Who are you?

From small town Connecticut to the New York Times.
  • Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

Matt Bai, and I’m a political writer for the New York Times magazine and author of the book, “The Argument: Billionaires, Bloggers, and the Battle to Remake Democratic Politics”. I was born and grew up in Trumbull, Connecticut, which is a little town just outside of Bridgeport. I think anybody who spent any time in Bridgeport . . . It’s not far from here. It makes me a Yankee fan. You know but I think anyone who has spent any time in Bridgeport or in any of the industrial cities of the Northeast would understand how, you know . . . where my worldview is formed. Because you know for me, I grew up around . . . in pockets of affluence huddled around these old, great industrial cities that were just rotting; and that were unsafe; and that were uninhabitable; and where . . . and where the economies and the social order had fallen into great sort of chaotic disrepair. And . . . and I was always told there were places you could go and there were places you couldn’t. So I could take the train to New York City, and I could see Yankee Stadium from the train. But you never got out in Harlem because Lord knows what would happen to you if you got out in Harlem. And I grew up wondering why you couldn’t go to those places and what had created those conditions. And as soon as I was . . . started to get into journalism that’s where I went. I went first to the South Bronx, then to the Boston Globe to cover the projects in Boston. And I was often . . . Somebody asked me recently . . . I won’t go on and on with all questions, but this one matters to me. Somebody asked me recently . . . I did an interview with a book site, and they said, “What writers influence you?” you know. And I had to think about it for a while, and I said, “It’s not political books.” I can’t think of many political books that have been influential to me. But novelists who have understood much better than non-fiction writers, than journalists have, the condition of sort of dying industrial America and what it means to us as a country. And so, you know, people like Richard Russo who writes about this over and over again; and Philip Roth who wrote “American Pastoral”; people who’ve, you know, who’ve captured this moment at the end of the industrial age that sort of defines where we are. So I grew up right at the heart of that moment.

Recorded on: 12/13/07