Friday, December 29, 2017

the last book I ever read (The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between, excerpt eleven)

from 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner in Biography The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between by Hisham Matar:

I remained in the café for a few minutes after he left. Then I wandered out onto the street. It was night, and it felt good that it was night. That man had been the only one who had seen Father alive after the prison massacre of 1996. All the consequences that built on that—the Human Rights Watch report, the campaign, the negotiations with Seif el-Islam—all seemed vacuous, a cruel joke. A great wave of exhaustion passed through me. I wished I could cry. I sensed the old dark acknowledgment that Father had been killed in the massacre. I welcomed the feeling. Not only because it was familiar. Not only because certainty was better than hope. But because I have always preferred to think of him dying with others. He would have been good with others. His instinct to comfort and support those around him would have kept him busy. If I strain hard enough, I can hear him tell them, “Boys, stand straight. With hardship comes ease. With hardship comes ease.” Those other options of him dying alone—those terrify me.



Thursday, December 28, 2017

the last book I ever read (The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between, excerpt ten)

from 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner in Biography The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between by Hisham Matar:

A woman who looked a little embarrassed occupied the center of the lobby, plucking away at a harp. Her skill was clear, but she had obviously been instructed to stick to instrumentals of well-known pop songs. She was now in the opening bars of “Yesterday” by the Beatles. We spotted the television preacher Amr Khaled sitting with a group of admirers. At several other tables around the lobby, high-class prostitutes sat in pairs, sipping wine. They looked like artificial flowers. After a marathon of popular tunes, the harpist allowed herself a brief diversion. One of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Number 7, I think. It lasted about a minute.



Wednesday, December 27, 2017

the last book I ever read (The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between, excerpt nine)

from 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner in Biography The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between by Hisham Matar:

The Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel is in Knightsbridge. The only thing I knew about it was that long ago, when it had a different name, the Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa and the Mexican poet Octavio Paz used to meet there. We arrived ten minutes early and took one of the round tables for four in the café in the lobby. It was to one side, with a good view of the entrance. I am not sure if my recollections of the hotel lobby are accurate or if they have been affected by my state at the time. Either way, this is how I remember it. In the lounge, heavy Arab businessmen sat in gigantic armchairs. Suited English architects or developers leant over them, pointing to spreadsheets and architectural plans. The more these prospecting Englishmen bent over, the tighter their neckties became and the redder their faces grew.

Although neither of us felt like it, Ziad and I ordered tea.



Friday, December 22, 2017

the last book I ever read (The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between, excerpt eight)

from 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner in Biography The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between by Hisham Matar:

Ever since 2004, when Tony Blair went to Libya and relations were normalized, some Libyan friends had urged me to make contact with Seif el-Islam. It was known that on more than one occasion, as Libya’s image was undergoing a facelift, he had released political prisoners. And recently, in 2009, he had done the seemingly impossible: he managed to extract Abdelbaset al-Megrahi—a Libyan intelligence officer convicted of 270 counts of murder for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie—from the clutches of the Scottish justice system. When the plane landed in Tripoti, Seif stepped out victoriously, holding the hand of al-Megrahi up in the air. The wind filled Seif’s sleeve, ballooning the fabric. Shortly after this, Seif bought a house in Hampstead. For several days after I heard the news, I had to drive away thoughts of knocking on his door and shooting him.



Thursday, December 21, 2017

the last book I ever read (The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between, excerpt seven)

from 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner in Biography The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between by Hisham Matar:

The seventeenth-century Spanish painter Diego Velázquez, who had a hold on me during those years, is counted amongst the influences on the French painter Manet. It was probably this chronology of influences that had organized my decision. Nonetheless, it is unsettlingly appropriate. Manet was responding to one of the most controversial political events of his time. The French intervention in Mexico had come to a disastrous end with the execution of their installed ruler, Emperor Maximilian, in 1867. There were no photographs of the incident. Manet had to rely on the stories he read in the papers. In the same year, he began work on several imaginings of the event. Over the next couple of years he was able to complete three large paintings, an oil sketch and a lithograph depicting the fall of Maximilian. They are scattered around the world. The one at the National Gallery happens to be the most poignant, not least of all because, after the artist’s death, the painting was cut up and sold in fragments. The impressionist artist Edgar Degas purchased the surviving pieces, and it was not until 1992, two years after my father’s disappearance, that the National Gallery assembled them on a single canvas. Large chunks of the picture remain missing. You cannot see Maximilian—only his hand, gripped tightly by one of his generals. The firing squad is as ruthlessly focused and indifferent as the men surrounding Saint Lawrence. It would be hard to think of a painting that better evokes the inconclusive fate of my father and the men who died in Abu Salim. Learning of the fact that my unknowing 25-year-old self was guided, whether by reason or instinct, to this picture on the same day as the massacre unnerved me and has since changed my relationship to all the works of this French artist who, somewhere in Proust’s novels, is described as the painter of countless portraits of vanished models, “models who already belonged to oblivion or to history.” Today, whenever I see a Manet, the white, his white, which is unlike any other white, cannot be a cloud, a tablecloth or a woman’s dress but will always remain the white leather belts of the firing squad in The Execution of Maximilian.



Wednesday, December 20, 2017

the last book I ever read (The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between, excerpt six)

from 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner in Biography The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between by Hisham Matar:

Grandfather Hamed would lie down in the far corner of the hall, which was a large rectangular room lined with cushions. One of the photographs I keep of him—a copy of which I sent to the Canadian forensic artist to help her produce a likeness of how Father might look today—shows Grandfather Hamed lying in that same corner. His exceptionally tall, lean figure is spread across the cushions, the radio and a couple of cartons of Kent cigarettes beside him. His face looks back at me with gentle solemnity. A cigarette is between his long and dark fingers, the thin line of smoke rising above his head.



