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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 Engl 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.


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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 Engl 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.

30 review for Pulse

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    Julian Barnes plays the dichotomist in these stories, cleaving them into a One and a Two. It's a clean cut because the two parts do not seem related to me, not by theme and purpose, and certainly not by reader appreciation. One holds nine stories. Only one, Sleeping with John Updike, impressed; although, candidly, maybe I just liked the title. In these stories, Barnes is insufferably British. Five of the stories are interspersed, a continuation of a dialogue that six or so people (couples) have a Julian Barnes plays the dichotomist in these stories, cleaving them into a One and a Two. It's a clean cut because the two parts do not seem related to me, not by theme and purpose, and certainly not by reader appreciation. One holds nine stories. Only one, Sleeping with John Updike, impressed; although, candidly, maybe I just liked the title. In these stories, Barnes is insufferably British. Five of the stories are interspersed, a continuation of a dialogue that six or so people (couples) have at Phil & Joanna's. I didn't much like these people, full of themselves, yet observers, not participants, in life. There are some witticisms, perhaps to show off Barnes' erudition. One of the men offers: "Who was that British general in some Indian war who captured the province of Sind and sent a one-word telegraph back to HQ? It simply said, 'Peccavi' . . . Ah, a few blank faces. Latin for 'I have sinned.'" That's cute. That's clever. But if I was a guest with such dialogue, I would have more drinks than I should and go look at the spines of the books in the shelves; you know, to get away from the people. But Two . . . Two demonstrated once again the brilliance of Julian Barnes. There are five stories here, dedicated (I eventually figured out) to each of the senses. So, in The Limner, a portrait painter can not hear nor speak, but he knows an asshole when he sees one. In Complicity Barnes marvelously mergers the feel of things from youth with the touch of a love's hand. Nature warned us, our parents warned us. We understood about knuckle-scabbing and traffic. We learnt to look out for a loose stair carpet, because Grandma had once nearly taken a tumble when one of her brass stair rods, removed for annual polishing, hadn't been replaced properly. We learnt about thin ice, and frostbite, and evil boys who put pebbles and sometimes even razor blades into snowballs -- though none of these warnings was ever justified by events. We learnt about nettles and thistles, and how grass, which seemed such harmless stuff, could give you a sudden burn, like sandpaper. We were warned about knives and scissors and the danger of the untied shoelace. We were warned about strange men who might try to lure us into cars or lorries; though it took us years to work out that "strange" did not mean "bizarre, hunchbacked, dribbling, goitred" -- or however we define strangeness -- but merely "unknown to us." We were warned about bad boys and, later, bad girls. An embarrassed science master warned us against VD, misleadingly informing us that it was caused by "indiscriminate sexual intercourse." We were warned about gluttony and sloth and letting down our school, about avarice and greed and letting down our family, and envy and wrath and letting down our country. We were never warned about heartbreak. In Harmony a gifted young female pianist loses her eyesight. A man can give her her sight back through a magnetic cure, but she loses her musical gift. Her father is not pleased. In Carcassonne, my favorite, Barnes rhapsodizes about the various meanings of 'taste'. He is reminded of Ford Maddox Ford's line: I just wanted to marry her as some people want to go to Carcassonne. Ah, Taste. He lets us look at Garibaldi, viewing a young woman through a telescope on shore, and falling hard. A female friend says, "If you took me into a crowded room and there was one man with 'Nutter' tattooed on his forehead, I'd walk straight across to him." He looks affectionately at two gay couples. And he writes: I once went to visit a young married couple whose new house was astonishingly empty of furniture. "The problem," the wife explained, "is that he's got no taste at all and I've only got bad taste." I suppose that to accuse yourself of bad taste implies the latent presence of some sort of good taste. But in our love choices, few of us know whether or not we are going to end up in that house without furniture. In Pulse, the narrator's father loses his sense of smell. He doesn't mind it so much, except he can't smell his wife. Barnes manages to use the word pulse in different ways throughout these last six stories. I love that about Barnes: the way he thoroughly examines a word, inside and out. I love the way he picks a historical event, an imagined vignette, a wisp of dialogue, and weaves them together. There are many places to feel the beating, the pulsing. ----- ----- ----- ----- We are here because we are obsessive readers. Not just that we have to read. Hell, we could do that in a cave. But we're here because we need to tell somebody. Not every book or story. And not every one of you. But you. You. Read these last five stories.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bianca

    This is my third Julian Barnes book in less than three months, so it's fair to say that I'm developing a literary crash. :-) He'll have to fight John Banville and Ian McEwan for my affections, although, I have a big heart, so I guess there's room in my heart for all of them. I've come to really appreciate Barnes' writing, intelligence and his supreme command of the English language. Pulse is a collection of short stories. If I'm being honest, I wasn't as taken with it as I was with the two previ This is my third Julian Barnes book in less than three months, so it's fair to say that I'm developing a literary crash. :-) He'll have to fight John Banville and Ian McEwan for my affections, although, I have a big heart, so I guess there's room in my heart for all of them. I've come to really appreciate Barnes' writing, intelligence and his supreme command of the English language. Pulse is a collection of short stories. If I'm being honest, I wasn't as taken with it as I was with the two previous books I read (Metroland and Levels of Life), as it was a bit uneven, with some average stories, and two or three really good. I guess it's to be expected when it comes to a short story collection? Do I regret the time spent in its company? Absolutely not! Besides, the narrator, David Rintoul, was perfect. I'll have to find the time to read his two most prestigious novels, which are waiting patiently on my Kindle. 3.5 - 4 stars

