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Book review: Combat surgeon devoted to saving lives on the battlefield

Published 12:00 am, Monday, November 20, 2017

In times of war, an infantryman’s best friend is said to be his rifle. But consideration should be given the combat surgeon, too.

Combat surgeons are responsible for emergency medical care on the battlefield, providing the basic duties of a physician while the battle is ongoing, so that the wounded can safely be evacuated to the closest military facility for additional care.

Jon Kerstetter was one of those combat surgeons. He enrolled in medical school at the age of 34 to pursue his boyhood dream of becoming a doctor. Managing critical patients was his passion, but emergency civilian medicine had become stale and predictable to him. He felt his talents, and the challenge he was seeking, could best take place on a battlefield.

“Crossings: A Doctor-Soldier’s Story,” is Kerstetter’s inspiring, transformational story that takes the reader from his life as a child living on an Indian reservation to his earning advanced degrees in business and saving lives on the battlefield.

It then shifts into the challenges he faced after suffering a stroke and undergoing the painful metamorphosis from warrior healer to dependent patient.

Kerstetter’s story begins on the Oneida Indian Reservation in Wisconsin, where he hung out at his mother’s “drugstore,” which he describes as a small, poorly stocked rural store that sold over-the-counter medications, veterinary supplies and a limited amount of sundries and groceries. He was the youngest of three children whose parents divorced shortly after he was born.

While in elementary school, Kerstetter became inspired to study medicine. Unfortunately, his mother only had a fifth-grade education and was unable to advise him on how to pursue his dreams of a medical degree. He describes how years later, the Native American academic adviser in college, a Navajo Indian with a master’s degree in social work, told him that Native students did not do well in the hard sciences, so instead, he pursued a business degree.

As a high school student, Kerstetter had always been interested in the military and looked into a U.S. Navy medical scholarship, which didn’t pan out.

Even as he earned a business degree in college, landed a marketing job with IBM, got married and had children, Kerstetter always kept an eye toward a medical field that involved intensity and exposure to danger. So, in his 30s, he trained as an emergency room physician.

When Kerstetter finally decided to join the military, he was 42 years old and beyond the maximum age for commissioning. He was awarded an age waiver and accepted into the Iowa Army National Guard, and became a flight surgeon. His military experience culminated in three tours in Iraq at the height of the war.

At the prime of his military and medical career, Kerstetter suffered a stroke, and suddenly his life as a soldier and physician was over. Left with serious cognitive and physical disabilities compounded by PTSD, he began his painstaking, years-long recovery efforts.

More Information

Crossings: A Doctor-Soldier’s Story

By Jon Kerstetter

Crown, $27

“Crossings” is an intimate and compelling look at how a Native American served his country as a combat medic and overcame the generational odds against success in his personal, professional and spiritual life.

It’s a powerful story of intestinal fortitude and resilience overcoming the one-two punch of a stroke and PTSD in order to continue the healing process for himself, and sharing that knowledge with other veterans undergoing the same medical conditions.

Vincent Bosquez is a retired Marine Corps captain and the coordinator of Veterans Affairs at Palo Alto College.

William Eggleston: ‘The music’s here then it’s gone – like a dream’ | Art and design

Darkness is falling outside the window of William Eggleston’s fifth-floor apartment in midtown Memphis, and the silences that punctuate his conversation have grown even longer. After several hours in his company, I am preparing to take to take my leave, when suddenly he decides he is going to play the piano for me. I help him to his feet and he makes his way unsteadily to the magnificent Bösendorfer grand in the corner of his living room. Once seated, he stares for a few long moments at the keyboard, as if lost in thought.

“I play the piano maybe two or three times a day,” he told me earlier, “but only if she wants to be played. I speak to her and she talks back. Mostly, just to say: ‘What’s in there?’ She is almost always responsive.”

This evening, the piano wants to be played. The 78-year-old photographer, who has imbibed several glasses of bourbon-on-ice in the past hour or so, calls up a snatch of a Beethoven piano sonata from memory. It is the starting point for a long extemporisation that unfolds slowly and tentatively at first, becoming more complex and compelling as his concentration becomes total. Time seems to slow down in the room as the reflection of his wristwatch dances on the wall behind him and the light fades on the treetops beyond the window. The mystery that is William Eggleston deepens.

In his eighth decade, the man whom many consider the world’s greatest living photographer has surprised the art world by releasing his debut album on the indie rock label Secretly Canadian. Entitled Musik, it comprises 13 often dramatic improvisations on compositions by Bach (his hero) and Handel as well as his singular takes on a Gilbert and Sullivan tune and the jazz standard On the Street Where You Live. Even more surprising, to those of us who have witnessed his serene piano playing on several occasions over the years, the works are played entirely on a Korg synthesiser (bought in the 1980s and now broken beyond repair), and assume the character of experimental electronic soundscapes.

The original recordings survive on 49 floppy discs that amount to around 60 hours of improvisation. Producer Tom Lunt, a friend of his son, Winston, undertook the mammoth task of editing and remastering the tapes. Eggleston professes to have had “nothing whatsoever” to do with the selection of tracks or the release of the album. The results are by turns challenging and mesmerising. “There’s the same sense of freedom you find in his photography,” Lunt said recently of the album, while Eggleston’s close friend the film director David Lynch has described it as “music of wild joy with freedom and bright, vivid colours”. The great washes of synthetic sound, sometimes seductively symphonic, sometimes ominous, certainly add a new resonance to the photographer’s most famous quotation about being “at war with the obvious”.

