Barker House – Writer David Moloney’s Strong Debut
Readers of this magazine likely know Andre Dubus III and his writing. What does Dubus say about David Moloney of Lowell, whose first novel, “Barker House,” is due out in April 7?
“In over 30 years of writing and teaching, I have not witnessed a stronger artistic debut than David Moloney’s,” Dubus says. “‘Barker House,’ does not remotely read like a debut, but more as the seasoned work of a writer with enormous gifts.”
Shall we stop here and let the reader contact the nearest bookstore or go online to preorder?
If you had a first book coming out, would you want it released by Bloomsbury Publishing, the same folks who brought us the Harry Potter books? Good idea.
Moloney, 35, didn’t think about taking the writers’ road until high school, when Lowell High teacher Cynthia Mubiru said she admired his poems. “My ego liked that, but I didn’t really enjoy writing,” Moloney says. “It took me many years, many difficult and stressful jobs, to realize writing isn’t as terrible as I thought it was. I went back to school, UMass Lowell, in my late 20s and was encouraged to keep going after I turned in a short story.”
Why did he choose to tell the “Barker House” story? “The book follows 10 New Hampshire correctional officers,” Moloney says. “They cope with their grim environment in different ways, their lives colliding through debt, loss, friendship, romance. I wanted to tell these stories because the men and women who do this work are often misrepresented, if not underrepresented, in fiction.”
After UMass Lowell, Moloney studied with author Ben Nugent, Master of Fine Arts program director at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester. Nugent helped him shape the final manuscript while author Tony Tulathimutte emphasized the benefits of line-by-line “scalpel editing.” A big fan of deletion, Moloney says, “Some writers can’t walk away from a phrase that he or she finds profound or so exact that it is almost angelic in delivery.”
Who does Moloney read for pleasure and writing models? Denis Johnson, Joy Williams, Samantha Hunt, Tim O’Brien, and especially Ottessa Moshfegh for how she treats characters unsympathetically, he says.
Moloney’s wife, Leah, and their two children, along with plenty of family members and friends, are looking forward to the launch party this winter. He’ll miss seeing his father holding the book in his hands because he passed away before it was under contract. But he did see the novel in progress, and Moloney chose something his dad said to him as the epigraph for the book. We’ll have to hold the book to see that.
Here’s an excerpt from “Barker House”
Gen Pop U4 Cell #2341 Dialogue III
An Excerpt From “Barker House” by David Moloney
don: Bag and baggage. The two best words a man wants to hear in this shithole.
ray: That’s three words. But I get you.
don: You don’t have to do that, Ray. I can strip my own bed.
ray: Not your bed anymore. I don’t mind. Don, I don’t mind.
They’re going to stick some young kid in here. I know it. Probably some spaz from Nashua with a fucking man bun.
don: Ask the CO. All the shit you do around here. Mop the floors, lunch duty.
ray: I did lunch once. And you got me written up because I gave you an extra apple. How you forget these things, Don, I have no fucking clue.
don: You’ll be fine. Just fine.
ray: Yeah, I’ll be upstate soon anyways. Spin the bag. At the top of the net. Yeah, like that, spin it. Here, I’ll tie it. Don, I’ll tie it. They want it tight in Booking or they’ll make you do it again. Haven’t you ever B and B’d before?
don: My first stint here, back in ninety-five, I went straight upstate. I didn’t even have a chance to get my shit from the cell. They sent it in a box a few weeks later and half my mail and pictures were missing.
ray: Don’t kid anyone. You didn’t have any pictures.
don: Hand me that folder. That one there, under my coffee cup. I’ll leave that cup for you. Give it a good scrub. Don’t inspect it. It’s fine. It’s free. Take it.
ray: I’m going to need to bleach this thing.
don: The folder. Get over the cup. Throw it out. I don’t give a shit.
don: My daughter. No, the one on the left.
ray: Holy shit, Don. You couldn’t give me some time alone with this picture?
don: Fuck off. Give it here. This is the only one I got left of her. Cocksuckers lost the rest.
Her baby pictures. Gone.
ray: Ask her for some. Your ex must have a bunch.
don: I’m going to see her. I can ask her.
ray: Your ex?
don: She thinks she can hide. I’m going to find her. She doesn’t know what she wants. She never did. I’ll swoop in and show her what she’s missed. I’m done being the old Don. No more drinking. Or hitting. She’ll see. My lawyer got me another shot and I’m not losing it.
ray: That’s good, that’s good. Your ride’s here. You’re not going to hug me, are you?
don: Not unless you want me to.
ray: I don’t want to see you ever again, Don. Not ever.
don: I’ll try. I’ll really try.
Excerpted from Barker House by David Moloney with permission from Bloomsbury Copyright © David Moloney, 2020
Moloney will be appearing on The 495 podcast. Wednesday, May 13th. Click here to listen. >>
Moloney will also be making the following Merrimack Valley appearances this spring:
Newburyport Literary Festival
Q&A with Andre Dubus III
Middlesex Community College
Panel with criminal justice professors