Tina Brown's Must-Reads In Magazines, Online
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
Your first selection is about a movie but not the movie.
M: And, you know, Sapphire's book is raw and it's compelling. And, you know, what is great is that she creates the voice of this young teenager, 15-year-old Precious, disparaged for being for overweight, who comes from an abusive home. She has two children by her father in the most grotesque family circumstances. Her mother abuses her, as well. And she really doesn't even see herself; she's become invisible to herself. She just sees herself as a loser and as a failure and as someone who is going be in the dregs of life forever.
INSKEEP: How faithful is the movie to the book?
M: What, of course, is wonderful about the book, though, is that she is saved by a brilliant teacher called Rain, who shows her, through the power of education, that she is somebody, that she isn't invisible and that literacy and learning can take her out of the horrors that she's in.
INSKEEP: Tina Brown, you take us in this range of new reading, from someone at the very bottom of society - abused even in her own family - to a guy who interviews people who are or were at the very top, CEOs and top financial executives. Andrew Ross Sorkin, getting attention in New York Magazine for his work.
M: You know, there's also some wonderful stuff in this piece, where Sorkin also tells how he got some of the great details that are in his book.
M: That's a real gift for a journalist when people are unloading...
INSKEEP: And that's the reminder of the journalist's dilemma, often, isn't it? You want to talk with powerful people, you might not understand what they're doing otherwise, but somehow you don't want to be captured or used by them.
M: Well, that's exactly right. And, of course, that's what some of his colleagues at the Times debate. They say, you know, is he trading access for treating people softer than they should be? But I have to say, I think that Sorkin is a good, sharp reporter and I don't think that he's trading off. I think that he's the real thing.
INSKEEP: Let's talk about somebody who's looking at the world very much from the outside, right now. His name is Leslie Gelb. He's been associated with the Council on Foreign Relations for a long time. He's a former U.S. official, former New York Times journalist and now he's writing for you about Afghanistan.
M: Yes, it's great to have him on The Daily Beast because Leslie's one of the great wise men of American foreign policy. He accuses General McChrystal of fuzzy math in his request for 44,000 more boots on the ground in Afghanistan. Les Gelb says that McChrystal has argued that he has to have these boots on the ground or this is going to become a crisis that's totally out of control. And yet he says that it takes 15 months to get the troops there, that in fact, you know, they won't be there in any kind of a timeframe that McChrystal has argued that he needs to solve the emergency.
A: How valid is that 44,000 figure anyway? He says that he know he doesn't have - does McChrystal - enough boots on the ground to fulfill his counterinsurgency strategy, so he says he'll double the number of Afghan police to 160,000 and double Afghan armed forces to about 240,000. Frankly, says Gelb, that's impossible. One big hurdle is that the yearly attrition rate for both security groups hovers near 25 percent, and that means the entire security force has to be replaced within four years.
INSKEEP: Oh, meaning that a quarter of them go away, disappear, their enlistments end, they desert, they resign - whatever it might be - they're gone or they're dead.
M: It does make you think how we're going to get out of this dilemma, and it actually makes you even more sympathetic, of course, to Obama, who's having to deal with all of this at the same time as trying to get his health care bill. And of course, now the decision on this troop situation can't be resolved until he's back from Asia in two weeks.
INSKEEP: Tina Brown, because you're the editor of a Web site, I'm interested and impressed that you sent along something from the Times, the London Times here, called "The Internet is Killing Storytelling."
M: Yes. This was a very provocative piece in the Times of London online, by Ben Macintyre. And it brought me up short a little bit because it is true, as someone who has a Web site, I do find that the only thing that I can't really do as much as I'd like to is narrative journalism, you know, which was kind of what I did all my life at the New Yorker and Vanity Fair.
M: But I think that the Web can also, is immensely adaptive and will find new ways to tell stories. He actually tells a very interesting point about Japan. There is a new thing in Japan, which is called thumb novels. These are book-length sagas that can be uploaded on the screen of your mobile phone one page at a time. I mean, at the (unintelligible) doing electronic books...
INSKEEP: Even a couple hundred words, that's kind of long, for a cellphone screen.
M: I know, you know, we're excited by the idea of something so small.
INSKEEP: But, you know, a couple hundred, even a page is a lot. That's a long read for a text message, I suppose.
M: It is a very long read, but it is true that I think that we're adapting, in a strange way, to all these new devices.
INSKEEP: So, we could still have longer storytelling, which is really valuable in journalism. But the 500-page book, rather than being 20 chapters might be 500 chapters is what you're saying.
M: It could be that we're going to find ourselves reading in that way. I think that all these forms will coexist, but who knows? I mean, you know, our kids are so adaptive that I can see it in my own 19-year-old - the stuff she reads at such speed in different places. I can imagine it happening.
INSKEEP: Tina Brown, thanks for sending along some stuff, including some articles that would never fit in a text message. I appreciate it.
M: Thank you.
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INSKEEP: She's editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast. And you can find links to Tina Brown's picks at NPR.org.
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INSKEEP: It's NPR News.
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