Tuesday, December 19, 2017

the last book I ever read (The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between, excerpt five)

from 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner in Biography The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between by Hisham Matar:

Uncle Mahmoud’s visit that autumn coincided with the European Cup. Only reading took charge of Father’s passions more intensely than football. And no team gave him more pleasure than Bayern Munich. When Father was away on work, my mother videotaped every one of their matches. She continued doing so after he was kidnapped, recording not only those of the German team but every football match broadcast, no matter how inconsequential, including Egypt’s Second Division tournament. Every time I came home on holidays, I would find the library of videotapes had grown by a metre. Each was labeled with not the usually careful turns of Mother’s handwriting but a hurried version of it, nothing quickly the competing teams—“Mali-Senegal,” “Cameroon-Egypt,” "Juventus-Barcelona”—and the date. She only stopped when we received the first of Father’s prison letters, three years later. By then she had recorded hundreds of hours of football, which, I remember calculating, if Father had returned to us then with his passion for football intact, it would have taken several years for him to watch.



Monday, December 18, 2017

the last book I ever read (The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between, excerpt four)

from 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner in Biography The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between by Hisham Matar:

Uncle Mahmoud is my father’s youngest brother. My father was born in 1939, Mahmoud in 1955. In old photographs, Father is serious and poised, well groomed even in his youth; Uncle Mahmoud has the long hair of the 1960s and ‘70s, a smile always lurking. Father was born into a Libya ruled by Benito Mussolini. He was four in 1943, when the Italo-German armies were defeated in North Africa and Libya fell to the British and the French. On the 24th of December 1951, when, under King Idris, Libya gained its independence, Father was twelve years old. Uncle Mahmoud was born four years later. In 1969, the year of Qaddafi’s coup, Father was thirty, and Uncle Mahmoud fourteen. Mahmoud seemed both uncle and brother to Ziad and me, a rare ally with an insider’s knowledge of adulthood. When Father resigned from the diplomatic corps in New York and we moved back to Tripoli, Uncle Mahmoud came and stayed with us. He loved Voltaire and Russian novels. He had a dreamy sensibility and would often forget to turn the stove off. Unlike all the other adults, he never turned down my appeals to go out to the garden, even after lunch, when the sun was merciless and the household napped. We played football or sat in the shade of the eucalyptus trees. I knew that his love for me was uncomplicated and unequivocal, and knowing this felt like a great freedom. In our exile years, Father would often tell me that I reminded him of his little brother.

In the same week in March 1990 that my father was kidnapped, Libyan secret service agents drove to Uncle Mahmoud’s home in Ajdabiya. Other officials went to Hmad Khanfore, my uncle through marriage, and to my paternal aunt’s sons, cousins Ali and Saleh Eshnayquet. All four men were arrested. They belonged to one of the underground cells that my father’s organization had set up inside the country. The arrests were so well coordinated that every man captured believed the others were still free. Each assumed that he was the only one being interrogated and tortured. In January 2011, as the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions unfolded, the Libyan dictatorship grew anxious. Wanting to appease popular discontent, it let out some political prisoners. I became hopeful. The public campaign for the release of my father and relatives, which I had started a couple of years earlier, went into full gear. On the 3rd of February of that year, and after twenty-one years of imprisonment, all except for my father were set free. Fourteen days later, bolstered by the successful overthrows of the Tunisian and Egyptian dictators, a popular uprising exploded across Libya.



Sunday, December 17, 2017

the last book I ever read (The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between, excerpt three)

from 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner in Biography The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between by Hisham Matar:

Looking out of the aeroplane window, I wondered if they had taken the blindfold off once Father was inside the plane. Did they allow him at least a chance to see the land from the air? Years later, I met a man who claimed to have met another man who worked on the runway in Tripoli and recalled seeing a private jet land and a man being escorted from it. The date and the time matched. The description of the prisoner suggested that he might have been my father. “His hair was completely white. Well dressed. Handcuffed and blindfolded. A proud gait.” This was the land my father loved more than anything else. “Don’t put yourselves in competition with Libya. You will always lose,” he had said, when once the three of us had tried to dissuade him from openly opposing Qaddafi. The silence that followed was the distance between him and us. The disagreement had a historical dimension. It placed a nation against the intimate reality of a family. I looked at the wildflowers beside the runway. Spring in full bloom. And, when we stepped out of the aeroplane, the familiar scents in the air were like a blanket you were not aware you needed, but now that it has been placed on your shoulders you are grateful. My childhood friend, cousin Marwan al-Tashani, a Benghazi judge, stood at the foot of the ladder, smiling, holding a camera.



Saturday, December 16, 2017

the last book I ever read (The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between, excerpt two)

from 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner in Biography The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between by Hisham Matar:

When my father was on that flight home from London, Libya’s new ruler, Muammar Qaddafi, promoted himself from captain to colonel and issued orders that senior military officers be arrested. My father was taken straight from the Tripoli airpot to prison. Five months later, he was released and stripped of his rank and uniform. He returned to his wife and three-year-old son, Ziad. The new regiime then did with my father what it did with most officers who were high-ranking under Idris. Not wanting to make enemies of senior military men, yet at the same time fearing their potential disloyalty, it sent them abroad, often as minor diplomats. This allowed time for the new security apparatus to form. My father was given an administrative role in Libya’s Mission to the United Nations soon after his release. I was conceived in that short window of time between my father’s release and his departure for New York: a time of uncertainty, but also a time of optimism, because, as his retelling of the embassy story suggested, Father had high hopes for the new regime. Maybe he saw his imprisonment, removal from the army and temporary banishment as natural repercussions—perhaps even reversible—of the country’s historical transformation. He, like many of his generation, was inspired by the example of Egypt, where, led by Gamal Abdel Nasser, a young, secular and nationalist pan-Arab republic replaced a corrupt monarchy. Qaddafi had declared his admiration for Nasser, and Nasser gave his full support to Qaddafi. So, as reluctant as my father must have been to leave Libya, I don’t imagine he went to New York in despair. It took a couple of years—after Qaddafi abrogated all existing laws and declared himself de facto leader forever—for Father to discover the true nature of the new regime.

