Author Archives: Joseph Barbato

Made to Kill & More


“A mashup of Raymond Chandler and Philip K Dick: the world’s last robot (all the others were destroyed after they stole everyone’s jobs) and his boss, a building-sized computer, who operate a private detective agency that’s a front for an assassination business. And business is good.” Here‘s a review of Adam Christopher’s novel Made to Kill.

Naked Lunch at 50. Here.

“Elite firms spend millions on recruiting events at tiny number of schools (basically, Harvard, Yale, Princeton and ‘maybe Columbia’). They provide students free booze and bits of swag to take home. Hollow multi-media presentations suggest that students will find their calling, their friends, and maybe even their spouse through the spreadsheets and reports and all the other inane work of helping the rich get richer. Employees may even do some good. But that message gives way quickly for one overriding certainty: if granted employment, students will soon make a lot of money.” Here‘s a review of Pedigree: How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs.

“To my Executors: It is my wish that none of the letters written by me during my lifetime shall be published. Accordingly, I hereby request and direct you not to publish, or consent to the publication by others, of any such letters.” Here‘s a review of the latest volume in The Letters of Ernest Hemingway.

Dark Corners

For many years Wilfred Martin collected samples of alternative medicines, homeopathic remedies, and herbal pills.

-Ruth Rendell, Dark Corners: A Novel


The Grownup

I didn’t stop giving hand jobs because I wasn’t good at it. I stopped giving hand jobs because I was the best at it.

-Gillian Flynn, The Grownup


The Mare

That day I woke up from a dream the way I always woke up: pressed against my mom’s back, my face against her and her turned away.

-Mary Gaitskill, The Mare: A Novel


Inherit the Holy Mountain


The biggest surprise in writing the book came when I began to examine the conservation movement during its glory days in the Progressive Era between 1900 and 1920. Of all the federal officials associated with conservation, almost none was raised Congregationalist. Congregationalists had nearly vanished from conservation by then. Progressive conservationists were nearly all raised Presbyterian. The almost complete unanimity astonished me. Presbyterians dominated federal conservation for several decades and then vanished as completely as Congregationalists, only to reemerge in the environmental movement after World War II. This handoff from Congregationalists to Presbyterians, and then gradually since 1960 from Presbyterians to non-Presbyterians, has been difficult to understand and explain.

-Mark R. Stoll, Inherit the Holy Mountain: Religion and the Rise of American Environmentalism

Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates

In 1785, the same year Richard O’Brien was captured by pirates, Thomas Jefferson learned that all politics, even transatlantic politics, are personal.

-Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger, Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War That Changed American History

The Brothers Vonnegut & Much More


“There was no avoiding [writing science fiction],” Kurt Vonnegut told an interviewer, “since the General Electric Company was science fiction.” Here‘s a review of Ginger Strand’s The Brothers Vonnegut.

A lively, raucous, and immensely entertaining love letter to the funny business.” Here‘s a review of The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy.

“[Charles] McCarry spins his riveting story in unexpected ways; the writing is always subdued but brilliant, leading unsuspecting readers to collide straight into the unforgiving wall of a stunning ending.” Here‘s The Mulberry Bush.

“In telling the story of Mevlut — a village boy who moves to the city in the late 1960s and spends the next four decades scraping by as a peddler — [Orhan] Pamuk does for Istanbul something like what James Joyce did for Dublin.” Here‘s a review of A Strangeness in My Mind.

“One of the fascinating things about publishing is the risk is immensely high and you’re never sure of anything. When you meet someone who tells you with total certainty that something will be a great success or a great failure, he’s simply wrong.” Here‘s Roberto Calasso, publisher of Adelphi Edizioni.


The Mulberry Bush

On a midsummer day in January, Luz Aguilar, the love of my life and the only child of the legendary Alejandro Aguilar, martyr of the revolution, and I met for the first time at first light in a rose garden in Los Bosques de Palermo.

-Charles McCarry, The Mulberry Bush: A Novel


The Japanese Lover

When Irina Bazili began working at Lark House in 2010, she was twenty-three years old but already had few illusions about life.

-Isabel Allende, The Japanese Lover: A Novel


The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness

That thing we call a place is the intersection of many changing forces passing through, whirling around, mixing, dissolving, and exploding in a fixed location.

-Rebecca Solnit, The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness