Author Archives: Joseph Barbato

Last Stories and Other Stories

In the dimming living room they were drinking slivovitz and water out of fine crystal glasses, and everyone was laughing and smoking American cigarettes until a shell fell twenty-five meters away.

-William T. Vollmann, “Listening to the Shells,” in Last Stories and Other Stories


Sun, Stone, and Shadows

It was only recently that Filiberto drowned in Acapulco.

-Carlos Fuentes, “Chac-Mool,” in Sun, Stone, and Shadows: 20 Great Mexican Short Stories


Don’t Even Think About It

What explains our ability to separate what we know from what we believe, to put aside the things that seem too painful to accept?

-George Marshall, Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change


The Impulse Society & So Much More


Says debut novelist Elliott Colla (Baghdad Central): “Noir is where the clarity of moral divisions break down, the black and whites turn into grays. I was thinking about this particular moment of compromise on the part of the US, where it was learning how to make alliances with all sorts of Shiite groups in order to occupy, and creating all sorts of new divisions that didn’t exist before.” Here.

On Chicago: “the unexpected cultural centre of European modernism.” Here.

“When I read [James Baldwin's] Another Country when I was in my early 20s, you know, as soon as I put the book down, my first thought was I will never be able to write a book like this. And my second thought was I really want to try writing a book like this for the 21st century.” Here‘s debut author Jess Row (Your Face in Mine).

Here‘s a Jewish Literary Map of New York City.

“Sometimes bleak . . . just as often awestruck, swashbuckling, or slyly funny.” Here‘s  the lowdown on British novelist China Miéville (Railsea).

Welcome  debut novelist Matthew Thomas’s We Are Not Ourselves, a 620-page saga of three generations in an Irish-American family from Queens, New York. Here.

“Something striking has happened to the self-esteem of American children during the era of raising our children to feel good. They have never been more depressed.” Here.

“Signs of the ‘impulse society’ are everywhere: in the toxic housing bubble and access to easy credit that led to our financial meltdown; corporate profits that go to buying back company stock to preserve share prices and executive compensation; a political system that functions more like a business; the role of the media in sorting us into marketing fragments, leading to our politically polarized culture; and the increase in the number of people being diagnosed with symptoms of clinical narcissism, among other issues.” Here‘s a review of The Impulse Society: America in the Age of Instant Gratification.

“The most difficult achievement is the capacity to see oneself, to name oneself, to imagine oneself.” Here‘s novelist Elena Ferrante (Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay).

Here‘s novelist David Mitchell (The Bone Clocks): “I ask if he is afraid of dying. He borrows Woody Allen’s line: No, he just doesn’t want to be there when it happens. We laugh, and stop laughing, and for a while there’s just the water lapping against the pier, gently, like the rib cage of something large that’s sleeping.”

So much for punishing corporate criminals! “[UVA law professor Brandon L. Garrett] finds that federal prosecutors, despite their vaunted powers, are cast in the role of David, not Goliath, when seeking to punish multinational corporations with nearly unlimited budgets to hire lawyers. The prosecutors courageous enough to mount cases against corporations fail to go after high-level individuals within those corporations, lessening any deterrence effect.” Here.


I Love You More

The rumors started before my daddy’s body got cold.

-Jennifer Murphy, I Love You More: A Novel


After We Kill You, We Will Invite You Back as Honored Guests & More


“[Ted] Rall—who will remind you as someone bylining Ramparts or the old Village Voice—travels to the little-visited, wickedly dangerous western regions and finds the same sentiments as in the east, and north, and south: The United States ravaged the country without cause, imposed a cruel and deadly occupation, installed a craven, depraved puppet regime (headed by a crony of G. W. Bush’s Texas oil crowd), built little, played footsy with the warlords, let the Taliban get on with it, and—same as it ever was—waved goodbye.” Here‘s a review of Rall’s After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back as Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.

Says novelist Ben Lerner (10:04): “The danger is that people who want to hate the book will say, ‘Oh, it’s really narcissistic because he writes about himself and he’s a white guy in Brooklyn.’ But this is also a book very much about emptying the self out in this manic way and trying to imagine fiction as a space of transpersonal imagination. What does it mean to think of the self as a multitude?” Here.

“Basically, OK, there’s this area of the United States—possibly Florida, but it’s unclear—called ‘the forgotten coast,’ and about 30 years ago it was mysteriously taken over by an environment called ‘Area X,’ described by many who visit it as ‘a pristine wilderness.’” Here‘s Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy.

Says Roger Kahn (“Rickey & Robinson): “Without the foresight and high moral purpose of Branch Rickey, and without the radiant courage of Jackie Robinson, Barack Obama could not have been elected president of the United States.” Here.



Lost for Words

When that Cold War relic Sir David Hampshire had approached him about becoming Chair of the Elysian Prize committee, Malcolm Craig asked for twenty-four hours to consider the offer.

-Edward St. Aubyn, Lost for Words: A Novel


Blue-Eyed Boy

Falling asleep is never a problem for me.

-Robert Timberg, Blue-Eyed Boy: A Memoir


The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Why at the beginning of things is there always light?

-Richard Flanagan, The Narrow Road to the Deep North: A Novel


We Are Not Ourselves

Instead of going to the priest, the men who gathered at Doherty’s Bar after work went to Eileen Tumulty’s father.

-Matthew Thomas, We Are Not Ourselves: A Novel