senate to ever win an emmy. one of the most gripping events in the early days of television, or what came to be known as, there was an official name, the key fav hearing that was investigated, organized crime. stores that sold televisions would have televisions in the window with an apparatus, loud speaker, rigged up with the volume and people would block the sidewalk and block the streets to watch. it was hard to afford a television in the early '50s. america was mesmerized by this look into organized crime which so many americans didn't know existed and these rough sounding, ruthless names -- i am
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half italian. the half that isn't burns. and i remember my grandmother when i told her i saw the god father she said why they give all those men italian names? why give them all italian? and i am thinking back to the hearing and thinking grandma, we did it. so that is who he was. he chaired the hearings. it did lead -- those hearings did lead to somewhat of a reduction in organized crime and to a great deal of legislation and as i said to an emmy. >> but the senator regretted almost, you write he regretted almost the televised hearing. >> he regretted them i think largely from a personal point of view. he was a serious man who because
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he became inadvertly a television star. we had a serious interest in helping rid the country of organized crime or lessen the impact. he thought there was a thing as too much popularity. it is almost like the actor who plays robin to batman and never gets another role. actors complain they had one role they played for ten years on television and were poplar
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and no one took them for granted in any other way. this is an aside but we have a great deal of time here -- a really startling moment the movie "clute" that jane fonda starred in and donald southernland was the private investigator and fanda went creeping through a factory near the end of the mov movie, climb up the stars and saw the light and turned it on and june stapleman was there. archy bunker's wife in other words. in between the time of the movie wrapping and the start of all in the family she had gotten that role. and because of it this
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incrediblely tense moment turned into a comedy. -- incredibly -- serious movement. >> would faver be in favor of the house and senate being aired? >> yes, because it would folks on so many men and women that it would be unfair to say it was focusing on process and i think he would unfavor making the process announced to people. >> you write about russell long. senator russell long and his cabinet. >> do i?
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>> you do! >> could you give me a hint? it has been ten years. >> you talk about journalist, and this goes back to the sins of omission, and how he spent quite a bit of time drinking but it was never reported. >> thank you very much. i am sorry i needed that help. i really did write the book. but generally i go from one book to another quickly. i am being interviewed about one book and my mind is on another. that was an era where sexual pack -- packdillos were not reported. drinking was something -- maybe the members of the press core
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were not committing adultery but they were all drinking and wouldn't report on a legislature who was drinking especially a man as powerful as long. and my friend cal thomas makes a good point here. back in those days when members of the house and senate were not so concerned about campaigning consta constant leo specially members of the house who run over two years, they tended to stay in washington. there was less hostility when it came to legislative compromise and now you have people leaving thursday night and coming back
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monday mid-day and they don't know or have friends among fellow legislatures. my friend cal thinks for that reason we have the kind of roadblock we have today. >> eric burn is our guest this month on in depth. he is a journalist and author and we will show you some of his books and figure out the connection from all of the books. broadcast blues was his first book, the joy of books in 1995, the autograph, a modern fable of a father and daughter, the speet of america, the founding fathers and the rowdy ginners of american journalist, the smoke
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of the gods came out in 2007; virtue, valor and vanity, the founder fathers and pursuit of fame also in 2007, all of the news unfit to print, 2009. invasion of the mind snatchers 2010. his most recent book, 1920, the year that made the decade roar, came out last year and the golden lad; the haunting story of clinton and theodore roosevelt. you have the colonial era, turn of the century and the media. what is the connection ? >> they have all topics that interest me. i am an avid reader.
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all be damn if i can find a connection from the books i read -- the most recent book with the subtitle the haunting story of clinton and theodore roosevelt. i have read a lot of biographies. i came across an incident that was sometimes foot notes, sometimes a sentence, a paragraph or a few paragraphs, but it struck me as a fascinating story and way to get inside roosevelt's mind and nobody did it. the reason is that roosevelt probably held more government positions at various levels than any other man in our nation's history.
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you could write a whole book about roosevelt being a police commissioner. his life is a mural i saw something that was a small section in the painting and i thought it that were explained in great detail there could be a story about roosevelt that would be fascinating, but also probably change the minds of some people about roosevelt and give people something else to think about.
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i had three other books thought i thought could be put into one story when the golden lad does. theodore roosevelt because the best father, best parent -- okay father is the word. i don't know about mothers in the white house. best father who has ever been in the white house. his son was his youngest and favorite. those elements, joined with a few circumstances, that had nothing to do with peterson led to this book. in this case, the topic came from my thinking something interesting was neglected. >> you get into roosevelt's
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relationship with taft and others in the book. >> i had a different modus operandem for this book. most books about theodore roosevelt are between one and a half to two inches thick. i don't know if it is easy for viewers to tell, this is not one and a half or two inches thick. i wrote this book to see how much i could leave out because i wanted to tell and concentrate on the central mural. i left in his feelings of woodrow wilson and all major
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events but quinton's reaction is involved. when he decided not to run for a second full time. he swerved three years after mckinley was anasinated and served one after being reelected. there was an incident in which theodore and quinton were watching the parade for taft and quinton's reaction is he is saddenned and that was an important part of the story. when mckinley was assassinated that had to be in the book but the main reason it is there is
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he cut out black fabric and put them around the arms of figures he had in a book he made. when asked why he said sol solemnly he is said for president mckinley. so cover everything but not to the extent morris did in three volumes about roosevelt. but enough to make it a tale of theodore roosevelt but making sure quinton was edging in >> did that book spring from your previous book on 1920 in any way? >> no, and if you try find
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connections, peter, i wish you well. the '20s have always interested me and i think interest a lot of people. in me reading not only did the decades come up a lot, which they always do with american history, but the year came up a lot. it was the year of the ponzi scheme and i think that was better known to people because of bernie may daf than himself. i will try to list everything that happened in 1920, but some of what happened, like the terrorist attack, have
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reprecussions. the problem about writing about a year is you have to find a story or narrative. you cannot have chapters called january 1st or january 2nd. i really embraced that challenge of trying to get characters in the book in places where they would not normally come. before harding's presidency i was able to say that warren harding looked as if he had been a character in the book and it was a challenging book i had to write because of trying to find a narrative. and the narrative is a little
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loose but that is what years are. events don't happen to satisfy the needs of autumn which i think is cosmically unfair but it doesn't happen. >> you said that you didn't want to list everything that happened during that year. i made a list of the issues in 1920 and i will read them off, let you riff on them and compare them today or whatever. you have marcus gafshy and race relation, prohibition and wane wheeler, the women vote -- >> the only year by the way that two amendments to the constitution were passed -- 1920. >> flight is coming into vogue. you have prosperity, you have inequality, you have terrorism, you have labor and rest. you have got the rockafellers
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and harlem and so on. >> one thing i thought who would annoy the man who did the jacket design for 1920 is there is a chapter, a small chapter, but explains by the flapper was the most inappropriate symbol possible for that year. and i would think if i were planning a jacket design for a book called 1920 it would be the first thing i thought of. it turned out it wasn't and it wasn't a problem. let me say something about prohibition.
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you mentioned wayne wheeler. he was a mousy man in appearance and i think he was called something like a dynamo in trow haves. he organized the first powerful action committee in the country and its purpose was to create prohibition. there was never a time when the majority of us wanted to make alcohol illegal. but wheeler and his people went to the churches and talked to the people in charge of the churches saying if we put out literature that notes your church supports alcohol and isn't in favor of getting rid of
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alcohol it isn't in favor of your church. went to politicians saying if we let it be known alcohol is an important part of your lives, something you want at your disposal at any time, your constituents might wonder about you. people might think about bribery and that is in essence what he did and what many lobbyist do today in one way or another. he was able to do one of the most remarkable things that has been done in this country and that is make the sale, manufacturing and distribution of alcoholic beverages illegal. drinking was legal but the rest of it wasn't.
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>> were there so-called 1%-ers in the 1920's? >> what are 1%-ers? >> extremely wealthy. >> sure. i don't know if it would be 1%. but carnegie and frick and others. it is an educated guess, but i would guess, i think it is worth mentioning there was probably a greater disparity in wealth than there is now. >> was this a prosperous country? >> it was a prosperous country
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beginning to rot from within. in 1920, there a couple of examples of not stocks that were doing poor lee -- poorly, but what was it? corn? rice? wheat? i cannot remember. but something that a person would have seen as a coming negative. was happening in the grain market. there were clues that bugs were crawling up through the big bullaging barrels of prosperity. nobody saw them and nobody wanted to see them. but as early as 1920 somebody could have seen them and somebody could have warned the populus which peter would have
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paid no attention. >> this is from your book the spirits of america. you write the revolution war we read was conceived in the watering holes of colonial american was almost as a side and we never ask why. why? >> it would astonish people to know how important alcoholic beverages were in colonial times. what you might have had for breakfast this morning if you were a colonial would be a rum and the bells range out at 11 and 4 and this was equivalent to a morning and afternoon happy hour. people stopped to drink.
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they drank alcoholic beverages with every meal. children were given alcoholic beverages to toughen them. this makes us suspect alcoholic beverages were not as powerful as they are now but no one knows that. there is no bottle of 1778 chard nay around somewhere we can open and check it out. what it is hard to thing -- think the founders were able to do everything they did intoxicated. it wasn't just the high. there was a strong belief in the
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medicinal value of alcoholic beverages and i think it came from the notion that other forms of medicine had had powerful taste and the thought is if there is something wrong in your body, and you put enough rum in your body, whatever it was would get drunk and die. >> were some of the famous founding fathers drinkers at well? >> all of them. thomas jefferson wrote the declaration declaration of independence with a glass of bread wine at his elbow. ben franklin wrote a song favoring his wine. washington might have drunk the least but when leaving the white house -- was it called the white house then?
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no, the president's house. when he left he installed a brewery. alexander hamilton was an occasional drinker. john adams kept a tended bar in his father's tavern. patri patrick henry was also a bartender for a while. i don't know who i am missing but not a tea total. >> back to spirits of america, you write that buying votes with booze during the early years of the republic, washington didn't start the practice but used the practice. >> i think that is a wonderful story. here is how the first informal, very informal political poll came about. one of the ways that you try to
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attract votes and putting a bigger liquor vat in front of your polling place. he who bought the most beer bought the most votes. the practice was to dip into the the vat of the person for whom you had voted. assuming you did that, then somebody who came along at 3:30-4:00 and looked into the vats and saw which one had the least liquor could go on the air saying early projections are that george washington will win the virginia house seat because he only has seven inches left in the barrel whereas his competitor has 12 inches. washington lost his first attempt to get a seat on the virginia house of burgess and went to the equivalent of a campaign manager the second time around and this is almost a
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quote do not spend with too sparring of a hand. it is mentioned how much washington spent in the book but hard cider was poplar, rum, different kinds of whiskey and washington was elected the second time. >> was there any connection between tainted water and the use of alcoholic beverages? >> yes. coffee wasn't drunk for several reasons. it was hard to get the beans. but you mixed the means once in the proper form with water. the british drank tea so we didn't want to do that. alcohol beverages were perceived as not only the most beneficial for your health because they
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killed what was going on inside of you that should have been killed. but they were the safest to drink as well. >> how important was tobacco in the colonial era? >> it was more important in the pre-columbi pre-colombian era. if you drank a certain mount you will not feel the same way if you had not drank thereat amoun. you will be a little tipsy and the native american tribes felt that state was a religious state and made them more susceptible to being able to communicate with the gods. with regard to tobacco it was more interesting.
