tv Face the Nation CBS December 23, 2013 2:00am-2:31am PST
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>> schieffer: one of the things we all you a degree on here at "face the nation" is that we all love the news, but the other thing is, we tall really love a good book. sometimes when the news is so bad we don't even like to talk about it. i advise people just read a good book. we thought we'd gather some of our favorite authors today, all of whom have new books out this year, to talk about books and writing.
michael connelly has written 18 harry bosch mysteries. about the lincoln lawyer. terry mcmillan "how stella got her groove back" has new one ought "who asked you." george saunders writes short storiesi has new collection is the 10th of december. and it's on the "new york times" book review top ten list for 2013. finally our old friend rick atkinson who i knew when you used to be just a reporter now he is a pulitzer prize winner, finished his liberation trilogy, the guns at last night which focuses on western europe and the end of world war ii. his series "the army at dawn" we're honored to have all of you here. i was just sitting here, i want to talk about your books, but i was just sitting here thinking
about the year that president obama has had. it's been just an awful year for everybody in concerned. he's gone off on vacation, terry, you have a book he ought to read while he's resting? he says he's going to sleep and get good ideas. >> i would say "all over but the shouting" it's a memoir. i think the title sort of says it all. >> schieffer: i know rick. i have read that book. that's a pretty good one. michael? >> it is vacation going to give him light reading, there's new author out in l.a. named p.g. sturgis he writes these books called "the short cut man." and it's just about a guy who doesn't really have a job, not a cop or detective but somehow finds a way to get things done. maybe that could be inspiring. >> schieffer: i've read that book, too. it is a terrific book. i didn't know about him until that book came along.
>> i would have president read book called "high-rise stories" it's beautiful book about chicago housing projects through the '60s to '80s. maybe just as way of reminding ourselves that progress happens but sometimes, there's a slog first, a great book. >> i would have him read book my former colleague at the "washington post" called "thank you for your service" it's about soldiers coming back from iraq, it's pretty bleak, but it is a beautiful narration of what we've asked these soldiers to do. counterpoint to david's earlier book "the good soldiers commitment is about the same battalion in iraq in 2008. i think that every lawmaker including the president should read both those books. >> schieffer: you know, i always ask authors this, because i wondered about it myself. why did you decide to write a book, i'll be very honest, when
i sat down to try to do it the first time i just did it to see if i could. i guess i did. whatever the case, why did you town writing books? >> well, because there are a lot of things that i saw happening to people around me. not just people that i knew, but people that -- i'll put it this way. i think that i was tired of watching people suffer. and i wanted to try to see if i could fix it. and so i found out that i could re-invent their lives. including my own and find some kind of salvation for them. >> schieffer: michael? i've gotten so much pleasure out of your books, i must say i think i've read all the harry bosch books but not all of the lincoln lawyer books. why did you turn to books?
you newsed to be a police reporter. >> yeah, i think it was -- always voracious reader, i was covering crime but reading fictional crime. i think the inspirational moment for me was chapter 13 of "the little sister" by raymond sandler. it's all about character in this guy driving around locals written in 1940s. to write something that can last that long, that's hard. just inspired me to say, i want to some day try to do that. bob george, i know, you did a couple of things before you got to writing books. >> i did. >> schieffer: including working on oil rig in samatra. >> i came to it slowly. the first book was in the third grade a nun gave me a copy of "johnny tree main" the most explosively beautiful experience to read that book. that is when i never felt as alive as i did when i was
reading. then i kept thinking, i really like reading and writing, i wonder if that's a job. finely i realized only one i was fit to do. i came to that. it's the feeling of being able to communicate at that beautifully high level you can in prose where you make a connection with another person that you've never met. that is for that little zone you are best self. i feel like that anyway. a very sweet, wonderful experience. >> schieffer: rick, we knew each other back to the pentagon days when you were reporter here in washington. how did you finally decide this is what you wanted to do? >> well, i came out of the newspaper business as you yourself came out of the news business as a print reporter a long time ago. i was looking for an opportunity to do long form narratives. i write about war, and i find that the incredibly stress of combat is a great revealer of character.
the fillets open the inner self a prison fillets open a beam of light. i see the inner spectrum. i found out that writing books having a voice in book writing was only way to fully express the extraordinary stress that combat brings to men and how men and women in the book form allows me to do things that no other form permit. >> schieffer: i'm so envious of people who write fiction. i've tried. i just don't get it. my editor said to me, well some people remember things and write them down and some people make things up. when you you are writing your books, do you make them up or are they about you, tell me about this new book and what is your personal connection to the characters in this book. >> well, you know, to write fiction you have to be a good liar. i lie on paper, i'm not a very
good liar in person. my new book is primarily about a grandmother who is forced to raise her grandchildren. and also about people who are always sticking their nose in someone else's business and offering unsolicited advice, which most of us know people like that. and what to do, how to process that. who to listen to and who to ignore. that's pretty much it. ideal -- i deal with racial issues, love, taking care of a spouse that's ill. but mostly for me it's about struggling and how to survive when things are working against you. >> schieffer: i think your work cuts through, i think so
many people identify with it. is that what you're doing, are you trying to reach people say, look, i know things are tough there but here is something might help you understand where you are. >> well, i think that's one of the reasons why i read fiction in general. or specifically i should say. because i don't read books that are just about black people. i think that a lot of our stories sort of transcend that because we're all struggling for the same thing which is to be happy and to find peace and all of that. but i think that there are stories out here that i tell that happen to be about african americans and i think a lot of people -- i read books by everybody. and i think that there is a commonality that all of us share. that is we suffer the same. we love the same. and some of us do and don't see beauty the same.
