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Harvey Weinstein, Greedflation, Delia Owens

CBS Sunday Morning / Jane Pauley
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July 10, 2022 1:59 pm

Harvey Weinstein, Greedflation, Delia Owens

CBS Sunday Morning / Jane Pauley

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July 10, 2022 1:59 pm

On this edition of CBS “Sunday Morning” hosted by Jane Pauley. In our cover story, David Pogue looks at a possible contributor to high inflation – corporate greed. Plus: Lesley Stahl talks with writer Ken Auletta about his new book "Hollywood Ending" about disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein; Lee Cowan interviews "Where the Crawdads Sing" author Delia Owens and Reese Witherspoon, producer of the new movie version; Erin Moriarty interviews former felon, poet and playwright Dwayne Betts; Seth Doane explores the American Academy in Rome; and Rita Braver takes in an exhibit of art representing the African diaspora.

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I'm Jane Pauley, and this is Sunday Morning. He was the force behind more than a hundred motion pictures, and he's won dozens of Academy Awards. But Harvey Weinstein was also accused by more than 100 women of sexual assault or harassment. In 2017, after years of rumors, several women finally went public about Weinstein's abuses, which led to criminal charges, a conviction, and of course, the Me Too movement. Now, writer Ken Auletta is taking a closer look at Harvey Weinstein, attempting to understand how a stellar filmmaker came to such a dark Hollywood ending. He's talking with Lesley Stahl. How did an Academy Award-winning film producer end up a convicted sex offender? One journalist spent years trying to figure it out. I was trying in a biography to be inside his head and trying to show how Harvey was viewing the world as it's crumbling around him. You don't think he feels any remorse? I don't know.

I think that Harvey's in denial. A life reexamined coming up on Sunday Morning. We've all noticed the price of just about everything seems to be rising. But is this simply about supply and demand, or is something a little more insidious at work here? We asked David Pogue to tell us all about greedflation. We asked David Pogue to tell us all about greedflation. $12 at the grocery store. $12 for cream.

Like, that's crazy! Most economists blame our crazy inflation on underwhelming supply and overheated demand. But there may be something sneakier going on. Which is corporations using inflation as a cover for increasing profits and prices. Ahead on Sunday Morning, rising costs are taking a bite out of every business.

The question is, is it inflation or greedflation? It's a new chapter for Delia Owen's blockbuster 2018 novel, Where the Crawdads Sing. Lee Cowan will tell us all about it. Hello?

Hey! Crawdads is back at number one! Where the Crawdads Sing has been on the best seller list for more than three straight years. That's a record that's attracting a lot of high wattage attention.

It just has to be so surreal. It is. Now, Reese Witherspoon has produced the movie version of that popular novel. You can't live alone in the marsh forever.

Watch me. Just to put all the readers at ease, the movie stays with the story. Will a blockbuster book be one of the box office too? Later, on Sunday Morning. With Seth Doan, we'll enjoy a stay at Rome's prestigious American Academy. Aaron Moriarty has an inspiring tale of second chances, commentary from a physician on the front lines of our gun wars, some picks for summer reading, and more on a Sunday morning for the 10th of July 2022.

And we'll be back after this. Our economy has been battered by a pandemic, a breakdown in the supply chain, and a war. So is that why we're seeing sky-high inflation? Or is a little greed sprinkled on top?

Sounds like a question for our David Pogue. How much for a single scoop of the cherry? Right now, it's $5. It used to be $4.50. That's outrageous!

I know, I know. At Sugar Hill Creamery in Harlem, the handmade ice cream will cost you more these days. Because, according to owner Pertushka, Bayes & Larson, everything costs her more. Like, everything is going up from dairy, so milk and cream, to, like, just our cups. It costs me more to get the cups here than it is for the cups.

Do you know what I'm saying? The freight charges are gastronomical. No matter what business you're in, costs are way up for all kinds of reasons. For Daryush Petruski's vodka company, the glass itself, depending on the size of the bottle, is up 17% up to 25% for the larger size bottles.

