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Readings, signings, and discussions for The Book of Esther are coming up! Full details below; I’ll add more as the time gets closer. I’d love to see you there!


Woodstock Bookfest 4/29/17

Please come join me at Woodstock Bookfest on April 29th. I’ll be part of the fiction panel, with Kim Wozencraft, Stephanie Gagni, Francine Prose, and Tim Murphy. 11:30 AM at the Kleinert/James Center for the Arts, 34 Tinker Street, Woodstock. Tickets are $15, or you can buy passes for the whole Bookfest here.


Love Ye Therefore the Stranger: The Night Kingston, NY Became a Sanctuary City

This morning, The Weeklings publishes my essay on the night Kingston, NY officially became welcoming & kind thanks to Mayor Steve Noble’s resolution.

Immigrants’ lives are in particular peril right now. I hope this essay encourages you to speak up for sanctuary city policies in your town too.


Hudson Valley Writers Resist: 1/15/17

Please join me on Sunday, January 15th (MLK’s birthday!) as part of an incredible lineup at Hudson Valley Writers Resist, where “Writers, musicians and activists take over the Bearsville Theater to celebrate the power of words, compassion, equality, free speech, and democracy.” It’s from 2-5 PM, admission is free, and there will be donated books for sale to benefit the New York Civil Liberties Union.


“The Kind of City I Want to Live In” for the Kingston Times

I’m proud to have an opinion piece in the Kingston Timestoday. It’s about why I believe our Common Council should vote yes on Tuesday on the resolution for Kingston to reaffirm its stance as a “welcoming and inclusive”—or sanctuary—city. If you’re a Kingstonian who agrees, please let your representative on the Common Council know, and/or show up to the meeting on Tuesday evening, January 10th, to let the Council know.


“Property of Khazaria War Dept.” t-shirts

Thanks to brilliant book cover designer Charles Orr, there are now PROPERTY OF KHAZARIA WAR DEPT. t-shirts, with a logo based on descriptions of the Khazar flag in The Book of Esther. They come in many sizes and styles: there’s a toddler shirt, a kids’ one, a fitted (or women’s) style in sizes S-2XL, and a unisex or looser-fit shirt in sizes S-3XL. Any profits will go to benefit Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, an organization committed to building understanding between Muslim and Jewish women through solidarity and breaking down stereotypes.


Amos Oz’s Judas for the NYTBR

As book reviewers go, I’m fairly slow. I like to take my time with a book; read it once through, then read it again to annotate; take my time to craft an argument.

When the NYTBR wrote to ask if I’d like to review Amos Oz’s new novel, Judas, the deadline was tight and I was already in the midst of reviewing the new Chabon book for Moment. But I said yes, because it was such an honor to write about an writer I admire so greatly for so many reasons.

I’m really glad I did. Judas is a remarkable novel: slow, subtle, beautiful, at many moments surprising. I recommend it to you wholeheartedly. And hope you’ll go read my review, which ran yesterday.


Michael Chabon’s Moonglow for Moment

I had the pleasure of reviewing Michael Chabon’s new novel, Moonglow, at some length for Moment Magazine. I’d be delighted if you’d go read the review on your way to reading the book, which I highly recommend!


Why You Should Read Marly Youmans’s “Catherwood”

When Nelly Reifler asked if I’d like to recommend a book for Post Road Magazine, I was happy to do so, and picked Marly Youmans’s short novel Catherwood. Here’s the essay about why!


Five Fun Questions for Washington Square Review

My student Katie Bockino asked if I’d answer five fun questions for Washington Square Review. I had such a good time answering them; here’s the result.


Interview on The Rumpus

My former student Maggie Cooper recently interviewed me for The Rumpus. Maggie took her first-ever fiction workshop with me as a Yale undergrad in 2009, and was such a great student: talented, intelligent, insightful when speaking about her peers’ work, generous. It’s thrilling to see how she’s putting all those gifts to use out in the world. When you read this interview, I hope you can see how much fun we had catching up . . . and covering topics as diverse as genre, procrastination, genderqueer magic, and representations of girls’ sexuality in fiction.


Taking a Dare, on Signature

I wrote an essay for Signature about accepting the dare my husband, Thomas Israel Hopkins, gave me: to write a 50,000-word potboiler in a month. It’s an essay about taking risks and about keeping going just long enough to add that one next thing. (My friend Kirsten Bakis calls that aspect of the essay “The Stone Soup Principle.”) It’s also about how much we writers rely on community. If there’s a writing project you’ve been hoping to try, maybe this essay can help give you the encouragement to do it.


My Boyfriend, Daniel Deronda

I got to write an essay for Read It Forward about why Daniel Deronda served as a good model when looking for a life partner, and why I think you should consider dating a nice guy like him too. Hope you’ll enjoy reading the piece.


Convo with Alexander Chee & Whitney Terrell on The Millions

I talked with my friends Alexander Chee and Whitney Terrell about what it was liking taking ten years or more to write our current books. You can read the conversation, called “A Decade in the Literary Wilderness,” on The Millions. If you’ve ever wondered why your friend (partner, parent, teacher, child . . . ) was taking so long to write a book, or despaired about how long it was taking you to write one of your own, we hope this conversation will offer solace, frank talk, some explanations, and possibly even a laugh or two.


“Making Literature Now” at LitQuake, October 9th

On Sunday, October 9th, I’m thrilled to be appearing at San Francisco’s Lit Quake Festival. I’ll be sitting on a panel called “Making Literature Now” at 12:45. Amy Hungerford (my colleague and the author of the new book Making Literature Now) is hosting, and the other panelists are writer/editor Eli Horowitz and poets Juliana Spahr and Chiyuma Elliott. Here’s a link to the event page. Hope to see you there, SF!


Reading at Book Passage Corte Madera, October 8th, with Caroline Grant

On Saturday, October 8th, I’ll be reading at Book Passage Corte Madera at 7:00 PM. Caroline Grant, director of the Sustainable Arts Foundation, will be leading a conversation with me after the reading. Book Passage is located at 51 Tamal Vista Road, Corte Madera CA. Here’s a link to the event page. Hope to see you there, SF!


Reading at NYU CWP with Darryl Pinckney, October 6th

On Thursday, October 6th, at 7:00 PM, I’ll be reading at the NYU Creative Writing Program’s New Salon with Darryl Pinckney. Darryl will be reading from his new novel, Black Deutschland, which I am eager to read and can’t wait to hear him read from. Darin Strauss will be introducing and interviewing us, which should be really fun. Please come! The event will take place at the Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House, 58 West 10th Street, New York City. Here is a link to the Facebook event.


Book of Esther Upcoming Events (and a list of past events)

My book tour for Book of Esther continues to evolve. Though there aren’t any new events scheduled at this time, please check back—things unfold, and there will be paperback!


Here is the list of past events for this book:

June 15th: Bookcourt, Brooklyn NY
June 18th: Golden Notebook, Woodstock NY
June 28th: Odyssey Books, South Hadley MA
June 30th: Brookline Booksmith, Brookline MA
July 7th: Bethany Beach Books, Bethany Beach DE       July 23rd: Golden Notebook, Woodstock NY                  July 25th: McNally Jackson, New York NY

September 10th: Slice Literary Festival, Brooklyn NY

October 6th: NYU, New York NY (reading with Darryl Pinckney)

October 8th: Book Passage, Corte Madera CA (with Q+A with Caroline Grant)

October 9th: Lit Quake Literary Festival, San Francisco CA


“Setting the Clock,” a Panel at Slice Literary, September 10th

On September 10th, I’ll be participating in the Slice Literary Conference in Brooklyn, NY.

