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Barry Gifford
Gifford in 2006
Gifford in 2006
Born (1946-10-18) October 18, 1946 (age 74)
Chicago, Illinois, United States

Barry Gifford (born October 18, 1946)[1] is an American author, poet, and screenwriter known for his distinctive mix of American landscapes and prose influenced by film noir and Beat Generation writers.

Gifford is best known for his series of novels about Sailor and Lula, two star-crossed protagonists on a perpetual road trip. Published in seven novels between 1990 and 2015, the Sailor and Lula series is described by professor Andrei Codrescu as written in "a great comic realist" style that explores "an unmistakably American universe [...] populated by a huge and lovable humanity propelled on a tragic river of excess energy."[2] The first book of the series, Wild at Heart, was adapted by director David Lynch for the 1990 film of the same title. Gifford went on to write the original screenplay for Lost Highway (1997) with Lynch. Perdita Durango, the third book in the Sailor and Lula series, was adapted into a 1997 film by Alex de la Iglesia with a script co-written by Gifford.

Gifford also writes non-fiction and poetry.

Life and career

Gifford was born in a Chicago hotel room in 1946.[1] His father was Jewish and his mother was of Irish Catholic background.[3] Gifford's father was in organized crime, and he spent his childhood largely in Chicago and New Orleans living in hotels. After college he joined the Air Force Reserves. After a short stint pursuing a possible career in baseball,[4] Gifford focused on writing, both as a journalist and a poet.

Gifford's fourth novel, Wild at Heart: The Story of Sailor and Lula, caught the eye of director David Lynch, who adapted it into the screenplay and movie Wild at Heart. The movie won the Palme d'Or, the highest honor, at the Cannes Film Festival in 1990. The success of this film boosted interest in Gifford's novels.



  • The Blood of the Parade (1967)
  • Coyote Tantras (1973)
  • Persimmons: Poems for Paintings (1976)
  • The Boy You Have Always Loved (1976)
  • A Quinzaine in Return for a Portrait of Mary Sun (1977)
  • Lives of the French Impressionist Painters (1978)
  • Horse Hauling Timber out of Hokkaido Forest (1979)
  • Beautiful Phantoms: Selected Poems 1968–1980 (1981)
  • Giotto's Circle (1987)
  • Ghosts No Horse Can Carry: Collected Poems 1967–1987 (1989)
  • Flaubert at Key West (1994)
  • Replies to Wang Wei
  • Imagining Paradise: New and Selected Poems (2012)
  • New York, 1960 (2016)

Essays and short stories

  • A Boy's Novel (1973)
  • Kerouac's Town, photographs by Marshall Clements (1973)
  • Francis Goes to the Seashore (1982)
  • The Devil Thumbs a Ride and Other Unforgettable Films (1988)
  • New Mysteries of Paris (1991)
  • Night People (1992)
  • American Falls: The Collected Short Stories
  • Do the Blind Dream? (2005)
  • The Roy Stories (2013)
  • The Cuban Club (2017)


  • Jack's Book: An Oral Biography of Jack Kerouac, with Lawrence Lee (1978)
  • Saroyan: A Biography, with Lawrence Lee (1984)
  • Day at the Races: The Education of a Racetracker
  • The Devil Thumbs a Ride & Other Unforgettable Films
  • The Neighborhood of Baseball: A Personal History of the Chicago Cubs
  • Really the Blues (introduction)
  • The Phantom Father: A Memoir
  • Out of the Past: Adventures in Film Noir

Novels and novellas

  • Landscape With Traveler: The Pillow Book of Francis Reeves (1980)
  • Port Tropique (1980)
  • Unfortunate Woman (1983)
  • Wild at Heart: The Story of Sailor and Lula (1990) – Part 1 in the Sailor and Lula series
  • Sailor's Holiday: The Wild Life of Sailor and Lula (1991) – Part 2 in the Sailor and Lula series
  • 59° and Raining: The Story of Perdita Durango (1992) – Part 3 in the Sailor and Lula series
  • A Good Man to Know: A Semi-Documentary Fictional Memoir (1992)
  • Arise and Walk (1995)
  • Baby Cat-Face (1995) – Sailor and Lula make a brief appearance
  • Sultans of Africa – Part 4 in the Sailor and Lula series
  • Consuelo's Kiss – Part 5 in the Sailor and Lula series
  • The Sinaloa Story (1998)
  • Wyoming (2000)
  • Bad Day for the Leopard Man – Part 6 in the Sailor and Lula series
  • The Stars Above Veracruz (2006)
  • Imagination of the Heart (2007) – Part 7 in the Sailor and Lula series
  • Memories from a Sinking Ship (2007) - Winner of the 2007 Christopher Isherwood Foundation Award for Fiction
  • Sailor & Lula: The Complete Novels (2010)
  • Sad Stories of the Death of Kings (2010)
  • The Up-Down (2015) - A coda to the Sailor and Lula stories, documenting the last 25 years in the life of their adult son, Pace Roscoe Ripley

Graphic novels

  • Perdita Durango (1995)

Other works

  • Read 'em and Weep
  • Back in America
  • Bordertown (2002)
  • My Last Martini
  • The Rooster Trapped in the Reptile Room: A Barry Gifford Reader
  • Rosa Blanca
  • Hotel Room Trilogy



  1. ^ a b "Guide to the BarryGifford Papers, ca. 1970 -1997 [at Stanford University]" (PDF). Online Archive of California (OAC). c. 1998. Retrieved June 7, 2010.
  2. ^ Andrei Codrescu, forward to The Rooster Trapped in the Reptile Room: The Barry Gifford Reader; edited by Thomas A. McCarthy; NY: Seven Stories Press (2003), p xi
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 2, 2010. Retrieved September 30, 2010. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ "BarryGifford's Long Road With Sailor & Lula". Archived from the original on 7 August 2016. Retrieved 22 June 2016. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)

External links

This page was last edited on 28 March 2021, at 16:14
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