  3. 4 out of 5

    Shamim E. Haque

    In this collection Julian Barnes has written some very good stories; stories that kept me entertained yet pondering at the same time. The story that I liked best was 'The Limner'. The next two best stories must have been 'Pulse' and 'Marriage Lines'. As the back cover gives intimation, Barnes gives us an opportunity to appreciate his mastery and virtuosity over and with the "short story" as a form. The four short stories that make the set "At Phil and Joanna's" is all about that: masterclasses o In this collection Julian Barnes has written some very good stories; stories that kept me entertained yet pondering at the same time. The story that I liked best was 'The Limner'. The next two best stories must have been 'Pulse' and 'Marriage Lines'. As the back cover gives intimation, Barnes gives us an opportunity to appreciate his mastery and virtuosity over and with the "short story" as a form. The four short stories that make the set "At Phil and Joanna's" is all about that: masterclasses on the form 'Short story'. Two of these stories are quite amusing and the rest often drag and become too conversational for my taste. I think the The Limner is a very touching tale and it quite moved me. Barnes' unassuming matter of fact style and restraint is very likable. On the whole this is an excellent collection and I would be discrediting the book unnecessarily if I did not add that almost all the other stories are quite good and redeem this collection along with the outstanding three titles that have been mentioned here.

  4. 4 out of 5

    notgettingenough

    I beg to differ from the opinions on the review pages of the English press, the kinds of things I guess one can predict about such a solid figure in the literary department. 'Literary pearls' not. 'The very best short fiction'. I don't think so. 'Masterclasses in the form'. Nup. This collection is plain disappointing compared with as a fine modern exponent of the short story as, say, Michael Chabon. The observations on life are neither here nor there and delivered without either the wit or the hu I beg to differ from the opinions on the review pages of the English press, the kinds of things I guess one can predict about such a solid figure in the literary department. 'Literary pearls' not. 'The very best short fiction'. I don't think so. 'Masterclasses in the form'. Nup. This collection is plain disappointing compared with as a fine modern exponent of the short story as, say, Michael Chabon. The observations on life are neither here nor there and delivered without either the wit or the humour, not to mention the exquisite technique of Chabon. Barnes should stick to novels. This is the second time I've been disappointed lately by his stepping out into other areas. I'm not even sure how he misses the mark. Maybe that his characters are all such miserable sods without any of the counterbalances that one finds in Chabon's stories - or Mansfield's or Chekhov's, for that matter. It's sort of like having to put up with Neil of The Young Ones without anybody else ever coming on stage. Too much of a downer, man.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lyn Elliott

    I have the impression that Julian Barnes doesn't miss a single word spoken any where near him, nor a single moment of potential emotional discomfort that might find its way into a story somewhere. The Barnes ear is perhaps at its most deadly in the four stories (all in part One)in which a group of friends gathers for dinner and clever conversation at the home of one of the couples, Phil and Joanna. The men dominate the conversation, the women speak very little. Is this because the conversation be I have the impression that Julian Barnes doesn't miss a single word spoken any where near him, nor a single moment of potential emotional discomfort that might find its way into a story somewhere. The Barnes ear is perhaps at its most deadly in the four stories (all in part One)in which a group of friends gathers for dinner and clever conversation at the home of one of the couples, Phil and Joanna. The men dominate the conversation, the women speak very little. Is this because the conversation becomes increasingly coarse? Or just because the women don't even try to edge into what the male dinner guests at least would see as the wittiest, the most outrageous. I thought they would be insufferable people to share a table with. Most of the stories deal with failures of relationships - between men and women, some married some not; between therapist and client; between artist and patron. Most of the stories in Part One feel as though they are incomplete fragments, snatching a glimpse into others' lives then leaving. Barnes may have deliberately decided that the endings should fall away inconclusively, as they do, but it leaves a feeling of weakness that is unusual in Barnes' writing. The stories in section Two seem more complete, perhaps because they are set in different times and places, and are more self-contained. As always, Barnes' writing is sharp, sometimes so sharp it's cruel. In the past I have found that very funny, as in England, England, but for me the humour in this collection was only occasional.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sterlingcindysu

