The Morgan Library invited two opinionated writers—Gay Talese and Michael Cunningham —to their stage on May 5th. The topic of the evening was freedom in art and information, as well as the impact of technology on literature and journalism.
The conversation was moderated by Antonio Monda, Director of the Le Conversazioni literary festival, Capri, Italy, who kicked off the debate by referring to a scene in the movie Ace in the Hole. In the scene, Kirk Douglas' cynical reporter declares, "Bad news sells best, 'cause good news is no news."
Please note that this lively talk included some film clips we are not able to feature here. This edited version of the talk includes references to the movies Ace in the Hole, 8 1/2, Citizen Kane, and La Dolce Vita.
On the First Amendment: It is invasive, it is tactless, it is ugly at times. It is indefensibly indefensible but you must defend it. I don’t know how you can have a free press and a free society without having bad manners, a lack of sensitivity and general ugliness at times
On the sanctity of the book: F--- the physical book. I don’t mean to be impertinent, but I just don’t have an idea of the book as a holy object. It’s a vessel, it’s a vehicle and mark it up, tear out pages, give it away.
On the effect of 9/11: The great tragedy of 9/11 was what it did to the press for those three or four years; it made owners of newspapers and networks fear that they would be perceived as not patriotic enough. They didn’t expose the deceit of the defense secretary, and the government itself, about these weapons of mass destruction; as a result we are still involved in Iraq.