Last year I interviewed Eggleston on stage at the National Portrait Gallery in London; he was in a wheelchair following a bad fall. Today, he moves through the apartment with the aid of a silver-topped cane, which accentuates his aristocratic demeanour. He is as stylish as ever in a white dress shirt with a red, paisley-patterned Ascot, untied, falling from the collar, pressed formal trousers and shiny Oxford brogues. For years, he had his suits made to order on Savile Row, but now, he tells me, they are provided by Stella McCartney, whom he refers to, with a twinkle in his eye, as his current favourite “girlfriend”. Another of his “girlfriends”, Alex, an artist who hails from Hot Springs, Arkansas, and whose work is pinned to the wall behind him, arrives towards the end of our meeting to keep him company. “There are quite a few of them out there,” he says, smiling mischievously.

Following the death of his wife, Rosa, in 2015, Eggleston reluctantly vacated the family home for this large apartment in a well-heeled residential “retirement community”. Alongside the piano stands a state-of-the-art hi-fi system and some huge speakers. “One of the advantages of being here is that all the neighbours are deaf. I can play the piano loudly all night if I want to. I often do.”

He remains defiantly intemperate, getting through a pack of Natural American Spirit cigarettes during our conversation and visibly livening up as his “cocktail hour” arrives. It begins at 5pm and ends around 8pm, unless he has polished off his daily alcohol allowance (half a bottle of Jack Daniel’s Black Label) before then, which is often the case. Things can get quite surreal by the second glass. The next day, he will tell me that he has more than half a million negatives, which seems a lot. When I mention it to his son, Winston, he informs me that there are in fact around 55,000.

Untitled, c1975 (Marcia Hare in Memphis, Tennessee)

Untitled, c1975 (Marcia Hare in Memphis, Tennessee), one of Eggleston’s most famous images: ‘Oh, Marcia is still very much around… we get along just perfectly.’ Photograph: Eggleston Artistic Trust/David Zwirner, New York & London

Given that Eggleston began playing the piano, he says, aged four, I ask him if he regrets not becoming a concert pianist (as his parents briefly hoped he might). “I can say no because I don’t have much of a desire to perform in public,” he responds. “When I play, I’m really playing for myself. If friends are around when that happens, they often say: ‘Oh, Bill, it’s so beautiful. I’d love to hear that again.’ And I say: ‘Well, I didn’t write it down.’ It’s here and it’s gone – like a dream.”

When I inquire whether he is classically trained, he looks at me askance. “I can read scores but I cannot sight read. Not that it matters. Sight reading is nothing to do with the aesthetics of music. In fact, people who are good at it absolutely cannot improvise.” For him, playing the piano alone each day is a kind of meditation. If others are present, though, it is a different story. “I need a drink down me to give me courage to play you something,” he says early on. “It really does help. A little bit of alcohol, as you must know, calms one down and lets one think not so much about the world out there but what’s in here.” (He taps his forehead.)

Music, rather than photography, now takes up more of his time. “I dream often, almost every day, about beautiful pieces of music,” he says, wistfully. “I wake up and rush over to the piano and I can’t remember any of them. Like dreams, when they’re gone, they’re gone.”

In art or life, William Eggleston has never adhered to tradition. Derided by critics in the early 70s as a vulgarian for daring to shoot the everyday in vivid colour, he is now regarded as a master of the medium. Other photographers had used colour, including Saul Leiter, Fed Herzog, Helen Levitt and his friends William Christenberry and Stephen Shore, but no one had done so with the same vivid tonal palette and disorienting compositional force. “What he was doing in the 70s,” Martin Parr once remarked, “was so far ahead of the game that it was revolutionary.”

In terms of influence, only Robert Frank’s book The Americans (1958) casts a longer shadow than William Eggleston’s Guide (1976), its title both a statement of intent and a mischievously subversive poke at the idea that great photography can be taught. A catalogue for his controversial MoMA show, it comprised just 48 images of often quotidian subjects – a blazing barbecue, milk cartons scattered on waste ground, the interior of an oven – as well as wilfully casual portraits of local people. “For my generation, he is more influential even than Frank,” says A7lec Soth, perhaps the finest of the current generation of American documentary photographers. (Soth’s image of Eggleston hunched over a keyboard adorns the cover of Musik.) “I doubt there is anyone shooting in colour today who has not been influenced by his early work. For me, The Guide is the guide.”

William Eggleston: ‘I dream often, almost every day, about beautiful pieces of music

William Eggleston: ‘I dream often, almost every day, about beautiful pieces of music.’ Photograph: Steve Pyke for the Observer

Eggleston’s photographs have travelled way beyond the photography and art world, influencing the style of film-makers such as Sofia Coppola and Gus Van Sant, and appearing on album sleeves by Big Star in 1974, and more recently on Primal Scream’s Give Out But Don’t Give Up (1994) and the 2006 EP Joanna Newsom & the Ys Street Band. “They are just gifts from me to people I like,” he says.

“Eggleston sees the beauty in the things and places that other people find commonplace or even ugly,” says Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie. “He transforms them somehow and the heightened sense of reality in his best pictures is so intense it is almost hallucinatory in its electric glow.”

It was not always thus. On hearing that Eggleston had abandoned black-and-white in the early 70s, his friend the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson told him: “You know, William, colour is bullshit.” When John Szarkowski, the visionary curator of the Museum of Modern Art, showed Eggleston’s work in 1976, the reviews were savage: his work was dubbed banal, boring and even described as “cracker chic”. The New York Times called it “the most hated show of the year”. The negative criticism upset Szarkowski, but not Eggleston, who had shown up late for his own opening, having fallen asleep in his hotel room following one too many afternoon drinks. “The controversy did not bother me one bit,” he says, “Those few critics who wrote about it were shocked that the photographs were in colour, which seems insane now and did so then. What’s more, they didn’t explain why it so shocked them. To me, it just seemed absurd.”