    Julian Barnes is one of those writers that I can't claim that I love everything he writes--but when it strikes my fancy, it's very good. I liked The Lemon Table and The Sense of an Ending, but I dismissed Flaubert's Parrot when I just skimmed it. I enjoy short stories and I tend to round up a star for those writers who work hard to make every word work. This is the case here except for a series of stories called "At Phil and Joanna's". (And I have a granddaughter named Joanna so you'd think I'd Julian Barnes is one of those writers that I can't claim that I love everything he writes--but when it strikes my fancy, it's very good. I liked The Lemon Table and The Sense of an Ending, but I dismissed Flaubert's Parrot when I just skimmed it. I enjoy short stories and I tend to round up a star for those writers who work hard to make every word work. This is the case here except for a series of stories called "At Phil and Joanna's". (And I have a granddaughter named Joanna so you'd think I'd like them!) Here very educated people are finishing a dinner party and I would not be able to follow their conversation even if I just had iced tea all night long. Heck, I'm jealous that Phil and Joanna invited people over 4 times a year! Did their friends ever invite them over? One funny comment--one night tongue is served. A guest says, "That was tongue? I can't eat tongue! It's been in a dead cow's mouth!" But back to the good stories--a great one about 2 older women novelists, a woman who regains her sight to her loss, a man mourning his wife and a man who does nothing but walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, walk and wonders why he can't keep a girlfriend.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    I have come late to Julian Barnes, to my regret, but I’m glad to have finally arrived. His Booker-winning The Sense of an Ending was my introduction, save for some short stories I’d read here and there in the New Yorker and Granta. Some of the short stories in ‘Pulse’ were published between 2003 and 2011, and Sense of Ending was released in mid 2011. Some of these short stories are echoed in Sense of an Ending. In “At Phil & Joanna’s 4: One in Five”, a character says “…I remember some intellectu I have come late to Julian Barnes, to my regret, but I’m glad to have finally arrived. His Booker-winning The Sense of an Ending was my introduction, save for some short stories I’d read here and there in the New Yorker and Granta. Some of the short stories in ‘Pulse’ were published between 2003 and 2011, and Sense of Ending was released in mid 2011. Some of these short stories are echoed in Sense of an Ending. In “At Phil & Joanna’s 4: One in Five”, a character says “…I remember some intellectual on the radio discussing the start of the second World War, and coming to the conclusion that all you could say for certain was, ‘Something happened'." This was a key launch point for the story in Sense of an Ending, in which Adrian says, “But there is one line of thought according to which all you can truly say of any historical event — even the outbreak of the First World War, — is that ‘something happened’.” "Something Happened" could be a good title for several Julian Barnes stories (but the title has been well used already by Joseph Heller). In “Trespass”, first published in 2003 in the New Yorker, Geoff struggles to understand the disintegration of his relationship with Cath. He says to her, “I thought we were going to get married.” And she replies, “That’s why we aren’t,” When he asks her to explain she refuses. Why won’t she explain? “Because that’s the whole point. If you can’t see, if I have to explain — that’s why we’re not getting married.” This is redone again in Sense of an Ending, where Veronica says “You just don’t get it, do you? You never did, and you never will.’, and she refuses to explain further. These are not sentimental stories yet they are often poignant (Pulse, Marriage Lines), and often funny too. Geoff in “Trespass” is trying to make a go of it with a new girlfriend. He becomes ever more pedantic but just can’t stop himself and it’s killing them. He really just doesn’t get it. He is unrelenting in his unwanted helpfulness. He and his girlfriend are avid hikers, but she is tiring of him. At one point toward the end of their time, he advises her not to walk in the bracken, or downwind of it for that matter, between August and October. — “you’re going to tell me why, aren’t you?” she says. So he proceeds to tell her about spores, which could get into lungs or stomach and become carcinogenic, and Lyme-disease-causing ticks; she would need to wear a face mask. “ ‘A face mask?’ ‘Respro makes one.’ Well, she’d asked, and she was getting the bloody answer." There are several related “Phil & Joanna” short stories, which recount the witty banter amongst two married couples who get together several times for dinner, and those were fun reads. “Pulse” was especially good; it described simultaneously his perception of his parents’ wonderful marriage and his own failing marriage. Again he plays on the theme of perception vs versions of reality. And he does this again in a different way in “Limner’, the story of an itinerant portrait painter in the 1800s. His prose is wonderful. He captures the intangibles and then presents them to us, and we feel a jolt of recognition. That is the best kind of writing.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth (Alaska)

