Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

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Revolution is simmering in the heat of battered Central American town Port Tropique, where protagonist Franz Hall is an "intellectual Meursault in a paranoid Hemingway landscape, a self-conscious Conradian adventurer, a Lord Jim in the earliest stages of selfwilled failure" (New York Times). The ineffectual hero spends his days drinking and observing people in the zócalo, and hisl nights involved in an ivory-smuggling operation threatened by impending government siege. Always persistent are memories of Marie and what was lost. In this sinuous narrative of dislocation and remorse, Barry Gifford details Franz's mundanity and the bizarre cast of characters swirling around him.

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“Gifford uses the charged story of … an apprentice smuggler as an occasion for his own literary and cinematic smuggling—from Conrad, Hemingway, Camus, John Hawkes, Howard Hawks, Welles and Ozu, among others—and to discover a new literary form.”

“A poet's nuanced prose runs through Port Tropique … a spellbinding story.”

“A strange, disturbing … intriguing … impressionist painting of a book.”

“Cut from the same cloth as Joseph Conrad's Heart Of Darkness and The Secret Agent, Graham Greene's Our Man In Havana and John Le Carre's The Tailor Of Panama … [Gifford] bends chaos in an orderly fashion and produces a superb reading experience. Nearly thirty years on, the novel's power is as relevant as ever … This is an amazing book, gripping from the first chapter to the last and is one of Gifford's finest works.”

blog — January 25

Three Cheers: Barry Gifford

Introducing Three Cheers: a new feature on the Seven Stories Blog. In this feature, Seven Stories authors dish on three books that helped to mold them over the course of their careers. Check out Barry Gifford's choices below!

by Barry Gifford

Grande Sertao: Veredas (Translated into English as The Devil to Pay in the Backlands by Harriet de Onis). Certainly the greatest of all Portuguese language novels, a truly transformative novel; a unique, surprising narrative that rivals Don Quixote for creativity and meaning. Written by Joao Guimaraes Rosa, Brazilian professor and diplomat.

The Adventures & Misadventures of Maqroll the Gaviereo (Translated from Spanish by Edith Grossman) by Alvaro Mutis, a Colombian raised in Belgium and Colombia and Mexico, best friend of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who called Mutis the finer writer. Marquez was correct: Mutis’s Maqroll novellas are the finest kind of literary adventures. A vastly underrated if not mostly unknown (in the English-speaking and -reading world) master of prose and poetry.

The Collected Novels of Jean Rhys Another mostly undervalued (and misinterpreted) writer. Her novels After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie and Good Morning, Midnight (quote from Emily Dickinson, I believe) are especially good. She did not waste words: taught me how to be concise and direct without sacrificing intent and meaning. Hated being taken up in 1960s and ‘70s by feminists—resented is better word. Once a mistress of Ford Madox Ford’s, she picked up on what the big guns of the ‘20s and ‘30s had to say (Hemingway, Conrad, Pound, et al) and in my opinion outdid them all—except maybe Conrad.

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The author of more than forty works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, which have been translated into over twenty-five languages, Barry Gifford writes distinctly American stories for readers around the globe. From screenplays and librettos to his acclaimed Sailor and Lula novels, Gifford’s writing is as distinctive as it is difficult to classify. Born in the Seneca Hotel on Chicago’s Near North Side, he relocated in his adolescence to New Orleans. The move proved significant: throughout his career, Gifford’s fiction—part-noir, part-picaresque, always entertaining—is born of the clash between what he has referred to as his “Northern Side” and “Southern Side.” Gifford has been recipient of awards from PEN, the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Library Association, the Writers Guild of America, and the Christopher Isherwood Foundation. His novel Wild at Heart was adapted into the 1990 Palme d’Or-winning film of the same name. Gifford lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Other books by Barry Gifford