Caroline Morris's gift shop. My vendors, where they might have paid $3,000 for a container for shipping, are now paying $30,000. Al Underwood's reading glasses supply. A couple years ago, there were these tariffs we got hit with.

It was 10%. So what's going on? As you may recall, prices are a function of supply and demand. More demand, higher prices. We put much too much demand into the economy last year, and inevitably that was going to cause it to overheat, which it has.

Harvard professor Larry Summers was the treasury secretary in the Clinton administration. He predicted this year's inflation over a year ago. Within the year, we're going to be dealing with the most serious incipient inflation problem that we have faced in the last 40 years.

The combination of pumping trillions and trillions and trillions of stimulus money and the Federal Reserve keeping interest rates at zero, all of that taken together was, I think, inevitably going to drive the car much too fast and cause it to go off the road. Then, in an unhappy coincidence, the supply went down too. The big increases in prices have much more to do with shortages. Supply and demand both way out of whack. But lately, we've been hearing about a third contributing factor.

The last thing we should be thinking about is rewarding companies for exploiting the situation. And then there's a third set of arguments people make that some firms are able to somewhat opportunistically raise prices in the midst of all this chaos, given those other two factors. Ah, greedflation. Greedflation.

Mike Conzel is an economist at the Roosevelt Institute. In a new study, he graphed corporate profit margins over time. Their big profit margin has gone from about 5% over the last several decades to almost 10% in the past two years. So there's been a giant jump in corporate profits over essentially during the pandemic and during the recovery. We have been so far unable to get any of these companies with record profits to speak to us for this story. I'm shocked. I'm shocked.

Robert Reich is a professor at Berkeley and was labor secretary in the Clinton administration. What would they say their rationale is for raising prices unduly at a time when we can least afford it? Well, they would say our obligation is to our shareholders. And that's it. So everyone agrees. Corporations have raised prices as high as they can get away with.

But not everyone agrees that there's anything wrong with that. I wouldn't call it greedflation, quite honestly. I mean, companies are responding to what the incentives are in the market, and they have to maximize their shareholder returns.

That's it. Wow. I thought that you really felt like these corporation leaders are being exploitative and unfair. I don't use the term unfair.

It's not a matter of morality. Corporations are not people. They are going to maximize their share prices.

That's what they do. But the result has been extraordinary price inflation. Or, as Larry Summers puts it, Resorts in Miami charge more in the winter than they do in the summer and have larger markups. That doesn't mean they're gouging. It means that sometimes there's more demand relative to supply. So I think this idea that price is being raised in the face of strong demand constitutes gouging is a real misconception. You make it sound like capitalism is working like it's supposed to. Supply and demand determine prices. Yeah, look, we have a market economy, and we haven't found alternatives to a market economy that are better.

But that doesn't mean we're helpless. See, in a perfect market economy, if you charge too much, competitors will rush in and steal your customers. But our market isn't perfect.

Since the 1980s, two-thirds of American industries have become more concentrated. We have more and more monopolization, more and more market power, more and more power by big companies to set prices. But I thought there's antitrust laws. I thought the government's supposed to protect us from that.

Well, you would think so. But since the 1980s, antitrust law has been a very powerful tool. Antitrust law has become very unfashionable. So how do we rein in this wild inflation? Government can and should do much more. The threat of antitrust enforcement, combined with a win-for-profits tax, right there you have almost enough.

I think the executive branch and the Congress can make a contribution by reducing tariffs, by figuring out how to buy things more inexpensively, by increasing the supply of commodities that are in short supply. There is some good news. Gas prices have recently started to drop a little bit, and so have shipping prices. Meanwhile, analyst Mike Conzel has good news about the economy as a whole. You know, if you can look past that inflation thing. The economy is still very strong. Spending is still very strong. Job growth is still increasingly high. You know, with unemployment at 3.5%, this is probably the best labor market we've had in 60 or 70 years. Now we just have to fix the inflation. Do you want to pay cash or card? For ice cream entrepreneur Patricia Bason-Larson, that day won't come soon enough.