    I like short stories, but I couldn't ever take them for my main reading. They are especially good to slip in between longer reads and this is what I did with this collection. I've had the nice hardcover edition on my shelf for 3 or 4 years, never seeming to find a place for it. Finally! I said. This is the season for it. The first story, "East Wind" was one of my favorites. Vernon, a middle-aged man, is drawn to Andrea, a middle-aged waitress, and they form a relationship where the intimacy was m I like short stories, but I couldn't ever take them for my main reading. They are especially good to slip in between longer reads and this is what I did with this collection. I've had the nice hardcover edition on my shelf for 3 or 4 years, never seeming to find a place for it. Finally! I said. This is the season for it. The first story, "East Wind" was one of my favorites. Vernon, a middle-aged man, is drawn to Andrea, a middle-aged waitress, and they form a relationship where the intimacy was more sexual than companionable. It is only at the end that we learn so much about Andrea and why she wasn't more forthcoming about herself and her background. There are 4 stores called "At Phil and Joanna's" numbered 1-4. The setting is 3 couples (I think there were only 3) who have dined and begun drinking. It is obvious the friendship is of long duration and the stories are made up mostly of the group conversations. These were made up primarily of dialog and it wasn't always apparent who was talking - it was the nonsense and lack of logic from the alcohol that was the point. But they talked about big ideas, sometimes political, sometimes social. Taken as a group these were well worth the time to read, although singly perhaps not so much. The last story and title of the collection is the longest and by far the best of the them. "Purge" is told in the first person by the 30-something son, an only child, whose comments are about his parents, but also about his own marriage. His father loses his sense of smell. What would we think is the worst part of a loss of our sense of smell? His father laments that he can no longer smell is wife. In this way, we are privy to the very special relationship between them, still good after more than 30 years. I won't share more of this story to avoid spoilers, but just writing that last sentence brought tears to my eyes. Not every story can be the best - there will always be some that shine more brightly, while others barely deserve notice. This collection is no different. Julian Barnes will always be a favorite, but there were enough sort of dull stories here that I cannot bring myself to give it 5 stars. Still, this might be a volume I'll hold onto, and read one or two of the stories again. Surely that makes it a strong 4-stars.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    Julian Barnes is great company: bright, perceptive, gently biting, his fine mind looks at many differnt aspects of every day's contemporary life. He shares his inner thoughts without pretention nor heaviness. His description are right on the button: evocative, spiced with his brand of understated English humor as an undercurrent. Just delicious and wonderfully pertinent. I prefered the second part of his set of stories, but, as it is in life with good and smart friends you love: you enjoy their c Julian Barnes is great company: bright, perceptive, gently biting, his fine mind looks at many differnt aspects of every day's contemporary life. He shares his inner thoughts without pretention nor heaviness. His description are right on the button: evocative, spiced with his brand of understated English humor as an undercurrent. Just delicious and wonderfully pertinent. I prefered the second part of his set of stories, but, as it is in life with good and smart friends you love: you enjoy their company even if they stray away from your concerns ( such as gardening as a metaphor for marital strife, in my case) Barnes has become a good friend whom I'll follow through the pages, wherever he chooses to go. As an afterthought, I'll praise him to the point of comparing him to Montaigne , that I happen to savor slowly at the same time. Both are unpretentious, honest, gently prying into human mind and heart, and lovingly accepting its flaws, its beauty ans its universality. They are indeed good company!

  10. 4 out of 5

    David

    Reading Julian Barnes is a real pleasure and this book follows suit. First, I must thank Good Reads for sending me the release notice which I promptly went out and bought the book. As I was buying the book, I chatted with the sales person at a local bookstore, who is also a big Barnes fan, and she noted that of all the authors she wanted to hear give a reading, Barnes would be her top vote. Taking all this into consideration, I savoured the selection of 14 short stories. I love his novels but hi Reading Julian Barnes is a real pleasure and this book follows suit. First, I must thank Good Reads for sending me the release notice which I promptly went out and bought the book. As I was buying the book, I chatted with the sales person at a local bookstore, who is also a big Barnes fan, and she noted that of all the authors she wanted to hear give a reading, Barnes would be her top vote. Taking all this into consideration, I savoured the selection of 14 short stories. I love his novels but his short stories are particularly excellent and this book delivers. The subject matter is his usual stock - love, getting old, friends, family and lovers. A sense of loss and melancholoy pervades almost all the stories. The last story, "Pulse" is the best of the lot. Two parallel stories intertwine themselves; the thirty-year old man, while dealing with his father's sudden loss of smell, see his mother slip away from a motor neuron disease while at the same time sees his marriage fall apart. It never crosses the sentimental side but just gives a glimpse of reality with nothing heroic. As noted in the New York Times review by Christopher Benfey, "what the characters mainly talk over in "Pulse" is what makes couples tick." The stories "Limner" and "Harmony" focus on the disabilities of blindness and deafness and one wonders who truly has the disability. Begging the question perhaps we all have some disability to deal with? The story "Carcassone" begins with the Italian Garibaldi spies a beautiful woman off the coast of Brazil, Jumps off and "gets the girl" in a bravado of romance. The die has been cast and then we learn that the famed lover goes on to other exploits. The review in the Globe and Mail by Zsusi Gartner, suggested that Part Two, which are more period pieces are stronger than Part one, which is more about contemporary life. I heartily disagree as the hilarious " "At Phil and Joanna's", spans three dinner parties of old friends baring all through their drunken revelery. The parties are told in three parts and are such fun and the wit is so wickly enjoyable that this trio rates up there as some of his finest work. "East Wind" and " Marriage Lines" are simple observations on marriage that are painfully true. But not all are dire tales such as the fun story, "Sleeping with John Updike". The title itself wants the reader to read on and delivers with the two aging novelists "brag" about their pasts. Sadly I wanted more but one must savour a writer as good as Barnes and wait for his next release.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Teresa

    While I didn't love this collection as much as I did The Lemon Table, much of what I wrote in that review applies to this book as well. Knowing that Barnes' wife of many years died of a brain tumor in late 2008 (this book is dedicated, very simply, to her: "For Pat"), I couldn't help picking out what almost seem like meditations within some of the stories, especially of what brings and keeps (or doesn't keep) couples together, and that of grief. While I didn't love this collection as much as I did The Lemon Table, much of what I wrote in that review applies to this book as well. Knowing that Barnes' wife of many years died of a brain tumor in late 2008 (this book is dedicated, very simply, to her: "For Pat"), I couldn't help picking out what almost seem like meditations within some of the stories, especially of what brings and keeps (or doesn't keep) couples together, and that of grief.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    4.25 stars. The beautiful and powerful short stories in this delicious and richly flavoured collection taste like sublime dark chocolates.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Oria