but for the most part we're all striving for the same thing. >> schieffer: michael, is harry bosch you? >> not at all. but i've been able to write about him over 20 years starting out he wasn't like me at all, he was almost writing exercise what it would be like to spend time with a character. ip got lucky, they asked for another one. now over 20 years it's hard to keep that separation. so we share a lot now. we have 16-year-old daughters, used to be at arm length now a lot of commonality. >> schieffer: just finished tv series, it's going to be streamed by amazon about harry. >> we just finished filming couple anyways ago. >> schieffer: are you excited about that? how much of a part did you play in the screen writing? >> well, a lot, the screen writing and in the whole production because like i said, i've been -- my whole fix writing career is wrapped around this character.
so i said if you want my books i come with them. i'm going to have a say. they were receptive to that. if it's good, it's my fault. if it's bad, it's my fault. i think it's going to be good. >> schieffer: you know, george, i must say, i think somebody said the nicest thing that anybody could say about a writer, i was reading about you, it said about you, he seems to be in touch with some better being. he writes like a saint. nobody has said that about me. [ laughter ] how does that make you feel? >> i have to stop shoplifting now. that's one of the bad things. i guess that's what writing let's reader and writer be in touch. because from the writer's point of view as you're working through your drafts your first draft might be a bit of a cartoon and you're dissatisfied you come back i'm not being fair to this character, you try again
and again. over the many drafts the person becomes more multi-faceted you're doing scale medal empathy practice. the same thing with the reader. a reader gets in to someone else's heady senn shelly and is re-assured that that distant person has love and hope and fear and that the things that matter to the reader also matter to the writer. so it's that process that puts us all in touch with something better. >> schieffer: i'm going to say that one of the things, best things i think you've ever written i just came to it last night as i was reading through some of the things about you. it is a graduation speech that you wrote and when you talked about a failure of kindness, i thought someone who has written graduation speech or two himself over the years, and listened to a bunch of them, i thought what a wonderful message. what did you really mean by that? >> i first wrote that speech for my daughter's middle school class. that urgency i was talking to
people you know and care about what is really true. after all these years, what do i regret, not much, actually. handful of times for whatever selfish reason i didn't rise to the occasion and be as genital or as kind as i could have been. that's a strange thing, maybe a little floppy put it was true. response of that speech indicates that lot of people feel that way. the best self over here, every so often real life we don't come up to that level. as the years go by those moments can be a little bit bitter, actually, in retrospect. >> schieffer: made me reflect back on my own life i must say i had some of the same feelings. rick, what do you do now? you've written these three enormous books. they are page turners. what do you do next? >> well, i'm going back in time. i'm moving in to the 18th
century doing another trilogy but this on the american revolution. for me the opportunity to write about world war ii, first of all, it's the greatest catastrophe in human history, 60 million dead. yet liberation of europe is greatest story of the 20th century with characters that are so rich and deep beyond the ability of even these extraordinary fix writers to invent. not just eisenhower and patton and bradley. and churchill and montgomery. but others who have been lost to history. so trying to resuscitate them. i believe that narrative nonfiction writers true calling to bring back the dead. so i'm going to try to do that with the 18th century, in particularly looking at the british, who i think are absolutely fascinating. we tend to character tour them hats americans and they're ex othersary characters the germans who were fear in force as well as the the americans who
fought rebellion so that's what i'm going to do now, bob. >> schieffer: we're going to take a break come back and talk lot more about all of this in just a minute. ♪ [ male announcer ] if we could see energy... what would we see? ♪ the billions of gallons of fuel that get us to work. ♪ we'd see all the electricity flowing through the devices that connect us and teach us. ♪ we'd see that almost 100% of medical plastics are made from oil and natural gas. ♪ and an industry that supports almost 10 million american jobs. life takes energy. and no one applies more technology
to produce american energy and refine it more efficiently than exxonmobil. because using energy responsibly has never been more important. energy lives here. ♪ >> schieffer: we're back with our authors. let month just ask all of you, what is the best book you read this year, rick? >> i go back to tinkle's book "thank you for your service" that is extraordinary service. i finished reading it in a restaurant in new york several weeks ago. the waitress was french, she asked me whether there was something wrong with my dinner because i was in tears. books that can do that and sticks with you, i read lots of books about war. but this is a book that transcends the genre. >> schieffer: do you read much nonfiction? >> i do. somehow it's more urgent i think
somehow. i read -- arthur miller's autobiography a mini seminar in the 20th century. the progress of the arts. really wonderful reminder of the mccarthy years how real it was and hasn't really gone away. that's been a lot of pleasure. >> schieffer: michael, do you have time to read? sometimes authors tell me i get so engrossed in my book i don't have time to read. that's the thing, the real draw back. >> there's times in the process from my writing that i don't want to read anything, you have to read. puts gas in your tank. i would say i'm reading more narrative nonfiction than fiction probably my favorite book was a book called "act of war" by jack chievers just came about, about the pueblo incident in 1968. through his reports he got, really recreated two great stories, story on the high seas
of the spy ship being taken by the north koreans and what was going on in washington with lyndon johnson brought them together for very -- what seems like riveting read. page turner. but it's history. >> schieffer: what about you, terry? >> well, so far -- i guess not very many days left in the year but the novel "the roundhouse" moved me to no end because of how far -- it's about familial love how far someone is willing to go to correct an injustice. and i write about -- most of us write about injustices, her's happens with deal with native americans which doesn't matter to me, but i found it riveting and i was in tears also at the end.