His detractors, though, were offended, not just by how he photographed but by what he chose to photograph. On his travels around the American south and beyond, Eggleston pointed his camera at the sky above him and the earth below, at rooftops, road signs, puddles, deserted roads, the packed interior of a freezer, the light falling on a ketchup bottle on a diner tabletop. When people appear in his photographs, they often look beatific in the soft southern sunlight or dazed by their excesses. His friend and fellow southerner the novelist Eudora Welty said of his work: “In landscapes, cityscapes, street scenes, roadside scenes, at every sort of public converging-point, in dreaming long view and arresting close-up, through hours of dark and light, he sets forth what makes up our ordinary world. What is there, however strange, can be accepted without question; familiarity will be what overwhelms us.”

Eggleston later described his approach as “photographing democratically”, but he was also, unconsciously or otherwise, photographing conceptually. His gaze imbued every subject with equal meaning, whether a child’s bicycle, a row of dolls on a car hood or a naked man standing dazed in a dishevelled room. “By the time he published The Democratic Forest (his second book, in 1989), there is really no adherence to the principle of the decisive moment, which had so dominated photography for decades,” says Soth. “It is a conceptual conceit of pure openness, more akin to the composer John Cage’s idea that you should be attuned to the presence of everything around you at all times. Only someone so instinctively gifted and confident as Eggleston could have pulled it off. Many others have since tried and failed to do the same.”

Greenwood, Mississippi. 1973

Greenwood, Mississippi. 1973. Photograph: Eggleston Artistic Trust / David Zwirner, New York & London

Eggleston’s radical eye for composition, all those skewed angles and odd perspectives, was, he once told me, informed more by Cezanne’s paintings than by any photographic precedents. Coupled with his instinctive understanding of the unsettling power of colour, his democratic approach challenged the conventions of photography as radically as Warhol had challenged ideas of painting and print-making in the previous decade. In the early 70s, Eggleston accidentally discovered the dye-transfer printing process that American advertisers were using to imbue their magazine images with an almost unreal atmosphere. He began using it too, sensing correctly that it would transmit the singular intensity of his vision of an everyday America that was both strangely beautiful and trashy.

One of his best known images, Greenwood Mississippi (1973), more commonly referred to as “The Red Ceiling”, depicts from below a bare lightbulb and three white electric cables leading to it against a shiny crimson-painted ceiling. Like several Eggleston images, it is mundane in terms of subject matter and broodingly ominous in its atmosphere. “It’s like red blood that’s wet on the wall,” he once said. “It shocks you every time.” Was it, though, a record of what he actually saw or an intensification, even an exaggeration, of it? “It was the most accurately reproduced version of what I saw, if that makes sense.” So, the red ceiling really was that red? He nods. “The prints I have seen of it were not artificially enriched at all. That’s why I use the word ‘accurately’.”

Eggleston’s America was, and to a degree remains, both familiar in its vernacular iconography and alien in its almost Martian otherness. The novelist Donna Tartt detected “a sparkle of menace” in his most powerful images, a reading he remains baffled by. “I have been told that people have felt that in the pictures, but I don’t see it myself.”

What was once perceived as vulgar is now acknowledged as visionary. Following his somewhat belated embrace by the fine art world (last year, after five years with the Gagosian gallery, he shifted to David Zwirner), those once-derided dye transfer prints have rocketed in value. In 2012 at Christie’s, New York, 36 of Eggleston’s vintage prints from the 1970s sold for close to $6m. One of the most famous – a child’s tricycle shot from street level to appear loomingly larger than life – fetched a startling $578,500.

 Untitled 1970 (Memphis)

Untitled 1970 (Memphis). Photograph: Eggleston Artistic Trust / David Zwirner, New York & London

Eggleston seems blithely unconcerned by this, as only people from old money can be, while also being utterly assured – in his elegant, unassuming way – of his own genius. Alongside making music, he has been drawing and painting – abstract colour works that fill hundreds of notebooks – even longer than he has been making photography. “I haven’t tried writing yet, but I still might,” he says, smiling. “Drawing, painting and photography we could say are all run by the same rules – which don’t really exist.”

To make sense of the contradictions that define William Eggleston, the gentility and the wildness, the elegance and the excess, one must consider his childhood on a cotton plantation in the Mississippi Delta. Born in Memphis in 1939, he grew up in the small town of Sumner, two hours’ drive away, where his grandfather, Joseph A May, was the judge. When Eggleston’s father, who studied engineering, married the judge’s daughter, he was given one of the family’s cotton plantations to run, which he did reluctantly and with little success. His parents, Eggleston tells me, were “much more progressive and understanding than the rest of the family so I did not have what you might call a traditional strict southern upbringing. In fact, not at all.”

When she was asked to describe his childhood, Eggleston’s late mother, whom he once photographed clandestinely with a surveillance camera, described him as “very brilliant, very strange, separate from his confreres”. To a degree, that remains the case. As a child, he played the piano a lot, created collages and drawings, and was fascinated with all things electrical. “I recall being really excited just by the idea of electricity. Still am, in fact,” he says. “Like music, it is something one can’t see, but is there.” He tells me he carried out a lot of different experiments and “blew a lot of fuses around the house”.

Aware that he was different, his family left him pretty much to his own devices until he was dispatched, aged 15, to the very exclusive Webb school in Bell Buckle, Tennessee. He later described it as “callous and dumb”. Did his family expect him to continue the family cotton business? “No, as I recall, they did not seem to mind a bit that I had no inclination to become involved in agriculture. There’s a saying down here about ‘watching the cotton grow’. That’s fine as far as it goes but it gets a little bit boring after a while. One could say that one has to be suited to it temperamentally,” he says, drawing out each syllable of the word. “I was not.”

He first met his future wife, Rosa Kate Byrne Dosset, who was from even grander southern stock, when she was four years old and came to stay with his family after the suicide of her mother. “Terrible thing,” he says. “And she really did not get on with her real father or indeed her grandmother, who sent her off to fancy girls’ schools all over the place. So Rosa would come out to one of our country places so often she was practically, unquestionably a member of the family. It was as if she didn’t really have a family until she got to know mine.”

