Summary and book reviews of Pulse by Julian Barnes

Pulse

Stories

by Julian Barnes

Pulse
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2011, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2012, 240 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Elena Spagnolie

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About this Book

Book Summary

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 ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. "East Wind"
    Vernon's wife had told him, "I just can't live with you because you always fuck things up" (p. 12). What does he do to prove that his wife was right? Why does Vernon betray Andrea's tentative alliance with him by invading her privacy? What would this story be like if told from Andrea's point of view?


  2. "At Phil & Joanna's 1: 60/40"
    The four "At Phil and Joanna's" stories are constructed entirely of dialogue and produce the effect of a continuous conversation. Is it difficult to make out who is speaking, and does it matter? What social class do these characters belong to? What pleasures do they take in being together?


  3. "Sleeping with John Updike"
    What undercurrents are notable in the friendship between Alice and ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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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Media Reviews

Jill Owens, The Oregonian

Marvelously inventive... Pulse sneaks up on you, and by the end, you cannot help but be moved. These are stories that illuminate characters not through dramatic epiphanies but real, small turns in the road and moments of change. [Barnes's] prose is rich without being showy; he has a precision and economy of language that at times recalls William Trevor. Above all, Pulse shows a contemporary master working at the height of his ability.

Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

Filled with gems... beautiful, elegiac tales about how marriages endure or change over time... A testament to Mr. Barnes's full panoply of talents... [He's a] confident literary decathlete, proficient at old-fashioned storytelling, dialogue-driven portraiture, postmodern collage, political allegory and farce, [and the] ability to create narratives with both surface brio and finely calibrated philosophical subtexts.

Library Journal

This is a simply delicious collection that anyone who loves good fiction should read.

Booklist

In his third collection [of short stories], his gift for deft, acerbic dialogue is finely honed, most enjoyably in a quartet of dinner-party stories.... Barnes's tales are shrewd, piquant, and moving.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Elegance and versatility - those familiar Barnes strengths define this latest story collection from the distinguished British author.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Companionship - the search for, the basking in, and the loss of - binds Barnes's first-rate collection of short stories, his first since 2004's The Lemon Table.

Reader Reviews

Jeff Fell

It helps me
I am currently using your book as therapy for the damage done to my brain by another book. I happened upon a new paperback, I bought it while on holiday in Cambodia and I wish I had used the money for dental surgery as it would have been less painful...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Selected Books by Julian Barnes

Julian Barnes Julian Barnes can rightfully be called a prolific author, having published nineteen books, more than twenty short stories, and over one-hundred essays and reviews! He has also written four novels under the pseudonym Dan Kavanagh, a mysterious, steer-wrestling, gay-bar-bouncing personality who, "devoted his adolescence to truancy, venery and petty theft... [and who] is currently working in London at jobs he declines to specify". In October 2011, after having been nominated four times, Barnes won the Man Booker Prize for his highly acclaimed novel, The Sense of an Ending. Read on to learn more about a selection of his novels...
Metroland The first book he published under the name Julian Barnes, Metroland (1980), took approximately 8 ...

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