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Morgan Freeman, Banksy, Non-alcoholic Beer

CBS Sunday Morning / Jane Pauley
The Truth Network Radio
August 13, 2023 5:03 pm

Morgan Freeman, Banksy, Non-alcoholic Beer

CBS Sunday Morning / Jane Pauley

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August 13, 2023 5:03 pm

Hosted by Jane Pauley. In our cover story, Seth Doane explores the art world mysteries of Banksy. Also: Luke Burbank sits down with Dave Gahan and Martin Gore of the band Depeche Mode; Robert Costa interviews prize-winning novelist Tess Gunty; David Martin talks with Morgan Freeman about the history of a Black tank battalion in World War II, the subject of Freeman's new documentary; and Kelefa Sanneh samples some non-alcoholic libations.

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That's ShipStation.com slash audio. Good morning. I'm Jane Pauley, and this is Sunday Morning. He's a world-renowned artist and activist, a man of mystery whose name says it all, Banksy. His art has appeared sometimes overnight in all kinds of public places in any number of cities all around the world.

It's a skill he honed while evading police as a graffiti artist back in his early days. And despite the fact a Banksy can be worth many millions, his true identity remains a closely guarded secret known only to a small number of friends and associates. With Seth Doan, we take a closer look at the art and artistry of Banksy. He sets his own rules in the art world. You have Banksy's around you here, but with no offense, isn't this operation exactly what he hates?

Oh, I have no doubt. The secretive British artist is giving us a glimpse into what makes him tick while still keeping most of us guessing. You obviously know who Banksy is. I do know who Banksy is indeed.

Banksy coming up this Sunday morning. Our David Martin will be talking with Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman, who's gone behind the camera to tell the inspiring story of some long overlooked American heroes. Largest library in the world.

Morgan Freeman's film work is already in the Library of Congress. They fought their way across France, Luxembourg, Belgium. His latest is about an all-black armored unit in World War II. So what struck you most about their story? Well, the thing that would strike anybody, I think, is the fact that all of this is true and nobody knows about it. Why don't we know all of American history?

The little-known history of the 761st Tank Battalion ahead on Sunday morning. Until now, we're going to make them noticed. Luke Burbank has a summer song from two of the original members of the group Depeche Mode. Time was their groundbreaking electronic music made them a cult classic. But these days, they're enjoying international acclaim. For over 40 years, Depeche Mode just hasn't been able to get enough. But the sudden death of one of the band's founders has left them in unfamiliar territory.

Someone that we've been with, worked together for 40-plus years, everything has changed. Later, on Sunday morning, Depeche Mode on learning to enjoy the silence. Cela Fisane toasts the rise of the mocktail. Plus Robert Costa with a read on National Book Award-winning author Tess Gunte. A story from Steve Hartman, humor from Jim Gaffigan, and more. It's Sunday morning, August 13th, 2023.

And we'll return in a moment. He's the subject of a current art exhibit, popular podcast, and many books. His name is Banksy, an artist who works in the shadows but can't seem to avoid the limelight. Seth Doan goes in search of an elusive modern master. Most artists have an obsession that defines their work. Monet had light. Hockney has color.

I've got police response time. That's Banksy in his own words, from his first authorized exhibition in 14 years. Once seen as a vandal, he's now revered for his work.

It sells for millions. But the famously anonymous street artist's most ambitious masterpiece may be keeping his identity hidden. Did you hear directly from Banksy? No, this is one of the great mysteries. I've never met him.

I've never spoken to him. But you're hosting the exhibition? We are hosting the exhibition. Putting it together required extensive planning and a cover story.

Gareth James, who manages the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow, Scotland, was telling people they'd be refurbishing the windows. I had to keep it secret from colleagues, family, and friends. You couldn't tell your family? No, no, no. We just didn't want to risk getting out.