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tobacco smoke was thought to be a medicine. let me get this out of the way now. in the 17th century in paris there was a doctor who cured women, do you remember this? is that why you are sitting there apprehensively? he killed women who were hysterical by blowing tobacco smoke into the vagina. the notion of tobacco smoke being a cure for diseases lasted a century. tobacco leaves back to
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pre-modern times the primary was of them was to smoke at the temple. and tray as you smoke and the prayers were translated by the spoke up to the celestial realms. my first thought was the native americans must have been disappointed because tobacco smoke doesn't go up very high. but they were quite adaptive in their thinking and what they came to decide was invisible heavenly hand had reached down.
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and there is great controversy and in one case to substances, tobacco, that are virtually banned everywhere. >> and again, i am just -- what drew you to the history of tobacco? there had to be some spark that got you into that. >> somebody said to me my father was an alcoholic and nobody told me my father was an alcoholic. i knew that. i could have phrased that better. my father was an alcoholic who smoked four packs of cigarettes at his peak and someone asked me the same question you did. i said i read history and i thought the incident about prayers being transmitted by
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smoke and how the founding fathers drank were just inherently interesting. but somebody said isn't it interesting your father is an abuser. people don't preach usually. and someone asked when you start writing history do you need a point of view? and my answer is if you write history with a point of view i don't want to read that book. i don't care who you are. if i know you are a brilliant literary republican or democrat i don't want to read your work. i don't want to read an authorized biography. that tells me the truth may have
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worked its way in somehow but in terms of alcohol and tobacco i have just never been able to decide whether my father had anything to do with it simply because if he had, and here i am psycho analyzing myself, wouldn't i have wanted to preach in one paragraph at least, wouldn't i have wanted to -- i could have attributed to it someone else. i could say there are statistics that show overuse of alcohol leads to a dissolution of 1-4 marriages. but there is nothing like that in the book. i am not very fond of the prese present. i am happy to be here today. but i try not to get to close to the present in my books.
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in the smoke of the gods, one has to go to 1964, the surgeon general's major report that changed everything. but i like to stay away from the present. >> eric burns, how old was your father when he died? >> i didn't know him well. i think he was in his late 70s or early 80s which means he could have been 135 if we would have taken care of himself. he was a slender man, a good athlete as a young man. not just a drunk but an abusive drunk. >> where were you raised? >> i was raised in what started out as a healthy steel down and
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by the time i went to college it was a dying steel town and the last few times i have been there it was a dead steel town. the ghost towns of america are the towns that used to produce steel. pittsburgh is a big, beautiful wonderful thriving place but the small towns built on the river. ambridge named after the american bridge company. s subsidy of u.s. steel. those little towns, fever falls, and other towns, they are ghost towns. they are remarkable sights. the last time i was in the area i asked a friend of mine to walk through -- he had been the chief of police to walk through ambridge with me because i wanted to see it. and so i know first hand what a
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dead community is. and i thought i would like to write about that. and may some day. >> what do you remember about steel and the importance of steel? remember the smell? >> i remember black sugar. you don't know that term, do jow? black sugar is the name for the granules that came from the smoke stacks and were so insidious that if you closed the doors there would be black sugar on your kitchen table. if you washed your car, left it out in the driveway, three or four hours later you could write your name on the hood. there is no more black sugar and
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there is no more employment. >> our guest on in depth and author and journalist eric burns. if you would like to dial in we will put the numbers up. you can see there is a lot of talks we have covered if you have been listening 202-748-8200, east and central, 748-8201 in the mountain and pacific time zones. you can make a comment via social media as well. you can go to and you will see video of mr. burns at the top and you can send an e-mail or send a tweet at booktv and finally if you just want to send
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a text, this isn't for phone calls just text, 202-717-9684. when did you leave embridge and why? >> to go to college. and i never went back. and i think the why is fairly obvious. >> how did you get into this business? >> i always wanted to write. my first goal was to write for the new yorker in the '30s which shows i had a certain problem problem with chronology. my second was to have a column in look magazine. i ended up chairing an office with bety rollins and sharing a slot on the today show.
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i wrote maybe five novels that were not published and decided perhaps i should write non-fiction and went back to the old maxim of write about what you know about and that is how broadway broadcast blues came about. but there was never any doubt in my mind i wanted to do this. i got into television news because i -- as a young man of not significant intellectual breadth i didn't know what to write about. i thought if i lived the life of a television journalist i would write stories that went away
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quickly but i didn't want to do that. i wanted peter slen to have what i wrote on a table in front of him one day. "broadcast blues" came about and writing about books after that came natural. television always came fairly easily to me. so there was almost always time in the day to write and now that is what i do full-time. the "golden lad" is the next book, come i don't want to talk about, is finished -- which -- and i am working on the one after that. >> what is the topic of the next book? >> i don't want to talk about. >> you made your daily living in broadcast television. >> i did. someone once said i made a great
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deal of money in a little bit of time on television and a little bit of money and a great deal of time writing books. >> is this profitable? >> can be. i didn't lose money on any of these. but something that i am particularly proud of in terms of self analysis is -- are you holding the joy of books in our hand? in the joy of books there is not a whole chapter but a section about why writers write and my conclusion was that at least for me the answer is power. i write was as a fairly typical
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person i don't have much power. i don't happen how much power donald trump has ultimately. he has many people to whom he has to answer in his business, the president of the united states has the great many people to whom he has to answer unless he goes behind the back door. most of us lack the power. but what i can do, and of course a novelist has more power because they can create the world, but what i can do with the world created is i have the power to decide what it meant, i have the power to organize the events in such a way that i can make them clearer, that i can eliminate errors if i have seen errors.
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i am very conscious of trying, whenever it is possible, and it often is, to be a little whity and i feel strange saying that. being a little whitty when i can in a book. witty -- when i am sitting there writing my power is complete. i am dictatorial and then a voice calls down would you get up here and set the table, please? and i lost my power >> from the joy of books, i have never been inspired by another author but what inspires me is the constant struggle to put the english language to his best
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possible use. when i do that i feel like a painter who got all of the colors, shade of light, and figures composed in just a way. i have always wanted to create art as much as relaying information. were you able to rely information via television? >> yeah, but that is all i was able to do. a television reporter who creates art is not serving journalism because journalism is straightforward presentation of the facts. and like mine, nbc decided to try to cover what was done and created a segment called cross country for the today's show and a gentlemen named jack perkins and i were the two correspondents and i guess you could say it was art of a low grade. and i don't know if art is art
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if is on television. i guess it is. but i just don't like the way it flutters away. again, i want the satisfaction of knowing it it is going to stay there. that it can be read by others, that it can be known by others at other times, and that relaying information just wasn't enough for me. i wanted to do something i thought was more creative. i left nbc to do a project at pbs which would have accomplished that but pbs ran out of money partway through. but the series was three hours on the history of spoking, thee hours on the history of drinking. so quite a few years later i found my notes and i had two
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books waiting to happen and i got back into the my dictorialil mode. >> the first line saying peter pan was an important book in your childhood. >> as an adult it troubled me. i am old enough, even though i look dashingly young, i am old enough to remember mary martin as peter man. i love the notion of a place you could escape to like never land and loved the notion of being able to fly. as a parent, i got to think of peter pan as insidious because peter wanted to take the darling family, the name of the family children away from their
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parents. i was a parent are kids with very strong feelings which i still maintain for my two children. and i thought peter pan, if he had his way, would take my children to a place i could never find. so i changed my opinion of peter. >> we will go through this later but you have a list of the most influe influe influential books for you. you write about attending a book burning, i think it was. >> that was a story for nbc. it wasn't one book. it was a town cleaning out books
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deemed inappropriate for students. i don't remember all of the names but classic literature tended to be the victims of book burnings more than just average books.
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>> guest: and just wasn't going to stand for that and was going to do what he thoughting he should do and not -- thought he should do and not be under the sway of foolish adult priorities. well, i'm a lot older than 20 now, and i think holden caufield has changed immensely. i think he's a spoiled, whiny brat who didn't appreciate what was done for him. and i think that could be said about a lot of other people too. >> host: erin burns is our guest, and now it's your turn. claire in huntington station, new york, you're on booktv. good afternoon. >> caller: good afternoon. thank you very much for taking my call.
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i consider watching this show all the time as additional college education. it is so informative. i really enjoy it. i'd like to ask mr. burns about the water crisis that's going on in flint, michigan, now. he's mentioned some things that i think relate to it. he raised the question about water and alcohol, and he also mentioned pittsburgh and what's going on there. i don't feel that this water crisis is being adequately reported on. i feel that it should be the number one story, it should be reported on every day. i'm tired of hearing about what donald trump thinks of ted cruz and ted cruz thinks of donald trump. how do you feel about this whole thing? i feel that 100,000 people have been poisoned in an american city, and it's just not being talked about that much. >> host: all right, claire, let's see if eric burns want to opine on that issue. >> guest: i don't think i have anything constructive to say.