My panel is called “Setting the Clock,” and here’s the official description: “Emily Dickinson wrote, ‘There is no Frigate like a Book.’ Certainly, there is no limit to where you can go when you crack open a novel. But some of the most spellbinding stories take us even further out of ourselves, to different times, whether its the past, a re-envisioned past, or even a projected future. Four novelists discuss how they constructed stories in different times and the creative opportunities and obstacles they encountered along the way.”

The other panelists are Jonathan Lee, David Means, and Paul Vidich. Our moderator will be agent Stephanie Delman.

Come join us on Saturday, September 10th, from 2:45-3:45 PM. We will be at St. Francis College, 80 Remsen St., Brooklyn, NY.


Women at Work: A Convo with Irina Reyn @ The Paris Review Blog

On the Paris Review blog, a conversation with Irina Reyn, author of The Imperial Wife, about writing, plot, women protagonists, and what we think about the muse. You can read the piece here.


Book of Esther Readers’ Group Guide

Is your personal, library, school, church, or synagogue book club reading The Book of Esther? Thank you, if so; and I wanted to make sure you knew that Tim Duggan Books has put together a tremendous readers’ group guide for the book, including a brief Q+A with me. You can download it here.

You are always welcome to ask questions on my Goodreads page or to tweet them at me @embleybarton; please hashtag your question #BookofEstherBookClub. Whenever possible, I enjoy Skyping in to book clubs, so let me know if you’d like to try to set that up. 


“Property of Khazaria War Dept.” T-Shirts

I am a longtime fan of designer Charles Orr’s book jacket designs. (Here is a favorite.) So I am very pleased he agreed to design a logo for Book of Esther. I am going to do a small run of t-shirts with it because I like it so much:

These will be American Apparel triblend shirts, produced here in the Hudson Valley. Sizes available are: kids 2T-12, women’s S-XL, and unisex XS-2XL. The cost per shirt will run about $25, including shipping; depending on how many we end up running, that price may go down a bit too. Drop me a line on my Facebook page if you’d like to order one.


The New Yorker on Book of Esther

This week, The New Yorker weighs in on The Book of Esther: “[T]he project of the book—placing a Biblical heroine in a version of the twentieth-century conflict that nearly obliterated Jewish culture—raises complex questions about alternate history and mythology.” You can read the whole review here.


Interview with WAMC’s Joe Donahue for The Book Show

My local NPR affiliate, WAMC Northeast Public Radio, is special in many ways. They provide more original content—more intelligent talk—than any other NPR station I’ve had the pleasure of listening to regularly. Every morning from 9 to noon, Joe Donahue and Sarah LaDuke produce The Roundtable, a show that covers local and national politics as well as art, music, theater, and literature from around the listening region. Sometimes they talk food and drink. (Those are some of my favorite segments. One time, they had Jane’s Ice Cream on and talked about all the flavors they were trying—it sounded sooooo good.) In addition to speaking with authors of interest, Joe talks to independent booksellers each week to find out what new books intrigue them; and once per week, he does The Book Show, a more in-depth interview with an author. I am thrilled that The Book of Esther is Joe’s Book Show pick for this week. He’s one of my radio idols and a great force for good—he brings civility, intelligence, enthusiasm, and a lively sense of inquiry to our region’s public discourse. Thanks again for having me on, Joe, as well as for just being you; and if you’d like to have a listen, the segment will air again this Thursday evening, 7/28, at 8:30, or you can listen online here.


July 25th with Susan Daitch at McNally Jackson

On July 25th at 7:00 PM, I’ll have the honor of appearing at SoHo’s McNally Jackson Books (52 Prince St., New York, NY) with Susan Daitch, whose work I sincerely admire and have been following for a long time.

We plan to each give a short reading and then to have a conversation about . . . being smart Jewish women writers? Creating alternate worlds? Who knows. If you come, you can ask us a question! We’d both love to see you.


A Great Piece in Chronogram

Big thanks to Nina Shengold for the wonderful piece she wrote about me and The Book of Esther in the July issue of Chronogram. Nina got the book (and me, I think!) on so many levels, and writes so intelligently about it. I’m really grateful.


July 23rd: Introducing Irina Reyn at Golden Notebook

On Saturday, July 23rd, at 4:00 PM, I’ll have the pleasure of introducing and interviewing Irina Reyn at Golden Notebook, 29 Tinker St., Woodstock, NY. She’ll be reading from her new novel, The Imperial Wife, and we’ll have a fun conversation about strong women characters, feminism, writing, and all kinds of other good stuff. C’mon over, Catskills!


A New Essay on Read It Forward: The Best (also: creepiest) Thing I Ever Found Tucked in a Book

I have a new essay up on Read It Forward, about the best (and also, frankly, the creepiest) thing/things I’ve ever found tucked in a book. Actually, first I found the book, and then I looked inside. YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT I FOUND NEXT. (Hint: It involves a Hitler stamp.) Please enjoy!


Recommended Reading for Read It Forward

I was so pleased when Read It Forward asked if I’d like to contribute a recommended reading list. Writing this post gave me the chance to revisit old favorites like Middlemarch and Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics,as well as to talk about some of the contemporary authors I love, such as Ellis Avery, Sesshu Foster, Ted Chiang, and Jenny Erpenbeck. I have to say I really appreciate Read It Forward’s design sensibility too—it’s fun to click on the white circles to read about each book. Hope you’ll enjoy the piece.


Dara Horn on Book of Esther in The New York Times Book Review 6/12

Writing for The New York Times Book Review, Dara Horn calls The Book of Esther “An imaginative, engrossing and entertaining storytelling tapestry…as addicting as a Jewish Game of Thrones.” Read the full review here! Be sure to check out the beautiful illustration by Dutch illustrator Eline von Dam!


Hanya Yanagihara on Book of Esther

“A big, thrilling revisionist history and an audacious, wholly realized feat of imagination.” —Hanya Yanagihara, Man Booker Prize-nominated author of A Little Life


Starred Booklist review

Today on Booklist, a starred review for The Book of Esther from Donna Seaman, a reviewer who really gets the whole project. I’m so excited and grateful!

An excerpt: “Barton’s audacious tale of an otherwordly uprising against the Nazis is a wild pageant of tumult and valor, magic and inventiveness, which, for all its humor, sensuality, steampunk brio, and full-tilt military action, is profoundly inquisitive. […] With intimations of Cynthia Ozick and Michael Chabon, Barton is spellbinding and provocative in this refulgent, topsy-turvy, questing fantasy, a mettlesome response to anti-Semitism and the forever-haunting Holocaust.”


Advice to Writers Interview

Jon Winokur from Advice to Writers interviewed me a few weeks ago; you can read the interview here. I enjoy reading these, because when asked these questions, writers’ answers are as diverse as their lived experiences. I also really like the inspiring quotations. Experienced writers need encouragement, too!


Reading at BookCourt 6/15

The Book of Esther releases 6/14, and the very first reading will be at my old neighborhood bookstore, Brooklyn’s BookCourt, the next night. NYC friends, please come join me! It’ll be great to see you.

Tuesday, June 15th 2016
7:00 PM
163 Court Street
Brooklyn, NY


Reading at Brookline Booksmith 6/30

I’ll be reading at Brookline Booksmith at the end of June, and will be thrilled if you’ll come join me there!