Did you have to sign a non-disclosure agreement? Yep, yep, yep. The idea, James says, was for this show to just appear unannounced, like Banksy's work. Cut and Run, 25 years card labor, features the stencils for many of his best-known images and work from as far back as the late 90s. Banksy recreates his desk and his childhood bedroom, where he explains how this scene from the cult movie Jaws inspired him. Sick vandalism. That is a deliberate mutilation of a public service message. It showed me everything I needed to know about graffiti, he writes.

It should be audacious and funny. It seems that so much of this exhibition is the captions. Yeah, you really maybe come away with a feeling of having an insight or maybe even trying to get to know Banksy a bit, because that voice is there. Banksy's political voice has always been there in his art.

In Ukraine last year, ruins were the canvas for his commentary on a conflict he paints as David versus Goliath. Banksy often champions the underdog, be it migrants or Palestinians in the West Bank, where in the shadow of Israel's separation barrier, he created the walled-off hotel. This was Banksy's idea.

He painted these two angels, trying to take the wall apart. This is Banksy here. Yeah, this is Banksy. This is the original Banksy. His art is coveted, but of course, graffiti is not exactly legal. Videos posted to his Instagram reveal his guerrilla-style tactics to avoid detection.

Alan Dimas, he was there from the minute I met him. It was more about avoiding problems with the police. It was all about avoiding problems with the police, and nothing to do with it being a promotional tool. Quite quickly, it became the best promotional tool anyone could ever invent.

Steve Lazaridis was an early associate of Banksy's in the working-class English town of Bristol. What kind of guy is he? Difficult. In what way? Just in that way that sometimes people are a genius at what they're doing. There's no taking away from the fact that the guy is a legend. He was making images and messages that everyone could understand, and I think that's what was the game changer.

Suddenly, someone was making art that you didn't feel stupid looking at. He's sometimes criticized for that, too, that it's too simplistic. Yeah, but he's only criticized by, and I'm going to swear, by people in the art world.

They've never liked him, they've never liked the movement. It's been at the foreman for almost 30 years, and all of that without any help from the art world. What's interesting, though, there is now this dance between these two worlds. But now the art world wants it. Lazaridis says he has thousands of photos of Banksy working, some he's published.

Though they've parted ways, he has not publicly revealed the artist's identity. But listen to this story about Banksy searching for inspiration. He was on my computer, and I looked, and I went, Robin, you're looking up child sex dolls on my computer.

He's like, yeah, yeah, I just want to get something that we can fill full of helium and put up in the air. Now, you know you're saying a name, yeah, when you told me that story? Yeah, yeah, yeah. That name's out there.

And who says it's true? But you're saying you said Robin, Robert. Robin, Robert, Robbie. People have been speculating about Banksy's identity for decades. Among the names tossed around are Bristol artist Robin Gunningham and Robert Del Naya from the band Massive Attack, also from Bristol. Mr. Del Naya is a graffiti artist. And I would say arguably way better than Banksy. And there's a lot of talk that that's the same person.

Yeah, I've heard the stories, and it ain't me. These Banksy artworks pop up pretty much along the lines of a Massive Attack tour. In this city and that city, Massive Attack is here or there. So maybe the artist had been at the gig and then done a piece of art?

It's not Massive Attack. Yes, it's Robert Del Naya. And me.

And a few other people. You have to dance this very fine line. You know this information people want to know, and I don't know if you're being serious or not. Well, maybe I'm being serious and maybe I'm not.

That's as much as you're getting from me. It's a tough world to get into, Banksy's world. It's not tough.

It's impossible. I deal in very important artworks by major museum artists, from Picasso to Damien Hirst, and there is nowhere near this level of secrecy or gamesmanship almost. What do you mean by gamesmanship? It's a bit Wild West, dealing in Banksy artworks. Akris Andeepab is one of the biggest collectors and dealers of Banksy's work out of his London gallery. Rather exclusively, Banksy has managed to create a new set of rules within the art world, which is, if it doesn't have a certificate of authenticity, you should not sell it. You should not buy it.