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i saw a lengthy piece done either on "60 minutes" or -- i can't keep them straight, "20/20," "dateline," a major piece done on this. i'm not particularly qualified to make a judgment on whether it's being covered number. covered enough. i can say, claire, i realize that's a disappointing answer for you, but i don't follow journalism to the extent that i used to. but i certainly agree with you that the story itself is a major story and deserves a great deal of not just coverage, but investigative work which is to say the careful looking into the causes of this and how the causes can be prevented. ed newman, remember ed newman from nbc, a colleague of mine? ed newman said, well, what we need here is some good
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journalism, a good investigative journalism. or as we used to call it, journalism. >> host: well, take claire's comments and take it back to your experience at nbc. were the same discussions, arguments, controversies held back then which is we need to give more time to this story, less time to story x? >> guest: always. every day there were two or three meetings involving the anchor, the executive producer, a few other people, yes. i would get phone calls maybe at 4:00, let's say 2:00. i was told i had 1:45 to start editing. later i'd get a call saying, no, you've got to make it 1:20. i can't do that because of the way i've constructed it. you've got to make it 1:20. so, yes. by and large, network news is peopled by extremely conscientious men and women who
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under very difficult circumstances, i think, do the best they can. >> host: 1:20 on network news. is that pretty precious? >> guest: define precious. >> host: was that a good amount of time? >> guest: no. not for anything. and it was pretty short. of course, i worked at nbc a long time ago, but i -- my pieces for nbc nightly news when john chancellor was the anchor were between a minute and a half and two minutes, i would say. >> host: dave's calling in from glenshaw, pennsylvania. hi, dave. >> caller: hi. love the show. i get a lot of ideas for books that i read from the show. my question for mr. burns, he talked about being from a small community down the river from pittsburgh. i live in a community north of pittsburgh. pittsburgh seems to have
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rebounded from the steel disasters and has become a tech, going into the tech stuff with google and facebook now opening up places near carnegie mellon. does he have any ideas or theories as to why some of those other communities such as am bridge and a lot of those other old steel towns haven't been able to rebound and become productive communities? thank you very much. >> guest: i think one of the main reasons, dave, is size. pittsburgh always had the size to provide the facilities that would draw companies there. it had the skyscrapers. u.s. steel never left even when it had to turn its manufacturing emphasis to other goods and services. pittsburgh never relied entirely on one industry. it was a big city.
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no big cities depend entirely on one industry. the small talk towns, however, d and when that industry went away, the towns went away with them. >> host: eric burns, i think it was in 1920 that you write that there were, like, 3600 labor strikes in that one year alone. just some phenomenal number. >> guest: yeah. >> host: what was going on? >> guest: what was going on is that the picture we have of the 1920s being a care-free time is totally incorrect. what was going on was that the so-called robber barons were treating their workers as if they were prisoners of war, virtually. the hours that they worked, the days that they worked, the salaries, if you can call them that, the pocket change that they were given for their labors just appalling. and a good indication of what
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life was like for the average man and woman. women did a lot of work, you know, with clothing. the triangle shirtwaist fire killed nothing but girls, young women. most young women didn't have short skirts with fringes on the bottom, and they didn't dance on tables at nightclubs. that was just a few. you asked me a while ago about journalism being the first draft of history? well, journalism emphasized always the sensationalistic. well -- which was a more sensational story, these women dancing on tables or women sewing buttons on collars, on shirtwaists? the women dancing on tables. journalism was the first draft of history. so history adopted the flapper.
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history was wrong. >> host: dana, oakland, california. good afternoon, you're on booktv with eric burns. >> caller: well, thank you. i'm enjoying this show immensely myself, and thank you, mr. burns and c-span in general. i want to ask you, mr. burns, about a small footnote that you made yourself in regards to your family life as a child where you mentioned that your alcoholic dad was also abusive. i want to thank you for your honesty, you're the opposite of mission, you put it in there. and i'd like to ask how that affected your mother, yourself, your childhood, your siblings if you have some and your trajectory, and if you have any other insights on how people could heal as an adult of an
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abusive alcoholic. >> host: dana, why do you ask that question? >> caller: i think that it is a root cause of a lot of continuing problems in our world, and unless you dig out those roots, the weeds will grow back. >> host: is that something that you're familiar with? >> caller: yes. >> guest: let me say that, and i said earlier that i thought someone would find one of my answers unsatisfactory, dana. you certainly will. that's not anything i want to talk about, and i don't think it's appropriate to this program. i will say one thing, that perhaps i felt -- all children feel somewhat powerless even in the best of families. they can't help it. they're little. decisions have to be made for them. i might, because of my father,
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have felt a little less powerless than the average child and, therefore, wanted more than the average child to become powerful through writing. but as far as how that affected me in personal ways, i don't think that's our topic here today. >> host: this text message for you, eric burns, what contributed on the whole to your maintaining objectivity given ever-increasing inclinations to the contrary we see today? >> guest: you know why that's hard to answer, peter, it's because it's so obvious. i don't, i mean, that's what a historian is supposed to do, tell the truth. the book about tobacco, "the
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smoke of the gods." if you tell the truth about tobacco, you write an anti-tobacco book, because that's because you're telling the truth. tobacco is a very harmful substance. but i adopt think it's hard to be -- i don't think it's hard to be objective. maybe it's because there aren't subjects -- i don't write about subjects that i have a deep personal connection with. well, even when i did, when i wrote about alcohol, i just thought there was a great deal of interest there, and i never thought really of my father. so i'm happy to say, and i think this speaks well of me -- [laughter] that objectivity is simply -- i just never thought of anything else. >> host: michael's in union town, pennsylvania. hi, michael. >> caller: yes, sir, how you
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doing? >> host: how are you? >> caller: all right. i want to talk to mr. allen there. i worked at claireton work. i'm from union town right down here between morgantown and pittsburgh. i'm sure you know where that's at. and i got a job there in 1974, and everybody, everybody that lived in clariton worked there. you couldn't find a parking place in the morning to go to work. i don't know, there's a lot of talk about all, you know, the air and all this stuff, but i, my thing was we all had at that time, in '74, we had some good jobs, you know? i mean, when i got that job, i come right out of high school. i had, the first paycheck i came home my dad told me -- he was a marine for 23 years, and the first thing he said to me was don't you quit this job, boy.
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we had blue cross blue shield, i could go to the doctor, i could go to the dentist, you could do all that stuff. i don't know, it seems like the world changes. you know, we used to come out of there and, you know, every gate at clariton, there was a bar at. we'd go have a couple beers and go home, and it just seemed like, i don't know, you know, you had the steelers, you know? these guys, if you worked on a sunday, these guys would bring pots of -- >> guest: yeah, i understand the point that you're making and, peter, i know you were just about to do this -- >> host: no, i wanted to follow up and ask him -- >> guest: but it doesn't have anything to do with what we're talking about here. >> host: right. but i think he's talking about a past society. and, michael, do you miss that life? >> caller: oh, i miss that life greatly. we didn't, you know, i don't
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know. everybody now is, you know, everybody's all, you know, and i understand about the air and this and that. but, you know, pittsburgh back then -- and you know in '70s, that was just the way, you know, it was a steel town. and i'm not saying we don't need to clean up the air or nothing like that. but it's the idea that we all went to work, everybody worked, you know? like i said, clariton -- >> host: all right. michael, i think we do get the idea. eric burns, anything you want to comment on there? >> guest: no. no, that's something i was discussing in a personal vein, not in the vein of something i wrote, and i have no comment to make other than what i did make already. >> host: text message, how would you describe today's media both in print and tv and the u.s. educational system? >> guest: oh, come on. that's just much too broad.
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>> host: do you have any comments you'd like to make on that or any opining you'd like to do? >> guest: well, how did it begin, today's media? >> host: today's media. >> guest: yeah. here's my point on -- oh, i'm really going to alienate some viewers. here's my point on the media. it's a grammatical point. media is a plural noun. when you talk about media, you talk about dozens and dozens and dozens of different outlets. i can't possibly comment on every one of them except to say i think there are too many, and most of them aren't trustworthy. the educational system, it doesn't work. i don't know how to fix it. >> host: michael, port chester or, new york, you're on with author eric burns. >> caller: hi, mr. burns. i'm going to probably have to light up my kindle and buy some of your books.
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one of the things i wanted to maybe circle back to is your book on tv and how it affected -- i'm a first generation american-italian, if you wish, and how it helped me accultureate and develop my language in terms of english and the outside world. because at, you know, by the time i reached university age, i was lucky enough to get a good education and be one of two of the first people to graduate from college. so in a way, the tv and its language and its presentation of good and evil helped my development. >> guest: well, it's, it's a good point about the language, and it's a very common point. and just think of what a great teacher television was even with
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the worst of programs, because your dad's off working, your mother has a lot to do at home. she's preparing dinner, something like that. she might wish she had time to work with you on your language, but she doesn't. but it seems to she doesn't hav. you can sit and watch television. and in terms of what was the second thing he said, developing values? >> host: it helped develop his values, yes. >> guest: some of his values. that's probably a fair thing to say about television in its earliest days, because all of the, all of the sitcoms had families that were ridiculously, what do i want to say, ridiculously wholesome lives. and that's a great thing. i wish my family could have been ozzy and harriet or the andersons on "father knows
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best." i don't look at those shows and laugh and say how unrealistic they are. i look at life today and say it's too bad that life isn't closer to making those programs realistic. >> host: ken cubia texts in: i went to ambridge high school and remember eric playing basketball -- [laughter] his father was my teacher. >> guest: yeah. >> caller: ing what he says is on the mark. does that name ring a bell to you? >> guest: no. and, ken, i'm sorry that it doesn't. memories of my playing basketball require a great deal of thought, because i didn't get into too many games. thank you for your call and for your compliment. my dad was a much-beloved math teacher, actually, at ambridge high because he was sober during the day. he got up in the morning, and he
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went to school and didn't start drinking til after school. and that's the end. i'd like that to be the -- anybody else who has a call about my father, hang up. that's enough about my father. >> host: well, let's try a non sequitur here. from virtue, valor and vanity, you write: the founding fathers sought a kind of fame we do not know today. they sought it through behavior seldom exhibited anymore and even less often brought to public attention by media outlets attracted to freakishness and violence more than civic benefaction. could you please expound on that statement? >> guest: that guy can write. occasionally. that's a wonderful point. and i'm glad you brought that up. as a matter of fact, i had -- this is the only book i ever had arguments with the publisher. i wanted the title of that book to be "the founding fathers and the pursuit of fame."
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and i was lucky to get it to be the subtitle, because i thought the notion, wait a minute, the founding fathers wanted to be famous? that's a fascinating idea to me. as a matter of fact, the book i'm working on now that i'm not discussing with you has, talks about that, because it's relative to the main theme. their belief was that fame can only accrue to you if you're known for work that advanced the public good. that's the only way. in those days if you weren't a famous singer, you weren't a famous be anything, you could be notorious which a lot of people think is a synonym for fame. another grammar lesson. it is, in fact, the opposite. but they were -- it was such -- in the degradation of fame, and
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we've gotten to a point now which fame is so degraded that, you know, you have -- i mean, what's a kardashian? what is a kardashian? other than a famous person? the founding fathers worked hard to deserve fame, and they -- john adams more than any person, any of the founders believed that he would not be regarded by posterity with sufficient appreciation for what he had done; ie, he would not be famous enough. what did he do about it? he kept working harder on governmental documents. he became the president of the united states. that's how you achieved fame. >> host: would they appreciate, do you think, all the monuments, streets, towns named after themsome. >> guest: yes.
