The Big Idea: Lewis Shiner

These are the days of $4 a gallon gas here in the US, a fact which does not generate much sympathy from most other people in the world (who saw the back end of $4 gas a long time ago) but which pinches us pretty hard anyway, and makes us wonder if our car-driven society might have been better off not so car-driven.

Oddly enough, author Lewis Shiner has been mulling over the same thought (although not necessarily because of $4 gas), and the implications of cars and highways on the life of our nation, and the people within it. It’s a theme in his latest novel Black & White, which Publishers Weekly is lauding as a “powerful and affecting novel… a stunning tapestry that captures hopes, dreams, greed, bigotry, ambitions and betrayals.” A nice recommendation, to be sure, but why not hear from the author himself? Here’s Shiner himself to talk about cars, highways, and life, not necessarily in that order.

LEWIS SHINER

What if the US had decided against building the Interstate Highway System?

Admittedly, this is a long shot. From the days of Henry Ford’s “motor car for the great multitude,” we in the US have been assured that each of us deserves his or her own automobile. It’s our own little piece of Manifest Destiny, part of that fiercely independent, “Don’t Tread On Me” attitude that seems fundamental to our national character.

Still, if there was ever a last chance for an alternative, it was in 1956, when the fate of the $50 billion highway package was far from certain.

When I started researching my new book, Black & White, I hadn’t thought that much about freeways. Growing up in Texas, I’d welcomed the Dallas North Tollway and the 635 Loop that helped me get around faster. When I moved from Texas to North Carolina in 1996, I drove a U-Haul across more than a thousand miles of interstate highway. Freeways seemed inevitable.

Black & White is about a North Carolina neighborhood called Hayti, once the most prosperous black community in the South. During the 1960s, Hayti was bulldozed to make room for the Durham Freeway, leading to a new industrial development called Research Triangle Park. The money to do it came in large part from the federal urban renewal program. All told, urban renewal wiped out 150 neighborhoods like Hayti, and virtually all of the displaced residents were African-American. Freeways were often the excuse for the demolition.

Even knowing that, there was a certain cold logic at work that seemed hard to refute. Given that the highway has to go somewhere, the most likely place for it is where the land is cheap. Jim Crow still ruled the South in those days, so black neighborhoods were frequently poor neighborhoods, and the residents lacked the political clout to save their homes.

Then I read Tom Lewis’s Divided Highways (Penguin, 1997), and I started to ask if that highway really needed to exist.

The dream of the Interstate Highway System was to end traffic congestion forever. With the advantage of hindsight, Lewis makes it clear that the dream never had a chance. Once a highway is built, new homes, stores, and workplaces will naturally spring up in proximity. With more destinations now in reach of the freeway, traffic grows to fill all available lanes. Expand the number of lanes and more cars show up to choke them as well.

And the cycle grows more vicious by the day. With more and more destinations accessible only by freeway, cars become even more indispensable. Longer trips mean more fuel consumption, more pollution. With highways getting all the money and railroads proportionately starving, trucks take over all the freight transportation. More pollution, more wear and tear on the roads, more congestion.

Congestion and impatience breed collisions, creating more congestion, more frustration, road rage, feelings of helplessness, until in 2008 half the passenger vehicles on the road are huge pickup trucks or SUVs that look like armored cars. My daily commute to Research Triangle Park over ten miles of Interstate 40 is a nerve-wracking journey through a war zone.

What if, instead of spending all those billions on the interstate system, we had spent the same amount on public transportation?

I’ve ridden subways and commuter trains in New York and Boston, in Europe and Latin America, and the quality of the experience is profoundly different from that of driving a freeway. Instead of glorifying the individual, it values the community. There is no advantage to be gained by reckless stunts–everyone on the train arrives at the same time. Instead of spending the trip in caffeine-fueled aggression–or, as I do, in stark terror–you can read, listen to music with your eyes closed, or even talk to a stranger.

These thoughts had a considerable effect on the novel. It’s bad enough to sacrifice a neighborhood for the sake of a greater good. It’s far worse when the destruction–for dubious motives in the first place–is one more step toward the wrong future.

I put these ideas in the mouth of an activist named Barrett Howard. My viewpoint character in the longest 1960s segment is a highway engineer, and Howard’s ideas begin to eat at him, undermining his faith in his work, eventually sending his life on a new course.