And that's astonishing. But it also opens a quagmire of problems. What happens if the artist doesn't like an early work? Or what happens if the artist doesn't like the person seeking the authenticity? Yeah.

Problem, right? The art world is interesting. Wild West. And it seems Banksy's people can play sheriff. The auction house Christie's stopped responding to emails regarding our interview request.

Christie's pulled out of a scheduled interview at the last minute after telling us they were going to check with Banksy's team. It's a closed shop. I mean, I've been dealing in his work for almost 20 years now, and it's a closed shop to me.

It was Banksy's 2004 work Napalm which first piqued Andeepab's interest. I was so taken by it. The perfect balance of frivolity with serious elements, you know, a message. You discover as you get to know his work more and more that, you know, you have a little snigger first, a little laugh, because it's lighthearted.

But then you kind of suck your teeth a little. Actually, there's some weight to it. How much is it Banksy's message? How much is it his pure skill as an artist? He is actually quite painterly. But he's chosen to execute his work through stencils, much like Andy Warhol did through screen prints.

It's the Banksy girl with balloon, ladies and gentlemen. But there's no precedent in the art world for this. Can I sell it now? And sell it for $860,000. Shredding a piece seconds after it was sold at auction for $1.4 million.

An irreverent middle finger to the establishment is a theme of his work, but the stunt actually added value. The shredded painting resold a few years later for $25 million. In the Glasgow exhibition, Banksy shows how he pulled it off. For all that's on display here, there's one essential implement Banksy uses, which is not, the non-disclosure agreement. I still struggle to say the artist's name. I spent years absolutely not saying the artist's name for fear that I would give something away. And those who do know the artist's identity are bound or choose not to expose him. Am I going to reveal it? Probably not. There are institutions, including UK papers, that would pay a lot of money for him to be unmasked.

Not one person has stepped up to take the bounty. How can that be? At the risk of overly romanticising, one has to assume that he's a good person.

He knows how to look after the people around him. Would something change if we knew his identity? I'm not sure, and I really hope we never find out. Casey Shane was murdered in the middle of an August night, shot point blank while idling in his Dodge pickup truck in North Indianapolis. There was no physical evidence, no known motive, and no one coming forward with information, except one woman who swears to this day she saw Leon Detroit Benson pull the trigger. Leon Benson was sentenced to 60 years in prison, all because one person swore they saw something.

But what if she was wrong, and what if we could prove it? From Wondery and Campside Media comes season three of the hit podcast Suspect, co-hosted by me, Matt Scher, alongside attorney Lara Basilon. This is a story of a botched police investigation, the dangers of shaky eyewitness testimony, and a community who feared law enforcement, with good reason. Listen to Suspect, five shots in the dark, wherever you get your podcasts, or binge all eight episodes ad-free on Wondery Plus.

Find Wondery Plus in the Wondery app or on Apple podcasts. Since his death in 2009, the world has struggled with how Michael Jackson should be remembered, as the king of pop or as a monster. I'm Leon Mayfock, the host of Fiasco and the co-creator of Slow Burn. And I'm Jay Smooth, a hip-hop journalist and cultural commentator. Michael Jackson was accused of child molestation for the first time in 1993. Our new podcast, Think Twice, Michael Jackson, is the story of what came before and what came after. Throughout the podcast, we explore what makes Michael Jackson seemingly uncancellable. And we dig into the complicated feelings so many of us have when we hear Billie Jean at the grocery store. Through dozens of original interviews with people who watched the story unfold firsthand, Think Twice is an attempt to reconcile our conflicted emotions about Michael Jackson, the man, with our deep-seated love of his art.

Listen to Think Twice, Michael Jackson, wherever you get your podcasts, or you can binge the entire series ad-free on Audible or the Amazon Music app. They're a pioneering new wave band, still turning out music some 40 years after we first got to know them, in part because, as Luke Burbank explains, when tragedy struck, members of Depeche Mode found a way to carry on. For a band who put out their first big hit over 40 years ago, Depeche Mode is surprisingly relevant here in 2023.