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especially ben franklin. he was so open about it. i deserve to be famous. look at all the things we've done. can we argue with him? >> host: patrick, pacifica, california. you are on booktv. our author is eric burns. >> caller: oh, mr. burns, really great to interview. i was so impressed when your host asked you a question and you had this reflexive moment, and you were honest enough to say nothing about it the question instead of making something up. [laughter] not mine. [laughter] that was so good. you just don't see that on tv. it's amazing. anyway, i just wanted to -- you're such a really compelling story, and you've just been so many places. we're ant the same age -- about same age, actually, i'm just a recently-retired mathematics teacher myself.
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but i am, wanted to ask can you about the recently peter dale scott put something out on about behind the north korean nuke crisis. and so he was going over, you know, what's transpired since, you know, '53 and how many opportunities to make some negotiation, you know, with them. and i don't know if you remember the mouse that roared. i mean, even when i read it at 11, the companying discussion in middle school was about how the -- [inaudible] of grand penwick was modeled after north korea. and now we have this petulant, idiot child ruler, kim jong un, and he's got his own q bomb and his own delivery system, and all he wants is some attention. so i was wondering if we could maybe send ambassador dennis
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rodman to flatter him and negotiate an end to the 70-year embargo and maybe throw in an nba franchise or something like that. i mean, if you think this is crazy, compare this to u.s. foreign policy in korea in '74. i just wanted to ask you if you had any comments about the lunacy of u.s. relations and any solutions that you see on the horizon. >> guest: dennis rodman sounds as good as anything else to me. >> host: eric burns, in your study, writing of history, do you see connections to today? >> guest: oh, sure. sure. history is believed to be cyclical. the united states, the model for the country that became the united states was the roman republic. cicero, who was like ben franklin in that he craved fame, cicero was the hero of all the
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founding fathers because cicero was the philosophical guiding light behind the roman republic. which, in effect, became the united states. and connections just go on endlessly, peter, yes. and as a matter of fact, that's one of the fascinations of studying it. there are two things that appeal to me about history. the first is you can learn so much about the roots. you can't understand without the present. one of the callers used the word "roots." you can't fully understand the present without knowing the past. so the past helps you know the present. the second appeal of history to me is the past gets you the hell away from the present. and that's appealing to he too. >> host: during our political coverage of the last couple of weeks, we've heard from several viewers that they're looking at
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donald trump and bernie sanders as presidential, to support those two. when you go back in history and look at some of the politicians and some of the leaders, some of the standouts, do you see a bernie sanders or a donald trump in the mix back there? >> guest: well, if so, they were regarded as so freakishly inconsequential that they are not in the history books. so, no, i don't see one. that's not to say there weren't people who wanted to be president who were bernie sanders-ish and donald trump-ish. but there was, there's certainly never been candidates the quality, you'll forgive my use of the word "quality "and know what i mean, of the candidates we have today for the presidency. >> host: what was woodrow wilson's reputation as he left
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the oval office in 1921? >> guest: well, as you know, he was paralyzed. he'd had a stroke a couple of years earlier, and one of the chapters in 1920 is about america's first female president who was mrs. woodrow wilson. and for a year she was the president of the united states because her husband, her husband was not functioning because of the stroke he had, and there was no provision in the constitution for what to do about a case like that. when wilson left the white house, his reputation was is severely damaged because he had staked it on the league of nations. as a matter of fact, most people believe that it was the league of nations that gave him the stroke; ie, he worked so hard, traveled so far and made so many trips around the country.
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after the senate had voted the league of nations down. they voted it down twice. they voted it down the first time, and wilson said, okay, i'm going to the pacific northwest to talk to people. and it was on that trek that he had haze stroke. it -- had his stroke. it actually wasn't a stroke, but it was close enough to that. i don't know the precise medical term to use the word. so there were two primary factors from wilson left audience, i'm sorry, left the occupation of the white white w; think for the man and a lack of respect for the politician. >> host: how reported was his health? and you can look at fdr and how reported his health was as well, but how reported was wilson's health? >> guest: i've read, let me just say parenthetically, that of 35,000 photographs that remain of franklin delano roosevelt,
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two show him with braces or any kind of assistance for walking. the other part of the question? >> host: is about woodrow wilson. how reported was his condition. >> guest: oh, how reported was it? that was a time when there were -- newspapers didn't have bureaus in washington the way they do now. of course, there was no television. it was not known by the general public. i will say it was -- i won't say it was not known at all, it certainly was not known well. it was known by foreign leaders. the ambassador to france reported back to one of his superiors that he had just had a conference with mademoiselle president. so those people who had dealings with the government knew. but in terms of minute who lived in kansas -- of somebody who
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lived in kansas and was depending on maybe a brief wire service report for his or her knowledge of what was going on in washington was unlikely to know. >> host: kip, wexford, pennsylvania. please go ahead with your question or comment for eric burns. >> caller: hi, eric -- >> guest: wait a minute, kip jones? >> caller: ing yes. >> guest: hello, kip. >> caller: how are you? hey, it's ironic that that fellow from ambridge called and asked about the basketball question because my question was did you ever consider writing a historian's perspective of the little engine team that could at westminster that won the national title? i know that buzz had a book about it, but did you ever think about it writing about it from the historian perspective? >> host: kip, how do you know eric burns? >> caller: we went to college
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together. >> guest: and it was westminster that had a championship small college basketball team. and the answer is, no, kip, i never did. it never occurred to me that there was a particularly interesting angle. plans if i'd known the players -- perhaps if i'd known the players better, i would have seen that angle. i think it's hard to write about sports in addition without avoiding cliches, and you'll appreciate this, peter. i avoid cliches like the plague. [laughter] >> host: well, eric burns, we've had several pennsylvania calls, so i think it's time to introduce a little bit of video to this program, and this is from wqed. >> the winner is craig hyberger, he goes to mount lebanon high school. he's 17 years old and will be graduating this year -- >> guest: and we'll be stepping up very soon. >> let's bring craig over. >> good to have you with us.
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>> thank you very much. it's an honor to be here. >> why did you personally want to make a movie that made a statement about drugs? what personal experience of yours is there in the movie? >> it was just the overall feeling of school and the futility with trying to communicate, you know, in the classroom which is a difficult thing at high school. >> maybe we should say it's not just mount lebanon -- >> no, yeah. >> host: that was march 5, 1971. >> guest: which one of those was i? [laughter] >> host: you were not the blond or the black woman. >> guest: okay. so i was the one with the longer, longer hair. >> host: yeah, right. >> guest: well, i sounded relatively intelligence, don't you think? >> host: what was that show we were watching? >> guest: it was called "lifestyle." it was on the pbs station in pittsburgh, studio d, studio a
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was mr. rogers' neighborhood, and my first mentor in television was fred rogers who i said on fox when he died that i didn't think there had ever been a person who used television for better ends than fred rogers. and i believe that strongly. i was, i was a friend of his, and i was sorry to see him go. and an interesting little aside is that the stage manager on that show was a guy named michael douglas. not the michael douglas, but michael douglas went to out to hollywood to try to make it as an actor, and he was told when he went to sign up with the union that he'd have to change his name, because there already was a michael douglas. so he said, for some reason he thought of buster keaton. he said, okay, michael keaton to. and it was that michael keaton.
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>> host: what was fred rogers like off the set and without the sweater? >> guest: the same. there are two people in my life i've met who were exactly the same on the air as off, fred rogers and bill o'reilly. don't ask. >> host: well, i could come to a quote if you'd like me to. if you're going to open up that door. >> guest: may i go back and close it? >> host: you can close it. >> guest: yeah, let's close it. [laughter] fred was the same man. fred was the same man. >> host: gordon's in roanoke, virginia. hi, gordon. >> caller: hi. thanks for taking my call. my wife and i are very regular viewers of booktv, and we recommend it to all our friends and everything, and i think booktv's just wonderful. mr. burns, you're a little bit younger than i am, i'm 80. i was interested in your book "1920." i'll have to get it.
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my parents were both 19 years old in 1920, and i can't picture them as flappers or anything. but my question is, i'm an engineer, and it's sort of an engineering question. you've talked about how the media popularizes things and reports things and so forth. where do you get your information about, that you report about history of 1920? >> guest: i get some of it, i start out by getting it from the books that i've read, information that i know i can trust because one of the dicta of journalism is that you get multiple sources. and so same thing writing history. if several books go along with it, that's the same thing as having several sources, because
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if the history goes back far enough, obviously, you can't talk to the people. but then you go to what are called the primary sources. for instance, my book, current book, "the golden lad: the haunting story of theodore and quentin roosevelt," i went to sagamore hill, the roosevelt residence, and was the first historian i think because there was so much dust, literally so much dust on the box that the curator who was showing me through said i don't think this box has ever been opened. it was letters between theodore and his children which did not really interest most historians because theodore did so many more important things on a political basis. "the golden lad" i think of as more of a parental book than a
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political book. but i got my information, and i got my feelings for what kind of people quentin and theodore were because i read every letter that passed between them. and that's what you do if it's possible. you get a kind of outline from popular sources, and then you start checking and filling in the holes with the primary sources. >> host: this tweet for you: did you admire edward r. murrow? and if so, why? >> guest: no, because i was too young. as a journalist, i was taught to admire edward r. murrow and saw no reason not to. but i was, boy, it's just -- what a pleasure it is these days to be able to say that i'm too young for something. i was a little too young for
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murrow, and so like most people, my feelings about him are based on reputation as opposed to any knowledge from working with him, working with his coworkers, anything like that. >> host: 202 is the area code for all of our numbers if you want to dial in and talk with author eric burns. we've covered a lot of topics so far. we've got a little over an hour to go. 748-8200 for the east and central time zone, 748-8201 if you live in the mountain and pacific time zones. you can send a text as well, this is not for phone calls, this is for texting, and we've read several texts so far. 202-717-9684, and that's for text messagings. a couple of other ways to get through on social media, you can leave a comment there. or you can e-mail us at and, finally, you can send a tweet @booktv is our twitter handle.