Thursday, June 30th 2016
7:00 PM
Brookline Booksmith
279 Harvard Street
Brookline, MA


Reading at Golden Notebook 6/18

Upstate friends, I’ll be reading at our wonderful local indie, The Golden Notebook, on 6/18. Please come join me!

Saturday, June 18th 2016
4:00 PM
The Golden Notebook
29 Tinker Street
Woodstock, NY


Reading at Odyssey Books 6/28

Hey there, Happy Valley. We’re all thrilled to be coming up for a visit in June. Please come join us for a reading at Odyssey Bookshop!

Tuesday, June 28th 2016
7:00 PM
Odyssey Bookshop
9 College Street
South Hadley, MA


Signing at Bethany Beach Books 7/7

Right after 4th of July, I’ll be doing a book signing at Bethany Beach Books. Come on out and schmooze!

Thursday, July 7th 2016
6:30 PM
Bethany Beach Books
99 Garfield Parkway
Bethany Beach, DE


Two Articles to Wish You a Happy Purim!

Two articles about Purim to help you celebrate the holiday. Both are my first appearances in publications I read and admire. On the Jewish Daily Forward’s Sisterhood blog, I have a piece about why the main character of my new novel is named after the biblical Esther. My other piece is about why when my older son wanted to dress up as Haman for Purim this year, I celebrate that.

Here’s the link.

Thanks for reading, and Chag Purim Sameach!


Mary-Louise Parker on The Book of Esther

“In this thrillingly inventive novel, Emily Barton has created a whole world worth losing yourself in. She sneaks up on you with a story so original you’ll wonder how she found it, and so vital that it seems amazing no one has ever told it before.”


The Book of Esther available for preorder

My new novel, The Book of Esther, will be published June 14th. It’s already available for preorder on, Barnes & Noble, and from your local independent bookeseller. Please come back soon for pre-pub reviews and interviews, and for reading dates!


Booklist Reviews Book of Esther (with a star!)

“In her third novel, brainy and ebulliently eloquent Barton (Brookland, 2006) tells the story of a Jewish Joan of Arc on the forbidding steppes between the Black and Caspian Seas…Barton’s audacious tale of an otherworldly uprising against the Nazis is a wild pageant of tumult and valor, magic and inventiveness, which, for all its humor, sensuality, steampunk brio, and full-tilt military action, is profoundly inquisitive….With intimations of Cynthia Ozick and Michael Chabon, Barton is spellbinding and provocative in this refulgent, topsy-turvy, questing fantasy, a mettlesome response to anti-Semitism and the forever-haunting Holocaust.” – Starred Booklist review

Please read Donna Seaman’s full wonderful review here. Writers are always happy when their books are positively received; but I really love it when a reader connects with a book on as many levels as Seaman does here.


Alexander Chee on The Book of Esther

“A bold reimagining of some of the darkest history of World War II. Barton’s Esther is like a Jewish Joan of Arc, except the calling she feels is entirely her own—and to honor it, she has to turn the ways of the world upside down.”


John Crowley on The Book of Esther

“Emily Barton has formerly reimagined the history of New York, and now she’s reconceived historic Europe as an entirely different place, replete with Jewish woman warriors on mechanical steeds and multiplying golems. Exhilirating in its freedom and exacting in its thought—a fine book.”


Sunday’s at Erv’s—this Sunday, July 12th!

This Sunday, July 12th, I’ll be reading at the Sunday’s at Erv’s reading series (hosted by the wonderful Madeline Stevens!) along with Tom and Katie Herman. 6:00, 2122 Beekman Place. See you there?


An Interview in “Contemporary Literature”

Over the course of the past few years, I’ve had the honor to be interviewed by James Peacock, a scholar whose current work addresses representations of Brooklyn in contemporary fiction. His questions have been thoughtful, insightful, often unexpected. I’m thrilled to report that the complete interview has just been published in the journal Contemporary Literature. You need to pay for online access (or buy a physical copy, or check one out at your local university library), but I’d still be thrilled if you’d like to read it!


A Signed First, If You’d Like One?

While I work on revisions to The Book of Esther and prepare for it to come out next year, I thought it would be fun to give some things away on my Facebook page. I have a first-edition copy of The Testament of Yves Gundron that I’m ready to inscribe and send to someone; I’ll hold a little draw when I get to 600 likes. Want to come join me over there? There’s literary and teaching news, and occasionally a cute picture of a cat, kid, or baby. If you’d like to, please visit my page, click Like, and enable notifications (so you’ll hear about it when the giveaway happens—curses on you, Zuck, for not otherwise allowing authors, artists, and small businesses to reach the people interested in their work!). See you there, and more soon.


A Little Good “Once & Future Capital” News

The Massachusetts Review nominated my story “The Once and Future Capital” for a Pushcart Prize! I’m so excited; this is my first nomination. It’s in the Summer 2014 issue if you’d still like to support a great journal and read it! And in case you’re interested, here’s my little piece about how the town harlot got her name.



I am thrilled to report that Tim Duggan Books (Tim Duggan’s eponymous new imprint at Crown) will publish my third novel, The Book of Esther, likely sometime in the spring of 2016! Tim is a remarkable editor; I feel so fortunate to be able to work with him on this project. More news as it becomes available.

Thank you to my family, and to the many friends, colleagues, and readers who have supported and encouraged me as this book has followed its path to completion. I am beyond grateful, and can’t wait to show you what I’ve been up to.


A Reading at Smith, with Sue Miller!

On Armistice Day, I’ll be giving a reading here at Smith with my colleague Sue Miller. Come join us! I have no idea what I’ll read, but it’ll be something fun.


How the Town Harlot Got Her Name

Back in 2006, I had the honor of participating in an auction to benefit the First Amendment Project. Authors auctioned off the right to name characters in their writing to support the good work of protecting freedom of speech. At the time, I was writing a novel set in 1930s Berlin, so I asked for a German name. But the person who won my auction said she’d really like to have a character named after her, and her name was Irish. So I asked if she’d be willing to wait for an opportunity to arise.

That person is Quinn Heraty, a partner in her own firm specializing in entertainment law. (I was thrilled as all get-out to discover that she works with John Hall, who is also a lawyer, but known to me as a poet; back in the day he was the genius behind the spoken-word band King Missile.) And the fictional Quinn Heraty now stars as the town harlot in “The Once and Future Capital.” (Don’t worry, I asked Ms. Heraty before I used her name for that purpose. She was game. Because she’s cool!) I am thrilled that I finally got to honor our peculiar little contract. Hooray for free speech, and for cool people, and for fiction’s mysterious alchemy.

When you read the story, send some mental thanks her way! To me, the name seems just right for the character: interesting, unexpected, gender ambiguous in the right, sexy way. The story wouldn’t be the same without it.


“The Once and Future Capital” in The Massachusetts Review!

I have a new story, “The Once and Future Capital,” in the new issue of The Massachusetts Review. I couldn’t be more excited! It’s about Kingston. Please go read it!


The Satirical Bumper Sticker Manufactory

Not long ago, we were driving down my father’s road—winding, unpaved, only a few houses on it—when we saw a parked car with a magnetic decal on the side. Usually, such decals advertise local businesses, but this one was promoting a novel. As I continued to drive, Tom took out his hand-dandy Internet device and we looked up the book, which turned out to be . . . possibly a little kooky? It promised to reveal truths about the universe (it sounded a little Secret-esque); and the few sentences we read were gummed up with adverbs. But we felt fundamental kinship with the driver of that car (an author? An author’s friend? Either way). And thought we’d like to do something similar—if a little more tongue-in-cheek.

