Tina Brown's Must-Reads: How Places Shape People The Newsweek editor highlights a book and a pair of articles that turn on the effect of particularly unique places on people — from the sensibilities of an NYPD officer to two countries in the Middle East pushed to the brink by their leaders.
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Tina Brown's Must-Reads: How Places Shape People

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Tina Brown's Must-Reads: How Places Shape People

Tina Brown's Must-Reads: How Places Shape People

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

Tina Brown, editor of The Daily Beast and Newsweek, joins us once again. We call the feature Word of Mouth. We're hearing what Tina's reading. Welcome back to the program once again.

TINA BROWN: Thank you very much. It's great to be here, Steve.

INSKEEP: And we're going to be talking about articles that give us examples of the way that places, particularly unique places, shape people. And we're going to begin with an article called "On Libya's Revolutionary Road."

BROWN: I mean, Gadhafi, residents say he redirected raw sewage into a lagoon by its downtown and let a foul stench drift over the plaza nearby. I mean, it's kind of inconceivable to ask that this kind of living situation is what people have been dealing with in this town that we have paid no attention to at all.

INSKEEP: And in this New York Times Magazine article by Robert F. Worth, you get a sense of people who almost snapped. There's a description of a man named Mahdi Ziu, I believe, who's described as a mild-mannered guy who cried when watching television dramas with his wife and daughter. He disliked politics. He didn't want to get involved. Suddenly he did get involved, and it's described how he drove his car toward a Libyan government position and smashed it up against a gate and blew it up. He basically turned himself in a suicide bomber.

BROWN: I mean, these are the kind of dramas that are taking place every second, you know, in Libya that are wonderful to read about up close. It's not what you're getting, obviously, from, you know, the TV sort of big picture. This is about getting at the worm's eye and seeing what they're dealing with.

INSKEEP: And let's talk about another place, an unusual place, that has shaped the people in it. Dexter Filkins, now with the New Yorker magazine, writes from Yemen and provides a portrait of some of the protestors there.

BROWN: What Dexter's really good at, actually, is getting wonderful quotes from people. He has a great eye for a quote.

INSKEEP: Creepiest character in this article in a cast of creepy characters might be an Islamist who is part of an opposition group, but it's been an official opposition. Maybe he's been working with the president, maybe not, and he shows up at these - what had been somewhat secular protest rallies and starts talking about bringing Islam.

BROWN: And the last lines of the piece are very chilling because he's basically a guy who's going to sit there and wait. He thinks it's all going to fall apart. You know, the fact is that the rebels will be disbursed, the spotlight will go on, and back to being situational again, whoever has the power. And it is creepy and you see it.

INSKEEP: You've also sent us some reading here that brings us back home, although to another unique place - New York City, which is the setting for this book, "Red on Red" by Edward Conlon.

BROWN: It sounds - you know, not a pleasant read, but frankly it's so gripping as the sensibility of this cop sort of is weaved through the sense of place.

INSKEEP: Is this the kind of detective story that helps you get away from reality even though it's rubbing your face in reality?

BROWN: Well, I was totally gripped for five hours on an airplane by this book, so I mean it's a different kind of hell. But I don't think anything right now is quite as gripping as these foreign stories from these Arab countries.

INSKEEP: Word of Mouth from Tina Brown. Tina, thanks very much.

BROWN: Thank you.

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