Author Archives: Joseph Barbato

Locking Up Our Own

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It is now widely known that the drug war has caused tremendous damage–especially in the low-income African American communities that have been its primary target….Blacks are much more likely than whites to be arrested, convicted, and incarcerated for drug offenses, even though blacks are no more likely than whites to use drugs.

-James Forman, Jr., Locking Up our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America

Number 11

My name is Livia and I come from Bucharest.

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We have a saying in my country: Totul trebuie sa aiba un inceput. Which means: Everything must have a beginning. So I will begin my story like this.

I have been living in London for more than five years, and my job is taking the dogs of very rich people for their daily walk. Most of my clients live in Chelsea. I used to live there myself but then the rents became so high that I moved out to Wandsworth so now every day I begin by taking a bus across the river. I look out through the windows of the bus as we cross the bridge, and from that point on, every time the bus gets to another stop I can see the signs of wealth more and more clearly inscribed in the streets and feel the air itself getting heavier with the tangy scent of money.

-Jonathan Coe, Number 11: A Novel

Splinterlands

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More than twenty-five years ago, as I sat on the roof of our house watching the neighborhood’s furniture float down the street, I thought things couldn’t get any worse. Everything I owned was under water. The capital of my country was ruined. Mother Earth was exacting its revenge upon its most arrogant inhabitants.

-John Feffer, Splinterlands: A Novel

Rosset

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Rebellion runs in my family’s blood. We have never shown a willingness to accept unthinkingly what authorities told us was right or wrong, in good taste or bad. The repression of imposed conformity has always been something we fought against, no matter what the odds.

-Barney Rosset, Rosset: My Life in Publishing and How I Fought Censorship

Scoundrel Time & More

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“November of last year launched America into one of the most terrifying eras in its history. Take a look around you. See the stark tone shift in journalism, the edginess introduced in the voice of artists, and the genuine fear in immigrant families, gay and lesbian and trans people, and basically anyone non-white. It turns out that it can happen here.” Here’s the story on a new magazine that gives voice to the resistance: Scoundrel Time.

Writes Jonathan Lethem: “It’s my best of the year, but you can’t read it yet: Steve Erickson’s jaw-dropping next novel, Shadowbahn, which concerns the phantasmic reappearance of the Twin Towers in the Badlands of South Dakota, accompanied by the resurrection of Elvis Presley’s twin brother Jesse.”

“The boy crawling directly in front of the 14-year-old [Paul] Auster was under the fence when lightning struck, killing the young adolescent. ‘His shoe was in front of my face,’ Auster remembers. ‘I’ve been haunted by that moment all of my life. The fragility of life was made real to me that day. My work and this novel have been inspired by it. And a writer who creates other selves in his or her work must love them in order to honor them, even when, especially when, they must die. Only through this love can the writer feel the awe and horror of death.’” Here’s the story behind Auster’s 4 3 2 1.

“With rare immediacy, [Timothy B.] Tyson revisits the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till in Mississippi and the acquittal of those responsible in a gripping account of the cultural milieu of a racist environment.” Here’s a review of The Blood of Emmett Till.

 

On Living

on_living_kerry_eganI don’t know if listening to other people’s life stories as they die can make you wise, but I do know that it can heal your soul. I know this because those stories healed mine.

-Kerry Egan, On Living

Writing to Save a Life & More

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“A slim but powerful volume, an account of the brief and terrible life of Louis (Saint) Till, the largely forgotten father of Emmett Till, the Chicago boy whose horrific lynching in Mississippi in 1955 shamed the nation.” Here’s a profile of John Edgar Wideman, author of Writing to Save a Life.

“More than simply a collection of cartoons, The Realist Cartoons is an instruction manual for those wishing to learn how to speak bravely and frankly about race, sex, war, peace, abortion, doomsday, environmentalism, free speech, civil rights, homosexuality, human rights, human wrongs, love, hate and obscenity—to learn, that is, by exquisite example.”

As outlaw tales go, Andrew Hilleman’s debut novel, World, Chase Me Down (Penguin) ranks alongside the likes of Jesse James, Butch Cassidy, and Billy the Kid.”

“’I’m just a writer. I don’t have access to magical Negro wisdom that white people don’t have access to. Everything is now political. We have the responsibility to make the political personal.’” Here’s Roxane Gay.

 

Bandit

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I was with my dad the first time I stole something.

It was a little booklet of baby names. I was seven and I devoured word lists: dictionaries, vocabulary sheets, menus. The appeal of this string of names, their pleasing shapes and neat order, felt like a puzzle impossible to solve. I couldn’t ask for it but I couldn’t leave it. I pressed it to my chest as we walked out of Kroger.

-Molly Brodak, Bandit: A Daughter’s Memoir

Pussy & More

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Howard Jacobson (Pussy): “’I wanted to get over Trump’s moral bankruptcy but also the sheer bankruptcy of a culture that could produce him.’ In particular, he wanted to convey the damage done to political discourse by the social networking site Twitter, which Trump has used to bypass traditional media.”

“A timely work on the vociferous sides taken over the Spanish-American War of 1898—and how that history relates to the ongoing debate regarding American imperialism.” Here’s a review of The True Flag.

The sugar industry and its defenders argue that the evidence is ambiguous; therefore we should continue to believe that sugar is no more than empty calories at the very worst. What I would like them to do is suggest tests that could exonerate sugar, if it’s really harmless. It’s not enough just to say the evidence is ambiguous. And I think the industry now has an obligation to fund those tests.” Here’s Gary Taubes (The Case Against Sugar).

“How the engagement by a group of Transcendentalists with Darwin’s newly published On the Origin of Species deepened their commitment to the antislavery movement.” Here’s a review of The Book That Changed America: How Darwin’s Theory of Evolution Ignited a Nation.

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer

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There’s a hospital room at the end of a life where someone, right in the middle of the floor, has pitched a green tent. A person wakes up inside it, breathless and afraid, not knowing where he is. A young man sitting next to him whispers:

“Don’t be scared.”

-Fredrik Backman, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer: A Novella