So we are happy to present The Hopkins and Barton Emporium. At present it features one Brookland bumper sticker, another for Yves Gundron, one that kind of sums up our position on the sorry state of political dialogue in this country, and another reminding people not to text and drive. (Since they’re for cars, and it’s such an important safety issue.) Wanna head over and buy one? We’d be tickled. And maybe we’ll think up some kind of contest soon and give a few out as prizes.


We’re selling our beautiful house in Kingston, NY!

In order to take my current wonderful job as the Elizabeth Drew Professor at Smith College, we moved to Northampton, MA. As a result, we’re selling our beautiful house in the Hudson Valley. If you teach at Bard, Vassar, Marist, SUNY New Paltz, or UCC; or if you work in Albany or NYC and could make an easy commute (by bus, train, or easy access to the Interstate); or if you’re a writer, artist, or other person who works at home, it would be a great house for you. (Before it was our house, it belonged to the beloved Jewish children’s book author Simms Taback, who won the Caldecott while living there.) We also think it would make a fabulous weekend house for New Yorkers who’d like the appurtenances of a country house (lots of space, quiet, a deep, beautiful yard) while retaining the perks of living in a town (such as being able to walk to a great farmers’ market, organic coffee, an incredible butcher, and the best bar at which it has ever been my pleasure to drink a cocktail). The house is a three-bedroom, 1.5-bath on a quiet, friendly block. We put in an all-new kitchen, replaced the floors on the first story, and just upgraded it to a high-efficiency natural gas furnace. And we’re offering it at a break-even price because we don’t live there anymore.

If you like the sound of it, take a peek at this flattering write-up on Upstater and at the official listing (the MLS # is 20141289). If you can pass this information on to anyone who might be looking, we’ll be grateful!


A new story, out soon in the Massachusetts Review!

I’m very excited to have a new story, “The Once and Future Capital,” forthcoming in the Summer 2014 issue of The Massachusetts Review. Details TK!


Tea at Smith, November 7th

As a college student, I always enjoyed Friday afternoon teas at the Master’s house: such a civilized way to wind down from the week and catch up with friends and professors.

I’m certainly no one’s house master now, but I’m pleased to be able to invite my future students at Smith to a tea this Thursday afternoon, November 7th, at 4:15. Please come if you’re interested in writing at Smith! I’ll be reading from my work and introducing myself to you, as well as talking about the two classes I’ll teach next semester, English 206: Intermediate Fiction Writing and English 296: Advanced Fiction Writing. We can talk about which class might be a more suitable match for you at present—and/or about any other writing-related questions you might wish to bring.

See you there! I’m looking forward.


Do you need some advice on finding an agent or applying for an MFA?

I’m flattered that in the past few months I’ve been inundated with requests for advice about such topics as finding an agent or publisher and when/why/how to apply for an MFA. The advice section of this website features concise, practical thinking on these topics. (And can tell you how””and how not””to request a letter of reference.) I hope it can be of service to my students, former students, readers, and friends. If there’s a topic I haven’t yet addressed that you’d like to see an article on, please message me on my Facebook page. I’ll try to get a response up quickly!


A hypothetical prize for BROOKLAND

Many thanks to Erica Wagner, who chose to write about Brookland in this article for the Folio Prize’s website about books that people would have liked to see win the prize. What a kind mention—it’s an honor to be a hypothetical Folio Prize winner!


Hello, Smith

I’m delighted to announce that I’ve been named the Elizabeth Drew Professor at Smith College from 2013 to 2015. This is a real honor””Prof. Drew served as Sylvia Plath’s thesis adviser, and the chair has been held by some remarkable writers in the past. (My favorite? Kurt Vonnegut.) So, hello Pioneer Valley. I’ll look forward to seeing you this fall.


Coming up: a reading at UMass Amherst

Hey there, Pioneer Valley: I’ll be giving a reading at UMass Amherst this Thursday evening, January 31st””with Melanie Rae Thon, whose work I’m excited to hear. Won’t you come out and join us?


Coming up: a reading at Yale


Please join me Monday evening, December 3rd, for a reading at Yale with the two senior fiction writers in my department, Michael Cunningham and John Crowley. I count myself lucky to work with these writers, two of the most ferocious intellects at work in American letters today. (Not to mention that they’re brilliant teachers and mentors””and fascinating speakers. I’m really excited to hear what they’ll read from.) We’ll be reading at 6:00 in LC 317, and hope you’ll be there. I anticipate a lively New Haven evening!

I’ll also have the honor of participating in the University of Massachusetts Amherst Visiting Writers Series early next year””my visit is scheduled for Thursday, January 31st. Last year, I judged a contest for graduate fiction writers, and was bowled over by the work they presented for my consideration. So I’m quite keen to visit this program, and hope that Pioneer Valley friends will come join me there. More details to follow as the date draws nearer.


YVES GUNDRON is an eBook!

The Testament of Yves Gundron is at long last available as an eBook! So if you haven’t yet read it and would like to do so on your Kindle, Kobo, Nook, or iPad, it’s waiting for you at or via the iBooks app on your iPad or iPhone. You can also still get it in paperback, if you prefer to do your reading the old-fashioned way. Would it be ironic to read this novel about the complexities of blindly pursuing progress on a snazzy piece of technology? Maybe. But I’d like to think that the widespread adoption of these miraculous gadgets makes this book more relevant than ever. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

A few people have asked if Brookland is also available as an eBook. Mais bien sûr! This link will get you to the Kindle edition, and you can also download it via iBooks for your Apple device. Thanks for asking!


A Dialogue with Susan Bernofsky in PEN America

In the current issue of PEN America (#16: Teachers), director of Columbia’s MFA in Translation Susan Bernofsky and I have a dialogue about our practices as teachers of undergraduate and graduate students, and the lessons we bring to the classroom from our own teachers. (Michael Martone, are you reading this?) Although I’m erroneously identified as teaching at Columbia (which is not true this year), I’m proud to be part of the issue and pleased with how the piece and the issue as a whole turned out. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it! (As a side note: Check out the Bill-Clinton-lookalike Vassar undergrad, c. 1958, on the cover!)


Because I Love the Social Contract

I am really proud that my essay, Reason #40: Because I Love the Social Contract, is part of 90 Days, 90 Reasons.

If anyone has come to my site for the first time after reading that essay, welcome; I’m delighted you’re here and glad to meet you. Come say hello on my Facebook page!

And L’shana tovah u’metukah to everyone!


An Interview with Literary Mama’s Caroline Grant

Caroline Grant, the editor in chief of Literary Mama, recently interviewed me for their blog. Topics include lessons I pass on to my students from my high school teachers (Bob Pridham and Cornelia Reid, are you reading this?), the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to me in a Latin class, and stuff I’d like to invent if I could be an inventor. If you’re interested, you can read it here.


More Publishing Advice

I just uploaded three new posts to the Publishing Advice section of my Advice page: one on when you should start looking for an agent (and, concomitantly, on how you know your book is done in the first place), one on how to know when the story you’re working on is ready to send out, and a third on how to respond if an agent contacts you. I hope these will prove helpful!

Do you have a topic you’d like to propose for this section? Please post it on my Facebook page.


