A Book and its Cover

279 - A Book and its Cover

Mark Worden (Standard British accent):

Speak Up features an interview with the novelist Kate Mosse. In this out-take she talks about the differences in reactions to her work in Britain and the rest of Europe:

Kate Mosse (Standard British accent):
There are two things: in… on the one hand, reactions in terms of press; it is very different. In the UK, it’s obviously in your… in anybody’s home market, for me: because of the Orange Prize, because I present shows for the BBC, I have a public persona, which is separate from being a writer and consequently here, it tends to focus on sales! And, it being what is termed as “commercial fiction” – you know, no author defines their books in that sort of way, these are always press releases and things – so here I have a very different sort of profile, I suppose. In European countries in particular, it is really enjoyable because I simply exist as the author of these books, of Labyrinth and Sepulchre.
Consequently my interviews in Holland and Germany and France and Norway and whatever are incredibly satisfying for me because they are about the text, they’re about the book, they’re not about me. And that is very interesting, particularly with Sepulchre, the reviews in Italy and in France, in Norway, you know, the countries that it’s come out so far… in Germany, particularly in France, actually, are… Sepulchre has been treated as an extraordinarily literary book, that also sold a lot of copies and that’s been very exciting. You read a review in Le Figaro that says that you are, you know, the female version of Umberto Eco, and you’re going, “Yes! Fantastic!” Whereas here, and in America, I’m the female version of Dan Brown! You know, it’s the same book. So, in terms of press reaction, I’m taken much more seriously as a writer in Europe, in America, than I am in the UK.
I don’t complain about that, because my… you know, the sales figures speak for themselves and that’s obviously lovely, however, the thing I would say, which is really interesting, is that my audiences in Japan, Norway, New Zealand, France – just come back from Poland, off to Slovakia on Monday – the audiences are the same. I have a very interesting readership, which is incredibly satisfying for me, in that it is pretty much 50:50 male: female, which is extraordinary, given I’m a female writer and I write female lead characters because the received wisdom is that women read books by women and men tend to read novels by men. That’s not been my experience at all with Labyrinth or Sepulchre, which I suspect is partly the… jackets, that they say very clearly, if you like this sort of esoteric book, if you like history and mystery, as the Italians always say, then you’ll like this sort of book. It doesn’t say “female” or “male readership,” they’re very neutral jackets, quite deliberately so. I also have a very wide age range, so I will always have couples, retired age, couples in the audience. I’ll have quite a lot of women that have come on their own in… who are in book groups, but I will also have, always, teenage boys, and that’s fantastic, you know, I find that really thrilling. So for me, it seems to me, that readers are often patronised, I think, and readers often… they find the stories that they want. So my readership all over the world is quite similar, but the way that I’m profiled in the press is totally different. And that’s just very interesting ‘cause it tends to suggest to me that press stuff is about visibility and readers find out from other readers the books that they want and that actually it’s not the newspapers that are getting people to buy books particularly, it’s readers and websites and they say, “You know, have you read this?” And they pass it on to their brother, or their mum, or whatever.
So that… that has been… and that’s one of the reasons that I travel such a lot, although that eats into writing time, is that I… I get… I really enjoy meeting readers in other countries, and I really like the questions they ask, and you’re absolutely right, that in Europe they ask questions about spirituality, about esoteric things, about the soul and the spirit and things, and they see these things in Labyrinth and Sepulchre, which no British person would ever ask. And that’s why I like travelling in Europe because, for me, that’s how I see things. I like to be able to talk about the spirit of a place. You go to Germany, they talk about reincarnation; in Poland, I’ve just come back from, the last trip I did, late last week, they talk about the spirituality of the tarot cards, they don’t feel the need to say whether it’s… to rubbish it or support it, they’re interested in that… in why anyone might find that spiritually satisfying to do, and so for me I have a different calibre of discussion, and that’s very rewarding for me, as a writer.

(Kate Mosse was talking to Louise Johnson)
In Defence of Al Jazeera

277 - In Defence of Al Jazeera

Mark Worden (Standard British accent):

Speak Up features an interview with Khaled Dawoud, Al Jazeera’s New York correspondent. In the past the network has been criticised for broadcasting Al Qaeda videos. We asked Khaled Dawoud about this:

Khaled Dawoud (Egyptian accent):
I deny that Al Jazeera, of course, has any relation to Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda and other groups, many other groups, they know that Al Jazeera has a very wide reach, so they send us tapes that a lot of people want to see, but we air tapes of other groups too. I mean, right now, the terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, they do not need Al Jazeera, they have the websites, they can post whatever they want on the website, so we get our own exclusives and, if others don’t get them, we shouldn’t be the ones to blame.

(Khaled Dawoud was talking to Lorenza Cerbini)
The Secret of My Success

277 - The Secret of My Success

Rachel Roberts (Standard British accent):

Now aged 22, Joss Stone took the music world by storm when she was just 16. In 2003 she released the album The Soul Sessions, which was a hit, as was the follow-up, Mind, Body & Soul, which came out a year later. Critics and fans were amazed, not only by her age, but by the fact that a girl from the very English county of Devon had a voice that could rival some of America’s greatest soul singers. Since then she has released Introducing Joss Stone (2007) and, most recently, Colour Me Free! (in late 2009).
We asked Joss Stone to explain how she became a professional singer at such a tender age:

Joss Stone (Standard British accent):
My horse Freddy was sold when I was about 12. My mum, she… it was her horse, really, but I just loved this horse, and... they sold Freddy because they told me that they didn’t have enough money to keep him, and we didn’t have a field, and we couldn’t just keep renting, and livery and bla bla bla, and I could only ride him on the weekends ‘cause I had school.
So I was kind of gutted, and I was like, “OK, so what do I have to do then, to get him back? So I sat there and I’d think, I’m a very logical kind of girl, practical, got to go ahead and do it, you know, pro-active! So, it was like “Hmm, what can I do? If they’re not going to help me – if my parents aren’t going to help me out in this one, which clearly they’re not, ‘cause it’s their fault! I’m going to go, and I’m going to get a job and I’m going to buy him back.”

