Author Archives: Joseph Barbato

Before, During, After

Not to be lonely, not to look back with regret, not to miss anything, always to be awake and aware.

-Richard Bausch, Before, During, After: A Novel


The Emerald Light in the Air

They were children of parents who’d acted grotesquely, some might say violently, toward them, even when they were fairly little, and when, in their early thirties, they met and began sharing confidences, their discovery of this common ground–for that was how she thought of it–seemed to her a great, welcome solace.

-Donald Antrim, “Solace,” in The Emerald Light in the Air: Stories


Outlaws of the Atlantic & Much More


Says historian Marcus Rediker (Outlaws of the Atlantic: Sailors, Pirates, and Motley Crews in the Age of Sail): “Sailors actually played an important part in educating abolitionists about what happened in the slave trade. Thomas Clarkson, a great abolitionist, went down to the docks to talk to sailors in Bristol and Liverpool. He found these disaffected sailors, some of whom were of African descent, who were willing to tell him what kinds of horrors happened on those ships, both to the enslaved and to sailors. Here.

“The digitalization of humanity is now as unstoppable as climate change. Its impact can be reduced with certain uncomfortable adjustments, but the lag in any collective action will make it utterly reactionary and useless.” Here.

“A call to arms, suggesting that the highest form of patriotism would be to embrace the bounty that can still be found off America’s shores, rather than relying on the imported seafood that graces more than 85 percent of our plates.” Here‘s a review of Paul Greenberg’s American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood.

Says Naomi Klein (This Changes Everything): “Dealing with the climate crisis will require a completely different economic system.” Here.

“America seemed to Tocqueville like a great, volatile experiment in political and civic equality, whose ultimate outcome was uncertain but fascinating to contemplate.” Here.

“[Dennis] Lehane has more fun with the syntactical politesse that has characterized fictional low-lifes since Damon Runyon.” Here.

Says Francisco Goldman (The Interior Circuit): “Home had always seemed like a place that had been lost. It was in some ways part of having a peripatetic adulthood, moving on from places. Guatemala could never really be my home. Massachusetts never really felt like my home.” Here.



There is a man fixing a bicycle, or attempting to fix a bicycle, in the lane.

-Stacey D’Erasmo, Wonderland: A Novel


The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters

We Swineys were the hairiest girls in Harristown, Kildare, and the hairiest you’d find anywhere in Ireland from Priesthaggard to Sluggery.

-Michelle Lovric, The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters: A Novel


Sons of Wichita

Strong-jawed and broad-shouldered, with reddish hair and a pair of wire-rim glasses that gave him an air of industriousness, Fred Chase Koch cut a dashing figure galloping up and down the polo field at the Kansas City Country Club.

-Daniel Schulman, Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty


Berlin Now & Much, Much More


Here‘s a review of Peter Schneider’s Berlin Now: The City After the Wall “Schneider is an old-school flâneur, a psychogeographer who can screw down very close upon a subject — an old Jewish cemetery, a door in the Wall through which East German border police would snatch graffiti artists on the other side, the bust of Nefertiti — then he will step back to take in the genius loci, gestalts both during Wall time and after Wall time, an integration with properties not derivable from the summation of its parts, as Nathaniel Webster might say.”

“Brimming with intriguing and enlightening information, anecdotes, and statistics, Rough Country will satisfy anyone curious about how and why Texas became the staunch red state we know so well.” Here.

“The workplace has been overwhelmed by a mad, Kafkaesque infrastructure of assessments, monitoring, measuring, surveillance and audits, centrally directed and rigidly planned, whose purpose is to reward the winners and punish the losers.” Here‘s a review of Paul Verhaeghe’s What About Me?: The Struggle for Identity in a Market-Based Society.

On Infidel Kings and Unholy Warriors: Faith, Power, and Violence in the Age of Crusade and Jihad: “Violence in the era was more often a consequence of greed or external threat than of religious or ideological disagreements: religion “’as as often as not disregarded by individuals and communities pursuing more worldly agendas,’ but ‘with a crisis looming… or merely when enemy or rival kingdoms happened to identify with a different faith or denomination, the language of holy war was eagerly deployed.’” Here.

On Donald Antrim’s collection of short fiction, The Emerald Light in the Air: “The rural Southeastern setting, as well as the matter-of-fact evocation of a certain kind of desperation, reminds me of nothing so much as the work of Breece D’J Pancake, who wrote just a handful of bitter, brilliant stories before killing himself in 1979 at age 26.” Here.

“A picaresque romp from New Orleans across the Delta and back again, through poverty and wealth and race and greed and betrayal and loyalty, echoing with Southern heritage and literature.” Here‘s a review of Rod Davis’s South, America.

“The new elite of international, plane-hopping white-collar brains servicing the planet’s affluent.” Here.

“Chasing the American Dream captures the importance of the chase – of the belief in a dream that, despite its impossibility, keeps Americans hoping.” Here.

Says William Deresiewicz: “I’m quite aware of the way the rhetoric of love and vocation has been co-opted by people who don’t want to pay their workers (intellectual, creative, or otherwise) what they deserve.” Here.

Kill My Mother & Much More


Kill My Mother is terrific.” Here‘s a review of Jules Feiffer’s new graphic novel.

“Everybody thinks all the great ideas come outta MIT, but let me tell you, there’s a great deal of innovation that comes off the factory floor.” Here‘s a review of Factory Man.

“It is a testament, a moral victory, an example of how literature can save us — not forever, but for a little while, and in incremental pieces at a time.” Here‘s David Ulin on Henry Roth’s Mercy of a Rude Stream.

On social geographer Alastair Bonnett’s Unruly Places: “A manual for reimagining the notion of exploration itself.” Here.

“The arrival of the greatest Alzheimer’s novel yet, Matthew Thomas’s visionary and challenging We Are Not Ourselves, seems like a good occasion to reassess the burgeoning genre and determine what its writers can and can’t tell us about the fate of the self as it succumbs to a disease that attacks the very seat of selfhood.” Here.

Says novelist David Mitchell (The Bone Clocks): “I’m interested in what we could call literary propinquity, or next-ness. Put one thing next to another, and it’s a third thing. It’s not there, but it’s in the fact that they’re next to each other.” Here.



The Antiquarian

According to Conrad Lycosthenes’ wife, who was a foreigner, the women of her country used to lay eggs like hens.

-Gustavo Faveron Patriau, The Antiquarian


Death Money

It was 7 a.m. when Detective Jack Yu stepped into the frigid dawn spreading over Sunset Park.

-Henry Chang, Death Money