Even he, with his intolerance for superstition, must have sense an ill omen in an event that took place on his first day at work in New York. Crossing First Avenue towards the UN building, my father saw a lorry collide with a cyclist. The limbs of the cyclist were scattered across the asphalt. My father’s response was to collect the pieces of flesh and bone and respectfully place them beside the torso, which, like the twisted bicycle, had landed on the pavement. I have always associated the irrevocable and violent changes my family and my country went through in the following four decades with the image of my father—a poet turned officer turned, reluctantly, diplomat—dressed in a suit and tie, far away from home, collecting the pieces of a dead man. He was thirty-one years old. I was born later that year.



Friday, December 15, 2017

the last book I ever read (The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between, excerpt one)

from 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner in Biography The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between by Hisham Matar:

On the 1st of September 1969, fourteen months before I was born, an event took place that was to change the course of Libyan history and my life. In my mind’s eye, I see a Libyan army officer crossing St James’s Square at about 2 P.M. towards what was then the Libyan Embassy in London. He had gone to the British capital on official business. He was popular amongst his peers, although his gentle reserve was sometimes mistaken for arrogance. He had committed to memory pages of verse that, many years later when he was imprisoned, would become his comfort and companion. Several political prisoners told me that, at night, when the prison fell silent, when, in Uncle Mahmoud’s words, “you could hear a pin drop or a grown man weep softly to himself,” they heard this man’s voice, steady and passionate, reciting poems. “He never ran out of them,” his nephew, who was in prison at the same time, told me. And I remember this man who never ran out of poems telling me once that “knowing a book by heart is like carrying a house inside your chest.”



Thursday, December 14, 2017

the last book I ever read (Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, excerpt fourteen)

from The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood:

There’s a surge forward, like a crowd at a rock concert in the former time, when the doors opened, that urgency coming like a wave through us. The air is bright with adrenaline, we are permitted anything and this is freedom, in my body also, I’m reeling, red spreads everywhere, but before that tide of cloth and bodies hits him Ofglen is shoving through the women in front of us, propelling herself with her elbows, left, right, and running towards him. She pushes him down, sideways, then kicks his head viciously, one, two, three times, sharp painful jabs with the foot, well aimed. Now there are sounds, gasps, a low noise like growling, yells, and the red bodies tumble forward and I can no longer see, he’s obscured by arms, fists, feet. A high scream comes from somewhere, like a horse in terror.



Wednesday, December 13, 2017

the last book I ever read (Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, excerpt thirteen)

from The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood:

It’s a good look, slow and level. I’m a wreck. The mascara has smudged again, despite Moira’s repairs, the purplish lipstick has bled, hair trails aimlessly. The molting pink feathers are tawdry as carnival dolls and some of the starry sequins have come off. Probably they were off to begin with and I didn’t notice. I am a travesty, in bad make-up and someone else’s clothes, used glitz.

I wish I had a toothbrush.



Tuesday, December 12, 2017

the last book I ever read (Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, excerpt twelve)

from The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood:

“It’s like walking into the past,” says the Commander. His voice sounds pleased, delighted even. “Don’t you think?”

I try to remember if the past was exactly like this. I’m not sure, now. I know it contained these things, but somehow the mix is different. A movie about the past is not the same as the past.



Monday, December 11, 2017

the last book I ever read (Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, excerpt eleven)

from The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood:

You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs, is what he says. We though we could do better.

Better? I say, in a small voice. How can he think this is better?

Better never means better for everyone, he says. It always means worse, for some.



Sunday, December 10, 2017

the last book I ever read (Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, excerpt ten)

from The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood:

I was stunned. Everyone was, I know that. It was hard to believe. The entire government, gone like that. How did they get in, how did it happen?

That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary. There wasn’t even any rioting in the streets. People stayed home at night, watching television, looking for some direction. There wasn’t even an enemy you could put your finger on.



Saturday, December 9, 2017

the last book I ever read (Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, excerpt nine)

from The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood:

Moira was out there somewhere. She was at large, or dead. What would she do? The thought of what she would do expanded till it filled the room. At any moment there might be a shattering explosion, the glass of the windows would fall inward, the doors swimg open. . . . Moira had power now, she’d been set loose, she’d set herself loose. She was now a loose woman.

I think we found this frightening.



Friday, December 8, 2017

the last book I ever read (Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, excerpt eight)

from The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood:

“Was it all right?” he asks, anxious.

“Yes,” I say. By now I’m wrung out, exhausted. My breasts are painful, they’re leaking a little. Fake milk, it happens this way with some of us. We sit on our benches, facing one another, as we are transported; we’re without emotion now, almost without feeling, we might be bundles of red cloth. We ache. Each of us holds in her lap a phantom, a ghost baby. What confronts us, now the excitement’s over, is our own failure. Mother, I think. Wherever you may be. Can you hear me? You wanted a women’s culture. Well, now there is one. It isn’t what you meant, but it exists. Be thankful for small mercies.



Thursday, December 7, 2017

the last book I ever read (Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, excerpt seven)

from The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood:

Now we can see a city, again from the air. This used to be Detroit. Under the voice of the announcer there’s the thunk of artillery. From the skyline columns of smoke ascend.

“Resettlement of the Children of Ham is continuing on schedule,” says the reassuring pink face, back on the screen. “Three thousand have arrived this week in National Homeland One, with another two thousand in transit.” How are they transporting that many people at once? Trains, buses? We are not shown any pictures of this. National Homeland One is in North Dakota. Lord knows what they’re supposed to do, once they get there. Farm, is the theory.



Wednesday, December 6, 2017

the last book I ever read (Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, excerpt six)

from The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood:

I used to think of my body as an instrument, of pleasure, or a means of transportation, or an implement for the accomplishment of my will. I could use it to run, push buttons of one sort or another, make things happen. There were limits, but my body was nevertheless lithe, single, solid, one with me.

Now the flesh arranges itself differently. I’m a cloud, congealed around a central object, the shape of a pear, which is hard and more real than I am and glows red within its translucent wrapping. Inside it is a space, huge as the sky at night and dark and curved like that, though black-red rather than black. Pinpoints of light swell, sparkle, burst and shrivel within it, countless as stars. Every month there is a moon, gigantic, round, heavy, an omen. It transits, pauses, continues on and passes out of sight, and I see despair coming towards me like famine. To feel that empty, again, again. I listen to my heart, wave upon wave, salty and red, continuing on and on, marking time.



