More of This World or Maybe Another

( 11 )

Overview

The lives of four unlikely friends intersect on the backstreets of New Orleans. Living amid poverty and violence, these fragile heroes of the American underclass redefine our notions of family, redemption, and love.

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Overview

The lives of four unlikely friends intersect on the backstreets of New Orleans. Living amid poverty and violence, these fragile heroes of the American underclass redefine our notions of family, redemption, and love.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
From the backstreets of New Orleans to the rural Gulf Coast -- this is the territory Johnson mines so unforgettably in her debut story collection. Filled with humor and pathos, with the nearness and danger of life on the edge, these stories chart the anxious inner moments of four related characters.

Johnson introduces the teenage Delia in the midst of working up the nerve for a first kiss; and Dooley, who drives a forklift for a living but dreams of a career in music that's been put on ice after a tragic accident. Pudge, an alcoholic who survived a cruel childhood with an abusive father, now hides from his own son, Luis; and Luis, raised without a father, concocts a suitable end for his mother's horrible boyfriend. Determined to save both Pudge and his son from an unhappy end, Johnson's cast of characters huddles together at the local laundromat, scheming.

Johnson's stories are sweet, messy, and heart-rending. As we watch her characters through her wide-angle lens, she makes us believe that life is worth living even when the circumstances say otherwise. Irresistible and perfect, More of This World or Maybe Another introduces an original voice in American fiction. (Holiday 2009 Selection)
Donald Ray Pollock
“Barb Johnson’s beautiful and touching stories stirred up emotions in me that few books ever have…I hate to admit it, [but] I actually cried over a pig in one of the stories, and I used to work in a meatpacking plant!”
Robert Olen Butler
“What a pitch-perfect, utterly original, dazzlingly flexible narrative voice Barb Johnson has. Her collection of gritty, sad, funny stories from the Gulf Coast, More of This World or Maybe Another, is a truly exciting debut.”
Dorothy Allison
“Precise and gorgeous language...A wonderful sense of humor..Pathos made over into something much more effective—a vision of all these people just doing the best they can. These are stunning stories...the kind that reveal, enlarge, and make living seem worth the trouble.”
Joseph Boyden
“In this wickedly fine debut, Barb Johnson proves herself a master of the short story. Both the familiar and the extraordinary come to life on every page, and her characters will haunt you for a very long time.”
David Schickler
“This debut is elemental, precise, and charged with ragged, intimate grace. As the collection’s heroine Delia says to her lover, I would say to all readers: ‘Come see.’”
LambdaLiterary.org
“In this book, the music is earned by muscular language, empathy and emotional courage. The writing alone is a rare, sweet joy. Like a drop of water from Delia’s leaky faucet, each story in this brilliant collection breaks open in a fit of shine.”
Powells.com
“[A] gorgeous debut collection…heartbreakingly poignant…if a short story is a slice of life, then the sum of this collection shows the power of a moment, of how a whole life is ultimately comprised of its slices.”
Booklist
“Johnson is pitch-perfect in her spare yet lyrical descriptions, especially those of male-femaleinteractions, how going to war changes soldiers, and how love can be damaged or destroyed, asDelia describes her affair with Maggie as ‘a tear in my soul that just won’t heal.’ An insightful literary gem.”
Publishers Weekly
In her debut collection, Johnson maps the lives of several New Orleanians who orbit Delia Delahoussaye's Laundromat on Palmyra Street, where “saying hello and fighting can sound just alike.” The title story finds a stoned teenage Delia longing to kiss a girl named Chuck in the belly of an empty oil tank, a makeshift sense-deprivation chamber that Delia thinks “shakes you loose from yourself.” By the end of the second story, “Keeping Her Difficult Balance,” it's unclear whether Delia will ever escape her childhood identity. “If the Holy Spirit Comes for You” finds her brother, Dooley, nursing a pig his uncles want to slaughter, and the story's moral nuance and consequences echo through “Killer Heart,” where an older Dooley's good deeds lead to tragedy. In “Titty Baby,” a child called Pudge must protect his baby sister from an abusive father. Years later, in “St. Luis of Palmyra,” Pudge's child creates his own criminal code of conduct. Johnson has a deep well of empathy for her characters, and her book's big heart beats strongest when portraying Mid-City's most marginal characters. (Nov.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061732270
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/20/2009
  • Series: P.S. Series
  • Pages: 188
  • Sales rank: 1,018,520
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Barb Johnson has been a carpenter in New Orleans for more than twenty years. In 2008 she received her MFA from the University of New Orleans. While there, she won a grant from the Astraea Foundation, Glimmer Train's Short Story Award for New Writers, and Washington Square's short story competition. She is the fifth recipient of AROHO's $50,000 Gift of Freedom. This is her first collection.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 11 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(7)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

