I was forever and a day trying to get Barry to write a review for a tiny online magazine I had helped start.

Our telephone conversations would go like this.

“Barry … my friend.”

“No,” he’d say.

“No? No what? I haven’t even said anything.”

“No,” he’d respond: “I’m not going to write a review for you.”

“Did I ask you to write a review?”

“I know you. No.”

“Hey. We’re friends, right?”


“Listen, it’s really no big deal. They just published a new five-volume edition of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. 1,868 pages, more or less: large type, fine binding. You can keep it after you’ve–”


He would, however, and on occasion, consent to be editor-for-free on subjects that interested him. When we did a review of Firefly’s new book on volcanoes, I called him, asking if he would look at it.

“I downloaded your volcano piece,” he wrote later, “and promptly forgot about it. But here’s a very quick critique:

“The word is tectonic, not tetonic. Tetonic means of or pertaining to tits. Tectonic plates, at least when I was a geology major (new concept back then), are usually thought of as very large, like the two grinding plates (oceanic and continental, forgot their real names) that will soon push the Pacific coast into New Jersey.

“You write, Sometimes volcanoes overflow with what geologists call ‘spastic pyroclastics,’ which cooks animals, plants, trees, cars, houses, buildings and peoples left in the path. Subject verb agreement of volcanoes and cooks? Or does the verb agree with overflow? I dunno, you’re the grammarian.

“And: they really use the word spastic to modify pyroclastics? It’s not nice to lie about volcanoes. They have long memories.

“Pyroclastics are better compared to bombs, which is what they really are.

“Are you sure they have penguins in Iceland? The humor works best when it’