01 October 2010

Featuring . . . More of This World or Maybe Another by Barb Johnson

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.

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.
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.

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.

More of This World or Maybe Another at Powell's
More of This World or Maybe Another at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by HarperCollins / Harper Perennial, 2009


Sandy Nawrot 10/1/10, 7:03 AM  

Score another one for Beth Fish! It makes me wish I could just stop what I am doing and read it! You are right N.O. is a place that is just oozing with atmosphere. Deliciously southern, a little scary, historically relevant, and if it could walk, it would swagger!

Erin 10/1/10, 9:34 AM  

This sounds interesting! I definitely like related short stories. It's nice to hear Johnson is working on a novel with the same characters; I like knowing that characters I enjoy might cross my path again later.

Julie P. 10/1/10, 10:54 AM  

Hmmm. I'm not usually going to rush out to read a collection of short stories, but I do like when they are related.

bermudaonion 10/1/10, 1:08 PM  

I'm learning to appreciate short stories more, especially when they are connected in some way. If Nicole says it's a gem, I believe her.

Anonymous,  10/1/10, 1:47 PM  

sounds good, thanks! for sharing.

Dorte H 10/1/10, 4:48 PM  

From carpenter to writer - sounds intriguing. And like other commentors, I prefer short stories when they are related.

Margot 10/2/10, 12:14 PM  

Short Stories are a new discovery for me and I'm going to check this out.

Veens 10/4/10, 5:21 AM  

You know how much I love short stories, now if they are connected, I would love them even more :)
I love what you have written about New Orleans :)

Sounds like a great read!

Michelle (my books. my life.) 10/4/10, 9:44 PM  

This one looks interesting. I often crave a good book of stories.

Alice 10/5/10, 7:45 PM  

Good short stories are so hard to find and if you say it's good, I'm sold. I've seen Nicole around but haven't visited her. I think I should. :D

Care 10/6/10, 7:49 AM  

I was thinking to myself that I need more short story collection ideas. Thanks.

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