Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination


In Writers, great American storyteller Barry Gifford paints portraits of famous writers caught in imaginary vulnerable moments in their lives. In prose that is funny, grotesque, and a touch brutal, Gifford shows these writers at their most human and exposed. Here is Ernest Hemingway drunkenly setting explosive trip wires outside his home in Cuba, and Albert Camus conversing with a young prostitute while staring at himself in the mirror of a New York City hotel room. Gifford also conjures up Martha Gellhorn, Jack Kerouac, B. Traven, John Huston, Nelson Algren, Arthur Rimbaud, Jane Bowles, Marcel Proust, Herman Melville, Charles Baudelaire, Jorge Luis Borges, Roberto Bolaño, James Joyce, and Samuel Beckett.

In Gifford's house of mirrors, we are offered a unique perspective on this group of literary greats. We see their obsessions loom large—and none larger than a shared preoccupation with mortality. And yet these stories, which are meant to be performed as plays, are also tender and thoughtful exercises in empathy. Gifford asks: What does it mean to devote oneself entirely to art? And as an artist, what defines success and failure?


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“Barry Gifford invented his own American vernacular—William Faulkner by way of B-movie film noir, porn paperbacks, and Sun Records rockabilly.”

“The experience of reading Gifford is like starting a car and realizing, too late, that someone has cut its brake lines. A spectacular wreck is imminent, so you might as well enjoy the adrenaline rush...”

“Gifford cuts right through the heart of what makes a good novel readable and entertaining... The way Barry Gifford does it, it's high art.”

“Gifford is a master.”

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.


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