You know, it's a little harder to do business, right? Because we are hopeful that it's possible and that at the end of this, whatever that is, we'll be stronger because of it. It was an Oscar gold mine. Starting in 1993, Miramax Films was nominated for Best Picture 11 years in a row. But behind the scenes, it was a very different story. Author Ken Auletta has documented the fall of Miramax's Harvey Weinstein, and he tells Leslie Stahl all about it. The disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein is serving a 23-year prison sentence for rape and other acts of sexual assault, crimes first exposed in the New York Times. Journalist Ken Auletta tried to break that story in 2002 while working on a profile of Weinstein for the New Yorker magazine. I described his brutal behavior verbally and physically in terms of fistfights and wrestling matches with people, but I couldn't nail him on what I believed he was also guilty of, which is abusing women sexually.

I couldn't get the women to talk. Would you say that catching Harvey Weinstein became an obsession with you? I had a semi-obsession.

I wanted to expose the guy, sure. Semi-obsession. His semi-obsession grew even after the guy was convicted. Now he's written a biography in which he searches for Weinstein's rosebud.

How and why did one of the most respected Academy Award winners and head of Miramax Films become a reviled sex offender? So your book is like a PET scan of his psyche. So he's a human being with many dimensions.

With many dimensions, one dimension is that he's a violent, often vile man who abused people. Another dimension of Harvey Weinstein is a talented filmmaker. I mean, they're spectacular movies. There's Water for Chocolate, there's Enchanted April, Shakespeare in Love.

I heard you were a poet. I mean, they're just so sensitive and some of them are sweet. And I wonder how someone who could do those movies could at the same time be a monster.

I couldn't figure it out. But if you rape and abuse over 100 women. Over 100 women? Since October of 2017, more than 100 women have come forward to claim that he physically abused them. I wonder if you figure it out, whether something happened in his childhood. What you saw in Harvey's home is Miriam Weinstein, the mother, yelled all the time. Harvey, you're fat. Harvey, stop beating that. Harvey, what are you doing? And that yelling was carried over into Miramax and Harvey's career.

Weinstein addressed his own violent temper tantrums in 2002 during 12 hours of taped interviews with Oletta. He said he wanted to change. I don't want to fight with anybody. I have no desire anymore. I feel like I fought all my fights.

I still get, you know, some things still outrage me, but I'm trying to bite my lips, whatever they do. He could not change who he was. No, of course not.

In many ways, Harvey was out of control. So you're sitting across from him. Did you feel intimidated?

No. And the questions got a little testy. And I confronted him about the women rumors and his violent temper and stuff. He suddenly got up off his chair. I was seated at a small conference table. He got off his chair and he loomed over me standing up and he clenched his fists. And so as soon as I stood up and we're eyeing, we're face to face, Harvey did something totally surprising. He started to cry.

What? He just started to cry and just bawl. Really cry?

Really cry very seriously. Through those tears, he denied assaulting his one time assistant, Rowena Chu, calling their relationship, as he would with others, consensual. The Chu accusation is one he has consistently denied.

Now, here's something you've said. There was a whole system at Miramax that propped Harvey up and enabled him to commit his sexual assaults. I think for a lot of people at Miramax who obviously saw Harvey's work and lifestyle on a daily basis, I think that they would have preferred to think as Harvey of someone who had multiple affairs, who didn't behave very well, but they didn't want to think of themselves as employed by a serial rapist. But she says she was warned about being alone with him. We were told things like wear two jackets, wear two pairs of tights if you need to, never sit on the same sofa as Harvey, if he invites you to sit next to him, sit opposite him.

Despite those precautions, Chu says Weinstein tried to rape her at the 1998 Venice Film Festival and she narrowly escaped. Harvey typically is naked in his hotel room, or at least only semi-clad. Obviously, we are not. We're at work. Well, wait a minute.

Rowena, you're saying that like it's normal. You're saying he got naked. I'm thinking to myself, he got naked? In the film industry, Harvey was not my first encounter with someone who tried to be naked in the office.

Whoa. And then what? He just lunged? He attacked you?

So I think it is not so much of a lunging as a process of pressure over a number of hours. So you're in a room with someone who's known for his anger. You can't really scream, run screaming from the room because you're not sure what he'll do. And he probably weighs three or four times what I weigh. So there's a situation where I'm trying to extricate myself from the room without making him angry.