Tuesday, December 5, 2017

the last book I ever read (Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, excerpt five)

from The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood:

Rita is there, sitting at the table, peeling and slicing carrots. Old carrots they are, thick ones, overwintered, bearded from their time in storage. The new carrots, tender and pale, won’t be ready for weeks. The knife she uses is sharp and bright, and tempting. I would like to have a knife like that.



Monday, December 4, 2017

the last book I ever read (Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, excerpt four)

from The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood:

In the garden behind the house the Commander’s Wife is sitting, in the chair she’s had brought out. Serena Joy, what a stupid name. It’s like something you’d put on your hair, in the other time, the time before, to straighten it. Serena Joy, it would say on the bottle, with a woman’s head in cut-paper silhouette on a pink oval background with scalloped gold edges. With everything to choose from in the way of names, why did she pick that one? Serena Joy was never her real name, not even then. Her real name was Pam. I read that in a profile on her, in a news magazine, long after I’d first watched her singing while my mother slept in on Sunday mornings. By that time she was worthy of a profile: Time or Newsweek it was, it must have been. She wasn’t singing anymore by then, she was making speeches. She was good at it. Her speeches were about the sanctity of the house, about how women should stay home. Serena Joy didn’t do this herself, she made speeches instead, but she presented this failure of hers as a sacrifice she was making for the good of all.



Sunday, December 3, 2017

the last book I ever read (Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, excerpt three)

from The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood:

Doubled, I walk the street. Though we are no longer in the Commanders’ compound, there are large houses here also. In front of one of them a Guardian is mowing the lawn. The lawns are tidy, the facades are gracious, in good repair; they’re like the beautiful pictures they used to print in the magazines about homes and gardens and interior decoration. There is the same absence of people, the same air of being asleep. The street is almost like a museum, or a street in a model town constructed to show the way people used to live. As in those pictures, those museums, those model towns, there are no children.



Saturday, December 2, 2017

the last book I ever read (Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, excerpt two)

from The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood:

This woman has been my partner for two weeks. I don’t know what happened to the one before. On a certain day she simply wasn’t there anymore, and this one was there in her place. It isn’t the sort of thing you ask questions about, because the answers are not usually answers you want to know. Anyway there wouldn’t be an answer.

This one is a little plumper than I am. Her eyes are brown. Her name is Ofglen, and that’s about all I know about her. She walks demurely, head down, red-gloved hands clasped in front, with short little steps like a trained pig’s, on its hind legs. During these walks she has never said anything that was not strictly orthodox, but then, neither have I. She may be a real believer, a Handmaid in more than name. I can’t take the risk.



Friday, December 1, 2017

the last book I ever read (Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, excerpt one)

from The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood:

It’s one of the things we fought for, said the Commander’s Wife, and suddenly she wasn’t looking at me, she was looking down at her knuckled, diamond-studded hands, and I knew where I’d seen her before.

The first time was on television, when I was eight or nine. It was when my mother was sleeping in, on Sunday mornings, and I would get up early and go to the television set in my mother’s study and flip through the channels, looking for cartoons. Sometimes when I couldn’t find any I would watch the Growing Souls Gospel Hour, where they would tell Bible stories for children and sing hymns. One of the women was called Serena Joy. She was the lead soprano. She was ash blond, petite, with a snub nose and huge blue eyes which she’d turn upwards during hymns. She could smile and cry at the same time, one tear or two sliding gracefully down her cheek, as if on cue, as her voice lifted through its highest notes, tremulous, effortless. It was after that she went on to other things.



Thursday, November 30, 2017

the last book I ever read (Jennifer Egan's Manhattan Beach, excerpt seven)

from Manhattan Beach: A Novel by Jennifer Egan:

“It happens you’re right,” Styles said. “I’d like to clean up those games you mention. And I’d like to know what other leaks I’ve got. They’ve a tendency to vanish when my boys show up.”

“You need an ombudsman,” Eddie said. It was a word he’d discovered years ago, in a newspaper. He’d been waiting ever since for a chance to use it.



Wednesday, November 29, 2017

the last book I ever read (Jennifer Egan's Manhattan Beach, excerpt six)

from Manhattan Beach: A Novel by Jennifer Egan:

The train rounded a corner, and everyone’s arms dropped as though a string holding them aloft had been cut. People left quickly to make room for new travelers boarding the train across the platform, new loved ones sending them off. Anna stayed where she was, watching the empty track. At last she climbed the steps to the concourse, turning sideways to let soldiers and families rush past. A novel awareness began to assert itself: there was nowhere she needed to be. Just minutes ago, she’d been rushing like the people on those steps, but now she’d no reason to rush or even to walk. The weirdness of this sensation strengthened when Anna found herself back on Seventh Avenue. She stood in the twilight, wondering whether to turn left or right. Uptown or downtown? She’d money in her pocketbook; she could go wherever she wanted. How she’d craved the freedom of not having to worry about her mother! Yet it arrived as a kind of slackness, like the fall of those waving arms when the train turned.



Tuesday, November 28, 2017

the last book I ever read (Jennifer Egan's Manhattan Beach, excerpt five)

from Manhattan Beach: A Novel by Jennifer Egan:

Tabby, knitting wanly with Olive and Edith, leaped to her feet in eagerness to go. That left the twins, whom no one had seen for hours. Grandchildren joined in a search, tumbling through the house, prying open splotchy-mirrored armoires and peering under beds. “Phil-lip . . . John-Martin . . .” It was entirely possible they were hiding, and Dexter half looked forward to the spanking he would give them if this proved to be the case.



Monday, November 27, 2017

the last book I ever read (Jennifer Egan's Manhattan Beach, excerpt four)

from Manhattan Beach: A Novel by Jennifer Egan:

“I’m afraid I’ll have to stay at Alton,” Henry said. “But I’m sure Bitsy would like to come, if someone would fetch her at the station.”

“Of course,” Dexter said, to Henry’s obvious relief. Bitsy, Harriet’s younger sister, had been the ideal schoolmaster’s wife until eight months ago, when she’d become “overwrought,” as Henry put it, after the birth of their fourth child. She’d begun studying Russian with a tutor and chanting passages from Pushkin. She spoke of wanting to travel the world and live in a yurt. Poor Henry hadn’t any idea what to do.



Sunday, November 26, 2017

the last book I ever read (Jennifer Egan's Manhattan Beach, excerpt three)

from Manhattan Beach: A Novel by Jennifer Egan:

Anna had ridden bicycles before. You could rent them in Prospect Park for fifteen cents, and cycling there had been a popular weekend activity among boys and girls from Brooklyn College. This was different. It was a man’s Schwinn, first of all, with a bar inconveniently placed so that Anna had to pedal standing up to be sure she wouldn’t land on it. Maybe standing was what made the difference. Whatever it was, from the instant she pushed down on the pedals and the bike began to bump over the bricks, Anna felt as though lightning had touched her. Motion performed alchemy on her surroundings, transforming them from a disjointed array of scenes into a symphonic machine she could soar through invisibly as a seagull. She rode wildly, half laughing, the sooty wind filling her mouth. That first day she was too excited to eat, too worried about being late to take any chances on egg salad. She was back on her stool at 12:10 and starved the rest of the day, hands trembling as she held her micrometer, a strange electric joy swerving through her.

The next morning she worked furiously to make the time go faster, and had finished three quarters of her tray when the whistle blew. Nell was waiting with the bicycle. Anna rode that day in the direction of the building ways, cycling past their porous iron latticework several times and glimpsing, within shadowy vectors, a hull so vast it looked primordial. The USS Missouri. Having heard its name murmured since she’d arrived at the Yard, Anna found it uncanny, almost frightening, to actually see it. The thing itself.



Saturday, November 25, 2017

the last book I ever read (Jennifer Egan's Manhattan Beach, excerpt two)

from Manhattan Beach: A Novel by Jennifer Egan:

Mr. De Veer had a Civil War injury, but it was his “bum ticker” that had confined him to the chair two years before, and to the care of his maiden sister, Miss De Veer, who had put an immediate end to his gaming. She claimed it had ruined his health, but he suspected she’d designs on his military pension to augment her collection of porcelain dolls, which already numbered in the hundreds. One afternoon, having just resumed after a winter suspension, Eddie returned late from a card game. Mr. De Veer ordered him away harshly. Wounded, Eddie watched from inside the park as a heavyset lady in a wide-brimmed black hat moved toward Mr. De Veer with boxy determination. The old gentleman looked bowed and frail in her presence, and Eddie understood that he was afraid of his sister.



Friday, November 24, 2017

the last book I ever read (Jennifer Egan's Manhattan Beach, excerpt one)

from Manhattan Beach: A Novel by Jennifer Egan:

Over bean-and-sausage casserole, Brianne regaled them with the story of her smashup with Bert. Relations had already soured when she’d delivered an accidental coup de grȃce by knocking him from the deck of his yacht into shark-infested waters off the Bahamas. “You’ve never seen a man swim faster,” she said. “He was an Olympian, I tell you. And when he collapsed onto the deck and I pulled him to his feet and tried to throw my arms around him—it was the first amusing thing he’d done in days—what does he do? Tries to punch me in the nose.”

“Then what happened? Anna cried with more excitement than Eddie would have liked. His sister was a rotten influence, but he was uncertain what to do about it, how to counter her.



Tuesday, November 21, 2017

the last book I ever read (The Healing of America by T. R. Reid, excerpt fourteen)

from The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care by T. R. Reid:

Beyond those practical reasons for universal coverage, of course, there’s the basic moral imperative. Does a wealthy country have an ethical obligation to provide access to health care for everybody? Do we want to live in a society that lets tens of thousands of our neighbors die each year, and hundreds of thousands face financial ruin, because they can’t afford medical care when they’re sick? This, of course, is the “first question” that Professor William Hsiao asks whenever he reviews a country’s health care system. And on this question, too, every developed country except the United States has reached the same conclusion: Everybody should have access to medical care. Having made that decision, the other nations have organized health care systems to meet that fundamental moral goal. If the United States made the same moral choice to provide universal coverage, then we, too could design a fair, efficient, and high-quality health care system for all Americans. And the principles we’ve learned from studying the other industrialized democracies will help us create that new health care system.

At the start of the twenty-fiirst century, the world’s richest and most powerful nation does not have the world’s best health care system. But we could. Given our country’s remarkable medical assets—the best-educated doctors and nurses, the most advanced facilities, the most innovative research on earth, a strong infrastructure of preventive medicine—the United States could be, and should be, providing its citizens the finest health care in the world. We can heal America’s ailing health care system—and the world’s other industrialized democracies can show us how to do it.



Monday, November 20, 2017

the last book I ever read (The Healing of America by T. R. Reid, excerpt thirteen)

from The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care by T. R. Reid:

In the Bismarck Model countries, this principle is reflected in the rules governing health insurance. In those countries, everybody has to buy the basic package of health insurance—even the young and healthy, who may feel they don’t need any coverage. This requirement, known to economists as the “individual mandate,” has become intensely controversial in the United States. The 2010 health reform act includes a mild version of the individual mandate. But that portion of the law has been challenged in the courts by many states. So the “individual mandate” remains an unsettled issue for the United States. But in the rest of the world, there’s no debate on this point. Everybody is mandated to pay into the insurance system; that guarantees enough income so that the plans can pay all the claims. The insurance plans, in turn, are required to accept all applicants, to pay all claims, and to continue coverage even when the insured gets hit by a truck and runs up large medical expenses. They can’t make a profit on basic coverage, although insurance companies in many countries are permitted to sell for-profit policies covering services not included in the standard package of benefits.

It may be possible to finance fair and cost-efficient health care for all through profit-making health insurance. It may be possible, but no country has ever made it work. For-profit health insurance clearly hasn’t worked in the United States, which spends more than any other country and still leaves millions without any coverage. And no other developed country wants to try it.



Sunday, November 19, 2017

the last book I ever read (The Healing of America by T. R. Reid, excerpt twelve)

from The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care by T. R. Reid:

It was a fine example of unfettered capitalism at work. But in Switzerland, there was a problem. Even more than it cherishes capitalism and profit, Switzerland cherishes its solidarity. And thic change in the health insurance market began to undermine solidarity. Some Swiss people could afford to see a doctor when they were ill; others could not. Some people were covered for large medical bills; others faced bankruptch. By 1993, nearly four hundred thousand Swiss citizens had no health insurance coverage—about 5 percent of the population. By U.S. standards, of course, that would be barely a blip; in 2009, some 16 percent of Americans were living without health insurance. For the Swiss, though, leaving 5 percent of their fellow citizens outside the health care system was an unacceptable violation of the core national values: solidarity, community, equality.



Saturday, November 18, 2017

the last book I ever read (The Healing of America by T. R. Reid, excerpt eleven)

from The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care by T. R. Reid:

When I was traveling the world looking for lessons Americans could benefit from, several economists suggested I look at China as an example of what not to do. “Just to make your American readers feel better,” advised Ikegami Naoki, the health care expert at Keio University’s hospital in Tokyo, “you ought to tell them about China.It has all the problems of American health care but none of the benefits.” “To many in the United States,” wrote Harvard professor William Hsiao, “China’s portrait of pockets of medical affluence in the midst of declining financial access and exploding costs and inefficiency will sound depressingly familiar.” What galls these experts is that China, virtually alone among nations, has gone backward in terms of health care. Mao’s Cooperative Medical System was Spartan but universal and essentially free--a poor man’s version of Britain’s Beveridge Model. It produced impressive results: From 1952 to 1982, life expectancy in China increased from thirty-five to sixty-eight years, and many contagious diseases were controlled. In the early 1980s, though, this government-run system essentially shut down, and China reverted to the Out-of-Pocket Model for most of its 1.3 billion people. The results are clear. Infant and child mortality rates actually increased in China during the first decade of the twenty-first century; life expectancy is unchanged since the ‘80s; some infectious diseases are causing epidemics not seen in decades.



Friday, November 17, 2017

the last book I ever read (The Healing of America by T. R. Reid, excerpt ten)

from The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care by T. R. Reid:

The most distinctive lesson we could take, though, from Canada’s health care system is the key point of the Tommy Douglas saga: Universal health care coverage doesn’t have to start at the national level. Once Douglas established free hospital care in a poor rural province and made it work, the demonstration effect drove other provinces to do the same thing. And once Douglas established his taxpayer-funded Medicare system to pay all medical bills in the province, the demonstration effect quickly turned Saskatchewan’s idea into a national health care system that covers everybody.

If one of our fifty states were to try the same thing and make it work, the demonstration effect could spread across the United States. And if that were to happen, it would bear out one of Tommy Douglas’s most famous predictions: “If people see that we can provide health care to all, free at the point of service, so that any person, rich or poor, can get the medical treatment he needs—if people elsewhere see that, they’ll want it, too.”



Thursday, November 16, 2017

the last book I ever read (The Healing of America by T. R. Reid, excerpt nine)

from The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care by T. R. Reid:

By the 1980s, tough, determined Tommy Douglas needed help from Medicare himself. At the age of seventy-four, too deaf to hear traffic noises, he walked into the street right in front of a bus; from his hospital bed, the former boxing champion conceded that he was badly injured but added, “If you think I’m in bad shape, you should see the bus.” By the time Douglas died, in 1986, his health care plan was a central and cherished aspect of Canadian life. Today, Saskatchewan’s Medicare network is supervised from the headquarters of the health ministry in Regina, an imposing edifice known as the T. C. Douglas Building. When the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation polled the nation in 2004 to choose “the greatest Canadian of all time,” Tommy Douglas won by a landslide, easily beating out the likes of Alexander Graham Bell and Wayne Gretzky.



Wednesday, November 15, 2017

the last book I ever read (The Healing of America by T. R. Reid, excerpt eight)

from The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care by T. R. Reid:

The system still records high levels of satisfaction. “The health care system is consistently Canada’s most popular social program, and the country’s health insurance system is often cited as a defining feature of Canada,” an international report noted in 2000. The fact that anybody who needs health care can get it, without payment, satisfies the basic collectivist spirit of the nation. No Canadian dies because he can’t afford a doctor; no Canadian goes bankrupt from medical bills. “It’s not really part of the Canadian psyche to feel superior to anybody,” Marcus Davies, an official with a Canadian medical society, told me. “But there are two areas where we enjoy feeling smugly superior to the United States: hockey and health care.” This is mainly because Canada guarantees health care to everyone who needs it while the richer country to the south does not. Beyond that, Canada has better health statistics overall than the United States, a longer health life expectancy, and a lower rate of infant mortality. And it achieves all that for about half the cost per capita of the U.S. system. “Canada’s cost advantage,” the Canadian health care economist Robert Evans, told me, “is due to a much more efficient payment system and to the sheer clout that a universal system has in price negotiations.”



Tuesday, November 14, 2017

the last book I ever read (The Healing of America by T. R. Reid, excerpt seven)

from The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care by T. R. Reid:

The Beveridge Model of health care has been adopted, with variations, by nations around the world, democracies and dictatorships alike. A system in which government owns the hospitals, pays the doctors, buys the medicine, and covers all the bills would probably come pretty close to what American politicians have in mind when they deplore “socialized medicine.” But America, too, has copied the NHS model—to provide treatment for tens of millions of Native Americans, military personnel, dependents, and veterans. With government doctors in government clinics dispensing government drugs (and no bills for the patients to pay), the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is one of the purest examples anywhere of the Beveridge Model at work. If this is un-American, why did we choose it for America’s military veterans?



Monday, November 13, 2017

the last book I ever read (The Healing of America by T. R. Reid, excerpt six)

from The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care by T. R. Reid:

Dr. Kono, like almost every doctor I’ve met in any country, likes to complain about the health care system and its failure to compensate him adequately. Still, he’s not going to give up his clinic for some other line of work. Medicine is in his blood. The first Kono Medical Clinic was established by his grandfather in Tokyo’s Tsugamo neighborhood before World War II. That clinic was destroyed in the firebombing of Tokyo in March of 1945. The family prudently fled Tokyo for a safer place to live; unfortunately, the safe haven they chose was the city of Hiroshima. When he was a child, Dr. Kono’s mother told him about the day she saw the red glow from the atomic explosion.