In the largest part of the book, set in the present, the highways took on a more sinister character. Barrett Howard’s murdered body is found inside a concrete embankment of the Durham Freeway. Traffic jams, crazed drivers, and bleak expanses of concrete became part of the background of the novel.

Where would we be without our cars and highways? I can’t help but think we’d be in a better place. But thanks to our Interstate Highway System, we’ll probably never know.

Black & White: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Visit Lewis Shiner’s collection of online short fiction and other writing here.

37 thoughts on “The Big Idea: Lewis Shiner

  1. Huh. One for my list of books to read. I drive the length of the Durham freeway twice a day and had somehow never thought about what was required to punch it right through the center of Durham. Compared to Lewis Shiner’s commute on I-40, it’s a dream. There’s hardly ever a jam, and apart from rush hour, the road is lightly traveled. Most traffic into RTP comes from the east or west on I-40, so it’s a little suprising that the planners thought the freeway was required at all.

    I’d be curious to know whether Duke University/Medical Center had any role in choosing the route of the freeway, as the road makes an easy connection between Duke and RTP and the RDU airport.

  2. I’ve never made a deep study of the highway system or any of the legislation that surrounded its creation. I find it a little hard to believe though that they were created to alleviate traffic congestion and to stick it to poor minorities as Shiner seems to suggest. I could be completely off the reservation but didn’t the highway/freeway system have a lot to do with boosting interstate trade within the country and making sure the military could move crap around?

    For that matter is he seriously suggesting that we should replace say, I-80, with a subway?

    Seriously asking anyone who may have insight…

  3. Skar:

    I don’t think he’s suggesting that we replace the Interstate with anything, merely wondering how the US would have grown without the Interstate as its transportation metaphor.

    Likewise, it doesn’t appear that he’s suggesting that the Interstate system was a covert plan to dispossess minorities of their land, merely that lots of minorities were dispossessed of their land because their land was cheap to buy under eminent domain.

  4. Instead of spending the trip in caffeine-fueled aggression–or, as I do, in stark terror–you can read, listen to music with your eyes closed, or even talk to a stranger.

    Or be bothered by strangers trying to talk to you.

    (Including creeps trying to proposition you, which various women I know have complained about.)

    But I have to agree that you can’t solve traffic problems by building more roads, it just encourages them.

    What if, instead of spending all those billions on the interstate system, we had spent the same amount on public transportation?

    Since transportation money would be in a few big piles instead of 1 big pile and a myriad of little piles, corruption and bureaucracy could be bigger problems.

  5. If Mr. Shiner is following the comments, I have to ask if “Till Human Voices Wake Us” (short story in the “Mirrorshades” anthology) was part of a larger story, and if so, what’s it called so I can buy it?

  6. Yes, speaking as someone who rides the train every day to work, please don’t try to talk to me when you’re visiting my area unless it is to say something involving the words “fire” and “Oh My God!!!”

    It’s my alone time. The two periods during the day where no one bugs me, no one wants something, and I can just close the world out and read.

  7. The primary requirement and driver for the interstates was not the desire to reduce traffic congestion but rather to enable quick response to an expected invasion by Soviet troops, who were expected to launch an ICBM nuclear attack and then invade to capture the survivors. The freeways were expected to provide a way for the military to evacuate the civilian populace from the larger cities (although even at the time that was pretty much known to be nonsense) and for the military to move troops and supplies in and out of the front lines.

    Heinlein had a different idea, moving roads, which would be used by civilians in lieu of vehicles for distance travel, and I believe he had trucks and railroads buried in tubes at that point, for safety.

    Yes, the Cold War was a weird time.

  8. As a subway user, biker, and car-despiser in New York, I’m incredibly grateful for the existence of activists like Jane Jacobs who did everything within their power to stop highways going through places like the West Village. Freeways discourage urban density, and frankly urban density is kinda fun. How else would you walk to snooty cheese stores and have one too many glasses of wine without worrying about driving home?

    I do believe the implicit racism behind the growth of freeways and highways, both before and after–this era saw the growth of subdivisions and suburbs, which grew exponentially during white flight. Chicago became even more racially divided after the big freeways were put in and public housing was put deliberately close to the highways.

    Sounds like a really interesting book.

  9. Huh. I go back a little further and blame our current difficulties with oil on Levittown, here. I’d imagine Mr. Shiner’s thought about suburbs a lot in the course of writing his book.