He tells me they “courted” for 10 years before getting married and confirms that they once were the talk of Memphis for driving around in matching powder-blue Cadillacs. “We had some good times,” he whispers, and falls into a private reverie. He must miss her deeply, I say. He nods. “You know, it’s more a sustained feeling of shock. She died so instantly and unexpectedly. She was not sick. I doubt there is anything worse, but it is not yet a matter of grief for me, which makes me feel sort of guilty. I had assumed the shock would be a quick and passing thing, but for me that’s not the way it is.”

He and Rosa grew up in what was still the old, segregated south. Did it mark him in any way? “Not much. The negroes that I grew up around were really like family members. They grew up around us and their families were born in the main houses. That’s just the way it was.” I sense that he had little contact with, or interest in, the social upheavals of the late 1960s in America: the Vietnam war protests, the hippy movement, civil rights. “No, not one bit. Whenever it was that civil rights happened, though, we lost all our labour. They all moved to Chicago or somewhere like that.” On the door of his apartment, beneath his name is a postage stamp depicting the pioneering Civil Rights activist, Rosa Parks. I take it he was pro-civil rights? “I didn’t see anything wrong with it,” he says, matter-of-factly. “I never did think about it much, to tell you the truth.”

Untitled, 1969-70 (the artist’s uncle, Ayden Schuyler Senior, with Jasper Staples, in Cassidy Bayou, Sumner, Mississippi)

Untitled, 1969-70 (the artist’s uncle, Ayden Schuyler Senior, with Jasper Staples, in Cassidy Bayou, Sumner, Mississippi). Photograph: Eggleston Artistic Trust / David Zwirner, New York & London

And yet his photographs often address, obliquely yet powerfully, the discontents of the American south he was born into. A portrait of a besuited white man and his white-jacketed black chauffeur, both standing and listening attentively to a funeral service that is happening beyond the frame, evokes the south’s entire history of racially determined deference, protocol and power. A picture of a confederate flag, reflected in a puddle, with the title Troubled Waters, now seems even more prescient in its suggestion of a fading political past and uneasy present.

Part of the complex dynamic that underpins Eggleston’s work, and perhaps even more so his life, is the tension between his temperament, which tends towards the excessively libertarian, and his social position as a white southerner born into wealth and privilege at a time when the old south was on the wane. Other than taking photographs, which he does not depend on for a living, he has not had to work a day in his life. Even so, his creative self-absorption seems extreme even by artistic standards. “It could be that I was always little bit selfish in what it was I wanted to do,” he says, “so I was not ever that interested in what Joe Blow was interested in.” Does he believe that one needs to be selfish to be an artist? “Now, that’s an interesting question. Put it this way, I don’t see anything wrong with that. I think you are right that maybe a really fine artist possibly has to be selfish. Maybe that is just part of the puzzle of being an artist.”

Age has mellowed William Eggleston, allowing one to savour his soft southern charm without negotiating the craziness of old. “He really is elegant in every way, culturally as well as sartorially, so it is always a privilege to spend time in his company,” says his friend the French fashion designer Agnès B, an avid collector of photography. “As well as being one of the greatest artists alive today, he is truly individual: polite, kind and – how shall I say it? – naughty, but in a very elegant way.”

Naughty is one way of putting it. Back in the 1970s, Eggleston’s reputation for dissolution was such that one local acquaintance of his, the late musician and producer Jim Dickinson, compared him to Keith Richards, which, one suspects, appalled Eggleston, who has no love for rock’n’roll. Though tales of his appetite for excess are legion, he refuses to talk about his younger, wilder self, considering it the epitome of poor taste. Suffice to say his fondness for alcohol, women, guns and prescription drugs – he had the same private pharmacist as Elvis, the notorious “Dr Nick” Nichopoluous – often landed him in trouble.

A Vanity Fair profile from 1991, which featured a portrait of him dressed in English tweeds and riding boots, holding a rifle, traced the outlines of Eggleston’s cavalier life: his two houses, one shared with his wife, Rosa, the other with his long-term girlfriend, Lucia Burch; several outstanding arrest warrants for drunk-driving and a few overnight stays in the local jail for shooting firearms indoors. “Lucia and I have shot at each other several times,” he told the writer Richard B Woodward “She once aimed a .410 shotgun at me. Those pictures of mine on the walls aren’t there just because she likes them. They’re covering up bullet holes, some of them.”

When Alec Soth called in at Eggleston’s house unannounced during an initial road trip for his book, Sleeping By the Mississippi, in 1999, he found him lying unconscious on the ground outside. Soth recalls the scene: “You have to realise, I’m 30 years old, this is my hero and there he is sleeping on the ground outside his door. I was just flabbergasted. I gently woke him up and he said: ‘She’s locked me outta the house again, goddammit.’ Then he got up and asked me to drive him to the store for some smokes.”

Soth ended up having lunch with Eggleston, who had no idea or interest in who he was or why he had dropped by, and then Soth drove him to another store which sold rare stamps. “He was was an avid stamp collector so I waited while he bought a bunch of expensive stamps, which he ended up leaving in my car.”

Alec Soth’s cover photograph for Eggleston’s album Musik

Alec Soth’s cover photograph for Eggleston’s album Musik. Photograph: Secretly Canadian

Eventually they went back to the house, where Eggleston agreed to pose for a portrait, but abruptly changed his mind after Soth had set up a chair outside on the porch. The afternoon ended abruptly, when Rosa appeared, saw her favourite chair on the porch and ordered Soth to leave. “In fact, she locked me out. So the photograph on the Musik album cover was actually taken though the back door just before Eggleston passed out again.”