So, I was watching TV and I was like “What can I do? I’m terrible at school, I’m not very academic. How can I get a job? I’m 12!” So I hadn’t really sang (sic) in front of anybody, but I always used to watch Star for A Night, which is like Star Search in America, and I just loved it, I loved it, but, you know how they have like a lot of crap on? I always thought, “Well, come on, I can do that. It’s not that hard. I can do that in a mirror, maybe I’m crazy, but I can!” So I wrote off to the show and I sent a little cassette tape, and made it on my little karaoke machine, of like little half-songs, but I sent that off, and then they sent me back this… like months later, I’d completely forgotten about it, they sent me back this sheet, and they said, “You’re like... you’re 1,182,” that was my number. So I went up there and we just queued for hours and hours and hours and I sang, and I was very, very nervous and my mum come (sic) with me. And then, yeah, long story short, I sang on the show, I got paid 75 quid, and couldn’t buy the horse back, but I did get a job out of it, so that’s good.

And, as we said, success came pretty quickly:

Joss Stone:
Those first two albums were a crazy time in my life, I have to say. I didn’t really know how it would have felt, if I hadn’t have done (sic) it. You know, it’s I like I didn’t have another job to compare it to. I had school and then that was my life.
So people were like, “Well, you know, is it weird to you, is it strange to you, that you did that so young and bla bla bla?” I’d never done anything else, so, to me, that’s my job, that’s my life, that’s what I do. And it’s... yeah, it’s tiring and all that, but it’s a job that you work hard at. And I didn’t really understand the success of it, I don’t think, for a very long time, ‘cause I’m not really the kind of girl that like reads up on myself and stuff. So I would go to places and they’d know the words to my songs and I would not understand, like “How the hell did they hear it?!” I didn’t realise, for a long time, that people even knew. It’s very strange!

A Night at the Museum

275 - A Night at the Museum

Chuck Rolando (Standard American accent):

Andrew Ackerman is the executive director of the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, or “CMOM.” He met with Speak Up and explained how the Museum was set up:

Andrew Ackerman (Standard American accent):
The Children’s Museum of Manhattan was created in 1974 and it was created by parents of the City of New York. At that time, the City was in a financial crisis and all of the arts were being taken out of the school: no painting, no music. So the Children’s Museum began as a storefront, a very small place for children and families to come to create art. In 1989 it moved to its current facility, it’s about 3,500 square metres in size, or 35,000 square feet. In order to be able to create educational exhibitions, to help children learn basic skills that they need for school, but also to learn about themselves and the world they live in, through the arts and through the sciences.

Today the Museum occupies five floors of the Tisch Building at 212 West 83rd Street. Its current exhibitions include “Adventures with Diego and Dora,” “PlayWorks and “Gods, Myths and Mortals: Discover Ancient Greece”:

Andrew Ackerman:
These exhibitions are fun, challenging. It requires children and adults to think. It’s really creative play, but with a real purpose. There’s much here for adults to learn, not only in the exhibition about ancient Greece, but also in an exhibition that we spent three years researching about how young children learn. Children learn from the moment they’re born, so our exhibition “PlayWorks” is designed for children from six months old up to about five years. And it has language skills – it’s a great place to come to learn English with your children in fact – art, creative play.
Part of the magic of this Museum is that for children who don’t speak English, they can come play with American children and they play the language of play and they can learn together with children from all over the world and people can spend three or four hours at the Museum on a day. They may leave to go have lunch in the neighborhood at a typical New York restaurant, but the exhibitions are designed so the children can learn by listening, by looking, by touching and by moving, so that language is not that important.

According to the cult TV series Friends, New York City isn’t a great place to raise children, but the fact of the matter is that millions of people grow up there. It isn’t surprising, therefore, that the “Big Apple” can offer a lot to its young residents. In addition to Central Park and its zoo, you also have the Natural History Museum, which was the inspiration for the entertaining 2006 kids’ movie, A Night at the Museum. The Museum also appeared, incidentally, in J.D. Salinger’s classic novel of American adolescence, The Catcher in the Rye (1951).
Less well known, and quite a bit younger, is the Children’s Museum of Manhattan which, as its executive director Andrew Ackerman explains in the accompanying interview (see box), was founded in the early 1970s, at a time when the City of New York City was in the midst of a deep budget crisis.

Just as New York’s Museum of Modern Art is known by its acronym, MOMA, so the Children’s Museum of Manhattan is called “CMOM.” Whether this is a play upon MOMA, or “See Mom,” given that it is Mom who is likely to take the kids there, or “C’mon,” as “Come on, let’s go the Museum,” is hard to say.
What is sure, however, is that CMOM has a splendid set of exhibits in its five-floor premises in the Tisch Building at 212 West 83rd Street. Currently, pride of place goes to a section called “Adventures with Diego and Dora,“ which is based on a popular children’s book series, and “Gods, Myths and Mortals: Discover Ancient Greece.” Andrew Ackerman says that these are also of interest to adult visitors. After all, wasn’t it another great American novelist, Tom Robbins, who once said that “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood”?