Author Archives: Joseph Barbato



According to family legend, Ferguson’s grandfather departed on foot from his native city of Minsk with one hundred rubles sewn into the lining of his jacket, traveled west to Hamburg through Warsaw and Berlin, and then booked passage on a ship called the Empress of China, which crossed the Atlantic in rough winter storms and sailed into New York Harbor on the first day of the twentieth century.

-Paul Auster, 4321: A Novel



Boarding school made me acutely aware of class. There were about 180 boys at Eaglebrook, but only about ten percent were on scholarship. Eaglebrook was a school for the sons of the uber-rich. I was keenly aware of my “lower” status as a scholarship student. I saw how obscene wealth and privilege fostered a repugnant elitism, a lack of empathy for others and a sense of entitlement.

-Chris Hedges, Chris Hedges on the Most Forbidden Topics in America with David Talbot

Wonder Women


The next time an online troll tries to tell you that coding isn’t for girls, just think of Ada Lovelace. As the creator of the first-ever computer program, Ada is the reason that, if anything, coding has always been for girls.

-Sam Maggs, “Ada Lovelace: British Mathematician and Programmer, 1815-1852,” in Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History

Love for Sale


It was Chuck Berry, not Elvis Presley, who, in the 1950s, pointed to the near future of pop music, and not merely with the guitar conception he refined to snarling perfection from raw ingredients he found in some work by Carl Hogan and T-Bone Walker. Berry anticipated the approach of countless pop artists to come, writing original songs that both drew from his personal experience and dealt explicitly with the interests of his audience.

-David Hajdu, Love for Sale: Pop Music in America

The Highway Kind


I was ten the year he showed up in Waycross. It was uncommonly dry that year, I remember, even for us, no rain for weeks, grass gone brown and crisp as bacon, birds gathering at shallow pools of water out back of the garage where Mister Lonnie, a trustee from the jail, washed cars.

-James Sallis, “What You Were Fighting For,” in The Highway Kind:
Tales of Fast Cars, Desperate Drivers, and Dark
Roads edited by Patrick Millikin

The 60s


Now Michael Harrington, an alumnus of the Catholic Worker and the Fund for the Republic who is at present a contributing editor of Dissent and the chief editor of the Socialist Party biweekly, New America, has written The Other America: Poverty in the United States (Macmillan). In the admirably short space of under two hundred pages, he outlines the problem, describes in imaginative detail what it means to be poor in this country today, summarizes the findings of recent studies by economists and sociologists, and analyzes the reasons for the persistence of mass poverty in the midst of general prosperity. It is an excellent book–and a most important one….

-Dwight Macdonald, “Our Invisible Poor,” (January 19, 1963), in The 60s: The Story of a Decade, The New Yorker edited by Henry Finder

Hard-Boiled Anxiety


The twelve Lew Archer books written after 1956 extend the work begun by Dashiell Hammett, who invented hard-boiled detective fiction, and Raymond Chandler, who gave it romantic voice. [Ross] Macdonald’s contribution was to see that the genre has conventions that can support any number of themes–yes, even Freudian fables. He also had an inchoate theory that a culture has to have a popular fiction in order to grow an elevated literature, and that’s what Hammett, Chandler, and Macdonald did: they turned their work in the hard-boiled, pulp genre into exceptional literature.

-Karen Huston Karydes, Hard-Boiled Anxiety: The Freudian Desires of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald, and Their Detectives

Time Travel


Can you, citizen of the twenty-first century, recall when you first heard of time travel? I doubt it. Time travel is in the pop songs, the TV commercials, the wallpaper. From morning to night, children’s cartoons and adult fantasies invent and reinvent time machines, gates, doorways, and windows, not to mention time ships and special closets, DeLoreans, and police boxes.

-James Gleick, Time Travel: A History

Soul at the White Heat


Howard Phillips Lovecraft, who boasted of having descended from “unmixed English gentry,” was the only son of an ill-fated marriage between a traveling salesman for a Providence silversmith company and the daughter of a well-to-do Providence businessman. His father began to exhibit symptoms of dementia, paranoia, mania, and depression when Lovecraft was two years old; a victim of untreated syphilis, he died in an insane asylum when Lovecraft was seven. Lovecraft’s mother was an emotionally unstable person who seems to have been, according to biographers, both abnormally attached to her only child and critical of him; her fear of change, and of the world beyond her household, was extreme.

-Joyce Carol Oates, “‘The King of Weird’: H.P. Lovecraft,” in Soul at the White Heat: Inspiration, Obsession, and the Writing Life

We Could Be Beautiful


I wanted a family.

I was rich, I owned a small business, I had a wardrobe I replaced all the time. I was toned enough and pretty enough. I moisturized, I worked out. I looked younger than my age. I had been to all the countries I wanted to see. I collected art and filled my West Village apartment with it. My home was bright and tastefully bare and worthy of a spread in a magazine.

-Swan Huntley, We Could Be Beautiful: A Novel