Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Barry Gifford  

Pen Name: None


Audience: Adult;

Born: 1946 in Chicago, Illinois

-- Website --
-- Barry Gifford on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

Gifford was born in Chicago.

Biographical and Professional Information

Gifford is a poet, novelist, screenwriter, memoirist, essayist, and biographer. He was the co-founder of ''Black Lizard Books'' and worked as their editor until until 1989. He also worked as a merchant seaman, musician, journalist, editor, and truck driver. He served in the US Air Force Reserves in 1964-65.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

Arise and Walk
ISBN: 0786860138

Hyperion. 1994

Continues the acclaimed account of Southern eccentrics that began in Night People, with a colorful collection of righteous New Orleans misfits--including televangelists, escaped convicts, vengeful feminists, and disgraced clergymen.

Baby Cat-Face: A Novel
ISBN: 0151001839

Harcourt. 1995

Joining a group of religious fundamentalists in order to escape the harsh realities of street life, Baby Cat-Face struggles with love and extraterrestrial encounters in the midst of several out-of-this-world characters. By the author of WIld at Heart. Tour.

Perdita Durango (Gifford, Barry)
ISBN: 0802134831

Grove Press. 1996

Bad girl Perdita Durango and her dealer boyfriend Romeo Dolorosa get their kicks on a journey from Louisiana to Los Angeles that involves santeria rituals and kidnapping

Hot Rod
ISBN: 0811815935

Chronicle Books. 1997

With the grace and style of a souped-up Seville -- and published to coincide with the annual race extravaganza at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah -- Hot Rod captures the American obsession with speed, thrills, and cars in this unparalleled collection of photographs. From the chop shops of East Bakersfield to the drag strips and deserts of California and Utah, David Perry's photographs expose the underbelly of the hot rod obsession. Greasers, gearheads, dragstrip beatniks, rockabilly queens, and hopped-up machines of all kinds are featured in this evocative tribute. Barry Gifford, best-selling author of Wild at Heart, adds an original novelette about Danny and his paramour, Yolanda, in a tale of Airstreams and Lucky Strikes that captures perfectly the rebellious spirit of the images.

The Sinaloa Story: A Novel
ISBN: 1583226761

Seven Stories Press. 2005

The Sinaloa Story tells of DelRay Mudo and Ava Varazo, two down-and-outs looking for a reasonable life and maybe even a little redemption in a corrupt and violent world. Ava is a Mexican prostitute, beautiful and no victim of circumstance. When DelRay falls in love with her at the drive-in whorehouse where she is the prize, she seizes the chance to break free. They take off for Sinaloa ,Texas, the lone-dog state where "nothin’ good ever happens." The far-out border flunkies they meet — Thankful Priest, the one-eyed former football player Indio Desacato, Ava’s pimp and a small-town racketeer Arkadelphia Quantrill Smith, an octogenarian whose father marched with Shelby in the Iron Brigade and many others — fill out the sinister and electrifying ride.

ISBN: 1583226362

Seven Stories Press. 2004

A woman and her young son travel by car through the southern and midwestern United States in this heartbreakingly spare novel-in-dialogue. As the mother drives, she and the boy, Roy, trade impressions of the landscape and of life, in the process approaching an understanding of each other and their shared inner landscape.
"Mom, can we drive to Wyoming?" "You mean now?" "Uh-huh. Is it far?" "Very far. We're almost to Georgia." "Can we go someday?" "Sure, Roy, we'll go." "We won't tell anyone, right, Mom?" "No, baby, nobody will know where we are." "And we'll have a dog." "I don't see why not." "From now on when anything bad happens, I'm going to think about Wyoming. Running with my dog." "It's a good thing, baby. Everybody needs Wyoming." —from Wyoming

Jack's Book: An Oral Biography Of Jack Kerouac
ISBN: 0312113382

St. Martin's Griffin. 1994

Here, in what has become a classic of its kind since its publication in 1978, is the fascinating story of an American literary legend, recorded through the voices of the friends and lovers of Jack Kerouac, "King of the Beats." Authors Barry Gifford and Lawrence Lee retraced Keoruac's life at home and on the road, and talked with the prophets, musicians, poets, socialites, and working people who knew Jack Kerouac. Some are famous (Allen Ginsberg, Gore Vidal, William Burroughs, Gary Snyder, among others), some are not (Jack's boyhood buddies, his lovers, his barroom companions). All have contributed to a remarkably vibrant, riveting portrait of a life. We see Jack at Columbia University and on the scene of Greenwich Village speeding across the tarmac of America with Neal Cassidy ("Dan Moriarty" in Keorac's classic novel, On the Road) at home with his possessive mother in California, drinking wine and talking Buddhism and finally, in Florida, where his life ends tragically at age forty-seven. Jack's Book, like Kerouac's novels, makes a unique contribution to our understanding of a man and a generation that shaped the dreams and visions of those who followed.