Courses this Academic Year

Just a quick note to let my students at Yale know that, in addition to teaching my upper-level fiction workshop this coming spring, I’ll be teaching an introductory workshop in the fall. If you know beginning fiction writers—or people who might like to give fiction a try, though they haven’t done so yet—please send them my way. Please also be in touch if you’re a current Yale undergrad interested in working on an independent study. This could be a fiction writing project or a program of individual literary study that’s of interest to us both. I’m all ears!

I’d also like to let my NYU graduate students know that I’ll be teaching my craft seminar on plot construction again this fall. This will feature the same wild reading list as last year (anyone for Sesshu Foster, Percival Everett, Jenny Erpenbeck, and Thomas Bernhard?), and I’m looking forward to it. If you have peers who might be interested (and this would include people who think they’re not at all interested in plot: I will win them over), please do send them along.


Pedicure video, anyone?

There is a video of my reading with Paul La Farge at apexart on May 17th! This video is more than sixteen minutes long, which is actually very long in the Internet age, but it has a few features to recommend it: 1) We are soaking our feet in a bowl of water and bath salts while we read, and 2) Paul’s piece is hilarious. You could just kind of fast-forward over my reading and listen to his if feeling pressed for time. Enjoy!


Double Take—with Paul La Farge!

Tonight at 7:00: Join me and Paul La Farge as we participate in Albert Mobilio’s event Double Take at apexart. Albert writes, “It’s a commonplace””we all see things our own way. When three pairs of authors each trade takes on a shared experience they reveal just how different perception and prose can be.” Paul and I can’t tell you what we plan to write/talk about, but we promise it will be fun. The other authors featured tonight are Darcey Steinke & Shelley Jackson, and Joshua Cohen & Justin Taylor. 291 Church Street, New York City!


New Additions to the Advice Page

I have two new articles up on my Advice page: How Can I Improve my Chances of Being Accepted to an Undergraduate Workshop? and How Do I Ask a Professor for a Letter of Reference?. I hope either or both might be helpful to you. I’m proud to see that author Erika Dreifus linked to them from her excellent blog””itself a storehouse of good advice for young writers. Many thanks to Sonnet Media for redesigning the Advice page as a whole; it’s now much easier to navigate.


Good News from the Sustainable Arts Foundation

I am absolutely thrilled to have been awarded a Winter 2011 Artist’s Grant from the Sustainable Arts Foundation! This wonderful organization’s mission is to support artists and writers who are also raising families. I’m honored to have been chosen; and very grateful for their help in finishing my new book.


Good Things Come in Threes

My brilliant husband has three recent publications in which you might be interested: a new short story in Fence (both the print and online editions), whose new issue also features new work by Deborah Eisenberg and Fiona Maazel; an essay on observing the yarzheit of a non-Jewish parent, currently up on Tablet; and an article called “Network: How to Use LinkedIn to Connect With Your Community” in the November/December Poets & Writers. I recommend all three!


New Work from the Hopkins & Barton Book Trailer Manufactory

The Hopkins & Barton Book Trailer Manufactory proudly presents the second installment in its book trailer manufacturing project, Tobias’s incisive yet glowing review of Michael Griffith’s new novel, Trophy:

Our three-year-old son, Tobias, made this unofficial trailer for Paul La Farge’s new novel, [_Luminous Airplanes_](, whose print and online versions I most wholeheartedly recommend.


A Reading at Maple Grove

For the first time since reading at the fabulous KMoCA (Kingston Museum of Contemporary Art) with the inimitable Paul La Farge a few years back, I’ll be reading in the Hudson Valley later this month. Please come join me and local authors John & Nina Darnton at Poughkeepsie’s lovely Maple Grove on Sunday, July 31st. Poughkeepsie’s own indie bookseller, The Three Arts, will be there to sell books. It should be a very pleasant afternoon.


An Essay in the Threepenny Review!

I am absolutely thrilled to have a long essay in the Summer 2011 edition of The Threepenny Review. The essay, entitled “The Jazz Singers,” is about the three different movies—all iconic Jewish films—by that name. I hope you’ll enjoy it!


A New Piece in the New York Times Book Review

Here’s my review of Michael Parker’s new novel, The Watery Part of the World. The essay ran in the New York Times Book Review on Sunday, May 22nd, 2011—further proof that the world didn’t end on the 21st!


Two Private Events at My Almae Matres

I’ll be doing two events in May that are not open to the public, but which are open to fellow alumnae/i from my two almae matres, Kent Place School and Harvard University. Here they are:

1) Friday, May 13th at 2:15 in the afternoon, I’ll be part of the “Women and Writing” panel at Kent Place’s reunion. The panel will take place in the theater. All members of the KP community (students, alumnae, faculty, parents, etc.) are invited to attend; and I’m hopeful that I’ll be seeing many friends from the Class of 1986 there. (Lauren Kares Harrison, Sarah McFarland Taylor, and Maranda Loengard St. John-Nicole, are you reading this? I hope so!)

2) As part of the festivities for my [embarrassingly large number]th Harvard reunion, I’ll be part of an arts panel featuring many of our talented classmates: Colson Whitehead, Alethea Black, Ginna Carter, Larry O’Keefe, Tory Fair, and Glenn Kiser. (I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone.) These are amazing people; it should be fun! It’s on Friday, May 27th at 2:00 in the afternoon; I’m not sure of the location, but will post it when I know. I believe this event is primarily for members of our class, but certainly my lovely husband, Class of ‘92, will be there, reunion year or no.

An open-to-the-public event will be coming up in the Hudson Valley in July; I’ll post information as the time gets closer.


A Reading & Conversation at NYU

Please join me Friday afternoon, March 11th, for a reading and conversation at NYU’s Creative Writing Program with the marvelous Darin Strauss, author of Chang and Eng and, most recently, Half A Life. I’ll be reading from my novel-in-progress and enjoying a glass of wine, in that order.


The Frogs on the Roof at Yaddo

My husband, Thomas Israel Hopkins, has an excellent article on “The Future of Family-Friendly Residencies” in the March/April 2011 issue of Poets & Writers magazine. Though the article is only available in the print edition (as if you needed another reason to purchase—or better yet, subscribe to—the magazine), you can watch a video on the subject right here on the Internets. Tom talks about his inspiration for the article; Tobias talks about the frogs and monkeys writing poems on the roof at Yaddo (who knew?); and I hold a toy seal pup.


An Upcoming Reading at Bates College

I’m very excited to be heading up to Bates College in Lewiston, ME on Thursday, February 10th to give a reading. The event will take place at 7:30 in the evening, and I’ll be reading from new work. I’d be delighted to see any and all Portland-area friends there! Please keep your fingers crossed for uneventful driving weather, of which, in my opinion, we haven’t had our fair share lately.


The Department of State & Literary New York

When the Department of State contacted me to ask if I’d be willing to record the ice bridge segment of Brookland for their Literary New York website, I was beyond bowled over. I had not, until then, realized that part of State’s mission involved the promotion of American literature, both at home and abroad . . . but it turns out it does. I had the pleasure of recording the segment at WAMC, Northeast Public Radio (my favorite NPR affiliate); and I’m honored to see my work up on the website now alongside that of Tom Wolfe and Pete Hamill. I hope you’ll go listen to all of the recordings and enjoy the other articles on the page.


FSG’s “Work in Progress”

FSG keeps a wonderful blog called Work in Progress, and I’m proud to be part of it for the first time: they’re reprinting my advice to students about when and why to apply for an MFA (if ever) as part of the ongoing dialogue about what MFAs are really for.