In a profile on CBS news recently, Eggleston’s daughter, Andra, a textile designer who has recently created a series of dresses with Agnès B based on his drawings, spoke of the confusion his philandering caused her as a child. She recalled how an ex-mistress of his had once thrown a brick through the window of the family home and how her mother had threatened to do the same back in retaliation. “I spent my entire life just wanting to be normal,” she said, adding: “Everything my dad did at that time ended up in the papers.”

So his marriage to Rosa, I venture now, did not follow conventional lines. “I guess not,” he says, reaching for the pack of cigarettes, and looking off into the distance to signal that this was not a subject to pursue. One of his lovers – the erstwhile Warhol “superstar” Viva, with whom he lived for a time in the Chelsea hotel in New York in the mid 70s – once described him as “an exaggeration of the worst in every man”. Have they kept in touch? “Oh yes, we are still close. She lives in California now and I see her when I go out there. She’s a wonderful lady.” I ask after Marcia Hare, whose younger self, pale and angelic, appears in one of my favourite photographs by him, lying spread out on the grass holding a camera in her outstretched hand. (She was, it turns out, zonked on quaaludes, the sedative of choice for the Memphis demimonde of the time.) “Oh, Marcia is still very much around. I see her from time to time but not so much now. Maybe two or three times a year. We’re not boyfriend and girlfriend, but we get along just perfectly. Same with Viva and all the others. I don’t know why,” he laughs. “I must be lucky, I guess.”

When I ask if he has any regrets, he says: “I don’t think I regret things. Maybe there’s some things I should [smiling], but I’m not aware of them. There may be ghosts in the closets I don’t know about.”

His life, I suggest, has been one long series of improvisations. Likewise, his way of going out into the world to take photographs. He thinks about this for a long moment, then nods. “I’ve never thought that exactly, but now you mention it, it must be so. Why not?” So, there is an affinity between the taking of a photograph and the making of a piece of music? “I think so, yes. There must be some connection but it remains utterly mysterious to me.”

He drags on his cigarette and closes his eyes in deep thought. A silence worthy of Samuel Beckett ensues, before he opens them again and, exhaling slowly, continues: “What I will say is that it’s practically impossible for me to explain in words anything at all about an image. So I don’t ever try to express the power of my photographs. I think I can say exactly the same thing about a piece of music. It is what it is and words just don’t seem to fit.”

Musik is out now on Secretly Canadian

Cover stories: Eggleston’s album images

Big Star Radio City

Big Star: Radio City (1974)
William Eggleston’s most famous image, Greenwood, Mississippi, (1973), also known as The Red Ceiling, appeared on the cover of Big Star’s second album. Eggleston knew lead singer Alex Chilton and played piano on Nature Boy, a track on the group’s third album, 3rd. “We were friends, but it had absolutely nothing to do with his music. In fact, I couldn’t stand his music.”

Like Flies On Sherbert LP cover 1980 featuring Eggleston image

Alex Chilton: Like Flies on Sherbert (1979)
Chilton used another of Eggleston’s images for his solo album. The image of dolls on a car bonnet against a bright blue sky perfectly suited the album’s disconnected songs.

Give out but don’t give up by Primal Scream

Primal Scream: Give Out But Don’t Give Up (1994)
When Primal Scream were recording at Ardent studios in Memphis in 1993, they paid a visit to Eggleston who gave them permission to use his image of a neon Confederate flag reflected in a puddle. “I like their music. I think the photograph is in the right place,” he said recently. The group also used Eggleston’s images on the covers of their singles Dixie-Narco, Dolls and Country Girl. The latter – which portrayed Eggleston’s muse/lover, Marcia Hare, outstretched on the grass holding a camera – was also used as the cover of Chuck Prophet’s 2004 solo album, Age of Miracles, and on Ali Smith’s novel The Accidental.

Here Come The Snakes Green on Red

Green on Red: Here Come the Snakes (1989)
Green on Red used an ominous Eggleston image of an axe resting atop a barbecue entitled Afterward from the Democratic Forest (1988). Lead singer Chuck Prophet said later: “We did a lot of hanging out, listening to Doris Day records at earsplitting volume… Eggleston would bring up wine from his cellar and play the harpsichord. Photos were spread haphazardly on the tabletop. He’d push ’em around and eventually he pulled one out and said: ‘This is the one.’”

Spoon Transference cover

Spoon: Transference (2010)
The band’s seventh studio album features Eggleston’s image of his nephew stretched out and looking bored. “I love that photo,” Spoon’s frontman Britt Daniel told Vanity Fair. “You can make up storylines just from the look on that kid’s face. It was the perfect photo for that record, gave the album a little bit of mystery and depth.”

William Eggleston Musik

William Eggleston: Musik (2017)

Musik, Eggleston’s debut album of electronic music, was released last month. It features a portrait of the photographer at home, hunched over a keyboard. It was taken by Alec Soth through the back door of Eggleston’s house after the younger photographer, who had paid an impromptu call on his hero, had been ejected by Eggleston’s late wife, Rosa. SO’H

11 of Our Best Weekend Reads

So much great journalism, so little time. It’s a modern problem, but this is the weekend. Sit back, relax, get another cup of coffee and lose yourself in one, two or 11 great stories.