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well, every month that we have an author on "in depth" we ask him or her to talk about some of their influences, some of the books they've been reading or are reading. here are some of eric burns' answers. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪
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♪ ♪ ♪ ♪
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>> host: eric burns, who is j.c. furnace? you list him as one of the authors that you like. him or her? >> guest: he is joseph chamberlain furnace. i'm so embarrassed to say that my favorite historian is he. he's written some epic histories -- and by "epic" i mean 7, 8, 900 pages. and he is my favorite historian because he has covered so much ground, and he has a sense of humor. i don't know why historians have no senses of humor. i'm not talking about jokes, i'm
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talking about saying things in a witty manner end when it's appropriate. manner when it's appropriate. and he does it better than anyone. but i've never heard his name mentioned, never. i've never heard his name mentioned, so i don't know if he's furnace -- >> host: is he a contemporary? >> guest: no. he wrote his memoirs in 1983. i happen to be reading them now because i just found them and died in 1989. >> host: in "the joy of books," you've got lists of some of the books that have made a difference for you or that you felt influenced you, and one of the books you list is a book called "broadcast blues: dispatches from the 20-year war between a television reporter and his medium." it was a book we were unable to find. it's written by eric burns. >> guest: i remember that book
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even though you were unable to find it. and it was -- let me just say that it was the source of the -- i've done very well. i'm happy to the say this. this is humility speaking, not brag doe show. i'm happy to the say that i've done well over the years with critics. this was 35 years ago, that book now is so quaint, i recommend it to all of you because -- [laughter] because it'll tell you about a world of journalism that doesn't exist anymore. what was wrong then has been superseded greatly now. but what i did in the book, peter, was i used myself. i talked -- it was a cross
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between a memoir and a book of journalistic criticism. and i used myself for the criticism. i mentioned my name. i used the first person pronoun several times. i talked about having gotten stuck interviewing a really foul-mouthed guy and how we could -- because we got sent all the way from chicago to the bayou to do it -- how we could falsify the story. it was feature, and still use little sound bites from him when he didn't say the things he was saying. and there were a couple other examples, too, of things that i, that i did that weren't as ethical as they should have been. nothing compared to what's happened since. the doltish woman who reviewed the book for "the new york
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times" said mr. burns gives a good portrait of some of the problems of television news, but what he doesn't seem to realize is that he is guilty of these sins just as much as anyone else. it was the point of the book, that i was guilty of the sins as much as anyone else. and this person says but what mr. burns doesn't seem to realize. i don't know who the person was, but that's the dumbest review i've ever come across. >> host: well, some of the praise for your 2015 book "1920: the year that made the decade roar," new york times book review called it lively. burns convincingly dispels a number of popular beliefs. you have praise from "the washington post," publishers weekly, kirkus, the washington times. book list says entertaining and highly readable. this text message came in for you: what effect did marcus
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garvey have on race relations in 1920? first of all, who was marcus garveysome. >> guest: let me also say immodestly that kirkus one of two principal organs in the publishing industry that publishes reviews of books in advance of their book publications so that, you know, the bookstores know what to order, named it one of the best books of 2015. all right, now back to humility, or at least neutrality. marcus garvey was one of the leaders of, one of the african-american leaders of 1920. his movement was to have african-americans go back to, go to liberia. marcus garvey is best known for his attire. he wore a tricorner hat which is what was worn.
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we don't, do we have a picture of him up, peter? i can't -- >> host: we do, yeah. we're going to put a picture of him up here in a second. >> guest: okay. and he had a great problem in being taken seriously by some people because of the way he dressed. his -- j. edgar hoover was very troubled by him, because he was such a powerful speaker. once he got 25,000 people into the old, old madison square garden. and hoover was just afraid of a man whose vocal power was so great that it could rise such emotions among, you know, people like african-americans. and as hoover knew, you couldn't trust people like that. so he had garvey very carefully watched. eventually, charged him with embezzlement and other crimes. it is not clear to this day whether garvey was innocent.
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the best guess would be he wasn't, that it was hoover being hoover. and, eventually, he was deported, and his scheme to have his own fleet of ships that would carry african-americans out of this country to liberia failed. >> host: text message, craig in sacramento. with the avalanche of data for historians now, how do you see them coping with processing it all in coming up with coherent histories? is there more data now today than there was? >> guest: more historical data? i don't know. i know that it's more easily accessible. it used to be when i first started writing history, you know, i went to the benjamin franklin collection at yale. and i've develop to a lot of -- i've gone to a lot of, you know,
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the theodore roosevelt collection, lots of collections. now a great number of those are on line. and you can just sit in your home and get the information. i would say for a historian, no, it can't be considered a problem to have too much information. maybe what it does is make you more careful in what information you select. for instance, if somebody has compiled all the tweets about thomas jefferson, you can probably skip that. but if there is more information, then it'll take you a little longer to write the book. but since that information is more easily gotten, maybe it won't take you a little longer because you can get it online. so i don't think that's a problem. >> host: dan is in bridgewater, new jersey. dan, please go ahead with your question or comment for author eric burns. >> caller: two questions. i was raised in --
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[inaudible] with sort of the glue that holds us together, the rail on which the nation moves and so forth. and when i came here, i found very little -- [inaudible] in fact, it used to be said that anybody who wanted to stay in academia and couldn't pass college algebra would usually go into history because there you didn't have to know quantitative -- [inaudible] that raises the question about the technical know how of most historians to deal with technical resolutions that happened -- [inaudible] and the second question was there's a -- [inaudible] could you tell me why you think that the cold war which was so -- [inaudible] to a lot of us, and maybe some of the kids didn't go through it, but --
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[inaudible] the direction -- it's just not being discussed at all. it was just something that was in the hands of advocates of one side or another, and now that we can look back on it and see how important it was and what it really was, nobody seems to be interested. they've more interested in -- [inaudible] >> host: all right, thank you, dan in bringwater, new jersey. eric burns? >> guest: well, he fired quite a bit of ammunition out there. the thought that came primarily to my mind is that the problem, if there are problems with historians, there are greater, for want of a better word, problems with people who don't have a great deal of interest in history. sometimes if you're a historian you can have difficulty finding an agent because the agent
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thinks he or she won't be able to sell your book. if he or she is able to sell your book to a publisher or, it won't be for enough money to make it worthwhile for the agent to get his or her 15%. and to me, the problem goes back, at at least in my experie, to the way history is taught, the way history was taught in public schools. it was taught without any enthusiasm for me, it was taught without any relevance which is to say is there a way -- and the answer is always yes -- is there a way to tie this historical event to the present. what can we learn about the present from this historical event. history seemed to attract the
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dullest, the least interested of the teachers. i happen to know a woman who teaches fourth grade and teaches history and every other subject. and she and the people she works with make history a viable, living thing by having the students act out parts. they're studying, believe it or not in fourth grade, the silk road. well, students are stationed, so to speak, at various points along the silk road, and they're doing reports on it, television reports, they're making maps. if you do this kind of thing, the you put the students into -- if you put the students into the history as opposed to read the
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history at the students, i think everything changes after that, and you become more interested as an adult in, to use the example we just heard, lingering effects, if there are any, of the cold war. >> host: steve in stafford, virginia, text message. eric, i'm embarrassed to admit that as an avid nonfiction reader i haven't read any of your books. which one would you recommend that i start with? >> guest: well, steve, i -- is that a text? >> host: yes. >> guest: i don't know much about technology. >> host: do you have a phone? >> guest: yeah, but it's a flip-up. i'm -- what i'd like to do is know whether or not i could find out what's something about steve's interest. >> host: okay. steve in stafford, if you could follow up that text and send us another one and tell us what your interests are, and we'll go
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from from there. in the meantime, we'll talk to thomas in green castle, pa. >> caller: hello, eric, i am a historian, and i have watched over time the presidential nonpartisan rankings which evaluate presidents each year. my question to you is why president dwight eisenhower is now ranked fifth behind lincoln, washington, fdr and theodore roosevelt. >> guest: well, could i just change things around -- >> host: you can riff all you want on that. >> guest: -- ask you the same thing? [laughter] i have no idea. i'd like to know who ranked him there. i'm baffled. do you mind having a guest who's baffled, peter? >> host: where would you rank the prime ministers given what you've read -- the presidents given what you've realize, studied, you know, the traditional list, washington, lincoln? so let's put those two out of the way. >> guest: forgetting those --
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>> host: forgetting those two. who else have you read about, worked on, researched that caught your attention? >> guest: well, let me say this, i think the three most interesting, interesting -- and that's a value-neutral word -- interesting men ever to serve in the white house served consecutively. let me make it a question for you, peter. they served consecutively in our lifetime. >> host: kennedy, johnson, nixon. >> guest: nicely done. they are the presidents, along with roosevelt and washington and lincoln, about whom i have the most books. nixon did -- tom winter, the liberal columnist of "the new york times," once wrote a book called "one of us." it was a biography of nixon, and by one of us he meant he's a
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liberal. and he was. the people who hate him don't know that. affirmative action, richard nixon. food stamps, richard nixon. opening the doorway to china, richard nixon. i'm not advocating that richard nixon was a good, moral man, i'm simply telling you that this was one of the joys, for me, of reading history, to see the complete richard nixon, to know that the most powerful figure at least in my lifetime and certainly in the 20th century which is to say the man who had the most potential to affect the course of this country was lyndon johnson. lyndon johnson's power over congress was monumental, and he
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said once to someone wouldn't it be a shame if i got known for this -- this was his word -- pissant little war in asia instead of what i'm trying to do at home? and, of course, kennedy for his various transgression, his sex appeal, many other things, i find those three the most interesting. i would put none of them on mount rushmore. >> host: and from the book "invasion of the mind snatchers," a connection here. the 1952 presidential campaign in what was spent on television, $7.3 million was spent by the republicans to elect dwight eisenhower, a quarter of that amount going to television. the democrats only had $2 million to -- million to spend, and in 2004 it was estimated that only 55% of the money spent by the two parties during the presidential campaign went for
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television. .. because of mistake in studies it's now believed that one or two drinks a day is actually healthy, but those studies, 54 of them are all flawed. wow wonder if you're thinking about doing writing about alcohol and how it has damaged society historically as well as today. comment about the book. yoururur
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the answer is, no. i've written really all i have to say about the history of alcohol. there's certainly much more to be said because i stopped writing, i think, in 1959, when oklahoma became the last state to repeal prohibition. as i said, i don't know why bit i just don't like to get too close to the present. it's bad enough to have to live in it. i certainly don't have to write about it. so, i think i'm done withalcohol. >> host: the american library association, i believe it was, gave awards to both the spirit of america, social history of alcohol, and the smoke of the gods, a social history of tobacco and you're the only nonprofessional -- >> guest: nonmake. >> host: -- to win that award. >> guest: twice. >> host: twice. >> guest: the award is called the best of the best.
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the only two books i've publish with an academic house is which means peer review kansas members as awful as most academic press books are because of how academics write, i don't write that way. so my books are safe to read. but you can trust them, because they have been -- probably trust them. they've been read very, very carefully by two people who are experts in the field, and that happens before you have a deal with the publisher, but, yes, they were called "the best of the best" for their years and i was and remain very much honored. >> host: at one point, 50% of all men, you write, smoke cigarettes in this country, 35% of women today it's 25% men and 21% of all the women. mark -- i'm sorry, we just had mark and are moving down to sam in north pole, alaska.
