Author Archives: Joseph Barbato

The One-Eyed Man


That morning, in an effort to restore some normalcy to my weekend, I left the house and strolled to the coffee shop for a Grande Americano, just like a regular, irrational person.

-Ron Currie, The One-Eyed Man: A Novel

Heritage of Smoke


Davor had been wheezing for days, and he gasped in his sleep and talked about Armageddon, global warming, and the vanished Boeing 777. Even awake, he talked about the 777 as the ascension airplane–all the people onboard went straight to heaven, and the rest remained on the ground, awaiting the wrath of God.

-Josip Novakovich, “When the Saints Come,” in Heritage of Smoke: Stories

Alfred Hitchcock


The preparation of the set for Rear Window began on 12 October [1953] on stage eighteen of the Paramount lot. It represented the back of a residential block in Greenwich Village with thirty-one separate apartments, eight of them with fully furnished rooms. It also had to include fire escapes and roof gardens, together with an alley leading to a street that can be fitfully glimpsed as a relic of the outside world. The huge and complex set took a month to construct, by the coordinated efforts of fifty men, and rose forty feet into the air at a length of 185 feet. One hundred arc lights and 2,000 smaller lamps were installed….It was the biggest project on the Paramount lot since the heroic days of Cecil B. DeMille, and it shared the same theatricality. It was not real. It was bigger than reality.

-Peter Ackroyd, Alfred Hitchcock: A Brief Life

We Are Data


We are “well filled with data” in today’s networked society. If you don’t believe me, open your computer and roam the web for five minutes. In a period of time only slightly longer than the average television commercial break, you will have generated, through your web activity, an identity that is likely separate from the person who you thought you were. In a database far, far away, you have been assigned a gender, ethnicity, class, age, education level, and potentially the status of parent with x number of children.

-John Cheney-Lippold, We Are Data: Algorithms and the Making of Our Digital Selves

The Lioness is the Hunter


The receptionist parted her cranberry-colored hair in the middle and showed a gap between her front teeth when she smiled. I’m a sucker for little imperfections like that. I wanted to feed nickels into that slot all day, just to watch her lights blink on. Instead I gave her a card.

-Loren D. Estleman, The Lioness is the Hunter: An Amos Walker Mystery

New York 2140 & More


[Kim Stanley Robinson's] New York 2140 is a towering novel about a genuinely grave threat to civilisation. Impressively ambitious, it bears comparison with other visionaries’ attempts to squeeze the sprawl and energy of the US between two covers: John Dos Passos’s USA trilogy and Don DeLillo’s Underworld.”

What we want from hermits—why we’re endlessly fascinated by them, and why we’re just as often frustrated by them.” Here’s a review of The Stranger in the Woods.

“El Akkad’s debut novel transports us to a terrifyingly plausible future in which the clash between red states and blue has become deadly and the president has been murdered over a contentious fossil fuels bill.” Here’s a review of American War.

Says Joe Ide (IQ): “I think entertaining novels can deal with serious issues as part of the story. John Sanford’s latest, Escape Clause, happens in the illicit world of trading endangered species. Tana French’s main character in The Trespasser, a woman detective, deals with discrimination by her male colleagues. And there are other ways an entertaining novel can contribute to the common good. Violence can be portrayed but not glorified. Vicious characters don’t have to be cool. Kindness and ethical behavior can be virtues instead of vulnerabilities. Intelligence can triumph over guns. Cruelty, misogyny, drug use, violence, sociopathic tendencies don’t have to be celebrated.”

Locked In


The statistics are as simple as they are shocking: The United States is home to 5 percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of its prisoners. We have more total prisoners than any other country in the world, and we have the world’s highest incarceration rate, one that is four to eight times higher than those in other liberal democracies, including Canada, England, and Germany.

-John Pfaff, Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration—and How to Achieve Real Reform



Don’t trust anyone who promises you a new life. Pick-up artists, lifestyle gurus, pyramid-scheme face cream evangelists, Weight Watchers coaches: These people make their living off your failures.

-Lindy West, Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman

The Night Ocean & Much More


“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


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