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The Barbarian Parade, or Pursuit of an Unamerican Dream by Kirby Gann

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The Barbarian Parade, or Pursuit of an Unamerican Dream by Kirby Gann

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The Barbarian Parade, or Pursuit of an Unamerican Dream by Kirby Gann

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A novel brutal in its honesty, a harrowing critique of American masculinity, and a loving portrayal of family disfunction: The Barbarian Parade is the story of Gabriel Toure, a “ne’er-do-well who only means well” and a Kentucky boy who believes he’s grown up fast, until the day comes when he recognizes he has everything still to learn. As a child Gaby idolizes his father, “Smilin’" Ray, a man who might have stepped out of a song by Waylon Jennings or Johnny Cash, a teller of tall tales who regales his youngest son with promises of all that awaits him out in the world. His sensible mother Olive does her best to raise both her boys right, but when Ray gets himself sent to prison and she has to support the family alone, Gaby is left to navigate adolescence on his own. A natural athlete, he discovers the soccer field provides him with particular solace and fulfillment and he dedicates himself to excelling there. Yet success in athletics and the culture of the locker room invites many off-field temptations as well, and Gaby possesses the same wild streak his father claims runs through all the Toure men; soon he finds even the most loving mother has her limits. Thus begins a long and roaming odyssey, one that—like all such journeys—ultimately leads back to home, where Gabriel must come to terms with a family in disarray and a life that has veered off-course. Described as being part The Adventures of Augie March and part Bull Durham, The Barbarian Parade presents a unique coming-of-age tale in an America where boys are rewarded for not growing up; an America plagued with many dark realities, yet dizzy, like Gabriel himself, with a sense of unlimited possibility.


"For its technical skill, creative use of symbolism and themes, and craft of language I recommend Gann's novel to readers who enjoy their literature gritty.... [The Barbarian Parade] will spawn literary discussions about life, love, loss, sorrow, pain, and the traumatic changes from boyhood to manhood."—Sean Wells, Southern Scribe Reviews

“Kirby Gann has written an evocative, gripping, and fearless first novel, one that peers out of the eyes of a child upon a very adult world. If you have ever watched a tornado snake out of a dark cloud, or a skydiver fall with a tangle chute, then you know what it is like to be utterly transfixed; Gann’s novel holds the reader in much the same way; he turns us into children watching mayhem, transfixed, horrified, and yet filled with wonder, a part of us not wanting the tornado to recede, not wanting the chute to open.”—Lee Durkee, author of Rides of the Midway

“Gann has a great story to tell, one that is by turns sensuous, carnal, tender, and often brutal. With its original theme and beautiful, yet effortlessly composed language, The Barbarian Parade makes a striking debut for a novelist of daring creativity and passion.”—Edmund White, A Boy's Own Story

“Kirby Gann’s fearless first novel X-rays middle-class American youth as neglected by parents and seduced by the woman-using values of American sports. Far more distressing than The Catcher in the Rye but just as well-written, The Barbarian Parade is a compelling and memorable read.”—Sena Jeter Naslund, Four Spirits and Ahab’s Wife

"The Barbarian Parade pulls off an astonishing feat: it's simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking, evocative but never nostalgic, touching but never sentimental, and it manages to be not only poetic, but a great page-turner."—Silas House, Southernmost and Clay's Quilt

"Gann's brave and brilliant bildungsroman tells one Kentucky boy's own story, with balls and heart and a fiery, hell-bent prose. Rousing and brutal, tender and wise, The Barbarian Parade is an original—a picaresque novel of and for our time."—Robin Lippincott, Our Arcadia

"By the end of this powerhouse novel, we all feel as if we've been hit by a series of trains headed by Gann's robust mastery of language and imagery. This just doesn't feel like a first novel. It has the style and grace of an artist who has grown large, and the strength and confidence of an author well aware of his talents.... This novel is packed with genuine feeling and brilliant insights. It is not for the faint of heart, people afraid they might encounter a character too close to their own, or readers who want a book they can pick up only on occasion.... This book is alive and it has teeth—big ones." —Edmund August, The Courier-Journal


Kirby Gann is the author of the novel Ghosting, which was included in the Best of Year lists from Publishers Weekly, Shelf Awareness, and, and was a finalist for the Kentucky Book of the Year; an earlier novel, Our Napoleon in Rags, was also a finalist for the Kentucky Book of the Year. He is the series editor of Bookmarked on behalf of Ig Publishing, and contributed the first title in that series: Bookmarked: John Knowles’ A Separate Peace. He is a freelance editor and writing mentor and is on the faculty in the low-residency MFA in Writing Program at Spalding University. Gann and his wife Stephanie, a horticulturist, live with an ever-changing pack of dogs outside of Louisville, Kentucky. The Barbarian Parade was his first novel, originally published in 2004.