Author Archives: Joseph Barbato

Movie Stars


No matter how I search my memory, I cannot recall when Sandy Baker Jr., bartender at the Green Bear, first mentioned in passing that his cousin in Hollywood was a high-level “animal wrangler”–a gruesome phrase for a noble profession!

-Jack Pendarvis, “Your Cat Can Be a Movie Star!” in Movie Stars: Stories

Night Walking


In the dead of night, in spite of the electric lights and the remnants of night life, London is an alien city, especially if you are strolling through its lanes and thoroughfares alone.

-Matthew Beaumont, Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London, Chaucer to Dickens, with a foreword and afterword by Will Self

The Borden Murders

Lizzie could hardly look past the blood, there was so much of it. Blood soaked Mr. Borden’s neatly folded Prince Albert coat. It dripped from the slick horsehair cushions to the flowered carpet below. It arced in a fine spatter across the wall and picture frame above. In the midst of it all, her father lay stretched out on the couch with his face so carved and bloodied that she did not know whether he was alive or dead. “I did not notice anything else, I was so frightened and horrified. I ran to the foot of the stairs and called Maggie.”

-Sarah Miller, The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden & the Trial of the Century

The Brazen Age


As in the 1920s, so in the 1940s it seemed to European visitors like Sartre and Camus that all the wealth and dynamism of a continent were concentrated on the island of Manhattan, slightly less that thirteen miles from north to south and no more than two and a half miles from east to west, about half the size of the city and county of San Francisco, a statistic that always surprises.

-David Reid, The Brazen Age: New York City and the American Empire: Politics, Art, and Bohemia

Paradise Sky


Now, in the living of my life, I’ve killed deadly men and dangerous animals and made love to four Chinese women, all of them on the same night and in the same wagon bed, and one of them with a wooden leg, which made things a mite difficult from time to time.

-Joe R. Lansdale, Paradise Sky

Love and Ruin


Three years ago I got the phone call. I had always wondered about her death, how long it would take to find out about it, and who would track her children down to tell them. Now I knew. Fifty-three days, and a lawyer.

-Cris Beam, “Mother, Stranger,” in Love and Ruin: Tales of Obsession, Danger, and Heartbreak from The Atavist Magazine edited by Evan Ratliff, with an introduction by Susan Orlean

Allegheny Front


Threadgill had been one of them, or something like it. This part of the world hadn’t been penetrated by the Company in four seasons, ever since they lost him, their ace drummer, on the Blackwater River, where he’d been shot off a farmer’s wife by the farmer himself.

-Matthew Neill Null, “Something You Can’t Live Without,” in Allegheny Front

Sweet Lamb of Heaven & More


“We watch movies, read books made glamorous by black-and-red palettes of horror, the hint of an otherworldly malice running like quicksilver through the marrow of our bones. We like to call the dark rumors demonic, like to have monsters to fear instead of time, aging, the falling away of companions.” Here’s a review of Lydia Millet’s new novel, Sweet Lamb of Heaven.

When you’re the child of undocumented immigrants, you learn to keep your mouth shut.” Here’s a review of actress Diane Guerrero’s (“Orange Is the New Black”) book In the Country We Love.

Here’s Waiting for Bojangles, a first novel from French author Olivier Bourdeaut: “The narrator is a young boy who has discovered his father Georges’s journal which recounts him falling madly in love with his mother, a woman who loves to dance and entertain but is also prone to bouts of madness. As the bills pile up and the mother’s behavior grows increasingly outlandish, father and son do all they can to keep their family—which has grown to include a pet Numidian crane—from falling apart.”

Says Adam Haslett (Imagine Me Gone): “I wrote it because I had to. There were experiences of loss in my own family that I had to make sense of, and storytelling is the means I had at my disposal.”




The postwar United States stands out for undertaking large-scale clearance on a nationwide scale. Over the span of just a few decades, the quest for progress drove the destruction of cities, suburbs, and rural landscapes across the country. According to the U.S. Census of Housing, roughly 7.5 million dwelling units were demolished between 1950 and 1980–to say nothing of nonresidential losses.

-Francesca Russello Ammon, Bulldozer: Demolition and Clearance of the Postwar Landscape

These Heroic, Happy Dead

I was living in the armory on Lexington Avenue. First Sergeant Diaz had given me the keys. I slept in a cot in the medical-supply closet. “Two weeks, max,” I’d told Diaz. But as the months went by, I kept postponing a reunion with my wife. I was comfortable where I was. The armory took up an entire city block. There were secret passageways, subterranean firing ranges, a gym with an elliptical. At night, if drunk, I connected to a bag of saline. I always woke up hydrated. I never had a hangover.

-Luke Mogelson, “Peacetime,” in These Heroic, Happy Dead: Stories