‘The Lion King’ Effect


Brinkhoff Mogenbur

Over 20 years, hundreds of South African performers have joined the musical in cities around the globe, The New York Times theater reporter Michael Paulson writes. Many play Rafiki, often learning to sing in languages not their own. Here are some of their stories, laced with hope, tragedy, homesickness and triumph. Arts & Leisure

Mother Knows Best


Eric Yahnker

The Vanity Fair columnist James Wolcott looks at two portraits of modern matriarchy, reviewing Ivana Trump’s new book “Raising Trump” and “The Kardashians: An American Dream” by Jerry Oppenheimer. Book Review

The Uncounted


Giles Price for The New York Times

An on-the-ground investigation reveals that the United States-led battle against ISIS — hailed as the most precise air campaign in history — is killing far more Iraqi civilians than the coalition has acknowledged. The New York Times Magazine

Battlefield New York


De Agostini Picture Library/Getty Images

With old maps in one hand and Google Maps in the other, the author Russell Shorto roams across the city’s five boroughs, searching for remnants of the American Revolution. Travel

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Liz Phair fulfills a dream with 2-book deal at Random House

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Liz Phair is fulfilling a longtime dream: to be an author.

The rock star known for “Exile in Guyville” and other albums has a two-book deal with Random House.

The publisher announced Thursday the first book is called “Horror Stories.” It’s billing the book as a “rich and kaleidoscopic memoir” about fame, parenthood, love and “everything in between.” A release date has not been determined.

The 50-year-old Phair says in a statement issued through Random House she has been working on stories for the past decade.

No details have been given for the second book. But Phair has spoken in the past about writing a novel. She already has written reviews, praising Keith Richards’ memoir “Life” in The New York Times.

Review: Draft Animals – Living the Pro Cycling Dream (Once in a While)

I enjoyed reading Draft Animals. It’s a colourful and personal take on life in the professional peloton, and Phil Gaimon writes with an easy and honest style. If you take one thing away from the book, it’s that nothing’s really black and white: some people cheat at sport and are otherwise genuine and pleasant human beings, some people are completely righteous in their attitude to fair sport and inscrutable in their personal and business relationships, and the resulting mess is hard to navigate.

To be stuck in the middle of all that with no job security and a minimum wage, you have to love what you do. It’s clear that Gaimon does love the riding and racing, but struggles with his place in it, and he’s honest about his professional and personal failings. And other people’s.

Gaimon’s journey from fat teenager sitting on the sofa to a professional contract is covered in his first book, Pro Cycling on $10 a Day. This book gives an overview of that time but really concerns Gaimon’s time moving between the US continental and European pro scenes, at a time when the sport was struggling to recover from repeated doping scandals, from Operación Puerto to Lance Armstrong.

With major sponsors moving their money elsewhere, and many riders tainted by the scandals, Gaimon’s time in the professional peloton (the book mostly covers 2012–2016) coincides with shrinking budgets and teams folding and merging. Those factors don’t make for a healthy labour market: the title refers to Oregon Trail, a computer game Gaimon played as a child.

‘In the game you’d purchase ‘draft animals’, like oxen or horses, to pull your covered wagons,’ he explains. ‘You could sell them or trade them, but more often you’d just use them up and buy a new one when they died.’

That was – and is – the reality for most riders, even at the highest levels of the sport. At one point a coach tells Gaimon to stop hitting the gym, which he had been doing to to build bone density to ward off osteoporosis, a common problem for pro cyclists. His long term health, he is told, will have to take a back seat.

Gaimon plays down his palmarés in the book, and casts himself as a bit of a makeweight when he finally steps up to the WorldTour with a $50k (at the time the WorldTour minumum wage) contract with Jonathan Vaughters’ Garmin-Sharp but he’s clearly riding at a decent level, finishing second overall in the Tour de San Luis behind Nairo Quintana after winning the first stage, his WorldTour debut.

Gaimon’s time at Garmin coincides with that of Tom Danielson. Gaimon recounts how at a 2012 charity event, angry at Danielson for his cheating, he tried to ‘rip that doper’s legs off’ only for Danielson to tell him that he was impressed, and offer to train with him. In the end, Danielson’s recommendation to Vaughters was a key part of Gaimon securing a contract with Garmin-Sharp.

The relationship between Gaimon and Danielson doesn’t fill huge amounts of the book, but it does feel like a central theme. The two become friends, and it’s Danielson’s work on the climbs later in the race that pulls Gaimon to that second place in San Luis. There’s lots of hugging and crying at that point.

Danielson’s second positive, for testosterone in 2015, hits Gaimon hard and it’s clear that he doesn’t know how to process it: after a decade of riders saying it’s a mistake, that explanation is pretty tainted, after all. The relationship between an ex-doper and a rider with a ‘CLEAN’ tattoo on his arm is a complex one; at one point Gaimon’s coach tells him, ‘if you can’t be friends with dopers you might as well quit.’

It’s a pity that the book is receiving most of its attention for Gaimon’s opinion that Fabian Cancellara ‘probably did have a motor’ when he won the 2008 Milan-San Remo: a claim that may or may not see it removed from the shelves, or at least altered. It’s nothing more than a throwaway comment in the grand scheme of the book, which would have been none the poorer without it, and it sits at odds with the other issues of cheating that are more widely discussed in the book. In other cases – Tom Danielson’s second positive, for example – Gaimon has first-hand testimony to add, and most of the other stuff in the book concerning cheating is now a matter of public record.

> 22 books every cyclist should have on their shelves

There are many other strands to the book. Gaimon’s struggle with the power structures of the sport is another theme. The machinations of agents, managers, coaches, riders and sponsors make the WorldTour seem like a very opaque place to work at times. Gaimon’s social media following is a double-edged sword, making him attractive to the team in terms of social reach but also meaning he’s of more value at times at sponsor events than he is at races. The start of Michael Woods’ career is a fascinating sideline, and there’s loads more: racist massages, Dave Zabriskie’s Renault Laguna, demanding Belgian ‘pedalphile’ fans, and, of course, cookies.

Overall it’s an engaging read, simply and honestly written with plenty of colour. It doesn’t feel stage managed and it comes across as a genuine, warts-and-all account. Gaimon paints himself in a pretty neutral light, transfixed by the circus of the WorldTour while at the same time disillusioned by the many ways in which it falls short of his expectations.