  10. “I don’t think he’s suggesting that we replace the Interstate with anything, merely wondering how the US would have grown without the Interstate as its transportation metaphor.”

    That’s actually a really interesting question. How far back would we go? Would the agriculture and manufacturing industries have remained more distributed given the lack of a high capacity transport system beween regions? Or would a high-cap system still have developed but been of a different sort, like trains, air-freight or dirigibles? If transpo had gone that direction how easy would it be for me to go visit my family on the east coast and see the sights along the way?

    Seems to me the interstates have been a hugely homogenizing force, right up there with TV and the net.

    Anybody on here read this book? Is it a good read, as in entertaining and well-written?

  11. Not only did the freeways displace a lot of neighborhoods, they also displaced a lot of existing public transit infrastructure.

    My city of Portland is now spending millions of dollars to rebuild (around the existing streets and highways) a street car/light rail system that already existed in the 40’s-50’s. And was shut down when money was redirected to highways.

    I have never owned a car, but I understand their convenience. But that is just it. They are a convenience, they are not a necessity, they are not life itself, they are not “independence.” It is really true that “If you build it, they will come.” If you invest in public transit, it improves, becomes easier and more convenient for people to use, and people invest in it. (I currently live in a national award winning transit friendly neighborhood that was specifically built around light rail.)

    Read a book or put on headphones. No one will talk to you if you do this. There are “rules” on the train. Most people are considerate about following them.

  12. Despite the usual hatred of the NY Metropolitan Transit Authority, I’m still glad I don’t own a car.

    As for train rides, I’ve been enjoying Jim Butcher’s “Small Favor” read by James Marsters on my commute. Sometimes I’ll read a book. Just having in headphones and music playing cuts down in the usual noise of the commute. Sometimes I’ll nap.

  13. For anyone interested in the direct impact of highways on communities, I highly recommend Robert Caro’s “The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York”.

    Though written over 30 years ago it is quite relevant to this conversation. In creating the Cross Bronx Expressway in the 1960’s, Moses destroyed hundreds of viable lower middle class communities in the South Bronx. Some of you may remember that the South Bronx in the 1970’s became the poster child for urban decay.

    Lest you think that this was unintentional, in an earlier project building expressways to Jones Beach on Long Island, Moses insured that all overpass bridges were too low to allow commercial buses to pass.

    Finally Moses managed to cut off New York City from its historic waterfront, by ringing the city with highways.

    I don’t think the Interstate Highway system was deliberately intended to destroy lower/lower middle class communities. But, guess where the cheapest land was, and still is?

    While William Levitt may have initiated the suburban diaspora, the Interstate system insured that it would be permanent. Keep in mind that Levitt’s idea was to create affordable housing for veterans of WWII. An honorable concept, even if it did enrich him.

    Having grown up in Boston, lived for 20 years in New York City, I now live in Portland, Oregon. This city has been a pioneer in light and street rail and an extensive, usable bus system. Clearly, assuming that oil prices stay high, public transportation will grow in the U.S. There has already been a substantial increase in the number of passengers using Portland’s public transit.

  14. Thanks for the lead John.

    I put in requests for both books.

    This also sounds like a good panel topic for ConFusion.

  15. I may be in the minority here but I like driving my car and riding my motorycle. (of course I have a 20 minute commute that’s fairly easy). I hate taking mass transit. I don’t like and don’t want to live in an urban environment. I hate being around strangers.

    All of the mass transit systems I’ve seen in the states can’t support themselves and only exists with heavy government subsidies. The United States is too big to rely on mass transit.

    This book has an interesting idea but it seems like the author has started with an agenda before writing the book; he starts with a dislike of highways and is inclined to believe the country would be better off without the highway system. You can see where the book is going to take you before reading it. (that’s a dangerous statement )

    Having said that, I like the premise. I’d like to see a collection of short stories by a few authors who start with this premise and see where each one takes it.

  16. @ Kelly, well, yes the mass transit system only exists with large government subsidies, but I would ask whether or not the highway system would exist without massive government subsidies either.

  17. here is no advantage to be gained by reckless stunts–everyone on the train arrives at the same time. Instead of spending the trip in caffeine-fueled aggression–or, as I do, in stark terror–you can read, listen to music with your eyes closed, or even talk to a stranger.