    The book contains 14 stories (I wonder if the author was superstitious) about life, choices, love and marriage. I was attracted to this book by the title – it seemed like an interesting name for a book. While at the bookstore I started reading the first story, East Wind, about Vernon, a late thirties divorcee, who falls in love with Andrea, an East European waitress. There was something funny and likable about Vernon, and I decided to take the book home and continue reading. What I really liked a The book contains 14 stories (I wonder if the author was superstitious) about life, choices, love and marriage. I was attracted to this book by the title – it seemed like an interesting name for a book. While at the bookstore I started reading the first story, East Wind, about Vernon, a late thirties divorcee, who falls in love with Andrea, an East European waitress. There was something funny and likable about Vernon, and I decided to take the book home and continue reading. What I really liked about this book was the way the author managed to infuse the stories with humor but also with sadness at the same time, a notable accomplishment which is tricky to achieve within the same story. There’s also a bit of cynical witticism in the “At Phil and Joanna’s” stories (there were four), in which a group of friends gather for dinner and some verbal banter. The dialogue is entertaining and well written, the topics ranging from politics and grammar to sex and religion to name just a few. Another story I particularly liked was "The Limner". I must confess I had never heard the word before (and that is yet another reason why I liked this book – finding new words) and had to look it up in the dictionary. The limner, Mr. Wadsworth, is a traveling portrait artist. He can’t speak or hear, due to a childhood illness, but that doesn’t mean he’s dumb, as some of his customers seem to think. Attention to detail is observed not only when painting, but also when dealing with others and he manages to form an accurate opinion of the people he meets. This is one of my favorite passages from the story: “The limner had shown the collector of customs some miniatures of children, hoping to change his mind, but Tuttle merely shook his head. Wadsworth was disappointed, partly for reasons of money, but more because his delight in painting children had increased as that in painting their progenitors had declined. Children were more mobile than adults, more deliquescent of shape, it was true. But they also looked him in the eye, and when you were deaf you heard with your eyes. Children held his gaze, and he thereby perceived their nature. Adults often looked away, whether from modesty or a desire for concealment; while some, like the collector, stared back challengingly, with a false honesty, as if to say, Of course my eyes are concealing things, but you lack the discernment to realise it. Such clients judged Wadsworth’s affinity with children proof that he was as deficient in understanding as the children were. Whereas Wadsworth found in their affinity with him proof that they saw as clearly as he did.” In "Carcassonne", the author explores the concept of marriage, how couples meet and what keeps them together over the years. Is it passion, like the type Garibaldi and his wife Anita felt the first time they laid eyes on each other, or is it something more subdued, like the man who had met his wife at an office party and when asked what did he feel when he saw her, said “I thought she was very nice”. Do couples without children have more chances of staying together, unencumbered by responsibilities and worn out by worries, and what about gay couples? Questions, musings, experiences shared. No miraculous recipe for a long, happy marriage, only doubt and various perspectives – it’s all a roll of the dice. There were a couple of stories I didn’t care much about. While I had no complaints about the writing style, which by the way, seems to flow nicely enough, those stories in themselves fell short of interesting. But then it’s almost inevitable for this to happen in a book of short stories. An entertaining read, quite different from the books I usually pick. I have to admit I was more excited about this book when I finished it but for some reason I postponed writing a review and in time my enthusiasm decreased considerably, which is a shame, really...

  14. 4 out of 5

    William Reichard

    I'm a big Julian Barnes fan, and I love short stories. The stories in this collection were, for me, mixed. The book is divided into two sections, and I found all of the work in section two wonderful. Barnes sets some of these stories in the past, some in the present, and the title story, about the death of (presumably) his mother and his father's illness, was fantastic. The work in part one was mixed. There were four stories that focused on two couples, and in each story, these couples were havi I'm a big Julian Barnes fan, and I love short stories. The stories in this collection were, for me, mixed. The book is divided into two sections, and I found all of the work in section two wonderful. Barnes sets some of these stories in the past, some in the present, and the title story, about the death of (presumably) his mother and his father's illness, was fantastic. The work in part one was mixed. There were four stories that focused on two couples, and in each story, these couples were having dinner and talking. Sounds like a good set up, but frankly, I disliked all of the characters. I found them self-obsessed, self-consciously witty, and just plain boring. I ended up skipping through much of the last installment of their narrative arc - I just didn't care what they said or what happened to them. Perhaps Barnes was trying to create such characters, to offer a critique of a certain type of over-educated and under-reflective middle class boor. I can't say. If he was, he succeeded. But there's a fine line between creating unsympathetic characters and holding the readers' interest, and creating unsympathetic characters that drive the reader away. Barnes crossed that line for me. Still, the other stories were wonderful, so read the book, and skip the four stories I've mentioned here.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    Bought this from a sale bin for five dollars. Six CDs. The narrator has a good voice. Onto the second CD. I really like these stories. The narrators voice is perfect for the characters and sense of place. Now I'm listening to this I can see why I gave Sense of an Ending 5 stars, but then couldn't recall much of the story six months later. The strength of Barnes' writing is in the subtle portraits of character in his writing. Bought this from a sale bin for five dollars. Six CDs. The narrator has a good voice. Onto the second CD. I really like these stories. The narrators voice is perfect for the characters and sense of place. Now I'm listening to this I can see why I gave Sense of an Ending 5 stars, but then couldn't recall much of the story six months later. The strength of Barnes' writing is in the subtle portraits of character in his writing.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    A good collection of short stories, sort of a grounded, British David Sedaris. But while Sedaris aims for laugh-out-loud lines, Barnes mostly shoots from/for the heart. Four of Barnes' stories here constitute a novella ("At Phil and Joanna's, Parts 1,2,3, and 4), so I'm going to next try one of his novels. A good collection of short stories, sort of a grounded, British David Sedaris. But while Sedaris aims for laugh-out-loud lines, Barnes mostly shoots from/for the heart. Four of Barnes' stories here constitute a novella ("At Phil and Joanna's, Parts 1,2,3, and 4), so I'm going to next try one of his novels.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lukasz Pruski