From the outside it looks glamorous, but most of us don’t see the graft: the endless training, the minor races when you’re passed over for the WorldTour events, the agents shafting one of their riders to secure a contract for another. At one point, dropped in a nothing race in the rain and sitting in a YMCA waiting for the team to arrive, Gaimon finds himself the object of the junior riders’ attention. ‘That’s right kids: if everything goes well, in ten years you can be like me, right here where you already are, except without dry clothes to change into or your parents to give you a hug and a ride home.’

It’s still their dream though.


Honest and engaging account of one rider’s life at (or near) the top of the sport

Make and model: Draft Animals: Living the Pro Cycling Dream (Once in a While)

Tell us what the product is for, and who it’s aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

From the publisher:

From the author of the cult favorite Pro Cycling on $10 a Day and Ask a Pro, the story of one man’s quest to realize his childhood dream, and what happened when he actually did it.

Like countless other kids, Phil Gaimon grew up dreaming of being a professional athlete. But unlike countless other kids, he actually pulled it off. After years of amateur races, hard training, living out of a suitcase, and never taking ‘no’ for an answer, he finally achieved his goal and signed a contract to race professionally on one of the best teams in the world.

Now, Gaimon pulls back the curtain on the WorldTour, cycling’s highest level. He takes readers along for his seasons in Europe, covering everything from rabid, water-bottle-stealing Belgian fans, to contract renewals, to riding in poisonous smog, to making friends in a sport plagued by doping. Draft Animals reveals a story as much about bike racing as it is about the never-ending ladder of achieving goals, failure, and finding happiness if you land somewhere in-between.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Draft Animals: Living the Pro Cycling Dream (Once in a While)

Author Phil Gaimon

Publisher Penguin, 2017

ISBN 1524705004, 9781524705008

Length 352 pages

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? I did already.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your score

It’s a very good read.

Age: 43  Height: 189cm  Weight: 92kg

I usually ride: whatever I’m testing…  My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR, Kinesis Aithein

I’ve been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track

At Philanthropy Day Luncheon, UVa scholar urges local nonprofits to dream big ⋅ Charlottesville Tomorrow

To survive, nonprofit organizations must devote much of their time and effort to raising money and increasing their visibility.

Michael F. Suarez, director of the Rare Book School at the University of Virginia, on Tuesday reminded an audience of nonprofit executives, board members and philanthropists that they must not lose sight of their missions and the people they serve.

“Do we have great dreams and aspirations, or are we tied to business as usual — simply because it keeps our donor base happy?” Suarez said. “To do business as usual is to abdicate the responsibility that these times force upon us now.”

Suarez was the keynote speaker at the 10th annual Philanthropy Day Luncheon, a fundraising event of the Center for Nonprofit Excellence. The CNE seeks to educate and strengthen local nonprofits with workshops, networking opportunities and other resources. 

“Philanthropy Day is a chance for us to recharge our batteries in the ongoing effort to make this community as resilient and compassionate as possible,” said Kakie Brooks, CNE board chairwoman.

Suarez, a professor in UVa’s Department of English, was appointed to the National Council on the Humanities by then-President Barack Obama in 2015. As a Jesuit priest, Suarez has served as a prison chaplain at Rikers Island Prison Complex in New York and worked in a home for unwed teenage mothers in the Bronx.

Suarez said nonprofit leaders can craft better strategies for their organizations by practicing discernment — “determining what the greatest good is, and how we can arrive at it in partnership with the people we serve.”

Suarez said the viral social media hashtag #MeToo — a platform for women to share their experiences with sexual assault and harassment — illustrates a profound need for people to tell their stories and feel that they have been heard. 

“If our philanthropy is primarily top-down, I don’t know how we can attend to the hurt of the world in all of its forms,” he said. 

Suarez said “resume virtues” of accomplishment and success were less important than “eulogy virtues” — kindness, loyalty and other qualities for which people like to be remembered.

“Leadership isn’t just about how effective or efficient we are,” he said. “In the end, leadership is about who we are as persons.”

Suarez acknowledged that all nonprofits must balance noble intentions with pragmatism; he said he devotes most of his working hours as director of the Rare Book School to fundraising and mundane management tasks.

“This is not a free pass to get touchy-feely and not balance the books,” he said. “But we in Charlottesville are uniquely privileged. There is much social capital here, and there is really good financial capital here, too. You need to have both to make the nonprofit thing work.”

Cristine Nardi, executive director of the CNE, said the center’s membership of 250-plus organizations in Central Virginia has been galvanized by the violent Unite the Right rally and related racial strife in Charlottesville.

“All of our nonprofits have doubled down since the summer,” Nardi said. “There is still much to be done to make Charlottesville a place with opportunity for all.”

Attendees of the sold-out luncheon, held at the Boar’s Head Inn, received a postcard with the blue “C’ville” heart designed by Rock Paper Scissors after Aug. 12. They also received a handwritten message of encouragement to pass on to local youth as part of the #DearYoungPerson postcard campaign.


Wrangler turns writer to follow his dreams | Everyday People

Working 25 years in Wyoming as a big-game outfitter and hunting guide, Duane Wiltse collected enough Western adventure stories to fill a book. Or two.

“I believe strongly everybody’s life is a story,” Wiltse said.

He’d had a successful masonry business and nice house in Michigan, but his first hunting trip to Wyoming was like a dream come true.

“My God, look at this country,” he thought. “It’s my image of the ultimate life – the Rocky Mountains.”

So he sold his home and business, packed up his wife and five kids, and moved into a run-down ranch near Cody. Soon he became an outfitter.

Wiltse’s wilderness hunting camp in the Shoshone National Forest was the same one where Buffalo Bill Cody hunted 70 years before with the Prince of Monaco.

