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More of This World or Maybe Another

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  422 ratings  ·  82 reviews
From the backstreets of New Orleans to the rural Gulf Coast--this is the territory Johnson mines so unforgettably in her debut story collection. Filled with humor and pathos, with the nearness and danger of life on the edge, these stories chart the anxious inner moments of four related characters.

Johnson introduces the teenage Delia in the midst of working up the nerve for
Paperback, 208 pages
Published October 20th 2009 by Harper Perennial (first published September 30th 2009)
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Apr 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
4 and 1/2 stars

In the tradition of Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio or Joyce's Dubliners, (or a more recent example, Elizabeth's Strout's Olive Kitteridge) this short story collection is linked by setting, character and theme -- all strong elements here.

Two of the stories -- 'If the Holy Spirit Comes For You' and 'Titty Baby' -- are well-nigh perfect, breaking my heart as I read them, so much so that I almost had to look away from the page as I got to each ending. The main character in each is a
Dec 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I set down this book with my ears ringing and my chest aching, everything around me electric and amplified. It’s really that good. This collection is full of gut-punching, stunning prose, solid workmanship, and quiet skill.

Barb Johnson’s haunting debut collection follows four characters anchored to a laudromat in New Orleans: Delia, who runs the laudromat and her younger brother Dooley; Pudge, whose aunt owns the building; and Pudge’s son Luis, who sleeps in an abandoned car across the street.
Eric Nguyen
Feb 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Reading Barb Johnson's debut collection is like catching up on old friends after high school, then after college, then when you're in your late 30s. Within the 9 stories that is what we get as we follow four friends in the back streets of New Orleans as they try to deal with life and its discontents.

When readers of short fiction think of the working class and their struggles, they are apt to think of Raymond Carver, whose tales of poverty pinched at the back of your brain with an utter sadness
Vicki Seldon
Aug 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Lovers of short stories; Lovers of Louisiana literature
This is a very intimate and loving collection of short stories centered around the families that live near Bubbles Laundromat in Gremilion, Louisiana, a suburb of New Orleans. Major themes of weather, water, and racism take a backseat in these tales and Barb Johnson reveals the inner lives of her characters with spare and at the same time lyrical language. Matriarchs of the community, Big Luce and Aunt Alma, who own the laundromat, hover in the background in these tales while the younger ...more
Nov 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Highly recommend this collection of stories. Olive Kitteridge won the Pulitzer but this book does what Olive Kitteridge tried to do TEN times better. The writing is beautiful, the stories fluid and the tone is exceptional. This is truly an amazing work.
Aug 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've read all year. Two of the best stories I've ever read.
Jul 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Growing up in New Orleans, Delia is fighting to better her life amidst poverty, violence, and questioning her own sexuality. She lusts for her boyfriend’s sister who, although never mentioned, is hinted to be a lesbian. Johnson uses quiet humor, informal but muscular language, metaphor, and wisdom in several linked short stories. I read a review that dubbed this novel “lesbian fiction for grownups,” but—and maybe I’m dense because I’m neither a woman nor homosexual—although Delia’s main conflict ...more
May 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
There is something breathless and impressive about this book. It seems natural to say that reading a book by Cather or McCullers or a series of short stories by Welty is the "best I ever read," but this newer book is one of the best I've ever read....the chapter If the Spirit Comes for you is perhaps the most moving passage I've ever is like the ringing in your ears before a faint, it is like the smell of rain before the storm, it is like the static in the air when heat lightning ...more
Larry H
"Love is not trouble. It is all we have to light our days, to bring music to the time we've been given."

So says Delia Delahoussaye, one of the main characters in Barb Johnson's somewhat bleak but beautifully written story collection, More of This World or Maybe Another. Spanning more than 20 years, following the lives of four friends and relatives in New Orleans, the interconnected stories in this collection are about the sometimes redemptive and sometimes destructive power of love, of the
Joanna Mcadam
Sep 17, 2012 rated it liked it
Excellent book of short stories. Well-written, with complex characters. The only reason I didn't give it more stars is because it was painful to read. It ultimately ends on a somewhat uplifting note, but I was fairly tortured during parts of the book. Once upon a time, that would have been practically a prerequisite for me to enjoy a book, but I have become a softie with age, and being witness to the suffering some of these characters went through was too much at times (there was one story I ...more
Sonja Livingston
Dec 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Gorgeous language! This is a killer collection from writer who infuses wisdom into her stunning prose, and manages, somehow, to create characters who break into our hearts and remind us of the need for generosity in an all too cold world. There are so many riches in the writing and in these stories that I had to set the book on my lap from time to time just to catch my breath and soak it all in! From Pudge's homemade valentine heart, Delia's gift shoes, Luis' catechism book, Chuck's ...more
Oct 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: southern-lit
Every story in this collection is highly enjoyable, even when it's depressing. About halfway through the stories, I started to think: I really love being here, in this big, bad, beautiful New Orleans. This feels like the most complete cycle of linked stories that I've read in a long time. Each character is fully developed and (barring one) deeply sympathetic, even when they make dreadful choices. These are people--and stories--that you find yourself rooting for. I'm hoping this is the start of a ...more
Jul 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Just a great collection of linked stories. It always follows the right character at the right moment of their interwoven lives, and I really enjoyed reading one story per sitting over a few days.

"Titty Baby" is a killer short story. Oh Pudge.

It also feels pretty true to New Orleans, without being That New Orleans collection. It was interesting to read in the afterword of my edition that the author did a lot of this writing from a flooded porch post-Katrina--that without mentioning the storm in
Apr 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
From Barb on beginning to write: "At first, I tried to write about the world I had read about, what I considered to be the real world—stories about well-educated people crippled by ennui. Then I enrolled in an MFA program, where I finally returned to the subjects I know best: gay girls and oil refineries, fatherless boys stuck in the maze, alienated people living off the grid, and folks who sit in abandoned cars to do their serious thinking."