i actually threw the book across the room because i was so excited about how it ended. she's a brilliant writer. >> schieffer: you know, do you all read on kindle or read in books? >> i read real books. >> me, too. >> i like to turn the page. >> schieffer: i do, too. but the one book this year, there was book called "the last line" which was william manchester's last book in the trilogy, he died before he was able to finish it. it was finished by a guy named paul reed. i finally had to switch to a kindle because the book was so heavy, i do take my kindle when i go on vacation, take a lot of books that you couldn't otherwise. i'm like you, i like to hold the book, i like to smell the book, i like to just -- >> mark it up. >> schieffer: it's a book-book. nothing will ever take the place of that. what do you all think the future
of books is? it seems to me that ebooks leveled off the sale of ebooks this year. >> i think it's unfortunate. we have so much technology now in our lives, the one thing we do have left is a book that -- it's tactile. you can touch it. to put your kindle on the floor in the bathroom or by the tub, what are you risking? i love leaning back, falling asleep with a book. plus, on book tour when people handed me their nooks and kindle, i can't sign that. i'm not going to. oh, please -- no. >> schieffer: a servile. >> i'm not signing a cable. >> it is an interesting thing of evolution. i think, i have no scientific
data for this, i think the readers, there's nor readers now because of the convenience of these devices. it's not my personal taste. i actually have a kindle and have all my books on because it's easy to find stuff to go back and find with a continuing character, it's a tool for me. i think you're right. it's slowly hitting equilibrium and hopefully the book business, bookstores will not go away because i think everybody here -- i would not be here if it wasn't for bookstores and people doing the age old practice of saying, you got to read this book an handing awoke to someone. that is getting lost. hopefully we're reaching a point that what we have now is going to stay. >> schieffer: i think a book forces to you slow down. in this age of twitter and all this instant communication, i think it's good every once in awhile to just step back and i think books do help.
>> the book is actually not just the words, it's really efficient data delivery system. if you have a good designer, they actually are bringing another left of meaning with even things like the layout, the font, the color, the feel, i remember reading when i was first writing, getting a 1910 copy of a book going down to a river in colorado and reading it. i can remember what certain passages were in the layout. the physicality of the book made it even more beautiful experience. i don't think we want to give up that element. >> i think future of the book depends in large measure on future of authors and if authors can turn out things people want to read regardless of whether it's in the dead tree edition of a process that's been around for 500 years or whether delivered electronically somehow. as long as there's good storytelling going on, fix, nonfiction otherwise. i'm very op poe 'tis particular. i do -- optimistic, the physical
experience of hold a book, for me a read a lot of nonfiction i mark it up, i make notes in the margins and so on. that's kind of interaction that is hard to do electronically f. someone having emotional experience with the essence of that book, i don't care how the reading is. >> schieffer: i think all of you are right. but i think, rick, it is still about content. whether it's a television broadcast, whether it's a movie, whether it's a book, whether it's a high school graduation speech. it's the content not how you dress it up. i try to remember that around here. i want to thank all of you. a lot of town get to talk to you. >> thank you. >> schieffer: thanks for coming. we'll be right back.
>> schieffer: we note today the passing and we note it with sadness of 17-year-old claire davis, who died last night after spending eight days in a coma after the shooting at arapahoe high school in colorado. there have been 28 school shootings over the last 12 months. we were told she loved horses, loved her life and was loved by her parents and friends. our heart goes out to them. is going to grow by over 90 million people, and almost all that growth is going to be in cities. what's the healthiest and best way for them to grow so that they really become cauldrons of prosperity and cities of opportunity?
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