Thus far, there is advice about applying for an MFA, beginning to get one’s work published, and looking for an agent on this website’s advice page, which I invite you to visit. Please check back soon for new postings to the section; future topics will undoubtedly include “How to Write a Cover Letter That Will Actually Get You Into That Writing Class” and “How Best to Request a Letter of Reference (or Anything Else You Might Need).” I’d also like to do a post about the more general topic of humility, but that might be more of an essay. We’ll see.


Golems! A Musical

Charles Orr’s Hypothetical Library is one of my favorite projects on the internet. Orr, a brilliant book-jacket designer, partners with authors, asking them to provide flap copy for a book they could write but never actually will. He then designs a cover for this book, and together they seek a blurb from another real author. In complex and fruitful ways, the Hypothetical Library blurs the distinction between the real, the potentially real, and the pure dream of fiction.

It’s an honor and a great pleasure to have a hypothetical novel newly out on the Library: Golems! A Musical, a campy yet semi-theological story of the Second Avenue theater. Orr designed both a jacket for the novel and a hypothetical poster for the play within the novel, Di Goylemim. And Michael Chabon has been kind enough to provide a blurb for the project.

Please go take a peek!


The Fall of the House of Walworth

I’m delighted to have had the chance to review Geoffrey O’Brien’s wonderful new book, The Fall of the House of Walworth: A Tale of Murder and Madness in Saratoga’s Gilded Age, for today’s Los Angeles Times. As I mention in the review, when I first learned of the Walworths’ lurid family saga, I wished someone would write a good, juicy book about it. (In all seriousness, it puts the Beecher-Tilton scandal””of which I’m a huge fan, if one can be a fan of a 150-year-old lawsuit””to shame.) I can’t think of a better writer to take on the project than Mr. O’Brien. 22 August 2010.


Thanks to Joe Donahue and WAMC!

What a pleasure it was to appear on WAMC’s live talk show The Roundtable. As a regular listener, I already knew what an insightful and affable interviewer Joe Donahue is, but it was wonderful getting to meet and talk with him in person. Thank you to Joe and to Sarah LaDuke for inviting me on, and to Ray Graf, Alan Chartock, the WAMC staff, and Murray the dog for making me feel so welcome. Thanks also to any WAMC listeners who are here visiting my website for the first time! It’s nice to meet you.

You can listen to my interview with Joe on your computer by clicking here. If you’d like to take a look at my contribution to Charles Orr’s Hypothetical Library, the hypothetical novel Golems! A Musical, it should be up any day now. In the meanwhile, go check out the site; Orr has done some beautiful design work for some truly wonderful authors.


Live on WAMC’s show The Roundtable

It’s an honor and a pleasure to announce that I’ll be doing a live interview on WAMC/Northeast Public Radio’s wonderful local talk show, The Roundtable, this Wednesday, August 11th! I’ll be speaking with the show’s host, Joe Donahue, at 11:10 in the morning. Joe and his partner/producer, Sarah LaDuke, are my favorite talk radio hosts; I listen to their show almost every weekday, and love learning about local politics, artists, and booksellers.

With any luck, my contribution to the Hypothetical Library (one of my favorite projects on the internet right now) will be live by then, and that’s what we’ll talk about. Even if it’s not up yet, we’ll probably still talk about it, because I think Charlie Orr is doing such interesting work with the project.

WAMC broadcasts live from Albany, with towers all over the Northeast. You can go to their website to find the call numbers for the station nearest you; you’ll also be able to listen live or listen to the archived podcast later on


Thanks & a preview

Thanks to everyone who came out to hear me, Stacey D’Erasmo, David Gates, and Tracy Daughtery speak about Donald Barthelme in Madison Square Park last week. What an honor and a privilege to have the space to consider his work; and it sure was enjoyable getting to read that paragraph from “The Zombies.”

August will be an exciting month for me: I have a few pieces coming out, and have been invited to do an interview with Joe Donahue on the Roundtable, my favorite radio show, which broadcasts from WAMC, Northeast Public Radio. (I’m also inordinately fond of WFUV’s show Vin Scelsa’s Idiot’s Delight and, of course, of WNYC’s incomparable Leonard Lopate Show; but as an upstate girl, Joe Donahue and Sarah LaDuke are the hosts I listen to every morning.) I’ll post dates and links when I have them, so please check back soon!


A panel discussion of Donald Barthelme in Madison Square Park. What could be better?

Now, this should be fun: Please join me on Thursday, July 22nd, 2010 for an event in Madison Square Park entitled “Donald Barthelme Considered: A Strange Object Covered in Fur Which Breaks Your Heart.” This event is part of the Mad. Sq. Reads reading series, sponsored by the National Book Foundation, and will feature me along with fiction writers Stacey D’Erasmo and David Gates discussing one of our all-time favorite authors. Tracy Daugherty, author of Hiding Man: A Biography of Donald Barthelme, will be the moderator. Great literature in one of New York City’s great parks! Please come; I’d love to see you there.


A Summer Course at The Venerable Chautauqua Institution

This summer, I will once again have the pleasure and privilege of teaching a week-long writers’ workshop at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, NY. The dates of the course will be July 10th through 17th; it’s an advanced fiction workshop, focusing on verisimilitude. If you’ve never been to Chautauqua, it’s a kind of paradise for brainiacs, readers, educators, spiritually-minded folks, and all those who prefer engagement with their fellow humans to watching television. Please come join me!


Various good Thomas Israel Hopkins news

Thomas Israel Hopkins, keeper of the famous Mimeograph 2.0 Paradigm, now has three new stories out in journals: “Elephants of the Platte” in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet Issue No. 25, “The Man in The Moon Is A Lawyer” in the Indiana Review’s Issue #31.2, Winter 2009, and “Sleepwalking,” in Quick Fiction’s Issue #16””which has, on its cover, an illustration of a small boy, brown haired & brown eyed just like the author’s son, wearing a stripey shirt (as said boy often is), and performing one of that child’s favorite activities: drawing a turtle. Can this be a coincidence? Well, I suppose it can. But I’m still quite proud.


Reading at Simon’s Rock

Please join me for a reading at Bard College at Simon’s Rock on Thursday, 5 November 2009, at 7:30 in the evening. Simon’s Rock has an amazing reading series””and what a fantastic time of year to visit the Berkshires!


Panel Discussion on GRAVITY’S RAINBOW

Please join me on the Upper East Side Monday evening, November 2nd, for a panel discussion, with Gerry Howard and Robert Stone, on the influence of Thomas Pynchon’s GRAVITY’S RAINBOW. The panel is sponsored by the National Book Foundation. This should be fun; at the very least, I’m looking forward to hearing what Howard and Stone have to say. I guess it’s too much to hope that Pynchon himself might show up . . .


A New Greek Testament

Ellinika Grammata has just come out with a Greek translation of The Testament of Yves Gundron, with a beautiful new (and, I dare say, really Hellenic-looking) cover. (I mean, look at those horses!) Please tell your Greek friends to look for it!


I Dare You to Read These Blog Posts

This week, my friend novelist Jessica Anthony is the guest blogger on Powell’s book blog. I’ve been enjoying all her smart, goofy, irreverent posts, but I’d particularly like to draw your attention to the entries for Wednesday, August 19th and Thursday, August 20th: a two-part conversation, on the topic of writerly dares, with the brilliant, funny, and did I mention very handsome Thomas Israel Hopkins. And while you’re over there, check out Jess’s novel, The Convalescent!


