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Pulse: Stories by Julian Barnes

Pulse: Stories (original 2011; edition 2011)

by Julian Barnes

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3211634,553 (3.64)21
Title:Pulse: Stories
Authors:Julian Barnes
Info:Knopf (2011), Hardcover, 240 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, short stories, Borders, going-out-of-business sale, 2011, new

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Pulse by Julian Barnes (2011)


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Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
Acerbic and British to the core. ( )
  cookierooks | Nov 16, 2016 |
A wet afternoon's first half is redeemed by a sunlit second half; if I had to read one more of those interminable sketches of the dinner party I would have thrown the book across the room. ( )
  soylentgreen23 | Jul 3, 2016 |
I have come late to Julian Barnes, to my regret, but I’m glad to have finally arrived. His Booker-winning [b:The Sense of an Ending|10746542|The Sense of an Ending|Julian Barnes|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1311704453s/10746542.jpg|15657664] 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. ( )
  TheBookJunky | Apr 22, 2016 |
The overall theme of this collection of short stories is the personal relationships between couples, whether married or unmarried. The quality of the stories is variable, with the least successful and interesting being four interlinked tales featuring gatherings of friends at Phil and Joanna’s house. However the others illustrate the sometimes unsettling realisation that partial knowledge and misunderstandings can lead to the ending of love and friendship. But not all partnerships end unhappily and one of the secrets of successful compatibility would appear to be the sharing of small pleasures in life.
  camharlow2 | Sep 28, 2015 |
Barnes, you bastard. I'm sure you did it on purpose. You spent more than half your book with stories that were... well... nicely written but... lacking something? Uninteresting? Something like that. I was seriously considering stopping reading and starting some other book (something I almost never do, so I just kept going).

...and then you did that thing. You finished the first part of the book with a beautiful story, made even better by contrast with the previous. Not only that, but you included the five stories of part II. And that is where you finally laughed at me, at us, for doubting you. You sir, are a bastard, but a really talented one. I loved those stories, much more than I didn't the first ones.

Four stars. On to the next one now. ( )
  espadana | Jun 24, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
The ghost of John Updike, that master delineator of couples and how they talk, haunts many of these stories. Barnes is both beneficiary and victim of Updike’s own double-edged gift: a dazzling facility of phrase that sometimes feels like an end in itself...

“Carcassonne,” the collection’s standout, is a welcome reminder that Barnes can still weave together historical reconstruction, biographical acuity, personal essay and sheer oddball association with the verve he achieved in what remains his best book, the wondrous “Flaubert’s Parrot.”
Mr. Barnes’s latest collection, “Pulse,” is filled with both gems and should-have-been discards. The title story and “Marriage Lines” are beautiful, elegiac tales about how marriages endure or change over time: stories that attest to the new emotional depth Mr. Barnes discovered in his 2004 collection “The Lemon Table.” Unfortunately, many other entries in this volume are brittle exercises in craft: a writer writing on automatic pilot, substituting verbal facility for genuine humor or real feeling, a scattering of social details for a persuasive sense of time and place.

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Julian Barnesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Vlek, RonaldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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He had thought he could recapture, and begin to say farewell. He had thought grief might be assuaged, or if not assuaged, at least speeded up, hurried on its way a little, by going back to a place where they had been happy. But he was not in charge of grief. Grief was in charge of him. And in the months and years ahead, he expected grief to teach him many other things as well. This was just the first of them.
He told Calum the story he was already weary with repeating. The sudden tiredness, the dizzy spells, the blood tests, the scans, hospital, more hospital, the hospice. The speed of it all, the process, the merciless tramp of events. He told it without tears, in a neutral voice, as if it might have happened to someone else. It was the only way, so far, that he knew how.
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The stories in Julian Barnes' long-awaited third collection are attuned to rhythms and currents: of the body, of love and sex, illness and death, connections and conversations. Each character is bent to a pulse, propelled on by success and loss, by new beginnings and endings.… (more)

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