Nov 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jackie by: Kate at Harper
I'm not usually fond of short stories, but this collection held my attention. Partially because they deal with the same or interconnected characters throughout, and partly because of the vividness and depth of each and every character. The central theme is being trapped--by circumstance, economics, history, addiction, education, emotion, etc. The stories cover a 20 or so year span of time, and the evolution, or lack thereof, of the characters is brilliantly told.
Nov 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Barb is a teacher of mine at UNO, and this collection was her MFA thesis. I love the overlapping characters from story to story as a common thread, and my favorite story is definitely "The Invitation," which wraps up a love story between two characters. Really well done.
Sep 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Nancy, Brenna, Lisa B, Lisa P
New stories by a writer from Louisiana. Linked stories about a group of people in New Orleans, part coming of age, part living the adult life. Each story crystalizes around a moment of choosing or living with the choice that's made. Painful and beautiful.
Mary Johnson
Mar 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I love the characters in these stories and the way Barb Johnson renders them with a tender, honest compassion. This book sets you down into a New Orleans where people live, not just visit. I couldn't put it down.
Feb 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book is great, I highly recommend it. (It is by my stepsister who is an amazing and award-winning writer.)
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-fiction
I read few short story collections because too many short stories either wander off into who cares? territory or leave me wanting a full novel. This brilliant collection was entirely captivating and avoided both those pitfalls. The stories are bleak, shocking, and sorrowful, but reward us with the vivid writing and warm, real characters. I don’t mind depressing literature as long as it makes me think and care. The author takes us into the hearts and hurts of the characters, so we feel we know ...more
These are connected stories, which is a structure I've come to adore because you get different perspectives on the same characters. Johnson's community of rural Louisiana and New Orleans folk have troubles. They also often have each other's backs in varying ways. There's shattering heartbreak and abuse, but also forgiveness, acceptance and tremendous will to survive. They're aware of each other as only people in small communities can be. And the writing is absolutely stunning. Johnson wrote the ...more
Jen Hitt
Dec 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a stunning work of fiction. I loved every sentence, even the painfully honest ones. I especially appreciated Johnson’s technique of using inanimate objects in the scene to describe the emotional state of the characters and show how they are shaped by their environment. The stories remind me of Breece DJ Pancake’s writing in how they so thoroughly depict the emotional state of an entire community/city. It’s easy to understand the characters, even if the circumstances of their life are ...more
Genanne Walsh
Jul 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you love short stories that create worlds as expansive as a novel, this book’s for you. Linked stories about a cast of characters in un-gentrified New Orleans; each one is surprising, funny, and bracingly well written. Johnson never takes a predictable turn or an easy out. These stories are big hearted and unsentimental, exploring how a community comes together, attempting to connect and care for each other in the face of tremendous odds. As one character puts it, “There’s real trouble in the ...more
Sep 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tragic with moments of levity

Following the stories of all the characters in this story create a lush world filled with true emotion and pincer- tight gripping narratives.
A must read for anyone who wants a crash course in childhood trauma and the results reflected in adulthood.
Feb 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a placeholder to remind me to sit down and write something in-depth about this book when I actually have time to Do Things On Here, because this book was absolutely amazing. So painful, so beautiful, written with such perfect deliberation and restraint.
Ann Duddy
Nov 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
No happy endings here.
“There's real trouble in the world. The kind that can't be fixed. The kind we lie awake keeping vigil against. Love is not trouble. It's all we have to light our days, to bring music to the time we've been given.”

The story of acceptance, forgiveness and moving on with who it is your heart desires, and how to find it within your heart to love a monster. Delia, fighting the feelings she's harbored within herself for so many years, while trying to maintain feelings nonexistence to her fiance,
Geoff Wyss
Mar 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is the best collection of stories I've read in a couple years. On average, I'd say one in fifty stories is worth rereading or recommending, and there are three here: "What Was Left," "Titty Baby," and "St. Luis of Palmyra," the last two pretty close to perfect.

There are weak spots in the collection; the four stories before "Titty Baby" too frequently feel like "fiction," made up of moods and moves you've read and forgotten before. The first three stories are especially guilty of false
Sep 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
There's humor in these connected stories despite the struggles of the characters. And, there's real struggle: poverty, abuse, loss, infidelity, coming to terms with one's sexuality. But the humor shines through nevertheless. Examples: "Delia can't imagine why anyone would want a witness. And it's not that Calvin comes right out and says, Watch me. It's just a rule. Women have to watch men. It's exhausting." "I'm afraid I'll tip the boat and fall in. But you can swim, he'd repeat. In Calvin's ...more
Faith Reidenbach
Jun 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
What a gift to discover a debut lesbian writer who writes extraordinarily well, and outside the "queer fiction" box. Heartily recommended for everyone, and I'm going to press my book club to read it. This is a collection of linked stories that's hard to sum up; I'd rather quote the author, who worked as a carpenter for 20 years: "At first, I tried to write about the world I had read about, what I considered to be the real world---stories about well-educated people crippled by ennui.......I ...more
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Barb Johnson's author site:

Barb Johnson worked as a carpenter in New Orleans for more than twenty years before writing More of This World or Maybe Another.

She won Glimmer Train's Short Story Award for New Writers and Washington Square's fiction competition. Her work has appeared in such magazines as Guernica, The Southern Review, 52 Stories, and Oxford American, as well
“There's real trouble in the world. The kind that can't be fixed. The kind we lie awake keeping vigil against. Love is not trouble. It's all we have to light our days, to bring music to the time we've been given.” 6 likes
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