Facebook, Finally

Only a few years behind the curve, I’ve created a Facebook page on which to post information about publications and events. If you’d like to receive news about upcoming thisses and thats, please go to Facebook and sign up to be a fan. You can also sign up for my mailing list by typing your e-mail address into the appropriate box on any page of this website.


Cynthia Hopkins & Gloria Deluxe

Cynthia Hopkins & her amazing band, Gloria Deluxe, will be playing at the Bard Spiegeltent on Saturday evening, July 25th, at 8:30. Alt-country meets Weimar cabaret! Don’t miss this show!


Catskill Studio for Writing

Oops: As it turns out, the event at the Catskill Studio for Writing is a private reading, so I won’t be posting info on how to get there &c. My apologies!

If, however, you’re interested in a great upstate arts experience the weekend of the 25th, look no further than the note about Gloria Deluxe’s show at Bard’s Spiegeltent, below!


Christopher Benfey in the New York Review of Books

Brookland is most obviously a historical novel, painstaking in its carefully researched and vividly imagined reconstruction of a vanished world, peopled by families with old Brooklyn names like Schermerhorn, Joralemon, and Hicks. But it is also a novel about the fragility of family ties, about ghosts””architectural as well as human””and about the sacrifices that artists are willing to make in order to fulfill their dreams…

– Christopher Benfey, the New York Review of Books on Brookland

Brookland is most obviously a historical novel, painstaking in its carefully researched and vividly imagined reconstruction of a vanished world, peopled by families with old Brooklyn names like Schermerhorn, Joralemon, and Hicks. But it is also a novel about the fragility of family ties, about ghosts””architectural as well as human””and about the sacrifices that artists are willing to make in order to fulfill their dreams… Emily Barton has written of her admiration for George Eliot’s novels, especially the “long, discursive chapters” of The Mill on the Floss, in which, as in Brookland, “a difficult protagonist… ultimately loses the fight.” The reader may long to give advice to Maggie Tulliver and Prudence Winship, to warn them to choose a more suitable mate or to settle for less in their chaotic lives. But as I finished reading Brookland, it was Willa Cather who came most insistently to mind””Cather whose first novel, Alexander’s Bridge, is also about a heroic designer with outsized ambitions whose flaws are projected onto his great bridge. In several of her subsequent novels, Cather addresses another of Barton’s themes, the human cost of success for a woman artist. Cather’s The Song of the Lark charts the strange emptying out of the successful artist’s personal life as the imaginative life comes to dominate her existence. “Her artistic life,” as Cather observed, “is the only one in which she is happy, or free, or even very real.” This is Prue’s fate as well, so difficult for her sisters and daughter to fathom.


Library Journal

[A] magnificent epic… Barton’s second novel is a breathtaking, heartbreaking mix of gender-busting innovation and the story of decent people living enormous lives in a close family whose secrets lead to explosive tragedy. Highly recommended.

– Library Journal (starred review) on Brookland


Jennifer Reese in Entertainment Weekly

. . . everything that stymies the the goal-oriented reader–unhurried essays on antique gin-distilling techniques, verbatim chunks of sermons, phalanxes of peripheral characters–makes Barton’s stately period piece . . . a treat for the rest of us. In her account of an extraordinary woman’s life in Brooklyn circa 1800, Barton has re-created the borough’s brief pastoral moment in such lavish, precise detail that I can’t think of a single recent historical novel that compares… While female detectives may exercise their faculties in contemporary thrillers, mainstream fiction heroines engrossed in challenging jobs–as opposed to challenging cads–are rare. Which makes Brookland that much more of a rare delight. Grade: A-

– Jennifer Reese, Entertainment Weekly on Brookland



[A] capitvating tale . . . seamless, period-rich prose.

– Vogue Magazine on Brookland


Ruth Tobias in the Weekly Dig

At the narrative center of Brookland, Emily Barton’s second novel, is a drawing””a sketch of the bridge that gin manufacturer Prue Winship dreams of erecting between Manhattan and Brooklyn at the dawn of the 19th century; however, it doesn’t so much depict a would-be architect’s invention as represent the fundamental need to invent in the first place. As it turns out, the willingness of its illustrator, Prue’s mute sister Pearl, to conform to Prue’s detailed specifications is finite; only too late does it become clear that Pearl has her own ideas about the way the world works, and an equally fierce capacity for expressing them. It’s not just that our creative urges define us; Brookland suggests that, even more than love, imagination makes or breaks us””or does both, even in the same moment… Barton’s gift with Brookland, as with [The] Testament [of Yves Gundron], is to immerse you gradually in a part-historical, part-mythical world.

– Ruth Tobias, the Weekly Dig on Brookland


Lydia Millet in the Raleigh News & Observer

The deliberate primness of Barton’s tone – common to both “Yves Gundron” and “Brookland,” which are otherwise completely different books – makes her a strange and rare object among contemporary American writers. In a world of speed and irony and obliqueness, her unhurried gait and formal diction catch the gaze and hold it. She thinks deeply about her subjects; her imagination has unusually wide bounds; the austerity of her voice at once offers and withholds revelation.


Julie Brickman in the San Diego Union-Tribune

. . . a work of such grandeur that it evokes Tolstoy’s genius for scope and story.

– Julie Brickman, the San Diego Union-Tribune on Brookland


Marta Salij in the Detroit Free Press

Some young writers you just need to know about, if you care at all about fiction. Today’s subject: Emily Barton. I’ll wait while you jot that down. In 20 years, when it’s perfectly obvious to everyone that Barton is one of the great ones of her generation, please take that slip out and remember where you read the name… The result is a novel as transporting as Yves Gundron, but all the more remarkably so for being virtually without any tricks of narrative. This time, Barton’s delicately realistic prose soars alone, illuminating the shadows within a heart…You can find out for yourself if Prue’s wish is answered. Mine has been, now that Emily Barton’s second novel has arrived to fulfill the promise of her first.

– Marta Salij, the Detroit Free Press on Brookland


Tim Rutten in the Los Angeles Times

In Brookland, Emily Barton has taken an elegant way with questions of thought-provoking substance and has made a very fine and satisfying novel. And, if there is heartbreak at its end, those hearts are broken over things that mattered then ”” and still.

– Tim Rutten, the Los Angeles Times on Brookland


Art Winslow in the Chicago Tribune

Strip the saga from the family saga, and history-as-pageant treatment from the historical novel, and you end up roughly in the literary terrain that Emily Barton occupies in her heartfelt new novel, Brookland . . . For Barton, history is more than costuming and period color.

– Art Winslow, the Chicago Tribune on Brookland

Strip the saga from the family saga, and history-as-pageant treatment from the historical novel, and you end up roughly in the literary terrain that Emily Barton occupies in her heartfelt new novel, Brookland… For Barton, history is more than costuming and period color. In the Revolutionary years, for example, the king’s soldiers still linger in Brookland, even after the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown (in fall 1781), and they are more of a presence in the novel than the stately figures of Washington, Jefferson and Franklin, mentioned only fleetingly as a reminder that the historical clock is ticking as Barton’s characters age. History, as Barton uses it, becomes the set of everyday conditions that define the physical and psychological possibilities for her characters. So the fact that the king’s soldiers have denuded Brookland, hacking down most of the trees, is as material as the Revolution itself in its immediate effects on the people we meet: ginmakers, farmers, sawmill operators, ferrymen, tavernkeepers, children. Likewise, while Barton’s tale is multigenerational, the lives of the central characters are not epic in the sweeping, theatric sense. Why is it that historical novels routinely depend on characters “swept up” in the great moments of history? One thing Brookland demonstrates is the lack of necessity for such plotting: Characters can have gripping lives in gripping times, with the public and private events somewhat dissociated from each other, as in life. We should have guessed from Barton’s first novel, The Testament of Yves Gundron, that she would use genres for her own ends… Yet uncertainty—the unknown, even when it is a sibling or a parent or a spouse in question—is the most intoxicating agent in Brookland.