Ultimately, of course, there is a physical element to it where he's much bigger than me and at some point he's holding me down to a bed and I'm trying to wriggle away. A lot of people in Hollywood knew what was going on with Harvey as well. I think you call it a culture of silence. People who know or should have known that someone is doing actually criminal acts and keep silent. And that's a broad group of people sometimes.

It's a very broad group of people. Some people who worked at Miramax and the Weinstein Company. Some people who are agents in Hollywood. Some people who are studio executives. Some people who are actors and actresses.

So much of it is just simple conformity. You don't want to come out and accuse your colleagues. You don't want to be a rat. Now behind bars, Weinstein faces another criminal trial this fall in Los Angeles on nearly a dozen sex crime charges to which he has pleaded not guilty. Do you think that Harvey has any remorse? So I think it's not true remorse until he actually sees that he is deserving of what has happened to him.

He is deserving of his level of public censure and also of a prison sentence. Here's a guy with four assistants. He had a car that had screens, flipped down screens. He could watch movies and TV shows of his. And here he is today eating baked beans. Knowing he will never get out. Knowing he'll never get out. And he should know that he deserves to be in prison.

And I don't think he does. to get into things that you just kind of won't believe and we're not able to do in daytime television, so watch out. Listen to Drew's News wherever you get your podcasts.

It's your good news on the go. This is Intelligence Matters with former acting director of the CIA, Michael Morell. Bridge Colby is co-founder and principal of the Marathon Initiative, a project focused on developing strategies to prepare the United States for an era of sustained great power competition. The United States put our mind to something we can usually figure it out.

What people are saying and what we kind of know analytically and empirically is our strategic situation, our military situation is not being matched up with what we're doing. Follow Intelligence Matters wherever you get your podcasts. Next stop, the American Academy in Rome. We have a postcard from Italy from our Seth Doan. Under a grand portico just off a courtyard, about 40 or so usually gather for lunch. It's a group of mostly Americans in a setting that's distinctly Italian, framed by jasmine and fragments of Roman antiquities on the wall. More remarkable than the place, though, is the mix of people. Who's sitting at that lunch table?

Oh, it's amazing. There are architects, there are designers. We found a musicologist, a curator of antiquities and a visual performance artist chatting away at this unique academic institution with an opera composer and Elena Past, a professor of Italian in Detroit. We watched the chef out here in the garden picking your lunch.

Lunch is about more than eating here, those are very nice to eat. It is, it's about creating community amongst the fellows. It's about giving you chances to talk about your work in progress, to work through problems, but also simply to deepen the relationships you have with the people around you. Elena Past is a fellow here at the American Academy. She's writing a book and came to study the film stock of Italian cinema. I'm thinking about analog technology, the materials that make the 20th century legible to us, memorable to us. She's one of about 35 awarded the Rome Prize, a 10-month scholarship to come to Rome and join other artists and scholars here for a self-directed study program.

But the word Academy can be misleading. How do you explain this place to someone who's, who's never been here? It's hard to explain because it's very, very, very unique.

Marla Stone has been here nine times in various roles, first as a fellow, now as professor advisor. I think of it as kind of Noah's Ark of creative people who are given room and board and given time and space. To think and work and also to learn from each other, and then throwing that all into the mix of Rome. The American Academy has evolved from its founding in 1894 as a school for architects and then archeologists, first located at Palazzo Torlonia.

It's privately funded, but follows in the spirit of academies set up by European governments. The French at Villa Medici were first, and then the Italian at Palazzo Torlonia. Villa Medici were first in 1677 with the idea of sending promising artists and thinkers to Rome to get an education in the classics.

And having time to poke around, it gives you time to find the unexpected. Next to her at lunch were composer Igor Santos and artist William Vigilongo. My overall project here has been to come and find images of the black presence in antiquity. They found similarities in their work and began collaborating, with Santos composing a musical element for Vigilongo's sculpture. They were both projects that had the element of water included, and specifically fountains, right? I want people to recognize that there's a fountain in the music.

