This Friday and every Friday for the next several months I'll be featuring a book in the Harper Perennial Imprint. Some were recently published, some will be released later this year, all are worth a closer look.
This week I'm talking about Barb Johnson's collection More of This World or Maybe Another. I applaud the idea that we sometimes need to reinvent ourselves, and Johnson apparently does too. She is a professional carpenter turned professional writer. I wonder if Johnson knew just how much her life would change when she made the decision to enter an MFA program at the University of New Orleans.
Here's the publisher's summary of her short story collection:
More of This World or Maybe Another is a collection of award-winning stories about four outsiders whose unruly lives intersect on the back streets of New Orleans. From the rural Gulf Coast to a rough-and-tumble neighborhood known as Mid-City, the stories in More of This World or Maybe Another pulse with an anxious inner life set down in the chaos of the street.I have always wanted to visit New Orleans because I imagine it as a place that mixes harsh reality with practicality and a touch of voodoo, somehow resulting in a more easygoing life than we know in the north. That Johnson's characters converge at a Laundromat, intrigues me too; few of us have neutral feelings about the hours we've spent at a public laundry.
Closely linked tales introduce readers to teenaged Delia, who experiences first-love jitters atop an oil storage tank where she tries to work up the nerve to kiss a girl. Dooley's music career takes off when he moves to the city, but some devastating news points to divorce and an impulse buy ends in tragedy. A sensitive alcoholic named Pudge survives his fat-boy childhood with an abusive father and then hides out from his own son, Luis. On the eve of his confirmation, the fatherless Luis drugs his mother's boyfriend. It is a Mid-City laundromat that serves as home base for this cast of powerfully drawn characters who must all unite to save Luis from a violent end. Funny and haunting by turns, Johnson's unforgettable characters are driven by something fragile and irresistible, a sputtering drive to love and be loved.
It was Nicole, from Linus's Blanket, however, who sold me on the book: "More of This World or Maybe Another is a quiet gem that delves deeply within human experience and emotion to expose the fine weave of delicate, sheltered psyches and even more fragile relationships. "
According to an interview conducted by A Room of Her Own, Johnson is working on a novel that will continue to follow the characters we meet in More of This World or Maybe Another.
More of This World or Maybe Another was an Indie Next Pick for October 2009. For more about Barb Johnson and her short story collection, see her biography and Harper Perennial's reading guide.
This book was featured as part of my Spotlight on the Harper Perennial imprint. For information about the imprint, please read Erica Barmash's welcome note posted here on June 18, 2010. I encourage you to add your reviews of Harper Perennial books to the review link-up page; it's a great way to discover Good Books for Cool People. See the alphabetized review index to see what others are saying. And don't miss the The Olive Reader, the Harper Perennial blog.
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