Author Archives: Joseph Barbato

The Night Ocean & Much More

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“Was H.P. Lovecraft, the great American horror writer, gay? That’s the question at the start of this ingenious, provocative work of alternative history from [novelist] Paul La Farge.” Here’s a review of The Night Ocean.

“If this is how [Joan] Didion’s notebooks read, let’s have them all.”

The Outsiders at 50.

“I want it to be a legacy biography, and a literary biography that shows how the artist can’t ever be separate from the art. The life is reflected in the art. I want it to show him as a human being and an artist.” Here’s Patti Hartigan on her forthcoming biography of playwright August Wilson.

Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale returns to bestseller lists.

 

Blood at the Root

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There was nothing unusual about the lynching of a black man in Georgia in 1912, and the next morning the sight of Edwards’s body, laid out on the courthouse lawn, seemed to satisfy those most hungry for vengeance.

-Patrick Phillips, Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America

Thus Bad Begins

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This story didn’t happen so very long ago–less time than the average life, and how brief a life is once it’s over and can be summed up in a few sentences, leaving only ashes in the memory, ashes that crumble at the slightest touch and fly up with the slightest gust of wind–and yet what happened then would be impossible now.

-Javier Marias, Thus Bad Begins: A Novel

Wonderland

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Deep history can usually be detected in the most banal of artifacts, if you know where to look. Consider one of the most derided items on a modern supermarket shelf: the humble Doritos chip. Originally introduced in 1964 as an exclusive treat for Disneyland visitors, showcased at the “Casa de Fritos” in Adventureland, Doritos have become the crown jewel in the Frito-Lay empire of snacks.

-Steven Johnson, Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World

Adapt & Much More

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“Snakes that fly; geckos that walk on walls; blindfolded seals that track swimming objects by following their invisible wakes. These are among the ‘weird and wonderful’ discoveries in nature that are helping scientists find ways to improve human technology, writes the author of this meticulous, well-written book.” Here’s a review of science writer Amina Kahn’s Adapt: How Humans Are Tapping into Nature’s Secrets to Design and Build a Better Future.

[Dan] Chaon is no stranger to humanity’s darker side. It’s almost as if he writes in blood rather than ink, creating a body of work featuring malicious intent.” Here’s the author of Ill Will.

“Yes, there is a revival underway, and I’m so glad to see it happening, because I’ve worked hard for [Albert] Murray’s legacy for several years, alongside Murray’s literary executor, Lewis P. Jones.” The centennial year for a singular writer.

“Is it possible to write a coming of age novel when your main character is 39 years old? Jami Attenberg attempts just that in her new novel All Grown Up.”

Some two million Americans are enrolled in for-profit colleges, up from 400,000 in 2000. Those students, most of them working adults getting short-term certificates, are disproportionately nonwhite and female. They graduate with more debt than students who have attended public and nonprofit institutions, and are more likely to default on their loans. It is taxpayers who are financing the expensive and often academically inferior education that for-profit colleges provide. Ninety-four percent of for-profit students pay tuition with federal student loans.” Here’s a review of Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy.

 

Here I Am

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When the destruction of Israel commenced, Isaac Bloch was weighing whether to kill himself or move to the Jewish Home.

-Jonathan Safran, Here I Am: A Novel

The Weight of Him

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Billy Brennan overdid it again with the fast food. After, he hurried as best he could along the street, fighting the need to stop and recover–he didn’t want to draw any more attention to himself.

-Ethel Rohan, The Weight of Him: A Novel

The Young Widower’s Handbook

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You don’t fall in love at first sight, or first kiss even, but many months later, at that indelible moment when you awake in her bed before sunrise, her breath hot on your back, arm draped across your ribs, the contours of her hips flowing into you, and you feel like you’re two interlocking puzzle pieces, built specifically to fit together with each other and no one else.

-Tom McAllister, The Young Widower’s Handbook: A Novel

South and West

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In New Orleans in June the air is heavy with sex and death, not violent death but death by decay, overripeness, rotting, death by drowning, suffocation, fever of unknown etiology.

-Joan Didion, South and West: From a Notebook

Night School

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In the morning they gave Reacher a medal, and in the afternoon they sent him back to school. The medal was another Legion of Merit. His second.

-Lee Child, Night School: A Novel