The Kono family began rebuilding, with the rest of Japan, after the war. Dr. Kono’s father built the new Kono Medical Clinic in, Koshigaya, then a farming section of Tokyo. The business prospered as Koshigaya became an urban neighborhood. At its height, the clinic had thirty-nine beds and was nearly full most nights. Following the familiar footsteps, Kono Hitoshi went to medical school. He married Keiko, his med-school sweetheart, and the two of them came home to Koshigaya and the clinic. For all his gripes about a doctor’s plight in contemporary Japan, he proudly notes that the couple’s oldest daughter, Kono Makiko, is now in medical school.



Sunday, November 12, 2017

the last book I ever read (The Healing of America by T. R. Reid, excerpt five)

from The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care by T. R. Reid:

Everyone in Japan is required to sign up with a health insurance plan. This is what’s known as an “individual mandate,” a concept that has sparked furious debate in the United States. But every nation that relies on health insurance has that requirement—it’s necessary to ensure a viable risk pool for the insurance companies—and in Japan the mandate is not controversial at all. “It’s considered an element of personal responsibility, that you insure yourself against health care costs,” Dr. Ikegami told me. “And who can be against personal responsibility?”



Saturday, November 11, 2017

the last book I ever read (The Healing of America by T. R. Reid, excerpt four)

from The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care by T. R. Reid:

This carte vitale—the “vital card,” or the “card of life”—contains the patient’s entire medical record, back to 1998. Embedded in the gold metallic square just left of center is a digital record of every doctor visit, referral, injection, operation, X-ray, diagnostic test, prescription, warning, etc., together with a report on how much the doctor billed for each visit and how much was paid, by the insurance funds and by the patient. Everybody in France over age fifteen has this card—a child’s medical records are maintained on his mother’s card—and it is the secret weapon that makes French medical care so much mor efficient than anything Americans are used to. When Dr. Bonnaud receives the carte vitale from his patient, he slides it into a small reader on top of his desk—it’s about the size of a desktop telephone—and the patient’s medical record is displayed on the doctor’s computer screen. That’s why French doctors and hospitals don’t need to maintain file cabinets full of records. It’s all digitized. It’s all on the card. As Dr. Bonnaud considers his patient’s symptoms and proposes a remedy—a shot, a course of drugs, a referral to a specialist, a good night’s sleep, whatever—he types in a record of the visit and his treatment. That information is written to the patient’s carte vitale. If the patients if advised to go to the hospital or a specialist or drugstore, he will take his carte vitale along with him, and on it the doctors there will find Dr. Bonnaud’s diagnosis and recommended treatment. (With 50 million green cars floating around, a thousand or more get lost every week somewhere in France. If you find a lost card, you’re supposed to drop it in any mailbox, and it will be forwarded to the national Centre des Cartes Vitale Perdues, in Le Mans. The Centre says about 80 percent of lost cards eventually get back to the owner.) Because the medical information on that gold chip is encrypted, France’s Health Ministry insists that there have been no breaches of patient privacy.



Friday, November 10, 2017

the last book I ever read (The Healing of America by T. R. Reid, excerpt three)

from The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care by T. R. Reid:

There was one thing more in Dr. Tamalet’s office that I had come to recognize as standard equipment in all French medical facilities: a green and gold sign that read: NOUS ACCEPTONS LA CARTE VITALE—“We accept the carte vitale.” In a way, that promise was the most predictable, and the most important, element of the French health care system. For me, the carte vitale—a green plastic credit card with a small gold memory chip in the middle, the central administrative tool of French medicine—became a symbol of what the French have achieved in designing a health care system to treat the nation’s 61 million residents.

They’ve achieved a lot. Whether or not you agree with the World Health Organization’s conclusion that France has the world’s No. 1 heath care system, all the statistics on national health suggest that France rates near the top of the globanl rankings. France does a better job than almost any other country both in encouraging health and in treating those who get sick. As noted earlier, France has the best performance of any nation on a key measure, “Mortality Amenable to Health Care”—which is to say, the French medical system does the best job of curing people whose diseases are curable. The French rank near the top—and sharply higher than the United States—on standard health measures like Disability-Adjusted Life Expectancy (DALE), infant mortality, and life expectancy among adults. (An average sixty-year-old Frenchwoman can expect to live in good health for a further twenty years and three months; a sixty-year-old American female will average another seventeen years and eleven months of healthy life.) The French health insurance system covers every resident of France and guarantees everyone a roughly equal level of treatment. France has more doctors per capita than the United States and more hospital beds. The French go to the doctor about eight times per year, on average, compared to five visits for Americans; the average Frenchman takes more pills and shots than Americans do. Continuing the tradition of doctors Péan and Latarjet, the French are significant innovators in health care and pharmaceuticals. In short, the French are big consumers of medicine, and they get a high-quality product. Yet France pays less than we do for health care.



Thursday, November 9, 2017

the last book I ever read (The Healing of America by T. R. Reid, excerpt two)

from The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care by T. R. Reid:

The United States is the only developed country that relies on profit-making health insurance companies to pay for essential and elective care. About 80 percent of non-elderly Americans have health insurance; generally they get it through the job, with the employer paying part of the premium as well. The monthly premium goes toward paying the worker’s medical bills, but the insurance firms also soak up a significant share of the premium dollar to cover the costs of marketing, underwriting, and administration, as well as their profit. Economists agree that this is about the most expensive possible way to pay for a nation’s health care. That’s why, as we’ll see throughout this book, all the other developed countries have decided that basic health insurance must be a nonprofit operation. In those countries, the insurance plans—sometimes run by government, sometimes private entities—exist only to pay people’s medical bills, not to provide dividends for investors.