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hi, sam. >> caller: hello, sir. my comment is regarding americans paying attention to history and actually learning from it. it's not an american tradition. we look at vietnam, we were lied into that war. that information came out later. the gulf of tonkin was basically fabricated. ten years later lied into the war in iraq and recently as came out with the hillary clinton e-mails we were lied to overthrow gadhafi in libya. >> guest: but you learned, didn't you? now must have hurricane from someone, a journalist or historian becauseom know about these lies. >> absolutely. i think a growing number of people are waking up but we still let it happen over and over again. eight years of the war in iraq that they same thing happened in libya, and it just as crazy -- actually probably going to be the next president that is --
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it's the war policy, and real quick i want to pivot back to woodrow will son. one of the worth presidents ever had, thank income tax, federal reserve, world war one, all terrible thingness our hoyt, and thank you for taking the time to listen to me today. >> host: thanks, sam. >> guest: thank you, yes. >> host: well to go back to woodrow wilson, in your book, "1920", you talk about how he was not very adapt at politics when he became president of princeton and not very good at it al all -- >> guest: campus politics. >> host: right, campus politics. and he had to learn. other. >> guest: let me say that woodrow wilson -- although he was in favor of the income tax, he didn't originate it. the first income tax of any significance in this country, the kind of income tax we have today, started in 1913, and
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that -- no, that is wilson, isn't it? gosh, i lost myself knew neighborly. >> host: depends on what month it is. >> guest: no, i'm sorry. >> host: he took office march of 1913. >> guest: that's right. that's right. my apologies. that's right. but the momentum certainly for that had built the financial need was already there. wilson didn't just out of nowhere come up with the idea for the income tax. the momentum carried wilson to the income tax. >> host: ron is calling in from randle, washington. ron, please go ahead. you're on booktv. >> caller: yes. mr. burns, do you have any appreciation of the writings of earnest hemingway? >> host: whoa die you ask that
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question? >> i just love his life, the way he lived it. >> host: what about his writing. >> caller: pardon? >> host: do you like his writing as well? >> caller: not as much. >> host: why? >> caller: well, except a few as far as, like, the old man in the sea. but i appreciate the history of his life, his biographyies, the people he used to run around with, the expatriates. f. scott fitzgerald, i was just wondering what mr. burns thought of hemingway. >> host: ron, thank you for that. >> guest: well, i've never liked hemingway as an author.
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i think he's monumentally overrated in terms of being a human being, he could be a terrible human being. f. scott fitzgerald got hemingway his first publishing contract by begging his editor, trading f-fitzgerald -- trading on his good name with his editor to publish hemingway's first book, and hermingway spent years trashing -- just savaging verbally fitzgerald and to say you admire how he lived his life because of the people he knew, we can't go over all the people that he knew, but it's hard to admire a life -- really admire a life are, adopt you think, peter, that ended the way hemingway's did? >> host: well, to answer that i'm going to your "joy of books" book. this ills the joy of books list. i am not a literary critic, not
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an academic, not a regular contributor to the new york review of books, which is to say that in my reading, i am strictly an amateur but amateur in the best sense of the word. it is in this spirit, spouting my strengths and professing my weaknesses i have a list of 572 books that have given be joy over the years. and one of those books is "the son also rises" by new orleans hemway, and the great gas guy and tender is the night by f. scoot fitzgerald. >> guest: the sun also rises? >> host: yes. >> guest: do you have a pen? >> host: i do. >> guest: x it out. i have no idea how that got there. i read it again -- >> host: the joy of books list, eric burns -- >> guest: maybe i felt compelled to put something be hemingway in. i raved it again. read it a second time three or four years ago, and -- >> host: so we'll take that out for the new edition. >> guest: cross that out. here's the plot.
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some people go to a party and get drunk and say let's go to another party and get drunk, and then they go to other party and get drunk, and someone says let's go to another party and get drunk, and someone says there's a bull fight going on, let's go to at the bull fight and get drunk, and they watch the bull fight and get drunk, and then come back to wherever the hell they are, paris, and get drunk some more. that's the plot of "the sun also rises." >> host: there's what we would consider classics but some contemporaries on the list and that includes tom wolfe, or scott turrow, robert frost. why are they on this? >> host: you human being of turrow as a spence or thriller writer, steven king as well. >> guest: stephen king is a suburb writer. took him a long time to be recognized as that. "the new york times" finally, two or three years ago, selected
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five best fiction books of the year, one was 11-22-63, by stephen king, the day kennedy died. i wish that king would just hold back a little with a certain folksy quality that he has to him that goes to me, a little bit too far, but i said after i read the first few of his books that when people think of horror eventually, they will think of stephen king and that think of edgar allen poe, and i wrote stephen king a note 31 years ago. i was with nbc. i said: i travel a lot and i enjoy your book, something like that. he had just finished publishing "christine." and he said, it's interesting that i should hear from someone i -- he put it in quotes --
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know, because i just saw you at three mile island. and that's the one thing i would never be able to write about, is nuclear power run amok. i appreciate your report and i'll look forward to reading more of you. i've been offered so much money for that because it's stephen king admitting there's one thing that frightens him so much he won't write about it. 31 years ago. he's a good write jeer march 29, 1979, you were at three mile? >> guest: was i? how do you know that and i don't. >> host: that's the date it occurred. >> guest: oh. >> host: or the day after. >> guest: any god, you're prepared. so i was there, yes. >> host: how close were you allowed to get to that? to the reactor. >> guest: well, enough so that they were in the background,
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they were clearly seen in the background. don't think three mile island, if i remember correctly, was ever as dangerous as the media -- their sensationalistic bent made it out to be. certainly not to be taken lightly. but i remember being a little surprised at being able to get as close as i was and a little unwilling to get closer. >> bunny in indiana asks via text message: what subject have you not written about but would like to? >> guest: i would like to write about either -- about the del vikings, the dell vikings are a due won group from the 60 asks and wrote one of hi favorite music in history, including bait of the -- beethoven and most
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sadder. the song is "come go with me." they were the first integrated group. they met at an air force saying to make the billboard top ten. they did it with my favorite song, and i was able to get in touch with them, but we just couldn't work it out. i don't know if they didn't believe me or -- what i wanted to do was tie in the del vikings, who were from pittsburgh, and -- i did a piece on them for "the today show" once, which is howl i had the contact for them. i wanted to tie their story in with the story of what was happening to pittsburgh at the time, and the steel industry. i had some ideas for a connection. but i'd thereof write either that book or the same kind of book about the marcels, who recorded "blue moon." let me also in my defense say that i really do like a great
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deal of classical music and have tickets for the metropolitan opera in early april. >> host: back to your 572 books on the joy of books list, some of the contemporary nonfiction authors you include, include paul johnson, doris carnes goodwin, david mccullough, peter collier, and david honor -- horwitz, two conservative writers -- and albert spear, inside the third reich. >> certainly wasn't an endorsement of his policies but inside the third reich is a fascinating, fascinating book, one of the things i remember was hitler's concern not just for architecture but for interior design, that his office was long and narrow so that when you
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entered, you had a long walk to get to him. plenty of time to be intimidated. his desk was up on a platform. there was a tall desk. his chair was raised. so, he wanted a setting which would completely dominate the most self-confident of people, and he was greatly interested in architecture as a means of cowing the population because of his show of marble power. fascinating book. >> host: anthony, new york city, thank you for holding, you on with eric burns. >> caller: hi, mr. burns. i'm enjoying this program very much. i asked a question to the person who answered the phone, what you might think of hl menkin and bill buckley.
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i knew bill buckley and i'm a member of the menkin society. >> host: how did you know william buck lee. >> guest: i ran for office with his brother james. when james was elect senator, i ran for new york state controller. i didn't win but i got to know the buckley family and knew the late priscilla, a marvelous family, and i got to know bill over the years, several articles published in national review and just a great admirer of his. >> host: those are two names also on your joy of bookses list. >> guest: well, i knew bill as well, not very well. i had done a couple of stories related to him, but h.l. menkin just delighted me. he is the only american writer i know who i identify, whose style i can identify, after a couple of sentences. you give me two or three
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sentences, plucked anywhere from anything he wrote, and i will know it's menkin. that's how different he was. that what a master he was of using the english language help was not someone you wanted as an enemy because verbally he was as asir pick as -- acerbic as could be. just his name makes my smile. i if you have not heard about menkin and you care about the language, you're missing something that shouldn't be missed. >> host: did he write about politicians. >> oh,ey. he lords to cover elections because he loved to diminish all of the candidates. he never said a good word about any of the candidates, and i'm thinking -- whose oratory was it -- harding maybe. me menkin described harding's orator as something like a
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string of wet sponges. i'm not doing justice to it. it's like a string of wet sponges tied together. he did it better than that, but he could think the way no one else thinks, his metaphors, his comparisons, a delight. i love menkin. i have every book he ever wrote and every biography about him. >> host: kent, irving, texas, hi, kent. >> caller: hi, peter. thank you for a great job you're doing. you always are prepared as has been alluded to several times by mr. burns if want to thank mr. burns for coming on and sharing his wisdom and knowledge about the history as well as his comments on his books. i know he probably realized it would be uncomfortable, which it obviously has, and it's been a
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great show. booktv is such an asset to the country. and that's about all i had to say. i appreciate y'all's candor and the things you touched on. something that pops into my mind is one of the funniest, probably fairly serious, too us about history and the way it's been written about, like our founding fathers were such righteous people and heroes. they were actually traitors of the english government. right? they were sent here, their trips paid for, and i think washington worked with a man named mccain farland which was hired by the british government survey the land, which they ended up with a lot of. so, anyway, just pretty ironic. but that's people take care. >> host: kent, thank you for calling in. >> guest: let me page a point about the stamp act. to call the founding fathers
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traitors is not as treasonous a statement as it sounds. the stamp act, i think, more than any other single sin, if you will, committed by the british government toward the colony, ired the colony and sam adams to rebellion, but the stamp act -- first of all, everybody in great britain paid the same tax, exactly the same tax, on documents, as we were asked to pay in this country. we had free protection from -- in the french and indian war from british troops and the stamp act was a way of getting back some of that money. the stamp act should not have been a cause of rebellion, and i have found myself thinking, as i have written about it,
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especially in infamous scribblers because i was write about how the stamp act was written about, that if it had been perceived fairly and paid as we owed it for what great britain has done for it, my god, what would the course of hoyt be? would there have been -- still been a war? if the primary cause didn't exist? >> host: that kind of goes to what neil in charlotte, north carolina, texts into you: mr. burns in the view of the many moments in history which seem to turn on timing alone, have you ever entertained thought thoughts of the course of the american revolution had it occurred in a different time? >> guest: no. i've never thought about the revolution ocuring at a
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different time. i thought about it not occurring. there were other grievances that we had other than the stamp act that were more legitimate, but as i said, the primary cause of the incitement, the journalistic incitement for war, was the stamp act, and the stamp act was fair. was fair. >> bob in stony creek, new york. hi, bob. >> caller: hello. >> host: we're listening, sir go ahead. >> caller: i'm sorry. okay. to eric burns, have you ever considered teaching history in the evening division of a college? the reason i ask is that i was subjected to boring history teachers who put me to sleep at 9:00 at night. you would not have been one of them. >> guest: thank you very much. yes, i have thought about it.
