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Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

Book cover for The Up-Down
Book cover for The Up-Down

A novel of violence, of love, and introspection, Barry Gifford's The Up-Down follows a man who leaves home and all that’s familiar, finds true love, loses it, and finds it again. Pace’s voyage is outward, among strangers, and inward into the fifth direction that is the up-down, in a sweeping, voracious human tale that takes no prisoners, witnesses extreme brutalities and expresses a childlike amazement. Here the route goes from New Orleans, to Chicago to Wyoming to Bay St. Clement, North Carolina, but the geography he is charting is always first and foremost unchartable.

Book cover for The Up-Down
Book cover for The Up-Down

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He had read that in ancient times, various societies believed there were five directions: North, South, East, West and the Up-Down. He liked the idea of a fifth, mysterious direction.

“The Up-Down is so beautifully written. It's Barry Gifford poetry. It's right next door to perfection.”

“The Up-Down rockets along at a breakneck pace. Gifford is a master of the set piece in the tradition of Nelson Algren: larger-than-life characters, ribald dialogue and an uninhibited spirit that seesaws between the profound and the profane. . . . While Pace wonders whether he's left his mark, Gifford doesn't have to: The legacy of Sailor and Lula is as satisfying as it is strange.”

“I was operating under the mistaken belief that Pace's story could never rival my affection for Sailor and Lula and yet... I love The Up-Down. I was floored by the humor, (seemingly off-the-cuff) wisdom and poignant tone that is infused through this epic story. The character's dreams—always a strong suit—have somehow become even more vivid.”

“The Up-Down, Barry Gifford's final installment in the legendary Sailor and Lula series, is a one-of-a-kind marvel, full of humor, tragedy, and great mystery. Always inventive, always daring, Gifford's novel thoughtfully depicts the necessity of love in a new century marked by mankind's capacity for violence and cruelty. A brilliant coda to the defining love story of the last twenty years.”

“With an impressive gift for deftly crafting a complex and interwoven but always entertaining novel, Barry Gifford's unique style of writing is as impressive as it is compelling.”

“The Up-Down can be seen as a coda to the [Sailor and Lula] books, or even a koan of sorts, to underscore the fact that life is not logical or comprehensible and it can only be understood intuitively, experientially.”

“With his breakout novel, "Wild at Heart," Berkeley author Barry Gifford started the saga of Sailor Ripley and his wife, Lula Pace Fortune. The book, which was adapted into a feature film by director David Lynch, spawned a series: the turbulent lives of Gifford's "Romeo and Juliet of the South" were featured in seven subsequent novels and novellas. Both characters are dead now, but their names live on in Gifford's latest, his 20th novel and 57th book. It's about Pace, the son of Sailor and Lula. At 58 years old, living in New Orleans, Pace embarks on a kind of spiritual journey—the "up-down" of the title—traveling to Illinois, Wisconsin, Wyoming and finally to North Carolina, where his parents' story began. Searching for elusive truths, haunted by strange dreams and violent encounters, he writes his own version of his parents' life, even as he attempts to reconcile his own. Gifford's a romantic at heart, and this volume brings Sailor and Lula's epic to a—perhaps—bittersweet end.”

blog — October 23

Happy Belated Birthday to Barry Gifford

Happy belated birthday (it was the 18th) to Barry Gifford, one of America's most enduring and inspiring storytellers—in novels from Landscape with Traveler to Wild at Heart to The Up-Down,  in pioneering oral history biographies like Jack's Book, and collections of stories and poems, constantly renewing the heart and the dark side of the American dream and the American reality.

Here's a new poem by BG, printed here by permission of the author.

Blood Moon in February

Here I am wasting time again

writing poems to keep myself company—

The Chinese masters of the T'ang dynasty

thought the same, but mostly 

they were rural government functionaries

or already collecting a pension,

out of favor with the emperor—

So they drank rice wine

and kept their opinions to themselves,

sneaking hidden meanings into poems

they knew only a very few people

would read during their lifetime—

Who cares about a barking dog

nobody sees, or what kind of bird

sings just before light—

Only in darkness do my thoughts

cohere, vagrant ghosts

passing in dreams, difficult

if not impossible to find again—

Perhaps there never was anything 

to worry about, and now know

when the dog barks or the bird sings

there aren't any thoughts

worth keeping

Barry Gifford

BARRY GIFFORD’s fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have been published in thirty languages. His novel Night People was awarded the Premio Brancati, established by Pier Paolo Pasolini and Alberto Moravia, in Italy, and he has been the recipient of the Maxwell Perkins Award and Syndicated Fiction Awards from PEN, as well as awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Library Association, the Writers Guild of America, and the Christopher Isherwood Foundation. He has also been awarded the Ingmar Bergman Chair on Cinema and Theater from the National University of Mexico. His books Sailor’s Holiday and The Phantom Father were each named a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times, and his book Wyoming was named a Novel of the Year by the Los Angeles Times. He has written librettos for operas by the composers Toru Takemitsu, Ichiro Nodaira, and Olga Neuwirth. Gifford’s work has appeared in many publications, including The New Yorker, Punch, Esquire, La Nouvelle Revue Française, El País, La Repubblica, Rolling Stone, Brick, Film Comment, El Universal, Projections, Cosmopolitan, and the New York Times. His film credits include Wild at Heart, winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, Perdita Durango, Lost Highway, City of Ghosts, Ball Lightning, American Falls, and The Phantom Father. Barry Gifford’s most recent books are Sailor & Lula: The Complete Novels, The Up-Down, Imagining Paradise: New and Selected Poems, ;Writers, Southern Nights, Black Sun Rising / La Corazonada,and Roy’s World: Stories 1973–2020. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. For more information visit www.BarryGifford.net

Other books by Barry Gifford