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Works of Radical Imagination

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A novel of violence, of love, and introspection, The Up-Down follows a man who leaves home and all that’s familiar, finds true love, loses it, and finds it again. Pace’s voyage is outward, among strangers, and inward into the fifth direction that is the up-down, in a sweeping, voracious human tale that takes no prisoners, witnesses extreme brutalities and expresses a childlike amazement. Here the route goes from New Orleans, to Chicago to Wyoming to Bay St. Clement, North Carolina, but the geography he is charting is always first and foremost unchartable.

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He had read that in ancient times, various societies believed there were five directions: North, South, East, West and the Up-Down. He liked the idea of a fifth, mysterious direction.

“The Up-Down is so beautifully written. It's Barry Gifford poetry. It's right next door to perfection.”

“The Up-Down rockets along at a breakneck pace. Gifford is a master of the set piece in the tradition of Nelson Algren: larger-than-life characters, ribald dialogue and an uninhibited spirit that seesaws between the profound and the profane. . . . While Pace wonders whether he's left his mark, Gifford doesn't have to: The legacy of Sailor and Lula is as satisfying as it is strange.”

“I was operating under the mistaken belief that Pace's story could never rival my affection for Sailor and Lula and yet... I love The Up-Down. I was floored by the humor, (seemingly off-the-cuff) wisdom and poignant tone that is infused through this epic story. The character's dreams—always a strong suit—have somehow become even more vivid.”

“The Up-Down, Barry Gifford's final installment in the legendary Sailor and Lula series, is a one-of-a-kind marvel, full of humor, tragedy, and great mystery. Always inventive, always daring, Gifford's novel thoughtfully depicts the necessity of love in a new century marked by mankind's capacity for violence and cruelty. A brilliant coda to the defining love story of the last twenty years.”

“With an impressive gift for deftly crafting a complex and interwoven but always entertaining novel, Barry Gifford's unique style of writing is as impressive as it is compelling.”

“The Up-Down can be seen as a coda to the [Sailor and Lula] books, or even a koan of sorts, to underscore the fact that life is not logical or comprehensible and it can only be understood intuitively, experientially.”

“With his breakout novel, "Wild at Heart," Berkeley author Barry Gifford started the saga of Sailor Ripley and his wife, Lula Pace Fortune. The book, which was adapted into a feature film by director David Lynch, spawned a series: the turbulent lives of Gifford's "Romeo and Juliet of the South" were featured in seven subsequent novels and novellas. Both characters are dead now, but their names live on in Gifford's latest, his 20th novel and 57th book. It's about Pace, the son of Sailor and Lula. At 58 years old, living in New Orleans, Pace embarks on a kind of spiritual journey—the "up-down" of the title—traveling to Illinois, Wisconsin, Wyoming and finally to North Carolina, where his parents' story began. Searching for elusive truths, haunted by strange dreams and violent encounters, he writes his own version of his parents' life, even as he attempts to reconcile his own. Gifford's a romantic at heart, and this volume brings Sailor and Lula's epic to a—perhaps—bittersweet end.”

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