From late night TV appearances, selling out stadiums across the U.S. and in Europe. And it isn't just some nostalgia tour where a band plays their greatest hits at a casino near you. No, Depeche Mode's latest album, Memento Mori, is getting serious airplay.

Music, if you allow it, will take you somewhere. And yet, as Dave Gahan, Depeche Mode's lead singer, and Martin Gore, their lead songwriter, began the year with a new album and packed tour schedule, they found themselves somewhere where they'd never been, mourning the loss of their bandmate, Andy Fletcher. I didn't realize maybe before we went into this promo trip how heavy that would be to be asked about that one over and over and over again. Fletch, as they called him, was a founding member of the band and died suddenly last year, just as the album was finished, giving its title, which means, Remember One's Mortality, an eerie new meaning. Some might say that a lot of these songs were foreboding or something, but I don't think Martin was probably aware of that. Kevin's dreaming Father starts my friends We know we'll be ghosts again When I first started writing songs for this album, I wouldn't have had the idea of calling the album Memento Mori and maybe have some of the songs dealing with death. It just kind of happened like that.

Sometimes you do wonder if you tap into something. Growing up in Basildon, a small town in Essex, England, Martin Gore was one of the first kids around to get a synthesizer, which is why Vince Clark and Andy Fletcher wanted to start a band with him. And they immediately saw the potential of the synthesizer that I was using, so they quickly ditched their guitars and bass, and then we became an all-electronic band. Dave Gahan then joined as singer, and the group started making waves in London's underground club scene. It was easy to go to gigs on the train. We put them in little suitcases, and we'd just travel on the train to the gig. Soon enough, this English band with a French name and their synthesizers were becoming a hit in Europe. But success in the U.S. would take a bit longer, due to lack of radio play and some suspicious music critics. Every interview would be a battle. So why don't you use traditional instruments?

Of course, that's not a great way to start an interview. The band finally broke through with U.S. audiences in 1988, playing to a capacity crowd at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, memorably documented by D.A. Pennebaker. Their subsequent album, Violator, went triple platinum, and as for guitars, well, they began appearing in The Sound of Depeche Mode as well. If it's not one of those two, I can usually tell which song it is. As someone who's not a rock star, why do you need so many different guitars?

Is it different tuning? At some point, it becomes an addiction. I think we somehow managed to build this cult following, and we still feel to this day that we're kind of like a cult band, even though we sell a lot of records everywhere. Mine's right.

I think we probably are and have been for many years. We're kind of the biggest alternative band in the world, put it that way. But success for Depeche Mode was a double-edged sword.

Gahan developed a heroin addiction so severe, it said Los Angeles paramedics nicknamed him the cat, because he'd overdosed so many times. It was the time when I wasn't working that got really dark, because there's no one there to balance it out. There's no band, there's no music, it was just the addiction.

And that's what it is. You can call it whatever you like, but once you go down that road, the hardest thing is to drag yourself back out of it. It was for me anyway. I didn't think it would be as hard as what it was. Was it hard for you, Martin, and the other members of the band to watch what Dave was going through, just as his friends? It was difficult at the time, but then after Dave got clean, for years I went on drinking, and I think that must have been really hard for Dave, because I wasn't an occasional drinker. And that was in Dave's face all the time. It's kind of Martin to say that. Today, both Gore and Gahan are sober and credit music with saving their lives. Martin, I know Martin feels the same. It was the one thing that always could lift me, change my spirit, change the way I felt, lead me into a different direction, or also into fantasy, into another world. Yeah, it's saved me many, many times. All I ever wanted, all I ever needed is here in my heart.

The words are buried, none of us are sharing. Time for a little summer refreshment, served up by Cala Fosané. I'm sitting here in one of the biggest breweries on the East Coast, right?

