I know Barth. I’ve seen Barth laugh at nothing for longer than five minutes (well, it might have been something, but I don’t think any of us remember what it was now, and well, he went on). Barth writes fiction that I want to read (and sometimes I even want to sneak over and swipe his mail so that I can the switch the name on his outgoing manuscript submissions to mine). Even though his son is a more naturally gifted storyteller than he is, Barth manages to hold a room in pretty good thrall with his spoken wordy bits. Barth just had a birthday, and so this is my suck-up of a birthday present.
He has two books that deserve your attention. The first, The Patron Saint of Plagues, is out this week in paperback, which means you should be able to find it everywhere. And Barth would like you to buy it at the most obscure place that you can so the sales numbers are interesting. The Patron Saint of Plagues is, to quote another moment of suck-up, “an apocalyptic prophesy masquerading as a near-future pandemic revenge thriller.” (Further words in that vein can be seen here if you need more convincing.) When Hollywood fucks it up, you’ll want to be able to cogently discuss what they did wrong.
In the back of the paperback of PSP is the first chapter of The Magician and the Fool, Barth’s second book. Due in April. It is, and this is honest truth without a lick of asskissing, a book written just for the paranoid conspiracy theorist/occult fetishist in me. The Da Vinci Code of tarot quests (there, I said it first). I have seen bits of this book, and I cannot wait. Now, Barth isn’t just some random dude who likes cards; he’s been a tarot nut for most of his life, and Dreamhaven Books is running a pre-order contest where one lucky person will win a 20-page tarot reading from Barth. See? He’s that good. He doesn’t even need to be in the same state as you to make the cards tell him all your secrets.
Seriously though, independent bookstores have an uphill battle these days for your dollars, and a little extra incentive like this to shop independently is a very cool thing. Besides, if no one enters, Barth will have to do a reading for me, and I think he’d rather I didn’t have another reason to harass him about the cards.