“I’m addicted to that high country,” Wiltse said. “The jay birds, ravens, blue sky – I love those. When I’m not up there, I wonder what they’re doing.”

Like the famous showman, Wiltse looks the part, in his Wrangler snap shirt, cowboy hat and boots. His voice sounds as warm and Western as well-worn saddle leather.

“We had our share of grizzly encounters,” he said. Bears tore up the camp and sometimes chased his pack string, trying to pull an elk carcass off the back of a horse.

He faced new challenges when Yellowstone Park reintroduced wolves.

“Jiminy Christmas,” he said. “They’re eating elk 365 days a year.”

That, and a battle with cancer, persuaded him to sell his business and horses and move to Bozeman.

One day he signed up for an Adult Ed writing class.

The result is that Wiltse has written two self-published books. “Gittin’ Western” (iUniverse, $14.95) tells his life story. “Legacy” is a novel set in Wyoming.

At 81, he’s still living his dreams.

Duane Wiltse will sign his books at Barnes & Noble in the afternoons of Nov. 25 and 26, and the following weekdays at Walmart.

Elkhart woman builds handicap-accessible dream house | Local

ELKHART — Living with a disability isn’t easy, but Lora Minichillo has built her dream home to make it easier.

The Elkhart native was a 49-year-old attorney in Chicago when she learned that she had Friedreich’s ataxia, a neuromuscular disorder that about one in 50,000 people inherit, according to the National Ataxia Foundation.

She left her job and walkup in the city to move to Eagle Lake in Edwardsburg in 2005. In the past several years, she planned and dreamed a house that would make it easier for her and her walker, and perhaps someday her and her wheelchair.

The goal was simple: “Making a fully accessible house that I could live in the rest of my days if possible,” she said.

Houses constructed with “aging in space” elements are increasingly common. Tim Miller, owner and president of Fireside Homes Inc., has built 25 housing communities in Elkhart County in the past 33 years, but Minichillo’s went well beyond the wider hallways and doorways that he put in many houses. When they met for the first time, she walked in with a six-page list.

“I got 98 percent of what I wanted,” she said.

His understanding of accessibility deepened from building Minichillo’s house in the Timberstone subdivision on the northeast side of Elkhart.

“She’s living it,” Miller said. “Even though she’s not confined to a wheelchair yet, knowing and seeing her plans for the future — it was just very enlightening.”

Minichillo, now 61, said she doesn’t know if she’ll need to someday use a wheelchair, but planned for contingencies she knows and ones she doesn’t. Some of them are like those Miller has put into other homes.

Her house doesn’t have steps leading to the front door or the back patio. Doorways are 3-feet wide. Rooms have a 5-foot turning radius. Lights turn on and off automatically. Ceiling fans, window treatments and the fireplace have remote controls. The shower has grab bars.

But other elements are far less common for a home. A set of steps leads to the basement, where there is space for a caregiver to potentially live or for Minichillo to work on projects. She’ll never use the steps. She’ll take the elevator, purchased from a vendor in Tennessee for around $25,000, according to Miller. Putting one in her Edwardsburg home would have cost $80,000, she said.

Her garage has charging stations for her mobility devices and what she calls an “open sesame” door to make it easier to get in and out of the house.

Her kitchen has upper cabinets with shelves that lower to her and pegboard drawers for plates and pans. A faucet over the stove helps her fill pots. The dishwasher and microwave are both drawers. “The stuff comes to me,” she said, also noting that doors in the cabinets are retractable so they don’t interfere with walkers or wheelchairs.

In her bathroom, she has a shower she can roll into with faucet controls by both her seat and the door. A walk-in tub has a door that she ensured opens out rather than in.

In her bedroom closet, she pushes a button and a motor lowers hanging clothes to her level in the walker.

She researched many of the elements and worked with Miller and other vendors, including Hoosier Home Furnishings and Cabinet Craft Inc. in Goshen, to make them reality.

Minichillo and Miller said building the house was more expensive than a conventional home. “It’s expensive to be handicapped,” said Minichillo. “That’s true if you’re buying a walker or power chair.”

She could afford a house in which she was far more comfortable, but also one in which it required less energy to live.

“It’s much less tiring,” she said of her new home and its amenities.

She’s proud of her home and hopes others can benefit from what she and the builders and vendors learned.

“Even one or two of these features can help you tremendously,” she said, adding, “If you don’t have the financial ability to purchase a lot of mobility aids, you become isolated, you become homebound.”

Two of her sisters have more progressed forms of Friedreich’s ataxia and she sees what may come for her, but she knows her home will help her cope with whatever comes.

She’s hosting holiday gatherings, coffee gatherings and book clubs and enjoying having a space designed in ways that make that more possible.

Minichillo was able to design a house in which she can live with a disability and truly feel at home.

Marshall V. King is a freelance writer and photographer who has worked in Elkhart County as a journalist for more than 20 years. You can read his Food For Thought each Monday and his Dining a la King column each Friday.

Central Park West penthouse with custom bookshelves galore asks $5M

Along Central Park West, a corner penthouse that any wealthy bibliophile would appreciate has hit the market with a steep $5 million asking price. The 2,100-square-foot apartment has been renovated to feature a loft-like aesthetic and there are custom built-in bookshelves to greet you at almost every turn.

A lengthy foyer with industrial-chic columns and accent brick walls leads into the light-filled living room thats been furnished with 13-foot ceilings, exposed beams, bookshelves galore, and oversized windows that give view to Central Park and the city’s skyline.

Take two steps up from the living room and you’ll enter the elevated kitchen that’s befitted with marble countertops, built-in Viking and Sub-Zero appliances; and more bookshelves, of course.

The master bedroom comes with an en-suite bathroom along with sleek storage space and stunning views. There are a total of three bathrooms, two bathrooms, at least three large closets, and a washer/dryer machine.