Yep. We're a top 20 craft brewer by size in the country out of over 9,000 craft breweries. But there's one thing you won't find in all these cases of craft beer. Alcohol.

It's one of the biggest oxymorons out there. Great tasting non-alcoholic beer. Bill Shufelt and John Walker founded Athletic Brewing in Connecticut in 2017.

Sales hit $37 million in 2021 and topped $60 million last year. John said we're not launching commercially if this is an indistinguishable, award-winning craft beer. Since 2016, non-alcoholic beer sales have increased more than 70%. 80% of our customers drink alcohol at other times during the week. Is this pretty similar to what a full alcohol brewery would be doing?

100%, all the same. What we do is traditional brewing through and through. We tweak a degree here, a degree there, but we wind up at a fully fermented product that is under 0.5%.

This is not bad. Eric Asimov is the chief wine critic at The New York Times. We asked him to taste some of the latest non-alcoholic beverages, including an athletic beer. It's super hoppy. There's a lot of flavor in there.

I thought you might hate this. No, I quite like it. Have you noticed in the last five or ten years that there are more and better non-alcoholic drinks on the menu? Absolutely.

No good cocktail list nowadays is complete without at least a few selections. Do you think there's more room to grow? It's going to increase. Dry Januarys are a big thing. That's been extended to October. I'm worried it's going to take over the whole calendar.

With some people, it is. You have people thinking intently about their health and deciding maybe that alcohol consumption is not a great thing. We're going to do some day drinking without the booze. Cameron Winkelman is head bartender at Manhattan in New York City, one of the country's foremost wine experts. Are you feeling skeptical?

A little bit, yes. This is Pinot Noir that's been de-alcoholized and carbonated. If you were to drink a good sparkling wine that's made naturally, the bubbles would be cascading all over the mouth, and this feels more like a soft drink. That's if you compare it to wine. If we're comparing it to other non-alcoholic wines, I think this is a really good effort.

It's not overwhelmingly sweet. Alcohol is part of the natural process of making wine. Yeast transforms the sugar in the grape juice into alcohol and carbon dioxide. If you don't have alcohol, you're putting together parts that don't really have a unifying element. Asimov says some of his favorite non-alcoholic drinks are the ones that don't try to imitate wine. This is actually a gooseberry ferment.

Wow. It's almost very floral. I really like that.

He also liked some of the alcohol-free cocktails. A mass riverine, seed lip that's been infused with mango, grapefruit, yuzu, and coconut water, and topped with a mango matcha meringue. Oh, my. That is delicious.

So concentrated and yet light and refreshing. The growth in this market seems to be as an add-on, right? It's not, I'm going to give up cocktails and only drink mocktails. It's like, I don't want to have four cocktails, but maybe I could do two and two. That's as I understand it. It's not my personal experience, I confess.

What's your personal experience? I just drink less. But that's not really the American way. The American way is, let me figure out a way to consume even more. If I don't want an alcoholic beverage, my tendency, except for a cocktail, is to drink water. Yeah, now I've heard everything.

I love water. Jim Gaffigan this morning is running on empty. There are simple annoyances in modern life. We've all woken up to discover our cell phone, which had been charging overnight, was, well, not charging overnight, and is dead, or almost dead.

Either way, an existential panic sets in. Oh no, how will your day go on without your phone? Is it even possible to go about your day without a charged phone? For most of us, the memory of discovering an uncharged phone is seared into our consciousness. Most of us, just not my children, yes, my beautiful, intelligent children, struggle with keeping a phone charged.

Well, I shouldn't say struggle. They make no effort. To clarify, when I say children, I'm not talking about toddlers or newborns. I'm talking about teenage human-like creatures who somehow possess the ability to make Nintendo and Roblox purchases with my credit card, somehow can't figure out how to insert a lightning cord connected to an outlet into a phone. After repeatedly explaining the complex process of charging a cell phone to my brilliant children, my wife and I caved and bought some portable chargers. These are external batteries one can grab and use when someone forgets to charge their phone overnight.

