Author Archives: Joseph Barbato

Witness to the Revolution & Much, Much More


“An engrossing oral history of the youth rebellion of the 1960s…Baby boomers will find themselves infuriated once again by vivid accounts of the My Lai massacre, the Kent State and Jackson State shootings, and other tumultuous events.” Here’s a review of Witness to the Revolution: Radicals, Resisters, Vets, Hippies, and the Year America Lost Its Mind and Found Its Soul.

“When [John Colapinto's] agent, Lisa Bankoff of ICM Partners, began submitting the manuscript for his second novel in 2013, Mr. Colapinto expected several offers. Perhaps there would even be a bidding war. But according to the author, 41 publishers, including every major house in New York, turned it down.” Here’s the story behind Undone.

“A former staff reporter for the Los Angeles Times, recalls her childhood in Fairfield, Iowa, in the 1980s and ’90s, on a 272-acre campus established by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi to promote Transcendental Meditation, spiritual enlightenment, and world peace.” Here’s a review of Greetings from Utopia Park: Surviving a Transcendent Childhood.

Doesn’t everybody love monsters? Monsters of one kind or another? They’re just so much bigger than the norm and that’s enticing, exciting.” Here’s Victor LaValle (The Ballad of Black Tom).

Says novelist Richard Ford: “Stories are created. It isn’t as if they’re ‘out there’ waiting in some Platonic hyper-space like unread emails. They aren’t. Writers make stories up. It might be that when stories turn out to be good they then achieve a quality of inevitability, of there seeming to have been a previously existing and important space that they perfectly fill. But that isn’t what’s true. I’m sure of it. A story makes its own space and then fills it.”

It used to be that we had a media system in which you had three people who would tell you the way it was every night on the nightly news, you had one newspaper per city — if you were lucky you had two — and then you had the local rags and the ‘if it bleeds, it leads’ journals,” says Ari Rabin-Havt (Lies, Incorporated). “You had Walter Cronkite, and that’s the way it was. Now we’ve switched to a world of unlimited media bandwidth: the ability for every niche to have its own news outlets. That is good and healthy, but the problem is that people can only hear one perspective. We are limited by our own bubbles. We exist with, and speak to, people who are most like us.”

The Casualties

Sam (short for “Samuel”) Clark, born 1988, was the only child of William and Rebecca Clark. Like most murderers, he was unexceptional. There were richer men, more intelligent men, men with more appealing faces, men who could tell a joke or funny story better (the same was true for women). He definitely was not one of Comely Bank’s relics; no one thought him a “character.” But to get to know the more interesting residents of Comely Bank, we must begin with him.

-Nick Holdstock, The Casualties: A Novel

I Met Someone


They sat in cushioned chairs at a burnished roundtable. The lighting was reverential, spiritual, evoking the mahogany jewel box temple of an Emirates airport lounge. Chet Stoddard wore his trademark silver-hinged Persols, discreetly absurd seersucker suit, and dumbass bowtie.

-Bruce Wagner, I Met Someone: A Novel

A Radical Life in Song

Songs are dangerous. So said HUAC (the House Un-American Activities Committee) in the 1950s, and its anti-communist investigators did their best to prevent us from being un-American in public. Nevertheless, the Weavers endured, and on November 28, 1980, at New York’s Carnegie Hall, four aging Weavers waited to walk onstage for our first reunion in nineteen years, and presumably our last.

-Ronnie Gilbert, A Radical Life in Song: A Memoir, with a Foreword by Holly Near

American Nuremberg


September 11, 2001, began an ominous new chapter in our nation’s history. Horrified Americans turned our eyes from the images on our TV screens and toward our government. We were looking for reassurance, for bold actions to assuage our newfound fears. And the government responded.

-Rebecca Gordon, American Nuremberg: The U.S. Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes


This Census-Taker


A boy ran down a hill path screaming. The boy was I. He held his hands up and out in front of him as if he’d dipped them in paint and was coming to make a picture, to press them down to paper, but all there was on him was dirt. There was no blood on his palms.

-China Mieville, This Census-Taker: A Novella


The Sanders lived in a one-bedroom apartment at 1525 East 26th Street, at the corner of Kings Highway in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. Even in today’s gentrifying New York City, the front entrance is scarred by graffiti. A Jewish neighborhood at the time, Flatbush is now more diverse. It’s still less than prosperous.

-Ted Rall, Bernie

The Midnight Assassin & More


Says Skip Hollandsworth (The Midnight Assassin: Panic, Scandal, and the Hunt for America’s First Serial Killer): “I got interested in true crime during my early years at Texas Monthly. In 1992, I interviewed a very pleasant, outgoing and well-educated Dallas man who had been arrested for murdering prostitutes and cutting out their eyes, which he kept as souvenirs. I became intrigued by the idea of seemingly normal people inexplicably crossing the line into darkness.”

The gun industry began with the colonial rebels’ need for more uniform weapons whose parts could be exchanged in the midst of battle. But reliance on government contracts during wartime proved an unreliable business model, forcing manufacturers to seek out other markets for the prodigious potential output of their military-scale factories. They began aggressive ad campaigns aimed to convince ordinary citizens that guns were something they needed to own.” Here’s a review of The Gunning of America: Business and the Making of American Gun Culture.

“Journalist James Bone investigates the tragic muse who bared it all, attempted suicide and spent almost 65 years in an asylum.” Here’s a review of The Curse of Beauty: The Scandalous & Tragic Life of Audrey Munson, America’s First Supermodel.

What’s the good of getting a MacArthur genius grant if you can’t go and write a comic book for Marvel?” Here’s Ta-Nehisi Coates (Black Panther).






London Fog

London has always been susceptible to mist and murk. True London fog, thick, yellow, and all-encompassing, was born in the 1840s, when the city’s rapid expansion multiplied the number of domestic coal fires and mingled their smoke as it poured out into the atmosphere with the noxious emissions of factory chimneys and workshops in the early stages of the industrial revolution in the capital.

-Christine L. Corton, London Fog: A Biography

Hillbilly Elegy


Jacksonians [in Jackson, Kentucky] say hello to everyone, willingly skip their favorite pastimes to dig a stranger’s car out of the snow, and–without exception–stop their cars, get out, and stand at attention every time a funeral motorcade drives past. It was the latter practice that made me aware of something special about Jackson and its people. Why, I’d ask my grandma–whom we all called Mamaw–did everyone stop for the passing hearse? “Because, honey, we’re hill people. And we respect our dead.”

J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir