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Letters from London by Julian Barnes
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Letters from London

by Julian Barnes

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364329,815 (3.83)3
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  1. 00
    The Stuffed Owl: An Anthology of Bad Verse by D. B. Wyndham Lewis (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: Both books have splendid witty indexes.
  2. 00
    Through the window: seventeen essays (and one short story) by Julian Barnes (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: Both books have splendid witty indexes.
  3. 00
    Something to Declare by Julian Barnes (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: Both books have splendid witty indexes
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Britain in the first half of the nineties: Barnes takes us from Thatcher to Blair in essays written for the New Yorker. Whilst political journalism obviously isn't quite his métier, he shows us - as he always does - what an elegant, witty writer can do with material that has been done to destruction already by others. Just occasionally we get a touch of his schoolboyish side, where he can't resist pointing out gleefully how clever he's been: the notoriously comic index, of course, but also the way he highlights things like his alertness in spotting the Pugin hinges in the Shadow Cabinet room, for instance, but fails to give us any information about what he actually asked Tony Blair in their interview there. ( )
  thorold | May 21, 2013 |
The comic Pantheon of indexing grows; a Sunday Telegraph review of
Julian Barnes’s Letters from London 1990–1995 (Picador, 1995) declared: ‘the index alone is so funny that it’s worth the cover price of the book’.
Letters from London reproduces Barnes’s reports as London correspondent to the New Yorker, political and partial. He is a supremely witty writer in several genres, and has employed particular techniques here to produce an index of high comedy. It is fascinating to see how cleverly – and selectively – Barnes has contrived his index entries from passages of text.

In an article on the World Chess Championship, Barnes frequently quotes Cathy Forbes’s biography, "Nigel Short: quest for the crown". Among the items gleaned from it is that Short’s coach also pays attention to the regulation of his charge’s bodily functions. After Short has let off steam by playing his guitar before a game, Kavalek will remind him to empty his bladder. This leads to the following index entry for the author (with no mention of the biography):
Forbes, Cathy: urinary pattern of Nigel Short

Barnes’s own opinions are shrewdly reinforced in the index, in truly partial style. The sentence ‘The British have managed to export some surprising things – cricket, marmalade, the humour of Benny Hill . . .’ yields, in the index:

Hill, Benny, mysterious exportability of

For some index entries, it is the straight-faced lack of comment that enchants:

Bruno, Frank: almost hurts Mike Tyson; stars in Aladdin
Heseltine, Michael: a rich blonde
Kasparov, Gary: psychological bruiser
Lloyd’s of London: ‘HIV of the upper-middle classes’

Other entries tell their own sad tale:
Howe, Sir Geoffrey: loyal Thatcherite; sacked by Mrs Thatcher;
very dull; disloyal Thatcherite; biting doormat; booted around
by European colleagues
Major, John: not renowned for flair; makes a joke; denounced as
dull; satirist’s nemesis; dwindling allure

Classification leads to some splendidly cumulative index paragraphs. It all makes a delightful index indeed. ( )
1 vote KayCliff | Aug 19, 2008 |
perfectly recreates these times ( )
  experimentalis | Jan 1, 2008 |
Showing 3 of 3
Letters from London reproduces Barnes’s reports as London correspondent to the New Yorker, political and partial. He is a supremely witty writer in several genres, and has employed particular techniques here to produce an index of high comedy. It is fascinating to see how cleverly – and selectively – Barnes has contrived his index entries from passages of text.
added by KayCliff | editThe Indexer, Hazel K. Bell (Aug 4, 2009)
 
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As a child, I was a brief devotee of I-Spy books, those spotters' guides for the short-trousered.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0330341162, Paperback)

Since 1990 Julian Barnes has written a regular 'Letter from London' for the "New Yorker" magazine. These already celebrated pieces cover subjects as diverse as the Lloyd's insurance disaster, the rise and fall of Margaret Thatcher, the troubles of the Royal Family and the hapless Nigel Short in his battle with Gary Kasparov in the 1993 World Chess Finals. With an incisive assessment of Salman Rushdie's plight and an analysis of the implications of being linked to the Continent via the Channel Tunnel, "Letters from London" provides a vivid and telling portrait of Britain in the Nineties.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:43:08 -0400)

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