    "For some, the sunlight catches on the telescope out there in the lagoon; for others, not. We choose, we are chosen, we are unchosen." This striking quote comes from Carcassonne, one of the stories in Julian Barnes' collection titled Pulse (2011), an unusually diverse set of literary pieces. Some pieces are proper stories, others are vignettes, impressions, or just captured dialogue. What unites the pieces is the outstanding prose and the author's wisdom about all things human. I had a great time "For some, the sunlight catches on the telescope out there in the lagoon; for others, not. We choose, we are chosen, we are unchosen." This striking quote comes from Carcassonne, one of the stories in Julian Barnes' collection titled Pulse (2011), an unusually diverse set of literary pieces. Some pieces are proper stories, others are vignettes, impressions, or just captured dialogue. What unites the pieces is the outstanding prose and the author's wisdom about all things human. I had a great time reading the book and being unable to offer any synthetic or summarizing observations, I will comment on some of my favorite pieces. East Wind, the first piece in the collection, is in fact a proper story. A divorced real-estate agent meets an Eastern European waitress in a British coastal town. They enter a relationship and the story ends with a major twist that has political undertones. At Phil and Joanna's is a four-part account of a conversation between a group of six friends: they have dinner together and they talk freely on various topics: love, sex, drinking, the essence of Europeanness, immigration, economy, well, even Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The conversation is slightly boozy and at places it reminds one of a "thought diarrhea" but - at least to me - it is compulsively readable. It is also quite "meta": there are metaphors about metaphors and puns about puns. A choice piece for anyone who is or aspires to be an intellectual. My other favorite is the short, sad, and lyrical piece called Marriage Lines: a recently widowed man comes back to an island where he an his wife had been happy together: "He had thought he could recapture, and begin to say farewell. He had thought that grief might be assuaged [...] But he was not in charge of grief. Grief was in charge of him." Mr. Barnes is a particularly astute observer of relationships in couples: the story Trespass and the wonderful vignette Complicity are studies in the dynamic of building, sustaining, and ending relationships. Harmony is a story that will likely stay in the reader's mind. Set in the 18th century it is an account of a noted physician, named by the author only as M---------, who uses magnetic therapy to cure blindness in a young and gifted pianist, Maria Theresia von P----------. The story refers to actual historical events: Franz Mesmer was famous in the second half of the 18th century as a Vienna-based physician who studied the so-called animal magnetism and tried to use magnets in the therapy. Obviously, the author is less interested in the story and more in its psychological and sociological dimensions. Three and three quarter stars.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nick Davies

    Not the most consistent volume of short stories I have ever read - several of these were interesting ideas underdeveloped, description without much substance, or (as with a recurring theme of dnner party conversations in the first half of the collection) felt like filler. However, the quality of Julian Barnes' writing cannot be denied, and there were two or three particularly interesting tales within. I particularly enjoyed a couple where the author gets to the core of human feeling and sad love Not the most consistent volume of short stories I have ever read - several of these were interesting ideas underdeveloped, description without much substance, or (as with a recurring theme of dnner party conversations in the first half of the collection) felt like filler. However, the quality of Julian Barnes' writing cannot be denied, and there were two or three particularly interesting tales within. I particularly enjoyed a couple where the author gets to the core of human feeling and sad love, the first story (about a man who enters a relationship with a waitress from Eastern Europe) touched me, as did a couple of later stories - 'Complicity' and 'Trespass'. Perhaps this was due to an English quality of the mature man's thoughts, similar themes at to those explored in 'The Sense of an Ending'.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Joanie