These external batteries were charged the night before. You know how a logical person might charge their phone. Anyway, my kids then take these external batteries, charge their phones, and lose them throughout New York City. If I'm not painting enough of a maddening scenario, you should know this. On numerous occasions, I've discovered my brilliant children sitting in their room near an outlet using a portable external charger to charge their phone.

The outlet's right there with a phone charger plugged into the wall, but instead of they are using a portable charger, which is... Anyway, I love being a dad. It's a safe guess few of us have heard the story of the 761st Tank Battalion, the all-black unit that fought with distinction during the Second World War.

Hopefully that's about to change. David Martin catches up with Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman, who's shining a light on an almost forgotten chapter of American history. Good morning, sir.

Good morning. Morgan Freeman's work is already in the National Film Registry of Movie Classics at the Library of Congress, and now he's here in person. Have you ever been here before?

I don't think so. You're in for a treat. We're here to visit one of the great public spaces in America, the main reading room of the Library of Congress. Oh, my God. Yeah. Nothing says history like this one.

Like this one. We're here because it was the only place we could find a copy of this book. Come Out Fighting, the epic tale of the 761st Tank Battalion, 1942 to 1945. The first black tank battalion to fight in World War II, a time when the armed forces were still segregated and blacks were limited almost entirely to support duties behind the front lines. And this is the history of the 761st by Tresvant Anderson.

A young black reporter, Tresvant Anderson, accompanied the 761st as it fought its way across Europe. Had you ever heard of him before you started working on this? No.

No? He deserves to be better known. All of this deserves to be better known. All of this. Landing in Normandy, they fought their way across France, Luxembourg, Belgium, and into Germany.

Freeman has set out to make that happen with a documentary about the 761st, also known as The Black Panthers. The shrapnel was all in there. You see the little dog spot right there? Yeah, I see it. Mm-hmm. It's right there. Feel it.

Yeah. And some more of that steel. Which will air on the History Channel, complete with a cameo appearance by Lloyd Austin, the nation's first black secretary of defense. So, Morgan, it's great to have you here.

Although, around here, to be honest with you, you know, the whole deep, smooth voice thing, that's really my thing. So what struck you most about their story? Well, the thing that would strike anybody, I think, is the fact that all of this is true and nobody knows about it.

Why don't we know all of American history? The story of the 761st has been told before. They were African-American soldiers. In a documentary narrated by Denzel Washington and in a book written by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

But it is never registered in American culture like The Band of Brothers, the HBO series about a company of white soldiers fighting their way across Europe. What do you hope to add to it? I want to do A Band of Brothers.

I want it to be before the public in all of its depth and wonder, bravery and guts. Very few people will ever read Tres Van Anderson's account. Copy two. The librarian tells us that's two of only two.

And the other one is in storage because it's in such bad condition. But you don't have to read it. Morgan Freeman will read it to you. The story belongs to the 14 million negroes of America as a tribute to the military prowess, courage and bravery of their sons, brothers and fathers against great odds on the field of battle. So the numbers have changed.

There are now, I think, 47.2 million black Americans. Those words still ring. Oh, yeah. Very true.

They do. What the 796st Tank Battalion did and how it did it are the utmost importance to all the people of America. In the fall of 1944, General George Patton was leading the American charge towards Germany.

But he was running short of tanks. So Patton, who never hid his racist views, sent for the 761st. Everyone has their eyes on you and expecting great things from you. Most of all, your race is looking forward to you. Don't let them down.

And damn you, don't let me down. They saw their first combat on November 7th, 1944 in a small French village held by the Germans. Everybody was scared. Only a liar would deny it. But then the job just had to be done. The Germans kicked hell out of Company C, so it's not like the 761st is going from glorious victory to glorious victory.

