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DOUG JOHNSON: Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.
I'm Doug Johnson. This week, we play music from electric guitar player Marnie Stern …
And answer a question from China about writer Toni Morrison …
But first, we tell about some special sales of cars and other former possessions of one of the Beatles’ most famous members.
John Lennon’s Cars
DOUG JOHNSON: “Drive My Car” was a popular songs from the British band the Beatles. The song was first released in Britain in nineteen sixty-five on the Beatles’ album “Rubber Soul.” Earlier that same year, the news media reported that John Lennon passed his driving test. Within hours, many car dealers showed up outside his home. Each hoped to persuade the star that their car was the one for him. Katherine Cole has more about John Lennon’s cars.
KATHERINE COLE: John Lennon decided on a bright blue nineteen sixty-five Ferrari 330 GT Coupe. On February fifth, Bonhams auction house in Paris will put that car up for sale. It’s expected to sell for as much as two hundred sixty thousand dollars.
Officials at Bonhams say John Lennon owned the car for less than a year. It is not clear what happened to it after that. But records suggest that work was done in the nineteen nineties to return the car to its original condition.
While the Ferrari was Lennon’s first car, it was not his most famous. He is probably best known for his multi-colored Rolls Royce Phantom V limousine. That car is currently on display at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria, British Columbia. The staff had to remove the doors from the museum entrance in nineteen eighty-seven in order to bring the car in.
They put the car on display every year for a few months during the winter. They are unable to keep the car on display all year long because of its large size and the large crowds that come to see it.
On New Year’s Day, Braswell Galleries in the American state of Connecticut auctioned off another one of John Lennon’s cars. It was a nineteen seventy-two green Chrysler station wagon that once belonged to him and Yoko Ono.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono holding a "bed-in" in Amsterdam on March 25, 1969. They were protesting the US war in Vietnam.
The Braswell Galleries sold the car for only five thousand five hundred dollars. Braswell Galleries also auctioned off the white suit that John Lennon wore on the cover of the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album. That sold for forty-six thousand dollars. And the suit jacket he wore in the film “Imagine” sold for eighteen thousand dollars.
December eighth marked the thirtieth anniversary of John Lennon’s death.
DOUG JOHNSON: Our listener question this week comes from China. Jali Liu wants to know about Toni Morrison, one of America’s most famous and respected fiction writers. She has written nine novels, many essays and lectures and several children’s books.
Toni Morrison is among the few American Nobel Laureates for Literature. She won that prize in nineteen ninety-three. She was the first African American to receive the award. The Nobel Committee said the imaginative force and poetic voice of her writing gave life to an important part of American reality.
The writer was born Chloe Anthony Wofford in nineteen thirty-one in Lorain, Ohio. She took the nickname Toni in college.
Toni Morrison started reading early in life and says it was always a huge pleasure. In nineteen forty-nine, she entered Howard University in Washington, D.C. She studied English literature. She later received a master’s degree in the same subject from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. After college she married Harold Morrison and had two children. Their marriage ended in nineteen sixty-four.
Morrison became an English professor and said she found teaching very satisfying. She once told a reporter that she loved nothing more than to discuss books with students who are new to them. But she said she realized that she needed to write when she discovered there was a book she wanted to read that had not yet been written.
American novelist Toni Morrison after being awarded the Legion of Honor in Paris in November
That book turned out to be “The Bluest Eye,” published in nineteen seventy. Toni Morrison wrote about a little black girl who believes she would be beautiful, loved and happy if she only had the blue eyes of a white girl.
Toni Morrison’s next novel, “Sula,” was published in nineteen seventy-three. It received great critical praise and was nominated for the National Book Award. Her third novel, “Song of Solomon,” won the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Many critics think “Beloved” is Toni Morrison’s best work. It was published in nineteen eighty-seven and won a Pulitzer Prize. “Beloved” tells the story of a slave haunted by the horror of killing her own baby girl to save her from the suffering of slavery.
Toni Morrison says she does not have a favorite among her own books. She says whatever book she is currently working on is the one that interests her most. However, in two thousand eight, she told television host Charlie Rose that there was a book she considered her best. She said she met the goals she set for herself in the novel “Jazz” and that it had the finest writing and ideas.
Toni Morrison is on the editorial board of The Nation magazine. The writer retired from Princeton University in two thousand six.
DOUG JOHNSON: Marnie Stern makes music that is energetic, experimental and creative. She is best known for her inventive method of playing the electric guitar. She uses both hands to finger-tap on the flat narrow part of the guitar called the fretboard. Her music is influenced by heavy metal and punk music, styles of music in which female guitarists are rare. Shirley Griffith tells us more.
SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: That was “Every Single Line Means Something” from Marnie Stern’s first album, “In Advance of the Broken Arm.”
It is a good example of her powerful guitar playing and sharp voice. The drummer Zach Hill adds to the fiery sound of her music.
Marnie Stern at Abbey Pub in Chicago, Illinois
Marnie Stern came to music relatively late in her life. She had a few guitar lessons when she was fifteen, but rarely played. Later, she studied journalism at New York University. In her twenties she decided to pay more attention to guitar playing and making music. She retaught herself to play the guitar and spent several hours a day working on her skills and writing songs. She released her first album in two thousand seven when she was thirty years old.
Marnie Stern’s second album has a strikingly long name: “This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It and She Is It and It Is It and That Is That.” Here is “The Devil’s in the Details” from that album.
Marnie Stern has said that she only likes to listen to music in which risks are being taken. She says this music pushes her to do new things. Her most recent album is called “Marnie Stern.” We leave you with “Transparency is the New Mystery.”
DOUG JOHNSON: I’m Doug Johnson. Our program was written by June Simms, Dana Demange and Caty Weaver who also was our producer.
If you have a question about American life, write to firstname.lastname@example.org. We might answer your question on this show. So please include your name and country.
Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.