    A quietly emotive collection of short stories. I'm rather new to the genre, venturing a bit into short stories to add some variety to my reading, but this was a satisfying arrangement. The stories took a little while to warm up to, but my patience was paid off and Julian Barnes has me interested in reading his other works. This collection was balanced and interspersed with a keen sense of humour during the first part, which I was muddling through a bit but the meal bantering flowed very naturally A quietly emotive collection of short stories. I'm rather new to the genre, venturing a bit into short stories to add some variety to my reading, but this was a satisfying arrangement. The stories took a little while to warm up to, but my patience was paid off and Julian Barnes has me interested in reading his other works. This collection was balanced and interspersed with a keen sense of humour during the first part, which I was muddling through a bit but the meal bantering flowed very naturally. They were easily the highlights until I got to Marriage Lines, which might represent my infallible attraction to stories of loss. Or regret. The second half of the book jumps through time and caught me a bit offguard. As a mildly-trained classical pianist, I was pleasantly surprised as I read Harmony, about the blind Maria Therisia's search for a cure, and her doctor's doubts on whether sight would overwhelm her playing, as muscle memory takes over for sight once you've reached proficiency in your pieces. Barnes writes with a terrific sense of direction, and has the ability to vary his voice but still bring that sense of comfort you get when you settle into a book, not wanting to finish it even though you must read on. Favourites: Marriage Lines, Complicity, Harmony, Pulse, and all 4 parts of At Phil and Joanna's. Hmm, this collection definitely ended on a strong point - I loved the second half much more than the first. If the first half was stronger, I would've easily put this at 5 stars. I was blown away once I read the last few stories, and just had that feeling of wanting to give this full marks for the finish. There are a few in here that I wouldn't mind re-visiting again, which says a lot since I'm the type of reader who doesn't go back to novels often, much less short stories. This would be a solid purchase for my own library too.

  20. 4 out of 5

    David

    Unlike the dismal exercise in sterility that was "The Sense of an Ending" (beloved by the Booker judges, but not by me), several of the stories in "Pulse" actually elicit an emotional response in the reader. I've always felt that Barnes's cleverness is his Achilles heel -- too often his writing feels like an exercise designed to demonstrate how accomplished he is, but remains devoid of emotion. Most of the stories in this collection manage to avoid this trap. A possible exception is the set of f Unlike the dismal exercise in sterility that was "The Sense of an Ending" (beloved by the Booker judges, but not by me), several of the stories in "Pulse" actually elicit an emotional response in the reader. I've always felt that Barnes's cleverness is his Achilles heel -- too often his writing feels like an exercise designed to demonstrate how accomplished he is, but remains devoid of emotion. Most of the stories in this collection manage to avoid this trap. A possible exception is the set of four linked pieces "At Phil and Joanna's", each of which is basically an extended conversational riff among a group of old married friends - these are technically impressive, maybe a little too much so to be genuinely affecting. In contrast, the stories "East Wind", "Trespass", and the title story pack a real emotional punch. There is the usual quota of emotionally stunted middle-aged men trying to make some kind of connection, not always successfully. But at least Barnes writes about them with a measure of sympathy, rising above the almost clinical detachment that characterized "The Sense of an Ending". These are stories with heart, in sharp contrast to the emotional vacuum at the core of that book. (Yeah, I loathed it - so sue me!)

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lari

    I really enjoyed this collection of short stories because it perfectly showcases Barnes' talent for story-telling and his creative play with words, themes and even cultures. In particular I enjoyed Gardener's World, Marriage Lines, Pulse, Harmony and the Phil & Joanna's dinner parties :) but I am sure I will re-visit all of them sometimes. I really enjoyed this collection of short stories because it perfectly showcases Barnes' talent for story-telling and his creative play with words, themes and even cultures. In particular I enjoyed Gardener's World, Marriage Lines, Pulse, Harmony and the Phil & Joanna's dinner parties :) but I am sure I will re-visit all of them sometimes.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lara Hoffmann

    This is a book on encounters and senses. After reading it I feel like my own senses are refined and I might observe the people around me and the everyday encounters I have a bit more precisely. Perhaps only for today, but nevertheless. Isn't it wonderful that books can do this to us? This is a book on encounters and senses. After reading it I feel like my own senses are refined and I might observe the people around me and the everyday encounters I have a bit more precisely. Perhaps only for today, but nevertheless. Isn't it wonderful that books can do this to us?

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sandra

    Pushed to five star on the strength of the penultimate and then the final stories - 'Carcassone' and 'Pulse' which were truthful and insightful, confirming Julian Barnes' talent as a writer. 'East Wind' enjoyed for its location, the four 'At Phil & Joanna's' increasingly entertaining, and 'Harmony' I found unreadable. (It's harking back to tales of a century ago?) Pushed to five star on the strength of the penultimate and then the final stories - 'Carcassone' and 'Pulse' which were truthful and insightful, confirming Julian Barnes' talent as a writer. 'East Wind' enjoyed for its location, the four 'At Phil & Joanna's' increasingly entertaining, and 'Harmony' I found unreadable. (It's harking back to tales of a century ago?)

