Author Archives: Joseph Barbato

The Map of Chaos

The debate was due to commence in fifteen minutes when they glimpsed the Palace of Knowledge silhouetted against the golden canvas of twilight.

-Felix J. Palma, The Map of Chaos: A Novel



Levi’s 501s were the pantswear gold standard for men in Mexico’s ranchos in the 1990s. They were very expensive in Mexico. One thing that made the Xalisco Boys’ retail system so popular, and young men eager to work in it, was that the system provided a way to accumulate quantities, large stacks, of 501s very cheaply. That was because U.S. junkies soon learned these dealers’ tastes and offered endless supplies of shoplifted 501s in exchange for their daily dope. Before long the junkies took orders according to size and color and traded them two for one: two pairs of 501s for one twenty-dollar balloon of black tar.

-Sam Quinones, Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic

The Beautiful Bureaucrat

The person who interviewed her had no face.

-Helen Phillips, The Beautiful Bureaucrat: A Novel


A Beam of Light

Since the first light of dawn, the morning had shown itself to be erratic and whimsical.

-Andrea Camilleri, A Beam of Light (Inspector Montalbano)


The Brink

On their first morning in what was the most spectacular place she’d ever been–rampant sun, palms everywhere, bungalows planked on top of the water–Haley and Mac paddled (Mac doing most of it) one of the resort’s outrigger canoes to the raft in the lagoon (lagoon, outrigger, when would she get to use these honeymoon words again?) where, probably because he’d lost seven pounds since the ring sizing, Mac’s wedding band just slipped off.

-Austin Bunn, “Getting There & Away,” in The Brink: Stories



Circling the Sun

Before Kenya was Kenya, when it was millions of years old and yet still somehow new, the name belonged only to our most magnificent mountain.

-Paula McLain, Circling the Sun: A Novel

New American Stories

When April arrived, it started to get warm and everyone said that the war was definitely going to happen soon and there was nothing anybody could do to stop it.

-Said Sayrafiezadeh, “Paranoia,” in New American Stories edited by Ben Marcus


Buckley and Mailer & Much, Much More


Two writers who shared “’a joint disgust at the central assumptions that dominated postwar America from the 1940s to the mid-1960s,’ most notably the period’s cultural conformity and its faith in technocratic bureaucracy and government-supported corporate capitalism.” Here’s a review of Buckley and Mailer: The Difficult Friendship That Shaped the Sixties.

“Rescuing and reviving all kinds of ignored or forgotten works in English or in translation, fiction and nonfiction, by writers renowned and obscure.” Here‘s Edwin Frank, editorial director of New York Review Books.

“Today, when [Bernie] Sanders addresses throngs of admirers all over America and gets interviewed on national TV,  his message is much the same as he delivered to small-town New Englanders almost 35 years ago. ‘If we wanted to, we could wipe out economic hardship almost overnight,’ he told a Vermont paper back in 1971. ‘We could have free medical care, excellent schools, and decent housing for all. The problem is that the great wealth and potential of this country rests with a handful of people …’” Here‘s a review of Radicals in America: The U.S. Left since the Second World War.

“Thank the Goddess for Sisters of the Revolution, a superlative new anthology of previously published feminist science fiction by female writers, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer.” Here.

Here‘s James Baldwin at 91.

Here‘s “Sanctifying the SUV” from Making Suburbia.

Between the World and Me

Last Sunday the host of a popular news show asked me what it meant to lose my body.

-Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

The Mechanical


It was the first public execution in several years, and thus, despite the cold drizzle, a rather unwieldy crowd thronged the open spaces of the Binnenhof.

-Ian Tregellis, The Mechanical (The Alchemy Wars)