Author Archives: Joseph Barbato

The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy & More


“The cult of street photographer Vivian Maier has exploded since her negatives were discovered in 2007.” Here.

Says Evie Wyld  (All The Birds, Singing): “You know, there’s a history in sheep farming of mental illness. The sheep dip farmers used to use was a huge depressant, and a lot of the farmers committed suicide, potentially because they came into too much contact with it.” Here.

“In one of the more elaborate scenes from The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy, a robotic replica of President William Howard Taft goes on the fritz, running roughshod through the White House and nearly strangling the actual president.” Here.

On Bel Kaufman (Up the Down Staircase): “She had the gift of presence, with a deep voice, precise diction in her second language of English and the innate ability to tell a story and engage her audience, whether an individual or a crowd of thousands.” Here.


Sex Is Forbidden

Sex is forbidden at the Dasgupta Institute.

-Tim Parks, Sex Is Forbidden: A Novel


The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress

We begin in a bar.

-Ariel Lawhon, The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress: A Novel


Radiant Truths & More



Here‘s Rick Perlstein (The Invisible Bridge) on Ronald Reagan: “He absolved Americans almost in a priestly role to contend with sin. Who wouldn’t want that? But the consequences of that absolution are all around us today. The inability to contend with climate change. The inability to call elites to account who wrecked the economy in 2008. The inability to reckon with the times when we fall short.”

“[William Y.] Vollmann credits his father, a business professor, with giving him the encouragement he needed to pursue the life he wanted for himself: He would always say, ‘Bill, if it’s not easy, lucrative, or fun, don’t do it.’” Here.

“Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki is one of his most coherent and, in its tight and tidy way, one of the most satisfying.” Here‘s Haruki Murakami’s latest.

Says Jeff Sharlet (Radiant Truths): “We’re not singing in harmony. Rather, the sound of belief in America — ‘the noise of democracy,’ as President James Buchanan put it in in his only memorable phrase — is cacophony, countless voices singing different songs together. Which is kind of wonderful.” Here.

Fear & Much More


“Perhaps the first history to make the case for this nation’s becoming a bright Latin American country.” Here‘s a review of Felipe Fernández-­Armesto’s Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States.

Says novelist Jess Walter (Beautiful Ruins) of his writing day: “Up by 5.30am, have big coffee and big cookie, work until 9.30am or 10am, exercise, have second breakfast, answer emails and spend the rest of the day self-loathing.” Here.

“Even at wealthy libraries, security in rare books and map collections is often underfunded. The New York City Public Library’s collection houses 350,000 individual maps; Yale owns roughly 250,000. Given these numbers, it’s hard to notice a single missing map.” Here‘s a review of Michael Blanding’s The Map Thief: the Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps.

“Through psychoanalysis, to the relief of many and to the consternation of many more, Freud was able to say two remarkable, and timely, things: suffering gave pleasure, and it was suffused with surprising (secular) news about ourselves.” Here‘s a review of Adam Phillips’ Becoming Freud: The Making of a Psychoanalyst.

“This memoir is lit with flashes of . . . grace, a grace that sweeps down to the reader to hold her wrist tight with beautiful, terrible claws.” Here‘s a review of H is For Hawk.

“An average of 890 French soldiers died dailyand the war lasted 1,560 days. This grim math haunted the rank and file. By the third year of the war, infantrymen would frequently emit loud baa-ing noises while marching to their slaughter.” Here‘s a review of the newly rediscovered World War I novel Fear.


A Window on Eternity

Oblivion, absolute oblivion, is the one image the human mind cannot accept or even fully conceive.

-Edward O. Wilson, A Window on Eternity A Biologist’s Walk Through Gorongosa National Park


Marry Me

A week before our wedding day, my fiancee suggested I go into suspended animation and leave all the lastminute preparations to her.

-Dan Rhodes, “Cold,” in Marry Me



It was Christmas night, and Kara and I had a client at The Four Seasons in Beverly Hills–the type of place Britney Spears and Paris Hilton would smear foie gras on rice crackers and get shitfaced on Cristal, only they weren’t there.

-Antonia Crane, Spent: A Memoir


A Feathered River Across the Sky

Nothing in the human record suggests that there was ever another bird like the passenger pigeon.  At the time that Europeans first arrived in North America, passenger pigeons likely numbered anywhere from three to five billion. It was the most abundant bird on the continent, if not the planet….famed naturalist John James Audubon recorded a pigeon flight along the Ohio River that eclipsed the sun for three days.

-Joel Greenberg, A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction


Funny Once

In her dream, her husband had written her a love letter.

-Antonya Nelson, “Soldier’s Joy,” in Funny Once: Stories