  24. 5 out of 5

    John Cates

    Read the the second set of stories for a book club - interested in the way the stories jumped around from contemporary England - to revolutionary Brazil - to 1700's Germany........ -- Enjoyed them and will probably read the rest of them later. Read the the second set of stories for a book club - interested in the way the stories jumped around from contemporary England - to revolutionary Brazil - to 1700's Germany........ -- Enjoyed them and will probably read the rest of them later.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Anthony Panegyres

    A collection that entails all that I both love and loathe about Barnes. Some stories are very twee, and the ‘Phil & Joanna’ all-dialogue dinner table stories I eventually gave up on. But Barnes relationship themed stories are wonderful. ‘Trespass’ was a particular favourite, and ‘East Wind’ and ‘Gardeners World’ are quite beautiful. The title story ‘Pulse’ is a truly fabulous novelette. Its exploratory style reflects Barnes at his best.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lina

    Some good. Some meh. Overall okay.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Luci

    Barnes never disappoints. This collection made me laugh out loud with the typical sharp whit wending through the works. Others exploring relationships that stand the test of time and the sense of loss accompanying those that end made me tear up.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. NOTE TO ANY PASSING GOODREADS LIBRARIAN - there are 228 pages, not the 288 indicated here. ETA - Gerry has fixed - thankee Dedication: To Pat ONE East Wind At Phil & Joanna's 1: 60/40 Sleeping with John Updike At Phil & Joanna's 2: Marmalade Gardeners' World At Phil & Joanna's 3: Look, No Hands Trespass At Phil & Joanna's 4: One in Five Marriage Lines TWO The Limner Complicity Harmony Carcassonne Pulse Coinciding with my reading is the BBC's Book at Bedtime, which airs the following stories from this collection: R NOTE TO ANY PASSING GOODREADS LIBRARIAN - there are 228 pages, not the 288 indicated here. ETA - Gerry has fixed - thankee Dedication: To Pat ONE East Wind At Phil & Joanna's 1: 60/40 Sleeping with John Updike At Phil & Joanna's 2: Marmalade Gardeners' World At Phil & Joanna's 3: Look, No Hands Trespass At Phil & Joanna's 4: One in Five Marriage Lines TWO The Limner Complicity Harmony Carcassonne Pulse Coinciding with my reading is the BBC's Book at Bedtime, which airs the following stories from this collection: Read by the author: Complicity and Trespass. ------ As with all short story collections you take the good with the, erm, not so good, no difference here. The fun was front-loaded with Phil and Joanna's house parties whilst the historical/philosophical stuff was more pronounced in section 2. All ended with the titular story which was painfully sad and am pretty fed up that so many reads nowadays are not considered great unless they have you squeezing out a tear-soaked double-sheet sized handkerchief. I'd have ended up with a Joanna jolly if I was in charge of the sequencing.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Juliet

    Yawn. Or I should say, a few stories I enjoyed, but the majority were yawny disquisitions more than narratives. The first story was a story in the more traditional sense -- two people met, one was a mystery to the other, he tried to find out her secret, and he did, end of story. It was told with a combination of care and suspense, distance and desire. Thumbs up. But most of the rest of the stories were explorations of ideas. Gardening showed up a lot but I wasn't sure why it kept showing up, and Yawn. Or I should say, a few stories I enjoyed, but the majority were yawny disquisitions more than narratives. The first story was a story in the more traditional sense -- two people met, one was a mystery to the other, he tried to find out her secret, and he did, end of story. It was told with a combination of care and suspense, distance and desire. Thumbs up. But most of the rest of the stories were explorations of ideas. Gardening showed up a lot but I wasn't sure why it kept showing up, and there were three stories that were just dialogue -- no speaker tags -- among three couples, I think, at a dinner party, talking all sorts of crap. I thought, maybe with the last story, there would be some payoff. Nope. It was just a lot of talking, to no purpose that I could make out. The second half of the collection seemed to be trying out the question, if love is occasioned by our senses -- things we see, hear, smell, taste, and touch about someone -- what happens if each of those sense is turned off? Thus in one story, a woman can't see. In another, a man's father has lost his sense of smell. Another one is all about the touch of a woman's hand (including an extremely long list of types of gloves). It's an interesting project, and some stories do have their moments, but others are just plain BORING. In the end, in a story that does have some lovely moments, it's decided that yes, even if all our sense are turned off, we do still love. Imagine that.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Barnes' short stories are little jewels, with insight into the life or situation that leaves you wanting slightly more than you're given but still feeling very fulfilled. I really wish there were the 4.5 star option, because that's where I'd grade this collection. Why not the full 5 stars? It's the "At Phil & Joanne's" episodes, which made me think of a Woody Allen movie (think "Hannah and Her Sisters" type dialogue) and that irritated me. However, "The Limner", "Sleeping with John Updike" and "C Barnes' short stories are little jewels, with insight into the life or situation that leaves you wanting slightly more than you're given but still feeling very fulfilled. I really wish there were the 4.5 star option, because that's where I'd grade this collection. Why not the full 5 stars? It's the "At Phil & Joanne's" episodes, which made me think of a Woody Allen movie (think "Hannah and Her Sisters" type dialogue) and that irritated me. However, "The Limner", "Sleeping with John Updike" and "Carcassone" are worth re-reading. The notes say that "Marriage Lines" was written for Alan Howard (whom I saw years ago in "Good") and now I'm going to try to find a recording. US readers will have to wait, or do as I did and order via Indigo.ca (or Amazon.co.uk).

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