    Evidently he’s never ridden the 2/3 express train in New York during the morning rush. Or the Paris Metro at 5 PM. I appreciate my car-free lifestyle, but I can assure you that between the people leaping in to jam the closing doors, the constant lookout for jabbing elbows and bags and worry for smooshed toes, the jockeying for a few extra inches of space, my commute is anything but relaxing.

  18. “Instead of glorifying the individual, it values the community. There is no advantage to be gained by reckless stunts–everyone on the train arrives at the same time. Instead of spending the trip in caffeine-fueled aggression–or, as I do, in stark terror–you can read, listen to music with your eyes closed, or even talk to a stranger.”
    Really? Really???

    This week I was late to work a couple of times because the subway decided to stop itself in the middle of the tunnel for about twenty minutes (I just got home walking from the subway station because buses weren’t coming and the station was full of people). Everyday you are packed into said subway like a sardine in a bulging can. If you have an iPod you can listen to music (though you have to have it cranked up to hear it over the screeching coming from the tracks. Reading? Maybe if you’re got a slim paperback– but the jolting and sudden stops make it hard to carry the book, concentrate on reading and make sure you don’t crash into people. Oh and as for “reckless stunts” there are always the people trying to run through the crowd and through the closing doors to grab a departing subway.

  19. I think Shiner’s absolutely on-target. Though I don’t know if I’d agree that we’ve passed the point of no return. I suspect that peak oil will ensure this debate intensifies. (Four bucks a gallon is probably just the beginning.) Ultimately, high-speed rail networks that are a lot more serious than anything that Amtrak runs on are going to be a must.

  20. I have never owned a car, but I understand their convenience. But that is just it. They are a convenience, they are not a necessity, they are not life itself, they are not “independence.”

    Depends on where you live. In a crowded urban area, mass transit can be very good thing. In rural areas, it’s pointless, and autos are a necessity.

  21. Thanks to everyone for their comments, and thanks, John, for posting this.

    In response to Jamie, “Till Human Voices Wake Us” is a one-off, not part of anything larger. Thanks for the good words, though.

    Skar and Steve H. both make good points about troop movements–that was certainly part of the “logic” used to sell the package to a paranoid 1950s US.

    To Kelly Norton, I don’t think BLACK & WHITE is at all what you’re assuming it is. There are excerpts on my site and the Subterranean site if you want to investigate.

    To Psyche, yes, I’ve been on the NY subway, and the Paris Metro, and the Buenos Aires Subte (the most crowded of the three) at rush hour. I would much rather be on any of them than on I-40 at rush hour, breathing monoxide and going nowhere. I understand opinions vary on that. But the real problem here is the idea of a rush hour, which we could surely find a way to dispense with once we’ve solved the public transportation issue.

  22. Sakr

    I could be completely off the reservation but didn’t the highway/freeway system have a lot to do with boosting interstate trade within the country and making sure the military could move crap around?

    True. Truman got the idea from the German Autobahn, which was an awesome strategic asset for Germany during the war.

    The specifications for the roadbed of the Interstate System would allow for the transportation of heavy military vehicles.

    Kelly Norton

    I may be in the minority here but I like driving my car and riding my motorycle. (of course I have a 20 minute commute that’s fairly easy). I hate taking mass transit. I don’t like and don’t want to live in an urban environment. I hate being around strangers.

    Hey, knock off being an individual, will ya? The collective knows best. To wit:

    Instead of glorifying the individual, it values the community.

    I live in rural America now, but when I have lived in cities, I always ride mass transit. When visiting NYC I always take the subway and never even take my car within the boundaries of Manhattan. When I lived in Seattle, I rode the bus to work each day (I lived in a suburb then). I lived in Phoenix too, but that wasn’t a city for mass transit.

    I love the anonymity of the city.

    I do hate traffic, but at the same time I do love the open road. I have traveled the full length of I-80 more times that I can count.

    I’m home in both worlds.

    And I love having the choice.

    But it takes a village to build an Interstate….

  23. And all this time I thought that GM killed local trains and trolleys by selling buses to municipalities under cost during the 50’s. The next round of buses cost much more after the municipalities lost the alternatives.

    Seriously though, I think Mass transit will really start making a comeback due to the gas prices going up every other day. I live in Everett WA, and a couple of weeks ago there was an article in the local paper stating that ridership on the cities bus system was up 70,000 in March compared to just one year ago. I’ve been in various Van pools, sharing the ride, for about 8 years total and wouldn’t have it any other way. I actually hate the times when I have to drive alone since I can’t use the HOV lanes. I’m so spoiled.

    Lew at @23 and other places. I agree about being part of a group rather than sucking noxious gases alone and I wonder how this country would look if we had taken another path. Pun unintended

  24. Just finished _B&W_ last night and will be working on the chapbook this evening at bedtime. I know it’s been a tough haul for Lew on the publishing (and staying-in-print) front, but if he’s reading this I wanted him to know that by ghod there’s at least *one* die-hard fan out here who thinks he’s a genius.

    I can’t recommend Lew Shiner highly enough. I’m pleading with y’all… buy a copy of _Black & White_ and treat yourself to some of the finest writing of our (well, maybe *my*) generation.

    Jerry H.

    (no fiduciary associations with the publisher or Lew, btw)

  25. Dwight D. Eisenhower had a lot to do with the creation of the interstate highway system. In 1919 and 1920 the military sent two convoys from Washington DC to San Francisco t see how long it would take. It took forever. Then in WWII he saw the autobahn. When he became President he went to work creating the interstate highway system.
    To try and second guess the impacts at this point may be entertaining but it is pretty pointless. File this with what if the American Revolution had failed and what if the South had won the Civil War and what if Hitler hadn’t been such a military putz.
    Would there be a middle class if it wasn’t for the jobs created by the auto industry?
    I have to laugh at people who live in the city and say they don’t need a car and can’t understand why anyone would need one. Not everyone wants to live packed together like sardines. Which is the best way for mass transit to work. You need masses of people for a mass transit system to work.
    I live and work in Northern San Diego CA. I have a 15 minute commute. If I were to take mass transit it would take me an hour to get there. They just spent $480 million dollars on a light rail system and it is useless unless you live and work along it’s route. Well I live along it route but I don’t work along its route. There is a critical mass population that is needed for mass transit to work. There has to be enough traffic jams to make mass transit attractive. High gas prices helps.
    The funny thing is that I work at Aptera. A company making an electric car. It won’t do much about traffic jams but it will save a lot of gas.

  26. I’ll have to read this book to see how he fleshes out his ideas. I don’t agree with some of his assertions, but it is a very interesting idea for an alternate history.

    Cheap gas made for a lot of decisions that might not otherwise have been made, no doubt.

    I lived, worked, and travelled in Europe, and I really appreciated the ability to use public transportation in lieu of a car, assuming I lived close enough to a rail or bus line that didn’t demend I leave 2 hours for travel time. I doubt any of the public transportation efforts there sprang from any idea to support the community rather than the individual.
    Europeans might complain about the price of fuel, but they drive to work about as much as Americans do, from what I have observed. I have been in hellacious rush hour jams, and their August vacation season sees roads across the continent packed. Since they have moved away from the factory oriented shifts, the number of busses and trains have decreased. Also, as more Europeans can afford to move out of cities, they do. Don’t kid yourselves that suburban sprawl is solely the problem of Americans.
    I do wish I had reliable train service from southern Virginia to DC, I’d probably go there more often. I do prefer to take the train when I can.

  27. LS @ 23
    But the real problem here is the idea of a rush hour, which we could surely find a way to dispense with once we’ve solved the public transportation issue.

    I’d think it would be easier to solve the rush hour one first.

    ObSF here is “Chronopolis” by JG Ballard.

  28. Soviet troops, who were expected to launch an ICBM nuclear attack

    Bombers, not ICBMs. Both the US and SU developed working intercontintental rockets within 4 months of each other in 1957 and the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956 was passed the year before that.

    Ike’s motivation had less to do with Soviet nukes than a the 1919 Transcontinental Convey, which took two months to cross the US and which suffered a 7% casualty rate. The Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways lets the US move its military assets around the US quickly and reasonably efficiently.

  29. Skar (#4): I find it a little hard to believe though that they were created to alleviate traffic congestion and to stick it to poor minorities as Shiner seems to suggest.

    Was the latter the actual intent? No, I don’t think it was. Was it a fairly foreseeable effect? I think so.