No. They're taking some serious losses. No, they didn't back down. They didn't turn and run. They were thrown into the epic Battle of the Bulge, Hitler's last desperate attempt to reverse the tide of war, broke through the heavily fortified Siegfried Line, crossed the Rhine, and rolled into the Third Reich, 183 straight days on the front lines. But here's to me the ultimate compliment because it comes from an enemy soldier. Said bravery I've never before seen.

That's the way a Captain German officer put it. They said we weren't qualified to do this, and we set out to prove different. And we did.

We proved it. Johnny Stevens was one of six members of the 761st whose oral histories were recorded by the Library of Congress's Veterans History Project. But we didn't get any recognition for it. They came home to a country as deeply segregated as the one they left. How were they treated? How were they treated by the government, by the country?

Go to the back of the bus where you belong. The 761st was nominated for a presidential unit citation in 1945 but did not receive it until Jimmy Carter was president. After a Pentagon investigation, that oversight has been corrected. Thirty-three years after the war, President Carter awarded the 761st a presidential citation for extraordinary heroism in action.

Reuben Rivers did not receive the posthumous Medal of Honor he had earned in battle until Bill Clinton was president. The President of the United States of America, authorized by active Congress, has awarded in the name of the Congress the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant Reuben Rivers of the United States Army. Your nation thanks you, and God bless you.

Thank you. President Anderson says it better than either you or I could. And by the sweat of the brows of Tuscan Negro soldiers who fought for their country and gave their blood and their lives on the field of battle, asking nothing but hoping that their sacrifices would not go unheeded and unnoticed by history. Have they gone unheeded and unnoticed? Until now. We're going to make them noticed. Times come.

That's as simple as that. Times come. It's not often a young novelist's debut offering enjoys rave reviews and earns a National Book Award besides.

Robert Costa is in conversation with author and Indiana native Tess Gunte. For most Studebaker workers, these are the last days, and these are the last cars they will build. Sixty years ago, South Bend, Indiana, offered America a preview of what was to come in the industrial heartland.

For most of these men, there are only questions, questions of mortgages, credit, clothing, food, insurance. The Christmas 1963 shuttering of the Studebaker automobile plant foreshadowed the coming decline of American manufacturing and the decimation of Midwestern cities. That decision put about 7,000 people out of work in this town of 130,000, and now hundreds of those unemployed are drawing surplus government food instead of paychecks. What's your reaction to this comment that some people have made that receiving surplus food kills a man's initiative to look for a job?

Well, you get me a job and I'll give you back the food. And while South Bend has recovered to some extent in the years since, the six-decade legacy of abandonment is still never far from sight. I was born 30 years after Studebaker closed. I think that the kinds of consequences of economic decline become extremely personal.

They're anchored in the beating hearts of those that you know and love. South Bend's legacy of decline has become the unlikely inspiration for an award-winning debut novel by 30-year-old author Tess Gunte. So this is your childhood neighborhood.

Yes, I spent my first five years of my life here, apparently the most formative years according to psychologists. Gunte, a South Bend native, has crafted characters on the fringes of a fictional city based on her hometown. The book is called The Rabbit Hutch, named after the shabby apartment building that houses the story's protagonist, Blondine Watkins. Are you Blondine?

No, and yes. I'm Blondine insofar as I am every single character in this book. I don't think you can write without putting much of your emotional experience into every single character. I may not know what it's like to have a baby, but I know what it's like to feel fear, and I know what it's like to feel out of control. The book follows Blondine and her roommates, young adults who've aged out of the foster care system without having found a forever family. You write a lot about orphans, but your experience seems to be a bit different. It's true.

I've been very lucky. I've had love from my family unconditionally all my life, and when I was thinking about this town as an essentially orphaned place, it was important to get into the psychologies of characters who had been truly abandoned. The child of academics whose creativity outstripped their incomes.

From an early age, Gunty developed an eye for details that speak to class and status. Downtown, as she nears Vacaville's entrance, Blondine passes an alley of garbage cans, against which a large blue sign leans. Welcome to Vacaville, Indiana, the crossroads of America. The city speaks to her, won't stop speaking to her. You write in a funny and scathing way about the new aristocracy in suburban America, where everyone smells like dryer sheets.