Santos has recorded some of Rome's fountains as inspirations. Here are the vibrations of the water. Along with the score, his compositions can involve a digital component. I did some light programming, let's say, to have the sound of the piano control the movement of the water. So as you play more forcefully, the waves pick up.

Correct. We heard Santos' music carrying into the garden, not far from where Vigilongo was. Who usually works in Brooklyn, set up in this grand, light-filled studio. It's like a large, stately sort of mansion.

The taxis drop us off at the front gate, and they're like, whoa, you know, who is this person? It is quite a property. Yes, it's a really beautiful place, with also deep history. Galileo demonstrated his telescope to the pope in our backyard.

Elizabeth Rodini is the interim director. The American Academy is really a place to foster new work, new collaborations, new ideas, and bring it back to the United States, refreshed and inspired by what they find here in Rome. Thornton Wilder wrote the Cabala when he was here in the 1920s.

In the 50s, composer Aaron Copland and writer Ralph Ellison were fellows. And in this century, Anthony Dorr worked on All the Light We Cannot See, which was a very important project to explore, then share, and not only around that table. How are you going to go back to your real life? Well, it's going to be hard to leave Rome and hard to leave this beautiful space.

But I do really feel like an important part of everything that's happened here is taking it back and sharing it. It's a book with an odd, if memorable, title, Where the Crawdads Sing. It's also a literary sensation. Lee Cowan spent some time with the author, Delia Owens.

And the Hollywood heavyweight who's bringing her story to the big screen, producer Reese Witherspoon. You love these things, don't you? I do, especially when they start.

You might think becoming one of the world's best-selling novelists would change a person. My property manager wants to cut these, and I'm like, don't you dare. No, I think it's great. I love it. Makes me feel like I'm in the bush.

But not Delia Owens. Whether it's driving her ATV through the brush. Oh, it does feel good. Or wading into a river. Oh, I see a little minnow. At 73, she's the same rugged southern belle that she always was.

Before her blockbuster novel Where the Crawdads Sing made her a literary phenom. Do you still kind of pinch yourself that this has all happened? Oh, every day. I still don't believe it's happening. What are you doing here?

You invited us. I mean, see me on Sunday morning in my living room. No, I still don't believe any of it. To this day, even Putnam, her publisher, can't really believe it. Because Crawdads has broken all kinds of records. It just spent its 166th week on the New York Times bestseller list.

Hello? Hey, Crawdads is back at number one. It holds the record for being number one for the most weeks. And this was your very first novel. First novel.

It's a journey that's attracted all kinds of famous fireflies to Delia's Flame. Not the least of whom is Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon. Haven't 11 million people read this book around the world? 12?

Okay. That's even better. It was Witherspoon who plucked Delia out of relative obscurity back in 2018. Enthusiastically adding Where the Crawdads Sing to her Hello Sunshine book club. It just blew me away.

It felt like when I was reading To Kill a Mockingbird or just any sort of classic southern literature. So when I got to meet Delia, I was like, who are you? This is amazing. So you have to come to my horse program. Witherspoon is from Tennessee.

Owens is a native of Georgia. I'm so glad you're here. Two tomboys from the south who bonded almost immediately.

I grew up with women like Delia and I sat around tables with women telling their stories. And drinking whiskey out of a teacup. Yeah. Drinking whiskey. Sometimes in a mason jar.

A Hollywood star and a best-selling author. You can probably see where this is heading. I, like you, heard the tall tales told about the marsh girl. Where the Crawdads Sing, out this week, is now one of the most anticipated movies of the summer. You can't live alone in the marsh forever.

Watch me. Shot along the coast of Louisiana, the film follows Owens' main character, Kaya, a young girl left to raise herself in the marshes of North Carolina. I've been out in the marsh plenty of times with Jodie, but never alone. And then she layers on this thriller element. There's a murder.

There's no fingerprints on the railing. Great stuff. The marsh girl, she killed him. I would have loved to have met Kaya. You would have been a great Kaya.

I'm a little too old, but that's part of what I loved about it. That's the kind of movies I want to make. I want to be like, I want to be that character. I know what to do. Witherspoon had her hands full just producing the movie.