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i have contacted a few colleges in the area where i live, which is fairfield county, connecticut, and haven't even gotten the courtesy of a reply. i suspect that i'm far more qualified to be aned a junction professor of hoyt than a lot of people who are. i'd like to do it on a part-time basis because i like to share -- anyone i think likes to share his enthusiasm, and the college in my neighborhood don't seem to be interested. >> host: not even a courtty si -- senate not even the courtesy of a reply, no. >> host: whoa do you think that is? >> guest: i don't know. i don't know. one person wrote back and i said -- attached is my resume. some somebody wrote back and said, we don't have an opening now. by the way in academia, we call
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a resume a cv, curriculum vitae, and i wrote back and said, fine you call it what you want. i'm not an academic. attached is my resume. i probably wasn't getting that position. >> host: jim in anchorage, alaska. hi, jim. >> caller: thank you for taking my call. based on your study of history in the united states, i'd like to know what your thoughts are concerning the middle east and not what we could have or should have done but based on historical facts to date for the united states going forward, what in your opinion should be our approach to the middle east? >> guest: i'm not qualified to answer that question. i'm not. >> host: john in winfield, alabama, text-message: as someone who taught elementary age writing classes, i wonder what children's books, if any,
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were special to you, what have you written that you felt like really captured your voice as a writer, and who did you first read that made you want to write? >> guest: children's book, your voice as a writer, and who are those first influences? >> guest: well, i'll still forget one of themle i'm very absent minded, as william james once said, absent mindedness is present mindedness somewhere else so that's my excuse. my parents weren't -- were beth school teachers, music and math. never saw either one of them read a book. i don't remember books being read to me, although that might just be my memory, which kicked in in a very poor gear, when i was very young. peter pan comes to mind. what second? >> host: when did your find your
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voice as a writer? >> guest: it took me longer than it takes most people. i think i had to get fiction out of my system. the idea of bag great novelist. i was probably in my 30s, mismid-30s, and frankly -- i think this is something that any author who cares about his work should say, i think i'm still trying to find it, or trying to keep it. when i get up in the morning my goal is to write that day perfect prose, and when i'm finished with a book, to write a perfect book. i never will, and that's great. because i have a constant incentive to do better because i'll never reach my goal. >> host: you write every day?
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>> guest: yes. >> host: how long? >> guest: if things go well, i can write for four or five hours if not, i'll stop earlier, but it's really -- if you think a lot, you get physically tired, and i think a lot when i write and it's physically tiring. what's the third? >> host: it was related to the first, when did you get the idea to start writing. who are the writers that got you the idea to start writing. >> guest: writers didn't do that. it was just me. i wanted to write before i had writers whom i admired. >> host: you steve ven stafford. he wants to know which book to start with and i you asked his history help said my primary interest is u.s. history and
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prominent u.s. characters in u.s. history in the 20th 20th century. >> guest: okay. i'll give you two, steve. this will be easier to get because it's recent. read "1920." the year that made the decade roar. probably not in stores anymore. it came out last may, but easily -- >> host: is there a paperback edition. >> guest: the paper baeck will be out in august. fortunately i am saying the hard cover sales have been good enough that the paperback has been delayed. so you can wait until august if you want. also, i think you would find the book "invasion of the mind snatchers." what's the subtitle? "television's inconquest of america in the '50s." >> host: you got it. >> guest: you write enough and sometimes the titles of your book escape you.
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that you'd -- that book is six years old and have to get that through amazon. so those two books. and i thank you for your seriousness, for your taking my question to you seriously about your interests so i could recommend, and your writing back. i appreciate that give and take. >> host: christine in mcclain, virginia. please go ahead with your question or comment for eric burns. >> caller: hello. i was surprised to hear you say that you couldn't admire hemingway because of his suicide, and i wondered if you felt the same about all the other authors authors who have d their lives in the same way, like virginia wolfe and sylvia platt, et cetera, et cetera. >> guest: you know, i think that's a great question because -- i have to think about it. the reason is that what you may have done is you may have caught me in a bias there.
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i don't -- never thought much of hemingway as a writer, and i've read everything he has written. and this false or maybe it was genuine but machismo, his cold of life, i thought was tedious. but in asking the question you ask, i guess i would have to know more about sylvia platt's wife and virginia wolfe's life, but it may be that you caught me in antihemingway bias and i would have more admiration for others. i applaud you for that. that's a very good question and something worth misthinking about. >> host: bob in thousand oaks, california. hi, bob. >> caller: hi. you mentioned that you're from pittsburgh, and i'm an old west-ender. i don't know if you're familiar with the west end of pittsburgh. i have a question for you,
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though, about albert spears' book, "inside the third ric." and i remember reading in that book where he said that the germans never had a chance to win world war ii, and that in fact the biggest single problem they had in russia, unbelievably, was a shortage of horses. do you remember reading that in that book? >> guest: no, i don't. it's been too many years. i don't remember the shortage of horses. i do remember his view about not thinking the germans could win, but obviously you found it interesting as well. >> host: well, beverly e-mails in to you, beverly scofield, santa mariearch california. i'm a writer who finally published my first book at the age of 75. my interest seems to be in writing fiction set in historical events. what is your opinion about historical fiction as a genre?
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>> guest: when i read about history, want to know the history. i want to know the truth. so i don't read much historical fiction because i never know what to believe. that being said, one of the best books i've ever read in my life, which came up earlier, was the -- roy pathtime." and -- "ragtime" and it was easy to tell what was fiction and nonfiction. when henry ford or member like that was showing up at a character's house, at the house of a person who didn't exist, well, you know that didn't happen. so there's a way to write historical fiction and not confuse the reader. if you can do that, fine. but if you confuse the reader by just twisting events a little bit, making them happen at a different time, making them happen in a different way, i
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don't care for that kind of thing because if the subject ever comes up, even just in my mind, i want to know the truth. >> host: henry ford makes an appearance in "the spirits of america." henry ford also favored abstention, you write. the jews, he thought, were trying to conquer the world through the use of liquor to befuddle the brains of the christian leaders and the automaker would not let it happen. >> guest: henry ford was a notorious antisemite, and notoriously ignorant about virtually anything. his opinions certainly not to be taken seriously. his cars are. let's leave it at that. you can drive a ford. just don't listen to anything henry said. >> host: rick in florida, hi, rick. >> caller: yes, good afternoon. what a shame we don't have more
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authors and writers like mr. burns. i was wondering on his list of authors where graham green fell into that category and i'll hang up. >> guest: yes -- >> host: rick, rick? >> caller: yes. >> host: why do you like graham green? >> caller: "the quiet american." i don't know if you ever read the book. >> host: all right. thank you. >> guest: i think there's a long list of graham green books in there, isn't there. >> a couple different lists and i'm looking at them. not on nonfiction. and -- >> guest: he didn't write -- the hoped to fair ," the quiet american, and travels with my aunt. >> guest: travels with my aunt which was nonfiction, by the way, but i had a great admiration for graham green. >> host: troy in bethel, missouri. you are on book tv. please go ahead.
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>> caller: peter, pleasure to talk to you, sir. i really respect your work, and you reached your true calling when you got to booktv. mr. burns, i thought it was great that you mentioned that you fascinated by richard nixon earlier in the program, because i, too alphas nate by the map. i think he's probably the most brilliant politician of my lifetime, and i turned 50 last month. i thought wickers a book was outside standing, "one of us." one modify personal favorites. where would you rank harry truman in terms of presidential rankings? i admire that man, too, and i think i couldn't rank him -- probably about fourth is where i'd go. you guys have a good day. >> host: that's troy in missouri. that goes back to where we began, journalism as the first draft. >> guest: i want to answer that off to the side a little bit.
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i don't know where i'd rank human but here's a wonderful story about truman. truman was a haberdasher, an average guy, and his secretary of state was dean ache which isson, who had -- atchison who had a long mustache that curled up at the end. walked with a kane but didn't need a crane. went to yale. antithetical in every way to harry truman, and harry truman used to use big words when he talked to atchison and mispronounce them, and atchison said that was one of the reasons he admired truman so much, because it proved that truman, although he had no come patriots who shared his intellectual interests, and who would know how to pronounce the words he was reading, kept at it anyhow because he wanted to learn,
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atchison would subtly correct him and admire him for that. a book which i don't think has been written about the relationship, the friendship, between these two very unlikely people, would be a wonderful piece of reading. >> host: eric burns, if somebody wants to contact you do you have a webs or a way for them to e-mail you? >> guest: i don't have a web site. what i would suggest is -- >> host: you don't have to suggest anything. >> guest: i'm just wondering if my publisher has a web site. >> host: your publisher will have a web site. if you go to the back you can see it. who the publisher. >> guest: it's -- the books are transcribed by norton -- pegasus. the flying horse. pegasus. there will be a
2:39 pm and they would forward anything to me, but a as i'm a true historian, in that i am a ludite and i -- technology and i are not simpatico. >> host: doug, silver spring, maryland. >> caller: good afternoon. in getting back to h.l. menkin, really fine writer but the thing i always found disturbing about him is he can be incredibly vicious, and i sort of wonder, aren't there other ways to go about this? i'm thinking specifically of his piece on williams jennings bryan
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after his death. the bottom line is sometimes i just find him a little too vicious and i find that disturbing and i'd like to hear your comment. thank you very much. >> guest: thank you very much. it's probably a point -- no, not probably -- definitely a point i should have made. and sometimes all of us who are writers and have our certain stylistic, shall we say, quirks, go too far with them. i agree with you. menken went too far. what he said about bryan he was entitled to say, but to say it as an obituary was to go too far, and you're wright, what so it great about reading menkin, he savages the pom possessty of politicians which means he is always on the edge of going too far and you're right there, times when he goes over the edge. >> host: robert young, e-mail: earlier you allowed that you wouldn't trust writings by
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either republicans or democrats, presumably on historical subjects. then a bit later you reference ayn rand, freudian slip or in support of her or view in opposition. further, is at all possible to write history on a blank slate? >> guest: i have no idea about the ayn rand reference that. had that had to do with the fact she -- black sugar would not have affected her because she would appreciate the -- i don't know what it means to write history on a blank slate -- i think i do. we're all humans and we have our opinions. i don't know that i said i wouldn't trust a book by a democrat or republican because most people are registered in a party. i wouldn't trust books written -- if there's a point of view it should come out of the book. i don't want anybody to go into a book with a point of view.
