The characters in Julian Barnes' new collection of stories are growing old and facing the end of their lives - some with bitter regret, some with resignation and others with raging defiance. Stories included are: 'A Short History of Hairdressing', 'The Story of Mats Israelson', The Things you Know', 'Hygience', 'The Revival', 'Vigilance', 'Bark', 'Knowing French', 'Appetite', 'The Fruit Cage' and 'The Silence'.… (more)
That first time, after they moved, his mother had come with him.
Occasionally a programme will contain a small piece of information, vaguely bordering on advice, about mobile phones, or the use of a handkerchief to cough into. But does anyone pay any heed? ("Viigilance")
My mother would talk practically of the Four Last Things. That's to say the Four Last Things of modern life: making a will, planning for old age, facing death, and not being able to believe in an afterlife.
I walked slowly back to the house. I stood in the doorway, calling for a lemon.
From the hairdessing salon where an old man measures out his life in haircuts, to the concert hall where a music lover carries out an obsessive campaign against those who cough in concerts; from the woman reading elaborate recipes to her sick husband as a substitute for sex, to the woman 'incarcerated' in an old people's home beginning a correspondence with an author that enriches both their lives - all Barnes' characters, in their different ways, square up to death and rage against the dying light.