So, up-and-coming British actress Daisy Edgar-Jones was cast in the role of Kaya. You can capture the tone or the essence or the feeling that you have when you read a book. That's the main thing, really. You want me to beg for my life? I don't have it in me. I won't. I will not offer myself up.

They can make their decision. It took Owens more than a decade to write Crawdads, all in her Idaho mountain retreat. That's where we first met her, back in 2019. Do you get lonely out here?

I do. I get so lonely sometimes I feel like I can't breathe. As a wildlife scientist, she spent years in some of the most remote parts of Africa. Being alone nourishes her in the same way that the nature around her does, especially in a marsh. I feel at home when I'm in a place like this.

You can put me in the middle of a desert or the middle of mountains. When I'm out, away from everything else, I feel like I'm home. Her novel was born out of those same feelings.

A true labor of love, she says, that's reflected in the film. They invited me to come to the set. They took me through the woods. We rounded this bend through the forest. And there's this kayak shack on this lagoon. And it looks exactly like I wrote it in the book.

There's kayak shack. Then they start talking and my words come out. Am I your girlfriend now? Do you want to be? I know feathers. But the other girls don't know feathers.

Alright then. It was the most surreal. It was part real, part invented or created.

And yet that's what a movie does. It was just bringing all these elements together. It was beautiful.

That said, she was always anxious to get back to the things she knew. It has great molars there for chewing. Bugs and critters, all under a gentle canopy of trees. This is where Kaya would have been. This is what Kaya loved, being out in the wild, in the forest, among nature. Since our last visit, she traded the wintery woods of Idaho. Look at this.

Wow, look at that. For this, the rolling hills of North Carolina. Have deer, a lot of ground hogs, turkeys. We have bears.

There's a bear along the river who has three little cubs. Really? Yes.

It's an old historic horse farm. Should have three or four. Delia plans to have a few herself. To ride off and get lost in it all.

Where bears are no bears. She does her best work. Do you write out here? Well, I didn't bring you today, but I always bring you a little pad of paper and a pen. Because yes, how can you not write out here? I'm fairly sure that pavement, tarmac, hardens the heart and softens the brain. If that sounds like she's writing her next book, well, she is.

The penguins are the 1800s. She's on her third draft. Is it harder, though? It's harder because I feel the pressure and the expectations are high. I don't want to let anybody down and I don't know what are the chances of doing this again. If you pose that question to Reese Witherspoon, however, she thinks Delia's chances are pretty good. I'm glad I only have to do this once. Don't say that.

You don't know. I'm excited she's writing another book. We're going to talk in a minute. Not bad for a naturalist who never really looked for the spotlight. She'd settle for the warm glow of a campfire just about any day.

And she thinks most of the rest of us probably would, too. All the numbers, all the weeks on the best-selling list, I get excited. You've seen me get excited. It is exciting. But that to me is not the most important part. To me, the most important part is to write a story that means something. That connects.

That connects us all together. There are a lot of crawdads out there. After yet another week of horrific gun violence in America, thoughts this morning from Dr. Megan Ranney, emergency physician and dean of public health at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

I am an emergency room doctor. I can tell you firsthand the damage from an AR-15's bullet is almost indescribable. It creates gaping holes.

It liquefies organs. It is rarely survivable. But as shocking and horrifying as each mass shooting is, what I see in the ER day in and day out are mostly handgun injuries.

And these are horrible, too. Suicides, domestic violence, community violence and more. Regardless of the gun used, the way a bullet rips through a body is similar to the way gun violence tears apart our communities. Each bullet leaves a ripple effect. Not just for the victim, but for their parents, their children, their siblings and their friends. Talking to each of them is part of my job, too.

And it's heartbreaking. We need to start treating gun violence the same way we treat other public health crises. Drunk driving, heart disease, even COVID. We can prevent gun violence before it lands people in my ER. So, for all of you losing hope, here are three actions we can all take today. First, if you have a firearm in your home, that's more than 40% of us in America, make sure it's stored safely.

Locked up, ideally unloaded. Second, know the danger signs. Depression, dementia, domestic violence, substance use and, yes, hatred.

