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Talk to Me: Listening Between the Lines

Smith, Anna Deavere

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ISBN 10: 0375501509 / ISBN 13: 9780375501500
Verlag: Random House, New York, 2000
Gebraucht Zustand: Very Good Hardcover
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0375501509 Very good in Very good dust jacket. First Edition. Quality, Value, Experience. Media Shipped in New Boxes. Buchnummer des Verkäufers BING89713732

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Bibliografische Details

Titel: Talk to Me: Listening Between the Lines

Verlag: Random House, New York

Erscheinungsdatum: 2000

Einband: Hardcover

Zustand:Very Good

Zustand des Schutzumschlags: Dust Jacket Included

Auflage: 1st Edition

Über diesen Titel


Anna Deavere Smith, the award-winning playwright and actor, has spent a lifetime listening—really listening—to the people around her. As a child in the segregated Baltimore of the early 1960s, Smith absorbed the words of her parents, teachers, neighbors—even train conductors—and realized that there was something more being communicated than the actual words:

The conductor's voice had a mild kind of grandeur that was a cousin to the vocal tones I had heard at funerals—"Ashes-to-ashes"—and at christenings and weddings. These are words that have been said many times, but the person who speaks them understands that each time it must be said as if it matters, because it does matter. We never know what lies ahead, and we never know what just happened, and all words must house respect of those two unknowns.

In Talk to Me, Smith looks back at a singular career as a seeker and interpreter of language in America, revealing the methodology behind her extraordinary search for the truth and nuances of verbal communication. For thirty years, the defining thesis of Smith's work has been that how we speak is just as important in communicating truth and identity as what we say. Everything from individual vocal tone to grammar, Smith demonstrates, can be as identifiable and revealing as a fingerprint. Her journey has taken her from the rarefied bastions of academia to riot-torn streets; she has conducted hundreds of interviews with subjects ranging from women prisoners to presidents of the United States. In 1995, her ongoing investigation led her to Washington, D.C. After all, what better place to wage an inquiry into the power of language and the language of power than in the city where "message" is a manufactured product? What happens when we as citizens accept—which we seem to be doing more and more—our chosen leaders' failure to tell the truth? And how can we know that we are hearing what Washington really has to say when everything we receive is filtered through the media?

Armed with a blazing intellect and a tape recorder, Smith tackled these questions head-on, conducting more than four hundred interviews with people both inside and outside the power structure of Washington. She recorded these sessions in her trademark verbatim transcripts, which include every tic and verbal utterance of her subjects. More than thirty of these remarkable documents appear in this book, including interviews with Bill Clinton, Anita Hill, Studs Terkel, George Bush, Mike McCurry, and Helen Thomas. After five years of searing investigation into the world of the politicians, spin doctors, and power brokers who are steering the course of our country from inside the beltway, Smith has come away with a revelatory assessment—by turns devastating and hopeful—of the lexicon of power and politics in America. Talk to Me is a landmark contribution from a woman whose pioneering insights into language speak volumes.


Anna Deavere Smith, an actress and playwright in a category all her own, travels America in pursuit of authentic language, the kind that reveals the truth of a person, not just information. Once she finds that "personal music," she becomes the person through their verbal tics and idiosyncrasies, showcasing them in her critically acclaimed one-women plays. In 1995, Smith took her tape recorder to Washington, D.C., to capture the American presidency. But, she writes, "I knew that I knew nothing about the president, or any public figure for that matter, that the press didn't tell me. I would have to look at the press too." Over the course of five years, she interviewed Washington insiders (George Stephanopoulos, Marlin Fitzwater, David Kendall), members of the press (Ben Bradlee, Mike Wallace, Mike Isikoff), cultural critics (Ken Burns, Studs Terkel), and finally President Clinton himself. The book is a hybrid of transcripts of these interviews, vignettes of capitol politics, and ruminations on language, race relations, and inclusion; the parallel between the theatre and politics; and the potential for genuine human communication between politicians and the people.

"The language of Washington is in disrepair," Smith writes, "a verbal flat line," and though politicians have tried to learn from actors, they have failed so fully they can no longer connect with their audiences. The press comes in for an even stronger critique as a group that honors truth, but is busy looking for lies and creating a highly wired cocoon. The book's best and most startling moments are when her subjects "bust out" and surprise us, as when Clinton's former press secretary Mike McCurry says:

And we, we came very close in the last week to a point for, where I thought I was going to get asked about what kind of erections the president has. I mean quite seriously.... So it's a, it's weird. It's kind of this merging of our popular culture and tabloid mentality and the evening shows ... and it's kind of this morphing of what we consider, you know, civil discourse and ah so it's it's it's a troubling time.
While Smith tends to meander, interested perhaps in following her own authentic speech, she raises necessary questions and offers even more intriguing conclusions: there will never be real conversation between Washington and the rest of the nation until there's desegregation of the most insular community around--the capitol clique. --Lesley Reed

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