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2 Star

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1 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 26 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 7, 2009

    so lucky to have found this book

    Reading this book was a journey, leaving me with indelible memories of the experience. The skill with which this writer developes her characters is truly remarkable. I would love to sit down with a book club and talk about this book for hours.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Wanted More of this Book!

    Barb Johnson's More of This World and Maybe Another is a collection of related stories about a cast of intriguing characters all living on Palmyra Street in New Orleans. The stories mostly center around Delia, a lesbian from Cajun country who opens a Laundromat around which much of the action centers. Each story can stand alone, and yet, when read together, they show a brilliant evolution and interweaving of worlds. By the end of the book, I felt as if I knew all of the characters, their histories, their heartaches, and maybe even their futures.

    It is not often that I can sit down and read an entire collection of short stories in one sitting, but with Johnson's book, I practically did just that. At the end of each one, I wanted more. I got to the end of the last story and kept on gobbling, hungrily reading the "About the Author" and "Notes on the Wall" in an effort to consume every last crumb.

    Johnson writes about a gritty world of drug addicts and abuse, of adultery and loss, and yet her prose is beautiful and poignant; even little things seem to take on big meanings: "at the sink, a drop of water swells at the mouth of the spigot," Delia says. "I look away so I don't have to watch it fall (156)." In addition, each title in the collection is so perfect, so carefully lifted from the text itself, that I found their music and meaning resonating with me long after I'd finished the stories.

    In many collections, after awhile, I tire of the author's style and subject matter and feel as if I'm reading the same story over and over. But not so with Johnson's collection. She mixes up her style and tone by telling stories from different points of view, sometimes in third person and sometimes in first. Her stories move from rural Louisiana in the 1970s to present-day New Orleans, and I felt that, although there were similarities between the stories, each one was different and unique. I also enjoyed making the connections between characters and finding out how each one fared over time. Although I was sometimes left with wanting more (Johnson tends to favor subtle, you-imagine-what-happens endings), all-in-all I found this collection heart-breaking, yet hopeful, and completely engrossing.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 5, 2009

    Loved Barb Johnson's Book!

    Barb Johnson has created characters worth caring about. Her stories will make you laugh, cry and nod in recognition even if you've never been to New Orleans' Mid City. Only problem is I want more of Barb's world!! Can't wait for her next book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 2, 2010

    More of This World

    A book should act as an ax for the frozen sea within (or is it that the sea should act as an ax for the frozen book within?) My eyes are wet and I don't quite know why except that I just finished reading More of This World (Or Maybe Another) by Barb Johnson. It's a book that is MidCity's own Cannery Row, only better.

    The way the book begins, that first story with the thing of Chuck playing with her lighter in the Valiant as though it were a conversation, both of them very subtly playing with the fire of being gay in a small town like that-- it's just brilliant, pun intended.

    And Delia's vertigo--it correlates perfectly to the identity shift that is under the edge of her peripheral horizon, that threatens to upend the world she thinks she has or knows. Everything changes in the moment you allow yourself to kiss another woman you are fiercely attracted to for the first time, and it's the vertigo of that which probably made her fall from the ladder, instead of the ladder causing her vertigo after the fall. And of course, the implications of the fall are there, the little fall referencing that big old fall from grace.

    Dooley's story is a painful door to go through with him, and it explains why he is somewhat absent from his own life, especially when it comes to something young and innocent put into his care. First the pig, then the daughter that is not his own. Just that fast, while his back was turned, too, both lost.

