After the best-selling Arthur & George and Nothing to Be Frightened Of, Julian Barnes returns with fourteen stories about longing and loss, friendship and love, whose mysterious natures he examines with his trademark wit and observant eye.
From an imperial capital in the eighteenth century to Garibaldi's adventures in the nineteenth, from the vineyards of Italy to the English seaside in our time, he finds the "stages, transitions, arguments" that define us. A newly divorced real estate agent can't resist invading his reticent girlfriend's privacy, but the information he finds reveals only his callously shallow curiosity. A couple come together through an illicit cigarette and a song shared over the din of a Chinese restaurant. A widower revisiting the Scottish island he'd treasured with his wife learns how difficult it is to purge oneself of grief. And throughout, friends gather regularly at dinner parties and perfect the art of cerebral, sometimes bawdy banter about the world passing before them.
Whether domestic or extraordinary, each story pulses with the resonance, spark, and poignant humor for which Barnes is justly heralded.
Sleeping with John Updike
"I thought that went very well,"
Jane said, patting her handbag as the train doors closed with a pneumatic thump. Their carriage was nearly empty, its air warm and stale.
Alice knew to treat the remark as a question seeking reassurance. "You were certainly on good form."
"Oh, I had a nice room for a change. It always helps."
"They liked that story of yours about Graham Greene."
"They usually do," Jane replied with a slight air of complacency.
"I've always meant to ask you, is it true?"
"You know, I never worry about that anymore. It fills a slot."
When had they first met? Neither could quite remember. It must have been nearly forty years ago, during that time of interchangeable parties: the same white wine, the same hysterical noise level, the same publishers' speeches. Perhaps it had been at a PEN do, or when they'd been shortlisted for the same ...
The first time I picked up a book by Julian Barnes, it was one of those magical moments in a little independent bookstore. The unassuming jacket illustration caught my eye, so I crossed the creaky wooden floor to explore its pages. And that, as they say, was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. I was instantly drawn to how he illustrates the near-invisible nuances of human interaction and his keen understanding of how people communicate differently than one another. And in this collection of fourteen short stories entitled Pulse, Julian Barnes continues to capture the subtleties of what brings us together and what keeps us isolated.
(Reviewed by Elena Spagnolie).
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