Author Archives: Joseph Barbato

The Search for Heinrich Schlogel

The sentences that Heinrich loved best were hard as rock candy and lasted.

-Martha Baillie, The Search for Heinrich Schlogel: A Novel

240 pg spine.indd

A Brief History of Seven Killings & So Much More

sevenSays novelist Marlon James (A Brief History Of Seven Killings): “One of my formative influences as a writer is Dickens, and I still consider myself a Dickensian in as much as there are aspects of storytelling I still believe in—plot, surprise, cliffhangers. I still believe you should make them laugh, make them cry, make them wait. In many ways I’m an old-fashioned novelist. I have a rule when I’m writing, which comes from my love of Victorian novels, that at the end of a writing day [I ask myself,] is there anything that made me go, ‘Wow, I did not see that coming’? And if there’s not I continue writing until there is. The risk you run is melodrama. But you have to risk it.” Here.

“The miners’ journey into the underworld and their miraculous return is an epic tale for all time.” Here‘s a review of Héctor Tobar’s Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free.

“From Asia to Central America, a new generation of Nellie Blys and Ida Tarbells, Seymour Hershes and Rachel Carsons, is breaking one big story after another with equal parts old-fashioned shoe leather and twenty-first-century knowhow.”  Here‘s the view from Anya Schiffrin’s Global Muckraking: 100 Years of Investigative Journalism from Around the World.

“In Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, [Atul] Gawande, a longtime staff writer for the New Yorker, takes on the utter failure of the medical profession when it comes to helping people die well, and the short-sightedness of the elder facilities that infantilize people rather than bother to figure out what they actually need to maintain a modicum of meaning in what’s left of their lives.” Here.

Little Big Man at 50. Here.

“The hungriest Americans had a choice between begging, stealing and starving; apple pie was out of the question. During this period, [Katherine] Turner explains, working people struggled through long, overlapping shifts, sharing beds in homes or boarding houses with insufficient sanitation, especially in urban slums. Homes were often without kitchens, cooking equipment (pots and pans were, relatively speaking, far more expensive then than they are now) or refrigeration, resulting in a general reliance on convenience food, the “street food” of the time – albeit without the consistency or safety we have come to expect of today’s fast food.” Here‘s a review of How the Other Half Ate: A History of Working-Class Meals at the Turn of the Century.

“Reveals the degree of vitriol unleashed against the president of the Confederacy from fellow Southerners who accused him of arrogance and malice due to the fact that he could not marshal the wherewithal to win the war.” Here’s a review of James M. McPherson’s Embattled Rebel: Jefferson Davis as Commander in Chief.

“His detective confronts his own—and his country’s—tortured past and the legacy of Apartheid.” Here‘s Deon Meyer (Cobra).

Says Gary Shteyngart (Little Failure): “When I was growing up, when I went to Stuyvesant High School, Chinese kids would hide in the bathroom eating squid. But now that food is totally hip! The world has really changed, and nowadays one no longer feels the way that I did being Russian.” Here.

There Must Be Some Mistake

At three in the morning I woke up and there was Jilly Rudolph out on the deck flipping through the local paper.

-Frederick Barthelme, There Must Be Some Mistake: A Novel


Life Deluxe

The strip club on Roslagsgatan’d been rented out.

-Jens Lapidus, Life Deluxe: A Novel


Painted Horses

London, even the smell of it.

-Malcolm Brooks, Painted Horses: A Novel


Founders as Fathers & Much More

founders“The often overlooked private lives of elite men who preferred the joys of plantation life (‘our own Vine and our own fig tree’) but deemed their revolutionary cause ‘a parental obligation.’” Here‘s a review of Founders as Fathers: The Private Lives and Politics of the American Revolutionaries.

Says novelist Carl Hiaasen (Skink–No Surrender): “Florida is a 24-hour freak show. If you’re a writer, inspiration rains down from the headlines every day. I’ve lived here my whole life, and I’d probably go into withdrawal if I moved somewhere normal.” Here.

The Raymond Chandler Map of Los Angeles. Here.

Says Paul Theroux (Mr. Bones: Twenty Stories):”What if a person was in a minstrel show, put on blackface and a wig, and then came home? What sort of a person would he be? Would he be the father of the family making jokes or would he be in character?” Here.

Writers at their typewriters! Here.

“[Daphne] Merkin is our scribe of wounded celebrity.” Here.

“When she died last November at the age of 94, I’d known Doris [Lessing] for fifty years. In all that time, I’ve never managed to figure out a designation for her that properly and succinctly describes her role in my life, let alone my role in hers. We have the handy set of words to describe our nearest relations: mother, father, daughter, son, uncle, aunt, cousin, although that’s as far as it goes usually in contemporary Western society.” Here.




In the early days of summer, Agostino and his mother used to go out to sea every morning on a small rowboat typical of Mediterranean beaches known as a pattino.

-Alberto Moravia, Agostino


The Palace of Illusions

The loft where the dwarfs lived had a view of the city and hardwood floors and skylights, but it was overpriced, and too small now that there were seven of them.

-Kim Addonizio, “Ever After,” in The Palace of Illusions: Stories


Mr. Tall

She lived alone now, in a big house in Brentwood bought with the royalties of a bad country music song her husband had sung.

-Tony Earley, “Yard Art,” in Mr. Tall: A Novella and Stories


Sundays at Eight

Writers have built-in support systems that do keep us humble.  I have an editor at The New Yorker who is not dazzled by any of my book sales, and is, if anything, more willing today to tell me than he was ten years ago, that what I’ve written is nonsense.  I have a mother who is resolutely unswayed by the opinion of the outside world.  She said of Outliers, in a way that only a mother can, “I really like this book,” meaning that she did not like the first two books so much. When you have people in your life who keep you in check, it’s easier. And luckily, I do not have any real power. I am not running a major country or investment bank, so that damage I can do if I were to get overconfident is limited, thankfully.

-Malcolm Gladwell, “Writing Bestsellers,” in Sundays at Eight: 25 Years of Stories from C-SPAN’S Q&A and Booknotes edited by Brian Lamb