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Pulse Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 3 2011

3.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Canada (May 3 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307359603
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307359605
  • Product Dimensions: 14.9 x 2.5 x 22 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 386 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #325,375 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


A New York Times Editors' Choice
"One of our most consistently deft short-form stylists.... Quietly remarkable, elegant."
Daily Telegraph
"Barnes can do more in a single story than many lesser writers can accomplish in a whole novel."
Toronto Star
"Among the most adventurous writers--in style, versatility and narrative
The New York Times Book Review
"A moving and truth-telling work of fiction."
The Boston Globe
"Barnes's erudition is in full display.... Combines mordant humour, perspicacity and invigoratingly crisp writing."
The Independent
“[A] perfectly weighted collection. . . . Affecting.”
—The Observer
“Julian Barnes is one of those confident literary decathletes, proficient at old-fashioned storytelling, dialogue-driven portraiture, postmodern collage, and political allegory and farce. He’s a true literary professional whose most compelling work showcases his musical prose, his ear for the chattering class’s chatter (Talking It Over), his ability to create narratives with both surface brio and finely calibrated philosophical subtexts (Flaubert’s Parrot, The Porcupine).”
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

About the Author

JULIAN BARNES is the author of 10 novels, 2 previous books of stories, 2 collections of essays and a translation of Alphonse Daudet's In the Land of Pain. His most recent novel, The Sense of an Ending, won the Man Booker Prize. His honours include the Somerset Maugham Award, the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize and the E.M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2004 he was named Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture. He lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Somerset Maugham lives on in Julian Barnes, both superb crasftsmen of the short story. He is at the top of his game in Pulse and one hopes there is more to come. In The Lemon Table and Nothing to Declare he explored ageing and mortality in a rather meloncholy tone. That tone is necessarily found in a couple of the current collection of short stories. In the story of the title piece, a sad reflection on married love in the description of his parents' lives and deaths. In Marriage Lines, a grieving husband seeks solace by visiting a Hebredean island where he and his wife spend holidays. There are four pieces entitled At Phil and Joanna's in which we eavesdrop on conversations among couples attending dinner parties at that couple's home. The converstion of the fifty-something participants wanders among such topics as: politics; the potential for terrorist attacks at the London Olympics; global warming; the problems of aging bodies and inevitably sex. One would love to attend such parites just to listen since most could not keep up the appropriate level of acerbic wit.

Other stories are set in different countries and eras. The story of a deaf portrait painter in America who gets his revenge on an arrogant patron in an O'Henryesque ending. Every story is a gem, a remarkable collection.

He once mused about his last reader. With his novels and other story collections and with writing like this, there will never be a last reader of Julian Barnes.
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Format: Hardcover
"Moreover the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 'Also take for yourself quality spices--five hundred shekels of liquid myrrh, half as much sweet-smelling cinnamon (two hundred and fifty shekels), two hundred and fifty shekels of sweet-smelling cane, five hundred shekels of cassia, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and a hin of olive oil.'" -- Exodus 30:22-24 (NKJV)

At their best, Julian Barnes' stories in this collection are better than the best of his novels that I've read. His sense of irony can be devastating in the smaller confines of a short story. "East Wind" is such a story and powerfully opens the collection. "The Limner" is almost as good, but in a quite different way . . . emphasizing that the meek can get the upper hand.

"Pulse" was my least favorite story . . . but it's certainly well written.

I also wasn't thrilled by the four-part cocktail hour entitled "At Phil & Joanna's."

I strongly suspect that Julian Barnes could produce a much better volume of stories, but that would require choosing them for their quality . . . rather than for their fitting into a theme.

I would be glad to read another set, but I'd be tempted to check first to see which stories other people liked best and to just read those.

