Author Archives: Joseph Barbato

The Age of Acquiescence

When the railroad threatened to come to Lancaster, Ohio, back in the mid-1840s, the local school board greeted the prospect as a looming moral disaster.

-Steve Fraser, The Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of American Resistance to Organized Wealth and Power


Mourning Lincoln & More


“Oh, Mr. Clapp, there is a policeman downstairs, and he says President Lincoln has been killed.” Here’s Mourning Lincoln.

“Being a writer isn’t like being a movie star,” [Anne] Tyler says, “and you realise being famous is not what you imagined it to be. To have somebody ring your doorbell and say, ‘I have to talk with you. May I come in?’ It hasn’t happened very often, but it’s unsettling.” Here.

Nothing is innocent, and nobody is what he or she seems.” Here‘s that new noir Serpents in the Cold.

Here‘s Jonathan Franzen: “People don’t want moral complexity. Moral complexity is a luxury. You might be forced to read it in school, but a lot of people have hard lives. They come home at the end of the day, they feel they’ve been jerked around by the world yet again for another day. The last thing they want to do is read Alice Munro, who is always pointing toward the possibility that you’re not the heroic figure you think of yourself as, that you might be the very dubious figure that other people think of you as.”

Chasing the Scream

Almost one hundred years after the start of the war on drugs, I found myself stuck on one of its more minor battlefields.

-Johann Hari, Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs


A Small Indiscretion

London, the year I turned twenty.

-Jan Ellison, A Small Indiscretion: A Novel


White Man’s Problems

If you go back through the tunnel of time to when basketball was holy, you will find that Mike Donegan scored thirty-six points against Cardinal O’Hara in the Southeastern Pennsylvania Diocese championship game of 1966.

Kevin Morris, “Here Comes Mike,” in White Man’s Problems: Stories


Let Me Be Frank With You

Strange fragrances ride the twitchy, wintry air at The Shore this morning, two weeks before Christmas.

-Richard Ford, “I’m Here,” in Let Me Be Frank With You: A Frank Bascombe Book



Send the boy to Apollonia.

-John Williams, Augustus (New York Review Books Classics)


The Woman Who Borrowed Memories

On a windless day in November, shortly after sunrise, she saw a squirrel on the boat beach.

-Tove Jansson, “The Squirrel,” in The Woman Who Borrowed Memories: Selected Stories


Sweet Nothing

Puppet shooting that baby comes into my head again, like a match flaring in the dark, this time while I’m wiping down the steam tables after the breakfast rush at the hospital.

-Richard Lange, “Baby Killer,” in Sweet Nothing: Stories

Ghettoside & So Much More


“If you talk to people in the black urban underclass, they’ll tell you, ‘Why don’t they go find the killers? They never catch the guys who did it.’ The national conversation is about over policing. But many black people in ghettos say they want more policing. It was the same in the Jim Crow south. Yes, the police could be brutal. But they would also say, ‘We need more protection than we’re getting.’” Here‘s Jill Leovy (Ghettoside).

“Gary Ferguson’s The Carry Home: Lessons from the American Wilderness appears at just the right moment to teach us, among other lessons, that wilderness is one of the best places to grieve.” Here.

If you were throwing a pity party among American playwrights, the antisocial, alcoholic, self-dramatising misery named Eugene Gladstone O’Neill would win the door prize.” Here‘s John Lahr on Eugene O’Neill: A Life in Four Acts.

“A trove of awe-inspiring, magnificent panoramas and indelible portraits of icebergs, penguins, polar bears and altered landscapes.” Here‘s a review of photographer Camille Seaman’s Melting Away: A Ten-Year Journey Through Our Endangered Polar Regions.

“The private military industry has surged since the end of the Cold War and is now a multibillion-dollar business. Today’s military firms are sophisticated multinational corporations with subsidiaries around the world and quarterly profit reports for investors.” Here.

“An English professor and cultural historian wanders episodically from his boyhood as a yeshiva student in New York in the 1950s, surrounded by a close-knit, eternally kvetching immigrant family, through adolescence, when his religious strictures were gradually displaced by books and a usually unrequited interest in girls, to his budding academic career at Columbia and Yale.”  Here‘s Queens boy Morris Dickstein’s Why Not Say What Happened: A Sentimental Education.

“He loved the way his prose fell into place. He was also rather sick of it.” Here‘s Anthony Quinn’s novel Curtain Call.