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Author Archive: "Sam Barry"

World War Three

I don't want to be funny today. Today I am remembering.

When I was a kid, I used to lie in bed and listen to the night sounds. Some soothed me and some frightened me. But one sound terrified me — the sound of an airplane flying overhead. I would worry, and then become convinced, that the plane I was listening to carried a payload similar to the one carried by the Enola Gay over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. I wondered if I should run tell someone that the end was here and that we were about to be engulfed by unthinkable heat and fire. Meanwhile, the plane droned on, a giant, demonic, metal insect.

Of course, such fears were ridiculous. Armageddon did not come in the form of a single prop plane. I lived in the safest place in the world — the lovely suburban town of Armonk, New York, in the most powerful nation on earth. I had nothing to fear.

But my fear wasn't so ill-founded. Eight years ago the unthinkable happened in lower Manhattan, forty miles from where I used to sleep as ...


How to Write a Bestseller

"Yes, Sam, but how do I write a bestseller?" That's a question I am going to pretend I am often asked so I can tell you about my five-point plan that is guaranteed to put you on the New York Times bestseller list (assuming newspapers still exist when you are ready to publish).

It's really very easy to write a bestseller. Think about it — if Jonathan Livingston Seagull, which tells the story of a great white shark preying on the dim-witted citizens of a tourist resort and the voyage of three men to kill a great white whale, can sell millions, then certainly your more thoughtful, erudite book can sell enough to "hit the list."

However, some people don't realize that there is more to becoming a bestselling author than good writing . Here, without further exciting buildup, are the five steps for taking your book to "the next level."

1. Get a cool name like "Elmore Leonard." Of course, that particular name is already taken by the ...


The Bestselling Book of All Time

Today I want to discuss the bestselling book of all time: The Alchemist. Ha ha! I'm kidding, of course — the bestselling book of all time is The Little Red Book: Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung.

No, that's the second bestselling book of all time. According to most sources, the bestselling book of all time is the Bible. You nonbelievers and other heathens aren't required to know anything about the Bible, which is merely a central, foundational document of Western civilization. Don't you feel left out? But then, Western civilization isn't doing so well these days.

The central figure in the Bible is Charlton Heston, who at various points in his career was Moses, John the Baptist, and God, known together as the Trinity. Over the years Christianity split into various competing factions as other people claimed the title of God: first George Burns, then Morgan Freeman, then Alanis Morissette, with John Lennon in the role of Jesus. And yet these divisions have done nothing to slow the sales of the Bible.

This is odd, because it isn't a very ...


Teaching Our Youngsters about the Great Books

A recent New York Times article that a friend told me about but that I am too lazy to read reports that many classroom teachers around the nation are letting students choose their own books. No, I kid, of course — I read the article. The kids chose a wide variety of books, such as James Patterson's Maximum Ride books and the "Captain Underpants" series of comic-book-style novels. On the other hand, other kids chose lowbrow fare such as A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, according to the article. But at least they're reading.

Looking back on my youth, I am pretty sure if my brothers Dave and Phil had been given this option when they were students, they would have chosen Marvel Comics over DC . Left to my own devices, I, on the other hand, favored reading the Danish philosopher Sören Keirgegaard, who had the power to burn ...


The Great Works of Literature, Reconsidered

Today I would like to take a moment of your time to consider whether or not Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard ranks among the great works of world literature. This question came to mind as I was exiting the Powell Street Station in...


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