Finally, if someone you know is showing those danger signs, do everything you can to put time and distance between them and a gun while they're at risk of hurting themselves or others. I'm tired of taking care of victims and their families. But I maintain faith. This is not easy, but we can do it.

It just takes all of us. How important is a second chance? Aaron Moriarty has proof that sometimes it can make all the difference in the world. Everything I know of home is captured in the image of a boy running from the police, his arms flailing unlike anything you'd expect to fly. Reginald Dwayne Betts is a poet, playwright and performer.

He's also an attorney. Hours before I pulled the pistol, I kissed my mother goodnight. I told her I loved her, but when has love ever been enough? So if the word overachiever comes to mind, Betts says it's the result of another word that also describes him, felon. I haven't known you that long, but I can't even imagine that the person I know would have found himself at a shopping mall carjacking somebody. Yeah, I know it was almost like a kind of black swan event in my life.

Nothing would have prepared me for it, and nothing would have prepared me for what happened after. When Dwayne Betts was 16, an honors student in Maryland, he and a group of teens carjacked a vehicle. 25 years later, he still can't quite explain it. They weren't friends. The guy who gave me the gun don't know his name now, didn't know his name then. So it was just one of these things where if it wasn't true, I wouldn't believe that it was true.

Although he had no criminal history and the victims were not physically harmed, Dwayne Betts was tried as an adult and spent almost the next nine years in prison. You know, I think that was the worst part of all of it, really. You know, being 16 and having to tell your mom that you're locked up and then also having to tell her that you did it. And this is probably why I immediately started figuring out what I'm going to be in the world. You know, I planned on being an engineer. But I said to myself, I said nine years in prison, the only thing I'm guaranteed to have is paper and an ink pen.

I'm going to be a writer. After a fight landed him in solitary, other inmates slipped him books. They had created a kind of underground library. Hey yo, send me a book! He describes the moment and the sound in a one-man show he wrote. And it came.

What kind of magic? The Black Poets by Delhi Randall. It is how he discovered poetry. I'm in a hole.

Summertime in Virginia is hot. I'm meeting and discovering Lucille Clifton, Sonia Sanchez, Robert Hayden, Amiri Baraka. Am I right that poetry gave you a way to tell stories? And it gave me, you know, structure. It gave me a vision.

And it gave me a way to hold something in my head that I could, like, articulate in a short span of time. Betts was released when he was 24. His first book, published in 2009, was a memoir about life in prison. Three books of poetry followed, one entitled Felon, the simple word that dogs prison inmates long after their release. If you do time in prison, one of the things that you become accustomed to is people telling you what you aren't and what you can't do. You can't rent an apartment in this place because you have a felony conviction. You can't work at my job because you have a felony conviction. You can't attend my school because you have a felony conviction.

But Betts was able to attend Prince George's Community College. He got a job running a bookstore, which is where he met a classmate, Therese Robertson. He said on the second date he had to tell you something that was very difficult to tell you. That's when he told me that he was just released out of prison a couple of months ago. It kind of took me back a little bit, but it didn't make me look at him any differently. You didn't have second thoughts about a second date? No, actually I did. He comes across so kind and gentle and kind of comes off as a nerd, but I feel bad saying that.

We would like safety blankets for each other in a way. They married and supported each other through school. Dwayne got a master's degree and went on to law school at Yale. At some point I decided that I'm not getting away from prison.

It's a kind of gravity on my life, but it also could be the lens through which I think about the world. So my life became better in some ways when I embraced the fact that this is not a thing that I could run from here. The past has given Dwayne Betts something valuable, even enviable, a mission. The first five prisons I was at, we didn't have a library at all. He started a nonprofit called Freedom Reads that designs, builds, and places mobile libraries in prison housing units. That's about why we make the decisions we make, so the biases that we have. So you read most of these books that you donated in here?

I read a bunch of them. What does it mean if you put this library in the housing unit so that every time they look out of that cell, they're not just seeing the desperation and frustration and another bit of monotony? We finished this piece for you. This looks so beautiful. Is that the walnut? It's black walnut, yeah. Oh, it's beautiful. Look at that.

