Author Archives: Joseph Barbato

The Palace of Illusions

The loft where the dwarfs lived had a view of the city and hardwood floors and skylights, but it was overpriced, and too small now that there were seven of them.

-Kim Addonizio, “Ever After,” in The Palace of Illusions: Stories


Mr. Tall

She lived alone now, in a big house in Brentwood bought with the royalties of a bad country music song her husband had sung.

-Tony Earley, “Yard Art,” in Mr. Tall: A Novella and Stories


Sundays at Eight

Writers have built-in support systems that do keep us humble.  I have an editor at The New Yorker who is not dazzled by any of my book sales, and is, if anything, more willing today to tell me than he was ten years ago, that what I’ve written is nonsense.  I have a mother who is resolutely unswayed by the opinion of the outside world.  She said of Outliers, in a way that only a mother can, “I really like this book,” meaning that she did not like the first two books so much. When you have people in your life who keep you in check, it’s easier. And luckily, I do not have any real power. I am not running a major country or investment bank, so that damage I can do if I were to get overconfident is limited, thankfully.

-Malcolm Gladwell, “Writing Bestsellers,” in Sundays at Eight: 25 Years of Stories from C-SPAN’S Q&A and Booknotes edited by Brian Lamb


What Would Lynne Tillman Do?

Chet Baker could break your heart with his romantic trumpet sound and melancholy way of phrasing a ballad.

-Lynne Tillman, “White Cool,” in What Would Lynne Tillman Do?, with an introduction by Colm Toibin


The Word Exchange

On a very cold and lonely Friday last November, my father disappeared from the Dictionary.

-Alena Graedon, The Word Exchange: A Novel


The Time Regulation Institute

I have never cared much for reading or writing; anyone who knows me can tell you that.

-Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar, The Time Regulation Institute


Freedom Now!

Still and moving pictures were central to the strategies of civil rights organizers. So important were photographs to movement leaders that they cultivated relationships with and granted access to mainstream photographers. Some civil rights organizations went so far as to expend precious resources employing photographers on their staffs. Black activists knew that they did not wield sufficient power to change U.S. society on their own. Change was contingent on attracting white allies to the cause. Photographs offered one of the most powerful and immediate means of reaching whites.

-Martin A. Berger, Freedom Now! Forgotten Photographs of the Civil Rights Struggle


The Long Shadow

1914-18 is the forgotten conflict of America’s war-torn twentieth century.

-David Reynolds, The Long Shadow: The Legacies of the Great War in the Twentieth Century


The Paying Guests & Much More

tipping“In fact, in nearly all of [Sarah] Waters’ work, from Tipping the Velvet (Victorian slang for cunnilingus) to The Paying Guests, there are scenes in which cream-complexioned women cavort breathlessly only to part traumatically. Does Waters ever want to just let them merrily carry on? “Well, that wouldn’t be any fun,” she says. “You show the highest respect for your characters by putting them in terrible situations. You’re allowing them to become possibly big and noble figures, or not, and experience the highs and lows.” Here.

RIP J. California Cooper dies at 82. Here.

Novelist Faye Kellerman (Murder 101) on her typical day with husband-novelist Jonathan Kellerman: “We begin writing at about 9:30 or 10:00. We write at roughly the same time, most often in the mornings because we both feel fresher at that time. We spend about two to three hours writing, and then comes all the business of running your life. There’s a lot of juggling with the books: promotion, writing, dealing with the business of writing. At first, I found it stressful, but now I have fun with it. After about 5:00 in the afternoon, I try not going to my computer. I want to relax, read a book, go out for dinner, or see a movie.” Here.

“What I hope is less about what the greens will do, but what people who don’t consider themselves part of the green movement will do,” says Naomi Klein (This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate). “This book is not written for the environmental movement. It is written much more for people who would never read a book about climate change but are engaged with economic justice of other kinds.” Here.

“[Debut novelist Merritt] Tierce’s prose is a shock to the system: the stream of muttered invectives you don’t hear as your waiter walks away from your table, the after-hours kamikaze mission of sex and drugs to balance out the debasement of the dinner shift, the rotgut tequila poured into a Patrón bottle and sold high because who will know the difference? Love Me Back is a lurid book full of unpleasant characters doing nasty things to one another. It also feels original, a voice from below that we haven’t heard before, that hasn’t had the temerity to speak up until now.” Here.

Becoming Freud

Biographers, Freud knew even as a young man, spoke on other people’s behalf–like parents, doctors, rabbis, and politicians.

-Adam Phillips, Becoming Freud: The Making of a Psychoanalyst