The Rooster Trapped in the Reptile Room: A Barry Gifford Reader
ISBN: 1583225250

Seven Stories Press. 2003

"Everything I have to say about race and religion and politics is in the novels," declares Barry Gifford. The Rooster Trapped in the Reptile Room gathers generous portions of all thirteen novels and novellas, as well as first-person essays, generous helpings of poetry, journalism, and a new interview with the author. The broad contours of an episodic output emerge—a full-length view of the freaks and freakish incidents that populate Gifford’s unique human comedy. A world, as Lula, the author’s favorite of all his characters, reflects, "wild at heart and weird on top."
The Rooster Trapped in the Reptile Room provides essential reading for anyone after the soul of American writing.

Do the Blind Dream?: New Novellas and Stories
ISBN: 1583226702

Seven Stories Press. 2005

Do the Blind Dream? shows Gifford at the height of his powers, navigating with ease the new, more fragmented imaginative landscape of morning-after America. Gifford seems to have anticipated themes that suddenly are recognizable everywhere: the fragility of identity the power of coincidence the illusion of a secure tomorrow.

In contrast to his often nightmarish, satirical, groundbreaking novels of the 1990s—Wild at Heart, Perdita Durango, and Night People among them—Do the Blind Dream? continues in the tender and deeply introspective vein revealed in two recent works: Gifford’s memoir The Phantom Father (named a New York Times Notable Book), and the award-winning novella Wyoming. From the intimate, stylistically daring examination of the darkest secrets in the history of an Italian family, to the terrible but often beautiful fears and discoveries of childhood, to the sardonic, desperate confusion of adult life, Do the Blind Dream? reveals an exceptionally versatile, highly tuned sensibility.

From the Hardcover edition.

Memories from a Sinking Ship: A Novel
ISBN: 1583227628

Seven Stories Press. 2007

Winner of the 2007 Christopher Isherwood Foundation Award for Fiction

Reminiscent of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn and Ernest Hemingway's Nick Adams stories, Memories from a Sinking Ship travels the landscape of a turbulent world seen through a boy’s steady gaze. Like Twain’s Mississippi River and Hemingway’s Big Two-Hearted, Gifford’s Chicago, New Orleans, and the highways and byways between offer us mesmerizing lives lost in the kaleidoscope of postwar America, in particular those of Roy’s adrift and disappointed mother and his hoodlum father.

The Cavalry Charges: Writings on Books, Film and Music
ISBN: 1568583346

Thunder's Mouth Pr. 2007

A collection of anecdotal essays is a series of meditations on life and art by the best-selling author of The Stars Above Veracruz and Wild at Heart that considers the books and people who have influenced his film work.

The Imagination of the Heart: Book Seven of the Story of Sailor and Lula (Story of Sailor & Lula)
ISBN: 158322873X

Seven Stories Press. 2009

The Imagination of the Heart is the final chapter in the saga of Sailor Ripley and Lula Pace Fortune, the "Romeo and Juliet of the Deep South." Their story began in Barry Gifford's novel Wild at Heart, which in 1990 was made into a Palme d'Or–winning feature film by David Lynch. Following Sailor’s death at the age of sixty-five in New Orleans, Lula moved back to her home state of North Carolina. This novel begins fifteen years later when Lula, at age eighty, decides to write a memoir in diary form, reflecting on her life with Sailor while also keeping a journal describing her last road trip: a journey with Beany Thorn, her best friend since childhood, back to New Orleans.
Like a contemporary book of Revelations, dutifully recorded by Lula as a dialogue between self and soul, it becomes a bittersweet, often dangerous journey into the imagination of the heart, and what may lie beyond.
Also included in this edition is "The Truth is in the Work," a conversation between Barry Gifford and Noel King which delves into a range of topics, from Gifford’s early publishing experiences to his film projects and to professional sports.


American Library Association Notable Book Award, 1978 and 1988 Maxwell Perkins Award, PEN, 1983 PEN Syndicated Fiction Award, 1985 Christopher Isherwood Foundation award for fiction, 2006

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