Author Archives: Joseph Barbato

The Refugees

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Fame would strike someone, usually the kind that healthy-minded people would not wish upon themselves, such as being kidnapped and kept prisoner for years, suffering humiliation in a sex scandal, or surviving something typically fatal. These survivors needed someone to help write their memoirs, and their agents might eventually come across me. “At least your name’s not on anything,” my mother once said.

-Viet Thanh Nguyen, “Black-Eyed Women,” in The Refugees

A Horse Walks Into a Bar

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Good evening! Good evening! Good evening to the majestic city of Ceasariyaaaaaah!”

-David Grossman, A Horse Walks into a Bar: A Novel

The World to Come

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Twenty-five years before Texas Tower no. 4 became one of the Air Force’s most unlikely achievements and most lethal peacetime disasters, marooning nineteen wives including Ellie Phelan, Betty Bakke, Edna Kovarick, and Jeannette Laino in their own little stewpots of grief and recrimination, the six-year-old Ellie thought of herself as forever stuck in Kansas: someone who would probably never see Chicago, never mind the Atlantic Ocean.

-Jim Shepard, “Safety Tips for Living Alone,” in The World to Come: Stories

The Found and the Lost

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I shall make my report as if I told a story, this having been the tradition for some time now. You may, however, wonder why a farmer on the planet O is reporting to you as if he were a Mobile of the Ekumen. My story will explain that. But it does not explain itself. Story is our only boat for sailing on the river of time, but in the great rapids and the winding shallows, no boat is safe.

-Ursula K. Le Guin, “Another Story of a Fisherman of the Inland Sea,” in The Found and the Lost: The Collected Novellas of Ursula K. Le Guin

Like Death

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Daylight poured into the enormous studio through an open bay in the ceiling: an oblong of brilliant light–an immense perforation in the remote azure infinity–ceaselessly crisscrossed by sudden flights of birds.

-Guy De Maupassant, Like Death (New York Review Books Classics)

Best Worst American

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Lately my spinster aunt has been setting my personal possessions on fire. I found a cup of ballpoint pens smoldering, a blob of ink and plastic by the TV. She has taken a lighter to my shelf of GI Joes–their hands, feet, and arms are badly scarred. They look like casualties from an actual war. We have been living together and the strain is beginning to show.

-Juan Martinez, “Road Block,” in Best Worst American: Stories

A Voice in the Night

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He woke up at exactly six-thirty a.m., rested, fresh, and perfectly lucid.

He got up, went and opened the shutters, and looked outside.

Calm sea, flat as a table, and a clear sky, blue with a few small white clouds, that looked as if it had been painted by a Sunday painter and put there as decoration. A decidedly anonymous day, but he liked it precisely because of its lack of character.

-Andrea Camilleri, A Voice in the Night: An Inspector Montalbano Mystery

Angry White Men & Much More

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Says Michael Kimmel (Angry White Men): “What we do know to be true is that our military exercises in Iraq and Afghanistan have left veterans coming home with serious PTSD. I mean, think of the types of terror that they’ve lived with – that any time you get into a car could be your last time on earth. That can’t help but shake you up. Couple that with racism towards your enemy – one of the ways you convince yourself to kill an enemy is to hate them; think about what we used to say about the Vietnamese, or what my father’s generation used to say about the Japanese. I think that is an equation that might make some people susceptible to far-right ideology.”

On The Complacent Class: “Americans used to be so can-do, but they’ve lost some of that. [Tyler] Cowen’s book discusses the reasons behind and the consequences for that decline, starting with ways to measure the loss of restlessness: Americans are moving less between states; they’re starting new businesses at lower rates; and they’re marrying and living amongst people too much like themselves.”

Hardcover reprints of some very special SF classics!

I think the biggest thing that people aren’t seeing at all is the huge attack on Medicaid that’s coming,” says Richard Kirsch (Fighting for Our Health). “The press hasn’t covered it, it’s not on anybody’s radar. It’s 33 million children and 77 million people. It’s the way that people with disabilities get their health care paid for, it’s the way that families can afford to send their elderly parents to a nursing home or get home care. That’s a huge, huge attack that Republicans are going to try to force through really quickly.”

The remarkable Rebecca Solnit.

Eleanor and Hick

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The letters between Eleanor and Hick are less remarkable now for their shock value than for the moving and poignant story they tell of two women who loved each other intensely and deeply. Women who loved women surrounded both of them, and showed the way to a freer life.

-Susan Quinn, Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair That Shaped a First Lady

Adapt

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You may not be able to think of a weirder, more otherworldly creature than the cuttlefish. It has no backbone, strange W-shaped pupils in its bulbous eyes and thick floppy-looking arms protruding from its face. It swims around with a tutu-like frill that floats around its body, but propels itself backward to escape predators. To look at its many-fingered face is to look into the visage of Cthulhu, that fictional god of H.P. Lovecraft’s strange horror stories, or the alien Ood of the rebooted cult TV show Doctor Who.

-Amina Khan, Adapt: How Humans Are Tapping into Nature’s Secrets to Design and Build a Better Future