    "Issue Is," one of my favorite stories because of the blend of smart humor and uncomfortably familiar emotional territory. Delia ends up in Maggie's shoes but it's not about creating empathy and compassion--it's about catching your girlfriend in a lie. It's about that perfect full cup of capuccino with someone else's lipstick, marring the moment and representing coffee exec Maggie's bad decision to give in to not only the job that took her too far away from herself but to someone who helped her fill in the blanks of whatever it was she felt like she was missing. Ironic that it is coffee, source of the morning wake-up call (wakeupwakeupwakeup!)

    You can see that there are still good moments, and at least the shadow of the free fun Delia and Maggie had, the respect and love not completely blown away by contempt, fear of betrayal, anger. Humor can go a long way toward getting through anything. But it has an edge, one that cuts into Delia's heel and into Maggie's guilty conscience. Betrayal starts with self-betrayal, but if it's caught soon enough, there is hope (can this marriage be saved?) I was rooting for the home team before I knew how it would end.

    Intimacy can be intense, and we all have a need for space. Process this! Laugh at yourself, and it doesn't matter if the world laughs with you or not. Laugh at a good story, and it's a gift. This collection of short stories in More of This World (Or Maybe Another) is a gift worth giving to yourself and anyone you like.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 8, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    YOU TIPTOE TO INTO THIS BOOK, THEN IT GRABS YOU

    THE STORIES IN THIS BOOK AT FIRST FEEL LIKE A COLLECTION OF SHORT STORIES, THEN ABOUT THE MIDDLE YOU REALIZE IT IS MORE. THE FIRST STORY I FELT I WAS ON SHAKY GROUND, IT WAS SO WELL WRITTEN, SO FAMILIAR AND YET SO FAR REMOVED FROM MY OWN PERSONAL EXPERIENCES, BUT I READ ON. I COULD FEEL THE MUGGY HEAT AND THE QUIRKY FOLKS OF THE SOUTH, SO MUCH LIKE THE ONES I GREW UP WITH. IT IS, QUITE SIMPLY, AN EXCELLENT READ. THERE IS SOMETHING ABOUT BARB JOHNSON'S WRITING THAT RECALLS CARSON MCCULLERS. ONCE I'D FINISHED THE BOOK, I THOUGHT ABOUT IT FOR DAYS....THE CHARACTERS LINGERED IN MY MIND LIKE THE SMELL OF A LAUNDROMAT OR A SMOKEY DINER.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 8, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Great read

    Simply written and well told. One of those books that feels like you're talking to an old friend--comfortable and comforting. I really enjoyed it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 18, 2009

    Wonderful collection!

    Gorgeous language! This is a killer collection from writer who infuses wisdom into her stunning prose, and manages, somehow, to create characters who break into our hearts and remind us of the need for generosity in an all too cold world. There are so many riches in the writing and in these stories that I had to set the book on my lap from time to time just to catch my breath and soak it all in! From Pudge's homemade valentine heart, Delia's gift shoes, Luis' catechism book, Chuck's "black-black" eyes and the lines on the back of Maggie's neck: Barb Johnson's 'people' and the sweet sadness of the things they bring with them will stay with me for a long time to come.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 18, 2009

    A writer to watch!

    I set down this book with my ears ringing and my chest aching, everything around me electric and amplified. It's really that good. This collection is full of gut-punching, stunning prose, solid workmanship, and quiet skill.

    Barb Johnson's haunting debut collection follows four characters anchored to a laudromat in New Orleans: Delia, who runs the laudromat and her younger brother Dooley; Pudge, whose aunt owns the building; and Pudge's son Luis, who sleeps in an abandoned car across the street. Delia says, "There's real trouble in the world. The kind that can't be fixed." And Johnson does not shy away from this trouble. Her characters are set against a backdrop of abuse, addiction, and senseless violence. Yet Johnson doesn't wallow in the spectacle of poverty or over-simplify or sanitize the ugliness. If Johnson shows us the worst we are capable of, she also offers us glimpses of light, small acts of unexpected kindness. Delia reassures us, "Love is not trouble.There is real trouble in the world, but there is real magic, too." No sentimentality, no easy answers. You WILL cry, but Johnson will also earn those tears.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2010

    60 pages short

    While this could be a good story, it's only 60 pages. If it was a true book, it might have developed into something worth reading.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted December 6, 2009

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    Posted January 23, 2010

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    Posted November 9, 2010

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    Posted June 18, 2010

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