    Boston has a particularly interesting example in the Southwest Expressway (I-95). The 1948 Master Highway Plan for Metropolitan Boston:

    Because of the heavy concentration of population within the entire area traversed, selection of a suitable route was difficult. However, by studying a number of locations one was found where, by utilizing existing highways and vacant areas, and by traversing sections where property values were lowest, it was possible to find a route that could be developed at a reasonable cost. (emphasis added)

    The plan was cancelled after the “bad” neighborhoods had already had a three-mile long right-of-way bulldozed; it was later used for commuter rail and rapid transit, with a linear park put on top.

    Of course, it was cancelled because the demolition was starting to get to the “good” neighborhoods with actual political power….

  30. A slight digression:
    It seems to me that mass transit and public transit are not synonymous. Overlapping, sure.

    I live in a East Coast rural area — 20 minute drive to a grocery store. It’s less dense than some rural areas of England (where there was sufficiently-frequent bus transport — at least when I was travelling) and much more dense than some rural areas of western and central US. I think public transport if becoming much more viable — give us $5/gallon gas and I think I’ll see more up here. Mass transit though — hardly. Not enough people.

    Funding is tricky. How should they spend/distribute our taxes? To the best of my knowledge, oil companies (yeah, Exxon & crew), interstate highways, and Amtrak are all subsidized by (receive money from) the Federal Government (assuming a state “behaves” itself. I think I recall some noise about yanking Fed Highways funds if Vermont didn’t comply with every provision of the No Child Left Behind act). As far as I know, the local (in my state) city buses and inter-town buses are subsidized by the state (more, yet different, taxes). At least one local bus is grant-funded and the ride is free; others sell tickets. They all run on petroleum and/or biodiesel. Our Front Porch Forum has regular rideshare/carpool/save you a trip posts.

    Just a bit more to factor in.

  31. I’m glad to see someone else brought up Robert Moses.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_moses

    As someone who witnessed the opening of the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verrazano-Narrows_Bridge

    I can tell you that it wasn’t just minorities who were displaced, unless you are using the term to mean people who are summarily crushed under the plans of their government.

    There are still people in Brooklyn who bemoan its construction and the huge bifurcation it created in Brooklyn neighborhoods. There was even talk after its opening of an expansion that would have allegedly put where *I* was living in the path of new demolition. (I don’t know if the rumor was true or just scare talk, but it never happened.)

    We at least have the ability to sit back and reflect on these things as well as criticize them. Think of all the people in China who have been uprooted due to Olympics construction, as well as all the new high-rise buildings. They have to take it and shut up.

  32. These are the days of $4 a gallon gas here in the US, a fact which does not generate much sympathy from most other people in the world (who saw the back end of $4 gas a long time ago)

    Yust a minute dere, feller! Dee $4 a gallon gas dat Youropeens bin buyin’ (actually, more like $5 or $6 — you have to translate liters to gallons and figure exchange rates) costed dee same as ours (in America.)

    Strip away the gasoline taxes and the prices were the same last time I looked — admittedly a decade or so ago, last time folks were comparing Eurogas and American. But the Euros have been taxing gas at a far higher rate, making their retail, at the pump price, much higher. What the heck – didja think Eurogas was so much more expensive to refine or import from the M.E.?

    The big difference has been that taxes on American gasoline have been dedicated to highway construction and maintenance (at least until the Clinton Administration started picking that particular pocket) while Eurogas went into the general fund, enriching bureaucrats (in America the payola was limiting to politicians’ friends in the highway construction business.)

  33. Folk would do well to remember that much “public transportation” carries external costs as well. When in college my brother had an apartment alongside the train tracks. Let’s just say he didn’t store a lot of things on wall shelves, eh?

    And those tracks tended not to traverse the “better” neighborhoods, did they? No, they were conveniently nearby. Let’s not forget that the toffs have the option of taxis and limos (how you think those folks on the Today Show get there?)

    As for commuting by car, audio books are equally suitable for that and tend to make the trip far more productive. Why, I’ve recently finished LotR and will be staring on McCullough’s Truman soon.

  34. I finished Lew’s book this weekend, and it’s one of the best books I’ve read in years. The narrative is superb, and I found myself stealing away from all my daily tasks just to read the book. I have lived and traveled in areas with trains and other public transportation, and currently live in Texas, where a car is vital. Within urban areas subways and trains are great (try to find parking downtown in a major city), though crowded and on a schedule that may not always fit your own. The issue about cars and public transportation aside, this book’s story covers a lot of areas. The way government and business cooperate to muscle out landowners for highways or other “public good” projects continue to this day.

Comments are closed.