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.

Friday, November 3, 2017

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

from Petty: The Biography by Warren Zanes:

Petty spent good parts of the Long After Dark tour looking out the windows of his bus, particularly during the southern swing. He was seeing places, people, and images that triggered thoughts of his southern upbringing. More depressed than other regions, the South couldn’t have moved on if it wanted to. The past was right there, in the rotting barns and peeling billboards. Apart from truck stops and strip malls, it looked to him like the South couldn’t afford to be the future, so it remained the past. And it was his past. Backward, beautiful, fucked up, often forgotten, sometimes violent. People who knew music seemed to be aware that most American song traditions came from down there, but they often didn’t know much more about the South than that. It was a place with an incomprehensible character, America’s dirty secret. Somewhere between Walker Evans’s photography and The Dukes of Hazzard, in the trailer parks Petty saw out the bus window, there was a place that he recognized as having a heartbeat of its own. He thought of Randy Newman’s Good Old Boys, a meditation on the South that is as much a book of short stories as it is a song cycle. Petty wondered how far he could go in Newman’s direction himself before losing his audience. That, he figured, was just about how far he needed to go.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

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

from Petty: The Biography by Warren Zanes:

After months of touring behind Long After Dark, the Heartbreakers were going to get a break, the first stillness after eight years of making records and supporting them. And it wouldn’t go well. Keith Richards isn’t the only man in a rock-and- roll band to note that the real trouble doesn’t come on the road—it comes when you get home and live like you’re on the road. That’s a paraphrase, but it’s an idea that gives some sense of what was coming for the Heartbreakers. Mike Campbell calls it “the dark period.” Petty says a little more: “We took a lot of shrapnel that year. It taught me a lot. We had never been allowed to grow up. We’d never been in a situation where it was even expected of us. You know, you’re bouncing everything off the same four or five people you’ve been around since school, and you have children, you’re married—most people would have been conducting themselves differently. We suddenly had to deal with maybe not being around much longer.” Whether that means as a band or as individuals isn’t clear. But mortality hovered in ways it hadn’t previously. The death of Katherine Petty came to her son almost as if it had been waiting for him to slow down. Mike Campbell went into the hospital with exhaustion. Petty went into the hospital for surgery on a broken hand, self-inflicted in a fit of rage. Benmont Tench worked his way toward recovery from drugs and alcohol, without getting all the way there until 1988. When asked about Southern Accents, the album that was released next, Petty says quietly, “When I hear that one, I can taste cocaine in the back of my mouth.”

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

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

from Petty: The Biography by Warren Zanes:

“Someone has laid all these magazines with pictures of me on my mother,” remembers Petty. “On her chest and across her body. She was just lying there, beneath these clippings from magazines and newspapers. I walk in and … it was the strangest thing. I thought, ‘Even this moment, even this someone had to corrupt with some reaction to fame, or whatever this was.” A nurse had gotten it into her mind that this would please the famous son of the hospital’s dying patient. It was a misguided gesture, innocent but stupid, that left him hollow. Asking a nurse to clear the clippings off his mother, he then took time alone with her.

“I was just beginning to see that there’s just nobody that couldn’t be affected by fame in some way,” Petty explains, “like when I walk in some place and my music is playing, because they think I want to hear that. I was starting to see that that’s just part of the job. But I wasn’t prepared for that in my mother’s hospital room, you know? I needed to clear the room of that. I looked at her, and I talked to her. She couldn’t talk to me. But she had a kind look in her eyes. It was really hard. I left there thinking, ‘I don’t ever want to see this again. I don’t ever want to see her like this again. That’s it for me. She’s gone.’ My dad had come by, and he rode down the elevator with me. But as we were walking to the parking lot, he goes, ‘I want to go down and hit the tracks—do you have any cash?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ I gave him a thousand bucks, whatever I had on me. But I remember making the clear decision in my mind that I wasn’t coming back to this again. There was no point, no way for us to communicate, and it just crippled me. I said to myself, ‘I’m not ever going to come around again.’ And I didn’t. I headed off to the next gig.”