Betts has thought out every aspect of the libraries, not just the books, but also the reclaimed wood that will hold them. Oh, this is fantastic. You're seeing your friend go to there and grab books. Now you're like, what? What was you reading?

Now you got a different conversation because the conversation is not just what was on TV or who won a Spades game, but now we just added another one, and the other conversation is definitely going to have light in it. Keith, Juvie Fett. Dwayne Betts lives his life as an argument for second chances. Can't get right.

Who nicknames their child can't get right? At a recent rehearsal for his show that he now performs in prisons, he is surrounded by paper kites made from clothing once worn by prison inmates. Out of everything, I think this is probably like the most personal work. This is like sweat in this. You know, it's like blood in this. It's like years. It's like a decade of living. Some of the clothing came from inmates Betts had served time with and then later helped get parole.

How is it really possible for me to imagine forgetting the people that I spent cubity with, that I spent my early 20s with? People who wrote me letters when I was going through college, people who would get my book in a prison library and be like, Shaheen, you got your book. It's Dwayne's drive, despite his past, This piece, take it. that Therese Betts hopes will be an example for their sons, 14-year-old Makai and 10-year-old Miles. I think that's one of the things that I love about him, just because he can show our children the tenacity and to always have that drive and persevere.

And life is hard for all of us for a lot of different reasons, and you can still be the person you want to be despite all of those obstacles. This past fall, Betts got a mysterious phone call informing him that he had won a MacArthur Fellowship that comes with a $625,000 grant and a new word to describe him, genius. It didn't really go to his head because it wasn't like he just realized, oh, I'm a genius now because he already knew that. In fact, Reginald Dwayne Betts says the fellowship says far more about the people who surround him. I love the MacArthur piece, but more than it affirming my healthy ego, I think it affirms the faith that a lot of folks had in me when they backed me when everybody else was saying no. Therese has to know that it mattered when we met like 20 years ago.

You know, I've done all of this not to make you love me, but to be like I was worthy of the love you gave me. You may have noticed our online feature, The Book Report, with a monthly look at some of the best newly released books. This weekend, with plenty of summer days yet to come, we decided to share some must-read picks. Here's Washington Post book critic, Ron Charles.

As temperatures heat up and you start thinking about books for summer reading, here are a few suggestions to check out. The Latecomer by Jean Hanff Koroletz is a wicked comic novel about triplets conceived through in vitro fertilization. As these three spoiled children grow up competing with and sniping at each other, Koroletz's family epic tears through modern art, liberal education, political correctness, international terrorism, and American spirituality, all while delivering one explosive surprise after another. Trust by Hernan Diaz takes us back to the roaring 20s for a fascinating look at one of the richest men in the world. Or make that four looks, because Trust is actually a quartet of conflicting stories about a young stock trader whose financial intuition seems almost supernatural.

Eventually, his wealth becomes so vast that he imagines he can afford to control exactly how the public remembers him. Thirty years ago, a girl named Tracey Flick campaigned for student body president with disastrous results. Tom Perotta told that story in his witty novel Election, and Reese Witherspoon immortalized the young candidate in the movie with Matthew Broderick. Now, in Perotta's new novel, Tracey Flick Can't Win, Tracey is a vice principal up for the top job as head of school. She's the best candidate. She deserves it.

What could possibly go wrong? During his remarkable career, left fielder Ricky Henderson stole more bases and scored more runs than any other Major League Baseball player. He's the subject of Howard Bryant's new biography, Ricky, The Life and Legend of an American Original. It's the story of a young man who grew up in segregated Oakland, California, charged into a sport still clinging to its racist past, and changed the game forever.

For these and other suggestions about what to read this summer, contact your librarian or local bookseller. That's it for the book report. Until next time, read on. Thank you for listening.

Please join us when our trumpet sounds again next Sunday morning. There are bad people in the world. The best way to protect the good people is to convict the bad. So here's to us. The Good Fight, the final season, now streaming exclusively on Paramount+.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-29 19:52:00 / 2023-01-29 20:09:47 / 18

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