Wednesday, November 8, 2017

the last book I ever read (The Healing of America by T. R. Reid, excerpt one)

from The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care by T. R. Reid:

In addition to those who have no health insurance coverage, tens of millions of Americans have coverage so limited that they are not protected against any serious bill from a doctor or a hospital. For those Americans who are uninsured or underinsured, any bout with illness can be terrifying on two levels. In addition to the risk of disability or death due to the disease, there’s the risk of financial ruin due to the medical and pharmaceutical bills. This is a uniquely American problem. When I was traveling the world on my quest, I asked the health ministry of each country how many citizens had declared bankruptcy in the past year because of medical bills. Generally, the officials responded to this question with a look of astonishment, as if I had asked how many flying saucers from Mars landed in the ministry’s parking lot last week. How many people go bankrupt because of medical bills? In Britain, zero. In France, zero. In Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, Switzerland: zero. In the United States, according to a joint study by Harvard Law School and Harvard Medical School, the annual figure is around 700,000.



Tuesday, November 7, 2017

the last book I ever read (Petty: The Biography by Warren Zanes, excerpt fourteen)

from Petty: The Biography by Warren Zanes:

Benmont Tench, sitting quietly for a moment after a few hours of talk, most of it about band politics and the changes that came as the Heartbreakers struggled to stay together, breaks his silence as though he’s caught himself. “I’ve got massive respect for Tom and massive love for Tom,” he says. “I can tell you all about the things that went on, how crazy it might have gotten at times, but being a part of this band has been so important to me. I would never want to be the one who brought this to an end.” Earlier in that conversation, he’d inadvertently given what might have been the best description of the Heartbreakers. “It’s Tom’s band,” he said. “It’s Tom and Mike’s band. But it’s Tom’s band. It’s our band, all of us. But it’s Tom’s band. You know?” And that’s about as simple as anyone was going to be able to make it.



Monday, November 6, 2017

the last book I ever read (Petty: The Biography by Warren Zanes, excerpt thirteen)

from Petty: The Biography by Warren Zanes:

Earl Petty died in 1999. The losses were piling up. Though Tom Petty had not attended his mother’s funeral, he did fly to Gainesville to see his father off. “I went back there,” Petty says. “Bugs was with me. He drove me over to the funeral home. It was either a funeral home or a church. I can’t remember. I met my brother there. We went in, saw Earl there in the box, checked him out. He looked peaceful. We’d picked some music for them to play, some music that Earl liked. We didn’t stay long. Gainesville could be tricky to navigate.” But the scene wasn’t one of quiet rembrance and unencumbered farewells.

“After things had gone well enough, and we were getting ready to leave,” Petty says, “Earl’s twin sister, Pearl, shows up. And she just lets out this huge scream, like, ‘Nobody told me you were going to be here! Come here, come here!’ And I was like, ‘No, we’re leaving right now.’ And she’s grabbing my arm, insisting, ‘No, you can’t leave—I got stuff ya’ll gotta sign!’ I mean, I’m walking away from my dad’s coffin. It’s a hundred feet away from us, right? I’m thinking, ‘He’s your brother, for Christ’s sake, and you’re looking for autographs at his funeral?’ I’m just shaking my head. So we get in the car kind of as quick as we can, and we start to back out, and she’s at the window, banging on the window. And she gets her hand on the door handle of the car, trying to open the door. I just said, ‘Bugs, go.’ And we took off, with this screaming woman in the background. That was my father’s funeral.” The swamp had sent its ambassador.



Sunday, November 5, 2017

the last book I ever read (Petty: The Biography by Warren Zanes, excerpt twelve)

from Petty: The Biography by Warren Zanes:

Petty seemed to be putting all of his honesty into the songs. Not in how he lived but in what he wrote and sang about. The music was getting all of him. “That’s the divorce album,” says Petty. “It just came before I left.” Where the Jeff Lynne recordings had the shimmer of pop music built for the radio, Wildflowers is the most intimate song cycle Petty had yet created, with tracks that felt largely unadorned, no matter the complexity of what went into them as productions.”Time to Move On,” “Hard on Me,” “Only a Broken Heart,” “To Find a Friend,” “Don’t Fade on Me”—they were all snapshots in a dark family album. When the Pettys gathered at their beach house in Florida to listen to the finished record, as they always did, Adria Petty says she “knew the marriage was over.” She heard it in every track on Wildflowers. He was leaving. But before that would happen, band matters came to a head and bought the family some time, for better or for worse.



Saturday, November 4, 2017

the last book I ever read (Petty: The Biography by Warren Zanes, excerpt eleven)

from Petty: The Biography by Warren Zanes:

“I could always look around the room,” Petty says, “in the studio, say, and know right where I stand with everybody there, except Stan.” Lynch’s ways of handling his fears about Petty breaking up the band generally found the drummer doing more to ensure that the band did break up than anything else. That Lynch had more skills than were being used in the Heartbreakers hardly set him apart within the group. He’d gotten a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell in the early 1980s. He had ambitions. “Stan was more talented than just being a drummer,” says Petty. “He was quite a bright guy. He wrote music, though he never approached me with any. But he was a songwriter, a producer. There was a lot he was capable of. But there never would’ve been that outlet for him in the Heartbreakers.” Petty says Lynch was kicked out of the band “two or three times.” Others see that as a low estimate. Lynch’s decision to move back to Florida shortly after Full Moon Fever, leaving Los Angeles for good, was the geographic symbol of an emotional divide that the band and crew had been living with for years.

By the time Petty and Rick Rubin had begun to commingle their ambitions for what would become Wildflowers, and Petty had entered into a writing phase that would be richer than any other in his career, the question came up again: is this going to be a band record? “I said to Tom, ‘Do you want to do it with your band? Do you want to put a band together? Like, how do you want to do this?’” recalls Rubin. “I was completely open to however he wanted to approach it. The album that I was a fan of was not a Heartbreakers album, so I wasn’t tied to that. It was really more up to Tom. And he talked a lot about not wanting Stan to play on Wildflowers.” Which meant that Petty was again weighing his own ambitions in record making against his loyalty to the band. It wasn’t a place he liked to be, but it was a place he often found himself. Loyalty, which seemed unambiguous as a virtue, was bringing him a lot of trouble. He resented the people with whom he had to work the hardest to remain loyal, which meant Stan Lynch but also his wife, Jane. How could they not feel it? Surely they did. Some days they hated him.