Pulse

Julian Barnes

Pulse

The stories in Julian Barnes’ 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. In ‘East Wind’ a divorced estate agent falls in love with a European waitress, but is tempted, despite his happiness, to investigate her past; in ‘The Limner’ a deaf painter discovers his patron’s likeness after spending time among his staff. Anchored off the coast of Brazil, Garibaldi spies his future wife through a telescope, and in ‘Marriage Lines’, a widower returns to a remote Scottish Island to relive a favourite holiday. 4.0 out of 5 based on 14 reviews
Pulse

Omniscore:

Classification Fiction
Genre Short Stories
Format Hardback
Pages 240
RRP £16.99
Date of Publication January 2011
ISBN 978-0224091084
Publisher Jonathan Cape
 

The stories in Julian Barnes’ 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. In ‘East Wind’ a divorced estate agent falls in love with a European waitress, but is tempted, despite his happiness, to investigate her past; in ‘The Limner’ a deaf painter discovers his patron’s likeness after spending time among his staff. Anchored off the coast of Brazil, Garibaldi spies his future wife through a telescope, and in ‘Marriage Lines’, a widower returns to a remote Scottish Island to relive a favourite holiday.

Reviews

The Scotsman

Allan Massie

The promise shown by some of the other bright young stars of Barnes's generation has faded or fizzled out. His own star continues to shine. This is a delightful collection.

02/01/2010

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The Sunday Times

Peter Kemp

One of the stories in Julian Barnes’s characteristically elegant and diverse new collection opens in a plane flying above “the shifting brainscape of the clouds”. Together with the other 13 stories here, it also offers an overview of one of the most civilised and culturally rich brainscapes in contemporary fiction ... [An] emotionally sombre, intellectually keen and sensuously celebratory book.

02/01/2011

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The New Statesman

Kate Saunders

All the stories in Pulse have the absolute completeness and density of the very best short fiction.

06/01/2011

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The Spectator

Caroline Moore

The finest stories in this collection explore the minute, mysterious and delicate impulses that cause possibly significant (but also possibly delusive) shifts within relationships. There are several stories that contrast male blindness with female hypersensitivity, though this gives neither sex automatic moral advantage.

08/01/2011

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The Sunday Telegraph

Jane Shilling

...the predominant mood in the first part of this collection is of finely drawn distaste. But in part two a cautious tenderness sets in: the possibility of delight presents itself to beguile, if only temporarily, the bleakness of the human condition.

09/01/2011

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The Observer

Tim Adams

This perfectly weighted collection feels like a companion volume to his erudite and profound meditation on death, Nothing to be Frightened of … Barnes is a master at establishing the intimacies of mortality

02/01/2011

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The Independent on Sunday

Leyla Sanai

The least successful stories are a sequence about middle-class dinner parties, rendered largely in dialogue ... The smatterings of intellectual minutiae in these stories aren't expanded upon, and it would be different if the guests showed the considered wisdom or eloquence of Barnes himself, but they don't. Still, there's no shortage of that elsewhere in this collection, which combines mordant humour, perspicacity and invigoratingly crisp writing.

09/01/2011

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The Evening Standard

Claire Harman

The stories with historical and factual backgrounds, The Limner, about a deaf painter taking his revenge on an ungrateful client, Harmony, in which a blind pianist is cured of her blindness by mesmerism, and Carcassonne, a brilliant almost-essay about taste and choice, echo the drollery and erudition of A History of the World in 10½ Chapters and Flaubert's Parrot, but the predominant tone here is melancholic: this is a book very much in the minor key.

06/01/2011

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The Independent

Michèle Roberts

The artful arrangement of the short stories in Julian Barnes's new collection dramatises the conventional split between mind and body. Part One mostly features people talking and thinking without linking feeling to intelligence. Part Two, on the other hand, emphasises physical awareness. The collection explores different ways of knowing: intellectual, intuitive, imaginative. The eponymous "pulse" comes to seem a connectedness between living things; the heartbeat of the world.

07/01/2011

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The Sunday Telegraph

Tim Martin

...as a collection of stories it lacks some of the structural tightness that made earlier volumes, in particular the excellent Cross Channel, so impressive. But many of these pieces are still masterclasses in the form, full of the sidelong wit and intelligence that make the writer one of our most consistently deft short-form stylists.

02/01/2011

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The Times

Helen Dunmore

While the writing is as clear, as wry, dry and elegant as ever, there is something turning beneath its surface ... The preoccupation with death that Barnes explored in his memoir Nothing to Be Frightened Of has deepened, while the tone is warmer and more uncertain. These stories set out on their voyages in the awareness that they are after mysteries: the mystery of death and what remains for those left behind; the mystery of enduring faithful love.

01/01/2011

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The Financial Times

DJ Taylor

The jury is still out on that eternal debate about Barnes the essayist manqué, but it is a fact that what weakens the less successful stories in Pulse is their surfeit of information.

23/12/2010

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The Literary Review

Sarah A Smith

If the first part of the collection warms, appals and amuses in equal measure, the second part is not so involving ... there is nonetheless a lot to cherish here.

01/12/2010

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The Guardian

Rachel Cusk

One is asked, in these stories about friendship, to be his friend – or else. And having submitted to that requirement there are rewards, for Barnes's partiality and subjectivism are at least painstaking. More to the point, they are consistent: everything that falls within the circle of his interests is treated with great care.

08/01/2011

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