David Thomson in the New York Observer

Ms. Barton’s prose voice is as good and supple as anything being written in America today. But in its period tone (if that’s the word), it reaffirms the unswerving adage of the novel reader: Describe a world well enough and I am its member. This is the voice of a great novelist.

– David Thomson, the New York Observer on Brookland

We treasure and enjoy some novelists because they offer us a world, and let us feel we can enter it like original inhabitants. It’s a going home, even if we’ve never been there before… I don’t necessarily mean to suggest that Emily Barton is a full-fledged rival to Thomas Hardy””but Ms. Barton is only in her 30’s, the age at which Hardy had written Far from the Madding Crowd and not much else. In fact, I suspect that Ms. Barton already has more voices in her head than Hardy possessed, as well as a sturdier hope for the lives we lead. But what makes Brookland such an enormous achievement, and such a complete world in which to escape, is that this place is not Wessex (now full of antiques and cream-tea nostalgia””a dead end), but that corner of the world where the East River snakes around the edge of Manhattan island, the opportunity that Brooklyners and Americans have to inspect New York and wonder what happens there…This is a long story, and one that unwinds slowly, but with stunning enough effect to satisfy the waiting. The patience to stick with Prudence comes from the steady beauty of Ms. Barton’s writing. There are two strands to the book: letters written by Prudence as a mature woman (letters that capture both the eloquence and the idiosyncrasy of early 19th-century writing by unschooled people), and a more withdrawn narrative that is seldom modern or up-to-date. I take this backwards look””the bulk of the book””to be the largest part of Ms. Barton’s research (evidently extensive) and her talent (seemingly unlimited). And it may be worth stressing that many Hardy novels were set not in the year they were written but in a prior age, lost and enchanted. Ms. Barton’s prose voice is as good and supple as anything being written in America today. But in its “period” tone (if that’s the word), it reaffirms the unswerving adage of the novel reader: Describe a world well enough and I am its member. This is the voice of a great novelist.


Christopher Corbett, the New York Times Book Review

Marvelous…So much modern fiction thinks small, feels small. Emily Barton will never be accused of either…Large and complex storytelling…Brookland turns out to be a story not just of risk, daring and ambition, but of the courage to fail–and the courage to live on after failing.

– Christopher Corbett, New York Times Book Review on Brookland


Joan Acocella in The New Yorker

Together with the book’s profound treatment of the spiritual ills born of the Enlightenment, this wonderful character is Barton’s main gift to us.

– Joan Acocella, New Yorker Magazine on Brookland

But, if the bridge doesn’t succeed in creating the hoped-for unity, the book does. Brookland itself is a kind of bridge, not just in its great span, from 1772 to 1823, and in its lattice of solid little parts””what the Winships eat for dinner (sweet-potato stew), how many dresses Prue has (one, brown)””but in its balance of opposing forces, above all, the forces within Prue’s personality. Brookland is certainly a feminist novel, a child of Little Women and The Song of the Lark, but, unlike the protagonists of those books, Prue is not a “natural.” She isn’t pretty. She’s a worrywart; she’s full of envy and remorse. She loves her family passionately, but she would trade them all for the bridge. The thing she loves best is her own mind, but she doesn’t trust that, either. She is not a “good-models” feminist heroine, nor is she one of the bad-girl heroines of second-stage feminism. She is a thorny, struggling soul. Together with the book’s profound treatment of the spiritual ills born of the Enlightenment, this wonderful character is Barton’s main gift to us.


Marilynne Robinson’s novel Home

My review of Marilynne Robinson’s wonderful novel Home in the Los Angeles Times, Sunday, September 7, 2008.


John Freeman in Time Out New York

An engrossing folktale that, in our technology-crazed era, ought to be required reading.

– John Freeman, Time Out New York on The Testament of Yves Gundron


Talk Magazine

Emily Barton’s debut novel is destined to alter the landscape of contemporary literature.

– Talk Magazine on The Testament of Yves Gundron



Fully and wittily imagined, written in heightened language that never falters of grows slack… Barton’s language is beautiful and shapely and . . . lovely touches of magic add a wonderful texture… A sly, joyous read.

– Booklist on The Testament of Yves Gundron


Kirkus Reviews

A commanding and extraordinarily accomplished debut.

– Kirkus Reviews (starred review) on The Testament of Yves Gundron


Marta Salij in the Chicago Tribune

Rare is the author who can reimagine the fall of man and make it neither tragedy nor farce, but something delicately and illuminatingly balanced between. Rare, too, is the perspective Emily Barton takes for the audacious fable that is The Testament of Yves Gundron. She invokes a world that teeters before a likely ruinous progress and asks: What does it mean to be modern? Is it the acquisition of technology? The abandonment of the past? Or the ambivalence of embracing and repelling the future? Her answers might not be what you expect.

– Marta Salij, the Chicago Tribune on The Testament of Yves Gundron


Publishers Weekly

Few emerging novelists–or experienced ones–could handle the kinds of challenges Barton deftly accepts in this triumphant debut.

– Publishers Weekly (starred review) on The Testament of Yves Gundron

“Few emerging novelists—or experienced ones—could handle the kinds of challenges Barton deftly accepts in this triumphant debut… For all of her storytelling prowess—and this book is exuberant with story—Barton’s real asset is her febrile imagination. Mandragora’s quotidian routines are detailed so convincingly, and so lovingly that the reader starts to resent the encroaching future, with ”˜its hum and its terrible energy,’ as much as Yves himself does. Barton’s intelligent and amusing facility with idioms and speech patterns rooted in Middle English injects a dynamic historical feel into her truly visionary project.”


Thomas Pynchon

Blessedly post-ironic, engaging and heartfelt–a story that moves with ease and certainty, deeply respecting the given world even as it shines with the integrity of dream.

– Thomas Pynchon on The Testament of Yves Gundron


Eli Miller’s Seltzer Delivery Service

Here’s my essay about one of the last seltzer delivery men in New York City. The piece originally appeared in the anthology Brooklyn Was Mine, Riverhead Books, 2008, and was republished at Nextbook (which is now Tablet magazine), January 2, 2008.


Geraldine Brooks’s People of the Book

My review of Geraldine Brooks’s People of the Book is in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, December 30, 2007.


The Big Schlep: My Review of Michael Chabon’s Yiddish Policemen’s Union

Here’s a link to my New York Observer review of Michael Chabon’s new novel; it originally ran May 1st, 2007.


Review of The Pesthouse by Jim Crace

Jim Crace’s novel The Pesthouse may have been somewhat eclipsed by Cormac McCarthy’s The Road when it came out; but I think it’s a fine (and quite disturbing) book. Here’s my review, which ran in the Los Angeles Times, 29 April 2007.


Bridge Building

Here’s an essay entitled “Bridge Building,” published in the Boston Review.


An Essay on Ben Folds

Here’s an essay on the Ben Folds song “Bitches Ain’t Shit,” from, during one of their writers’ weeks.

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