Barlow, John 1967-
Barlow, John 1967-
Born 1967, in Gomersal, Yorkshire, England. Education: Attended Cambridge University and University of Hull; earned Ph.D.
Writer and educator. Santiago de Compostela, Spain, English instructor; University of La Coruña, Spain, English instructor; University of York, Norwegian Study Centre, Heslington, York, England, English instructor. Writer, 2003—. Has worked as a piano player.
Paris Review Discovery Prize, 2002, for the novella "Eating Mammals"; Editor's Choice, Historical Novel Society, and BookSense Notable Title, both 2006, for Intoxicated: A Novel of Money, Madness, and the Invention of the World's Favorite Soft Drink.
Eating Mammals (collection of three novellas: "Eating Mammals," "The Possession of Thomas-Bessie," and "The Donkey Wedding at Gomersal"), Fourth Estate (London, England), 2004, Perennial (New York, NY), 2004.
Intoxicated: A Novel of Money, Madness, and the Invention of the World's Favorite Soft Drink, Morrow (New York, NY), 2006.
Eating Mammals has been published in Italian.
John Barlow, a former university professor, gave up teaching in 2003 to focus on his writing full time. His first offering was Eating Mammals, released in 2004. The book is a collection of three novellas supposedly based on true events in Victorian England: the title work, "The Possession of Thomas-Bessie," and "The Donkey Wedding at Gomersal." The first novella tells the story of a man, Michael Mulligan, who will eat anything for money—be it animal, vegetable or mineral—and the chef who both prepares his food and aspires to be like Mulligan. "The Possession of Thomas-Bessie" follows the life of a winged cat and the people who own him and use him to better their lives. In the last tale, romance grows between a middle-aged couple in nineteenth-century England. The whimsy of Barlow's tales was viewed favorably by critics, such as School Library Journal contributor Matthew L. Moffett, who found Eating Mammals "wildly imaginative" and noted that the novellas "successfully walk a … line between the magical and the ridiculously probable." Suzy Hansen, writing in the New York Times Book Review, praised Barlow's "dry wit" and felt that the author's "imagination appears unlimited." Booklist reviewer Jennifer Baker agreed, calling Eating Mammals "hilarious" and "wonderfully innovative." Additonally, a Publishers Weekly critic observed that the tales are "delightfully gothic, witty and sometimes macabre," and summed up the book as "idiosyncratic and memorable."
In 2006 Barlow returned to the Victorian setting of Eating Mammals for his first novel, Intoxicated: A Novel of Money, Madness, and the Invention of the World's Favorite Soft Drink. The book tells the mythical story of the beginnings of carbonated sodas. A chance meeting between Rodrigo Vermilion, a deformed midget, and Isaac Brookes, a wealthy businessman, leads to a professional relationship between the two. Rodrigo presents Isaac with an investment idea—a cool, refreshing, nonalcoholic, fizzy soft drink to capitalize on the recent temperance movement. The men become partners, create a beverage complete with a secret ingredient—rhubarb and coca leaves—and Intoxicated follows the ups and downs of their business venture. Called "part fable and part vaudeville" by a Publishers Weekly reviewer, the book was widely praised among critics. A Kirkus Reviews critic praised the "risk-taking" that stems from Barlow's "lively imagination." Marika Zemke, writing in the Library Journal, claimed that Barlow's work will "intoxicate readers" with its "irreverent humor," a sentiment agreed upon by Booklist contributor Steve Powers; Powers found the book "odd and entrancing," noting that the personality combinations in this "whimsical, farcical novel" make for "a madcap read."
In a statement posted on Barlow's home page, he commented on his writing process: "Each day starts off slowly. If it picks up, I more or less enjoy that. If it doesn't, I stop writing." Barlow continued: "But I do enjoy revising a lot. I do too much revising, because I enjoy it, and because it means I don't have to write more and can hide behind the idea that I am working."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, August, 2004, Jennifer Baker, review of Eating Mammals, p. 1895; January 1, 2006, Steve Powers, review of Intoxicated: A Novel of Money, Madness, and the Invention of the World's Favorite Soft Drink, p. 52.
Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2004, review of Eating Mammals, p. 588; December 15, 2005, review of Intoxicated, p. 1287.
Library Journal, February 15, 2006, Marika Zemke, review of Intoxicated, p. 106.
New York Times Book Review, September 26, 2004, Suzy Hansen, review of Eating Mammals, p. 24.
Publishers Weekly, July 12, 2004, review of Eating Mammals, p. 41; January 30, 2006, review of Intoxicated, p. 43.
School Library Journal, January, 2005, Matthew L. Moffett, review of Eating Mammals, p. 158.
John Barlow Home Page,http://www.johnbarlow.net (June 15, 2006).