Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.
I'm Doug Johnson. This week on our program:
We play new music by young movie star Scarlett Johansson and guitarist Pete Yorn …
And answer a question about the American automobile company General Motors …
But first, a report on a new mystery novel that is breaking sales records in adult fiction.
"The Lost Symbol"
American writer Dan Brown has another mystery in the bookstores and people are buying the new novel in record numbers. "The Lost Symbol" takes place in Washington, D.C. over a period of just twelve hours. The mystery is linked to the Freemasons, a secret men's group with an estimated five million members around the world. Faith Lapidus has more.
Dan Brown's earlier novel, "The Da Vinci Code," was a very popular book.
Knopf Doubleday Publishing group released the book in two thousand three. It has since sold eighty million copies in forty-four languages. It was made into a popular movie. All in all, "The Da Vinci Code" made Dan Brown a very successful writer.
What that novel did not do, however, was sell one million copies the day of its release. That honor goes to Mister Brown's third book, "The Lost Symbol," released on September fifteenth. By the end of its first week on the market it had sold two million copies. The record-breaking sales made "The Lost Symbol" the fastest-selling adult novel in history. The book entered The New York Times Best Sellers list at the number one position on September twenty-fifth.
The novel re-visits the character of Robert Langdon, the Harvard University professor from Brown's first two books. Langdon is an expert on symbols. In this mystery, he is presented with a symbol tattooed on a hand. The symbol itself might not be so unusual. But the hand has been recently disconnected from its body.
So begins the novel that takes Langdon hunting and hurrying around Washington, D.C., through museums, monuments and government buildings. The professor has a vicious enemy to defeat, central intelligence agents to outsmart and a friend to save.
That friend is Peter Solomon, the secretary of the Smithsonian and a Freemason. The Freemasons are a secret society hundreds of years old with a whole set of mysterious symbols that only they know.
Book critics have been mixed in their reviews of "The Lost Symbol." But, the Web site Internet Movie Database reports that the book is already "in development" to be a movie.
You can learn more about other popular authors who spoke at the National Book Festival on the Special English program "This is America" on Monday.
Our question this week comes from China. Li Zhiwei wants to know more about the American automobile company General Motors.
General Motors sold more than eight million cars and trucks last year. The company does business in one hundred forty countries. It sells most of its cars in the United States. Other large markets are China, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Canada, Russia and Germany. General Motors was the world's largest automaker from nineteen thirty-one until two thousand eight.
William Durant established the company in nineteen hundred eight in Flint, Michigan. Mister Durant had a new idea for a car company that produced many different kinds of cars. He wanted to offer different kinds of cars for rich people as well as middle-income people.
He used his stock in General Motors to buy other automobile companies. Within a few years he had brought together more than twenty different automobile and parts companies under the General Motors name. Many of the companies were small, weak and in debt.
By nineteen hundred ten General Motors had fallen into financial trouble. Bankers were forced to step in to save the company from financial ruin and Mister Durant was removed from control.
Over the years, General Motors grew and expanded. The company developed new and better production methods. And, it continued to improve its designs, offering customers many kinds of cars.
General Motors became the first automaker to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. And it was the first company to make more than a billion dollars in a year.
But last year, increasing gas prices and decreasing sales forced the company to seek billions of dollars in government aid in an attempt to avoid failure. In June, General Motors filed for chapter eleven bankruptcy. It sought protection from its creditors while continuing operations. GM was one hundred seventy-two billion dollars in debt.
The company is currently reorganizing. It has sold off its less profitable kinds of cars, closed factories, cut jobs and closed sales centers.
GM is continuing to produce its four main brands - Cadillac, Chevrolet, Buick and GMC. The company is mostly owned by the United States government which has invested billions of dollars. And Toyota Motors now is the world's largest automaker.
Pete Yorn and Scarlett Johansson
Actress Scarlett Johansson has gained widespread praise for her roles in movies. She has been nominated for four Golden Globe Awards and has won all kinds of honors. Now, she has another starring role, only this time it is not on the big screen. Steve Ember has more.
"Relator" is the first song from the new CD "Break Up." Singer and songwriter Pete Yorn plays Scarlett Johansson's leading man in this musical story about love gone bad. It is Johansson's second album. She made her first album, "Anywhere I Lay My Head," last year.
Pete Yorn is the artistic force behind the "Break Up" CD. His music first gained attention when his song "Strange Condition" was used in the soundtrack for the movie "Me, Myself and Irene."
Pete Yorn says the idea for the album was based on the songs of French entertainer Serge Gainsbourg and actress Brigitte Bardot. Listen to the nineteen sixties sound of "Search Your Heart."
Pete Yorn wrote eight of the nine songs on the "Break Up" CD. It was recorded three years ago. But he was busy performing. And Johansson was busy working on her movie career. Then she took time out to record her solo CD. Then she got married to Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds. And Yorn got to work on another album. Finally, the "Break Up" CD arrived in stores last month. We leave you with "I Don't Know What To Do" from Pete Yorn and Scarlett Johansson.
I'm Doug Johnson. Our program was written by June Simms and Caty Weaver who was also the producer. For transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our programs, go to voaspecialenglish.com. You can also comment on our programs.
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Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.