Maya Angelou: a titan who lived as though there were no tomorrow


The first time I interviewed Maya Angelou, in 2002, I got hammered. What was supposed to have been a 45-minute interview in a hotel room near Los Angeles had turned into a 16-hour day, much of it spent in her stretch limo, during which we’d been to lunch, and she had performed. On the way back from Pasadena she asked her assistant, Lydia Stuckey, to get out the whisky.

“Do you want ice and stuff?” Stuckey asked.

“I want some ice, but mostly I want stuff,” said Angelou with a smile, and invited me to join her.

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The Truth About Race In America: It’s Getting Worse, Not Better

Progress is an essential tenet of America’s civic religion. As someone born and raised in England, where “not bad” is a compliment and “could be worse” is positively upbeat, this strikes me as an endearing national characteristic. But as with any religion, when faith is pitted against experience, faith generally wins. And at that point, optimism begins to look suspiciously like delusion.

Since 1977, when Gallup started asking people if they thought they’d be better off the following year, a huge majority have said yes. A 2005 poll revealed that even though only 2 percent of Americans describe themselves as rich, 31 percent thought it very likely or somewhat likely that they would “ever be rich.” And as in most religions, those who have the least are the most devout. Despite entrenched and growing inequality, the poorer people are, the more optimistic they are likely to be about their future financial health.

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Racism is a system of discrimination, not embarrassing public indiscretions

Let’s hear it for Robert Copeland. The police commissioner of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire (population 6,083) sticks to his principles. Even if those principles are stuck in a previous century and mired in bigotry. In March Jane O’Toole was finishing her dinner at a bistro in town when she heard Copeland, 82, announce loudly that he hated watching television because every time he turned on the TV he kept seeing “that fucking nigger”. The “nigger” in question was the president of the United States.

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