They're wearing outdoor gear that's meant for climbing mountains, but they're in the Indiana suburbs. Well, this was something that I did personally experience, I think, when I went to high school. We received free tuition at a Catholic high school, and so my family was able to attend a school that we probably couldn't have afforded otherwise. This was the first time that I really understood the relativity of my own economic position. You know, we might have had difficult times financially, but we always had what we needed, and that was not true for my friends, you know, in my neighborhoods.

They were suffering from so many more extreme forms of neglect and poverty. This year's National Book Award for Fiction goes to Tess Gunte for... Last year, the rabbit hutch won the National Book Award for Fiction, making Tess Gunte the youngest recipient since legendary novelist Philip Roth back in 1960. I truly believe that attention is the most sacred resource that we have to spend on this planet, and books are perhaps one of the last places where we spend this resource freely and where it means the most. The award put Gunte on the map at a time when literary fiction sales are in steep decline.

Book banning is rampant, and some declare the college English major obsolete. But Gunte is a passionate advocate for her craft. Thank you. The book is a collaboration between the reader and the writer. It's an imaginative collaboration.

It's not a relationship between a consumer and a product. It is something more freely entered and sort of, to me, sacred than that. Do some of your friends say being a novelist is old-fashioned? Yeah, it's sometimes treated like you're a blacksmith or something.

They're like, wow, I didn't know you could do that anymore. While Tess Gunte knows a literary novel may be an unlikely place to tackle the economic and political issues of our times, her writing vibrates with a certain kind of ambition, both as a breakout talent and as a voice for the people of Indiana. The slogan for the state is that it's the crossroads of America, and for a long time I didn't understand what that meant. But I think of it as a place where all the contradictions of America are very alive, and they're actively fighting each other.

I think it's a mistake to assume that Indiana is a monolithic place with one set of ideals and one demographic. It is a place that is vast and various and mysterious. Steve Hartman has a story of friends sharing a dream come true. If there's anything even remotely good about having ALS, 56-year-old Craig Reagan of College Station, Texas, says it may be a heightened sense of gratitude, gratitude for caregivers like his wife Nancy, friends like his dog Taco, and memories like his 73 Ford Mustang, which, even though it stopped running back in 1999, has taken up permanent residence at his house. It's a big paperweight. A big paperweight. Why did you keep it? I just had such an attachment to it. He's had it since high school. He was proud of it. Craig had hoped that someday his boys might want to fix it up with him, but they showed no interest in cars. Then he planned to do it himself, but ALS had other plans. So the cars sat rotting until some old high school friends caught wind. And everybody, as soon as I called these guys, they were like, yeah, let's do it.

It's in your heart. You just got to help somebody like that. So for the next year, they went to work on it, put in hundreds of hours while other classmates paid for parts. And not long ago, that big, immovable paperweight was ready to lift off. It was just almost like a piece of him. That came back to life? That came back to life.

I'm ready when you are. Craig was diagnosed with ALS in 2016. The disease is incurable, but he has clearly found his treatment. What's it like to be back in it? I feel like I'm a teenager. And as for the people who made this moment possible, he insists the bigger gift was the lesson they received.

He reminded us of something maybe we forgot. Yeah. Just do good stuff for people.

That's all that matters. Just do good stuff today. Do good stuff today.

No better medicine on earth. Thank you for listening. Please join us when our trumpet sounds again next Sunday morning. Hey, Prime members! You can listen to CBS Sunday Morning with Jane Pauley ad-free on Amazon Music. Download the Amazon Music app today. Or you can listen ad-free with Wondery Plus in Apple Podcasts. Before you go, tell us about yourself by completing a short survey at Wondery.com slash survey.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-13 18:13:48 / 2023-08-13 18:33:04 / 19

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