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ann coulter, i wouldn't read a book by appear coulter if i it were all about what a wonderful guy i am. people who have established reputation on one side of the aisle or the other -- there are liberal ann coulters, god forbid -- but those people -- there's no point in reading books by them. george will, a conservative, has just severely criticized ann coulter's books for her errors. >> host: linda tweets in to you -- and she hey not have been listening earlier: how would you compare abraham lincoln to teddy roosevelt as fathers during their white house years. >> guest: teddy roosevelt was a better father. teddy roosevelt -- i don't knoll how teddy roosevelt did what he did in 24 hours a day, but teddy
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roosevelt ran through the white house grabbing the kids, playing what they called scary bear, pillow fights were to the roosevelts saga more hill what touch football was to the kennedys of hyannisport, and roosevelt let his kids -- quentin came in opposite with snakes rapid around his arm -- wrapped around his arms and neck. theodore at the time was talking to the secretary of war, and looked at him and said, why don't you go next door, there are couple of congressmen waiting to see me, and just go chat with them. so that's what happened. theodore sent him to scare the hell out of these congressmen. now, i'm not saying that there weren't parents, fathers who loved their children as much,
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but no one gave the time that theodore did, either in person, the direct playfulness, or when the children went away to school. >> host: the book "1920", why the flat iron building on the cover? sunny don't know. the artist did that. and i thought it looked good. now, wasn't in 1920 when the flatiron building caught fire. i believe that was 1913. >> if thought that was the year it was built. >> guest: before 1920 the fire -- i have no idea. that's the best jacket he submitted. i thought it looked great. so did everybody else. >> host: jim is in woodruff, south carolina. how, jim. >> caller: hi. >> host: we're listening. >> caller: yeah. i was wondering if eric had read
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any of thomas wolfe's books, and i had met thomas wolfe's brother back in the '50s when i was a child. his name was ted wolfe, and in the book, he was at luke's, and luke stoddard, and fred wolfe actually stuttered, and i was wondering if he thought that the city of asheville got very angry about his writings of his books. >> host: talk about tom wolfe, hest listed in your joy of books as well. >> guest: no, he's not. the other tom wolfe. >> host: i'm sorry. >> guest: the younger tom wolfe. thomas wolfe is someone who i never really appreciated because
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of the -- for the same reason i don't appreciate the plays of eugene o'neill. just an undo verbosity that put putts me off. die know from historical reading that, yes, the city of asheville was for a time very upset with its native son for how it was portrayed. >> host: i apologyite, it is tomwoman, bonfire of the vanities. >> guest: i think virtually every one of hi nonfiction books is in there, too. i've read them all. bonfire of the vanities was the only work of fiction he had written at that time. although i probably wouldn't have listed the other two. they're not as good, i don't think. >> host: well, speaking of plays and playwright writhes, -- playwrights, what it mid strut. >> guest: my first play which
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won the emerging playwrights competition in 20. had its first production at pittsburgh playhouse coincidentally in 2012, and here in 2016 it stale awaits its second production. i finished the second play, which is perhaps moving close to production. when i grow up, i would like to be a playwright because at the end of the lonely process of writing, i love the communal aspect of working with good actors, talking about what i had done, and like having a party after being in solitary confinement for a long time. writing is lonely.
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>> host: what is the theme of mid-strut? >> guest: if i stand up, will that throw the camera off? >> host: i don't know if it -- go for it, fred says. just be careful of your mic and your ear piece. those are the two things you have to be careful of sunny can't believe i'm doing this. this is the position you normally think of when you think of a majorette, one leg up, the baton under here, and i decided to call this mid-strut. it's bat guy who finds out he has six months left to live and has to decide what would be most valuable to do in those six months. he decided it would be to have sex with -- he is in his 50s -- to have sex with a woman who was a majorette in high school and who he admired from afar. so, turns out she is married, but her husband just had his first affair, so maybe she is
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ready to listen. and he comes and says, listen, it's nothing personal but i was wondering if you would have sex with me. just once. i don't want a relationship, just a one-night stand. going to die. and that's all i say about it because i'm hoping that people will have the chance to find out what happens after that. >> host: vince is in spots vain ya, virginia. hi, vince. >> caller: hello go go back to h.l. menkin again you mention you have all of his books and i'm not trying to sharpshoot you but i wonder if you have adventures in diversion, the rarest book, he was 19 or 20. it was his attempt at prose, and he was so embarrassed by his effort that he undertook to destroy as many of the copies as he can. so they're now very rare. i wonder if you have assistant you can comment on the attempt
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of authors who are brilliant essayists or commentator and trying to write prose. >> guest: they do write prose. i if you write essays you're writing prose, show don't understand the question. as far as that book by menkin is concerned, no, i don't have that. never heard of it. as far as i'm concerned he was successful destroying the copies. >> host: robert in price, utah. you're on booktv. good afternoon. >> caller: good afternoon. mr. burns, which book are you most proud of and which one do you think is the best example of your style of writing? >> host: you'll have to answer that without any help.
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>> guest: well, infamous transcribe easterlies can the founding father and the rowdy beginning of american journal jim is i'm told considered the definitive work on the subject. i don't know. it's the one i'd say is most representative of my style. >> host: what is your favorite. >> guest: it's always the one i'm working on. the joy of books, i like "the joy of books" allot bass i wanted to cover every aspect of the experience of reading from the writers' point of view to the reader's point of view and the talking about getting into why does a reader read, and what i said before about characters changing over the years. that pleased me. i'm glad you brought that up. maybe that's it, because it deals with something that has
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been my entire life. >> host: infamous scribblers was -- i think i saw somewhere that's been your best seller. of all your books. maybe i'm wrong. >> guest: "1920" will be. >> host: congratulations. >> guest: thank you. >> host: anthony in shirley, new york, hi, anthony. >> caller: yes, hi. thank you, c-span, for taking my call, and thank you, mr. burns, for your body of work. my question to you is do you ever see the united states government as we now know it today ever coming to an end, and if at some point in the future do you ever see our democracy morphing into something less democratic as the years go by? and thank you, sir. >> guest: you're welcome. i'm not -- i said this once before. i'm not qualified to answer a question like that, and i don't think any human being is. i could take a guess but --
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>> host: want to take that guess? i think the united states will eventually be conquered by a country which destroys our technology. we will not be taken over militarily. we will be taken over electronically because we will not be able to communicate and nothing that we depend on will work. >> host: this text message since you said you do not understand technology, how too you write your books by long hand, 2009 writer or word processor. >> guest: word processor. what's the most advanced thing i can do? i can cut and paste. >> host: you can get on the internet sunny can get on the internet, yes, thank you. and obviously it's -- once you get on "word" it's a type writer and i know how to save and it
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how to click it and send it to my agent, but i don't know what a spreadsheet is, for instance. i couldn't do a spreadsheet. you don't want one do you, peter, from me? >> host: another text message: how mr. burns described hl menkin is exactly how i would describe burns itch wouldn't ever want to get on his bad side. i have thoroughly enjoyed listening to him. i find his firey blunt candor beautifully unsettling and deliberately refreshing. i wonder what h.l. menkin would like to interview. >> guest: beautifully unsettling is a wonderful little phrase. thank you. >> host: frank, las vegas, hi, frank. >> caller: hi. how are you today? >> host: how are you, sir? >> caller: fine. well, tomorrow is my birthday. i'm coming up on 90, and what i'm interested is a book that i read 50 years ago by greenburg, and it had to do with only in
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america, and he wrote that ford was antisemitic, but he discarded antisemitism and what happened was he burned all the books he had but i never did find out in all the years these years, why he did that. mr. burns, have you got any information on that? i'd appreciate it. >> host: frank, what have you done for a living over your 90 years? >> caller: in my 90 years the biggest thing was electrical. i was with the department of water and power in large. i ended up as a dispatcher, electric system dispatcher, and your comment on the fact that electricity -- the grid could be wiped out if we ran into that condition, and that's something i've read -- just heard about in
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"the lights pout" a book just written recently. >> host: ted koppel's book. >> caller: right. >> host: frank, thank you for watching booktv, thank you for calling in. sounds terrific. ed the koppel appeared on booktv earlier, couple months ago, talking about his book "lights out i" you can go to book, type in" ted koppel book "and you can watch that online. to his point, henry ford -- ill know henry ford was kind of an aside in your writing. >> guest: it may sound strange but -- well you said it. he has always been somewhat of an aside. never concentrated on him. i have written at some helping about the affect of the automobile but not the personality of henry ford. if in fact it's true that he burned all of his antisemitic books, and you're asking me for a reason, think there would only
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be one reason, you know, that he felt -- finally felt ashamed in his antisemitism and wanted to make a show of it, or wanted to make a show of it for some other reason, just because he wanted to lower the temperature on himself. i don't know. >> host: ronald, baltic, connecticut. you have 6 -- 67 seconds. >> caller: how, hi. not very much time. i want to know why we don't find good writerses that saying exactly the history in united states like the roman catholic and me coming from a spanish country, i find that he contradicts he history, contradicts the truth. if you read everything he from the -- catholic thinking, and
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scholars, something is missing. it doesn't coincide and i do not understand. like the first amendment, congress shall mike law respecting establishment of religion and we understand the first amendment that if establishment of religions are monastery church, synagogue, mosque so when he say congress shall make no law against establishment of religion -- >> ronald nadal, we're going to have to leave it there. i'm afraid. any comment for that caller? >> guest: no. absolutely not. do you have one? >> host: i don't have to. >> guest: it's not your -- you don't have to and i can't. >> host: eric burns has been our guest for the last three hours. >> wow. >> he has several books out. here was his first: broadcast
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blues in 1993. the next book, the joy of books which we referenced quite a bit throughout the program. the autograph was a novel he wrote. here is the spirits of america, history of alcohol in the united states. infamous scribblers. smoke of the gods, history of tobacco, virtue valor, and vanity, which wanted to name the founding fathers and their pursuit of fame. >> guest: correct. >> host: automatic the news unfit to print berth in nut media invasion of the mind snatchers, about television in the '50s, 1920, the year that made the decade roar, came out last year, and his most recent is golden lad, about quintin and theodore roosevelt. mr. burns, thank you for your time. thank you for being on booktv. >> guest: this is a wonderful program and to be on it is an
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honor, and i thank you for that. ... >> welcome to the westminister town hall


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