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Nothing to Be Frightened Of (2008)

by Julian Barnes

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1,0543813,739 (3.78)35
"I don't believe in God, but I miss him." So begins this book, which is a family memoir, an exchange with his brother (a philosopher), a meditation on mortality and the fear of death, a celebration of art, an argument with and about God, and a homage to the writer Jules Renard. Barnes also draws poignant portraits of the last days of his parents, recalled with great detail, affection and exasperation. Other examples he takes up include writers, "most of them dead and quite a few of them French," as well as some composers, for good measure. Although he cautions us that "this is not my autobiography," the book nonetheless reveals much about Barnes the man and the novelist: how he thinks and how he writes and how he lives. At once deadly serious and dazzlingly playful, this is a wise, funny and constantly surprising tour of the human condition.--From publisher description.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
Yawn.

I need a new shelf. Started but discarded.

This is the first Barnes I've read (and that is more or less all of them) and haven't liked. It may not be autobiographical, but it is horribly close and he just isn't interesting. He isn't, his brother isn't. Nor are his parents or grandparents. Even worse, it is wordily pompous, which I gather is why the French like him so much.

Death itself may be an interesting subject (or may not) but what isn't interesting is other people's obsessions, including Barnes' with death. It's sort of like having to sit through other people talking about their dreams when you know even your own would have been best missed, if only you had a choice in the matter.

Well, this time, I did.
( )
  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |
Yawn.

I need a new shelf. Started but discarded.

This is the first Barnes I've read (and that is more or less all of them) and haven't liked. It may not be autobiographical, but it is horribly close and he just isn't interesting. He isn't, his brother isn't. Nor are his parents or grandparents. Even worse, it is wordily pompous, which I gather is why the French like him so much.

Death itself may be an interesting subject (or may not) but what isn't interesting is other people's obsessions, including Barnes' with death. It's sort of like having to sit through other people talking about their dreams when you know even your own would have been best missed, if only you had a choice in the matter.

Well, this time, I did.
( )
  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |
Yawn.

I need a new shelf. Started but discarded.

This is the first Barnes I've read (and that is more or less all of them) and haven't liked. It may not be autobiographical, but it is horribly close and he just isn't interesting. He isn't, his brother isn't. Nor are his parents or grandparents. Even worse, it is wordily pompous, which I gather is why the French like him so much.

Death itself may be an interesting subject (or may not) but what isn't interesting is other people's obsessions, including Barnes' with death. It's sort of like having to sit through other people talking about their dreams when you know even your own would have been best missed, if only you had a choice in the matter.

Well, this time, I did.
( )
  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |
Whew, time to take a shower. After having read six books by Julian Barnes I was looking forward to this one. Unfortunately this is not as as the others. It rambles. It reads like several articles crammed together to make a book. Seriously needed better editing. Very repetitious. He clearly thinks we should know about what several French authors thought about dieing and how being an agnostic or athiest could change your perspective. I found myself often saying "too much information!" Why did we need to know all those biographical details? Fortunately there were some gems that made me think. He pointed out a similarity being fiction and religion - one requires suspension of disbelief the other requires faith. Never thought of it that way. ( )
  Ed_Schneider | May 29, 2020 |
If you manage to read a larger number of books by Julian Barnes you may agree with my conclusion that he is a bit of a slacker if he thinks he can get away with it, and Nothing to be frightened of is a prime example. After about 50, 60 pages he turns to the reader suggesting that this book is NOT all just self-indulgent navel staring, a natural thought which he rightly assumes the reader to develop after having read that many pages, and it IS. The book utterly lacks depth and scope, it's just all about Barnes willy-nilly, highly personal insignificant musings. The prerogative of the author, yes, to "essai" but also very self-indulgent, sheer egotism to pollute 244 pages with useless ink splattering. Perhaps Barnes' whimsicality is to emphasize that he knows as little about the topic as you, me and the milkman do, but then what's the point of the book in the first place? Yes, perhaps simply for him to make money, and for readers to while away the time uselessly; after all, Nothing to be frightened of is no more or less useful than a piece of fiction. It is just a clever ploy of the author and / or his publisher to make buyers believe they pick up a philosophical book. And, that in itself is probably postmodern irony, if you don't know what you are buying: Either you do, or you don't, the book is just the book: a fairly useless pile of paper. ( )
  edwinbcn | Dec 27, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
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I don't believe in God, but I miss Him.
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This is not, by the way, "my autobiography." Nor am I "in search of my parents." . . . Part of what I'm doing -- which may seem unnecessary -- is trying to work out how dead they are. My father died in 1992, my mother in 1997. (pp. 35-6)

Perhaps I should warn you (especially if you are a philosopher, theologian, or biologist) that some of this book will strike you as amateur, do-it-yourself stuff. But then we are all amateurs in and of our own lives. . . . I should also warn you that there are going to be a lot of writers in this book. Most of them are dead, and quite a few of them French. (p. 39)
...perhaps a sense of death is like a sense of humour. We all think the one we've got - or haven't got - is just about right, and appropriate to the proper understanding of life. It's everyone else who's out of step.
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"I don't believe in God, but I miss him." So begins this book, which is a family memoir, an exchange with his brother (a philosopher), a meditation on mortality and the fear of death, a celebration of art, an argument with and about God, and a homage to the writer Jules Renard. Barnes also draws poignant portraits of the last days of his parents, recalled with great detail, affection and exasperation. Other examples he takes up include writers, "most of them dead and quite a few of them French," as well as some composers, for good measure. Although he cautions us that "this is not my autobiography," the book nonetheless reveals much about Barnes the man and the novelist: how he thinks and how he writes and how he lives. At once deadly serious and dazzlingly playful, this is a wise, funny and constantly surprising tour of the human condition.--From publisher description.

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