See what you think.
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Format: Hardcover
I have sought out and now own every book Barnes has written under his own name. All are first-rate. Many are spellbinding. "Pulse," his third collection of short stories, opens with the heartbreaking "East Wind," which tells of a middle-aged over-inquisitive lover who discovers too late that there was a boundary he should not have crossed. The book ends with the sad title story, a superb account of a son (again middle-aged) witnessing the deterioration of this elderly parents. The stories between these two bookends vary. A few are excellent; more are not. Overall, it is not my favorite book of Julian Barnes, but I nevertheless look forward to his future output.
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Format: Hardcover
There is no need to argue over whether Barnes is an excellent writer - I remember reading him the first time -- "Flaubert's Parrot" -- and loving it; what a discovery. Subsequent works, such as "Arthur & George" have also been compelling reads. But, I guess, we all have bad days, or make poor decisions; I would have been embarrassed to publish a few of the stories in this book, particularly the series of dinner party stories that reminded me of how deadly dinner parties can be and why we sometimes need to make new friends. But, then, there are such gems in this book that affirm Barnes' talents. I guess it is fair that the book was discounted by 37%, because you're getting the coal for free.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9d248fe4) out of 5 stars 19 reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d3a5840) out of 5 stars alive and well Jan. 16 2011
By Hande Z - Published on
Format: Hardcover
It is a book of stories, fourteen in all, every one of them written with the gentle charm that has become the mark of Julian Barnes. He exhibits serenity, sadness, and joy all with a wry British, or should I say, Barnes-like humour. He created amusement and fun in short statements: "Riding a hobby horse to death is flogging a dead metaphor." (At Phil & Joanna's 2: Marmalade). A theme of hypocrisy and sincerity appears as the underlying current in each of the stories, culminating in the poignant story about a man's (Barnes?) parents in the last story, "Pulse" that Barnes gave to the title of the book. It is a book about looking back to appreciate what little might be left in the future.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d3a590c) out of 5 stars Good but uneven; read some of his other works May 31 2011
By Morris Massel - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Pulse, by Julian Barnes, is a collection of 14 short stories about "longing and loss, [and] friendship and love". Barnes is a quintessential British writer who has been short-listed for the Man Booker prize three times.

This collection of short stories starts with a terrific opener, "East Wind", in which an Englishman courts a Eastern European waitress and tries to uncover the root of her unusual behavior. Suddenly, the Englishman and the reader are jarred with the waitress's story. Four of the stories, entitled "At Phil and Joanna's", form a single narrative in parts. It is essentially a drunken conversation among four friends ranging from sex to politics (very left wing) to loss. One story, "Sleeping with John Updike" is a funny (and sad) story about the relationship between two female writers who did not quite make it to the top of the literary world. Two of the stories are set a few centuries ago. A few of the stories read more like essays than short stories.

Barnes captures conversation beautifully. For example, the "At Phil and Joanna's" cycle of stories is just a long conversation between four characters. There are few indications of who is actually speaking but it feels very real. While the writing was magnificent, the point of that cycle of stories was lost on me.

Some of the stories were simply amazing. Others, such as Phil and Joanna's and a couple of the essays, were well written but didn't capture me. This is not Barnes' strongest book. If you want to give him a try, I would start with one of his Man Booker finalists: Flaubert's Parrot, England, England or Arthur & George (a fictional story about Sherlock Holmes' creator).
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d3a5d44) out of 5 stars A Wonderful Surprise July 17 2011
By G.I Gurdjieff - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I bought this collection of stories purely on the recommendation of the bookseller I frequent. I was unfamiliar with the author Julian Barnes but I have become a fan. These stories all deal with the topics of love, loss, and longing and provide a 'fly on the wall' view on a variety of topics. Among my favorites was "SLEEPING WITH JOHN UPDIKE" where a couple of female writers discuss their careers which appear to be fairly lackluster.
Barnes appeal from my perspective is that he parses his words carefully while managing to convey a lot. He is revealing in respect to his characters and can conversely express humor as well as pathos in the same paragraph. While at times he does seem more of an essayist than a short story writer, he may very well be a modern day Jonathan Swift.
I found this collecton so interesting and enjoyable that I plan to read more of Barnes' stories.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d28512c) out of 5 stars Random Reflections May 3 2011
By Roger Brunyate - Published on
Format: Hardcover
THE LEMON TABLE, Julian Barnes' previous collection of short stories, was one of the best books of its kind that I have read in a long time. It contained a brilliant mixture of stories set in other times or cultures and sharp and poignant observations of contemporary life, all silvered over with a tender or wry nostalgia. Whatever I have to say about the present volume, do read the earlier one; it is so rich that anything else is almost bound to disappoint.

As this does, I'm afraid. There are a few tales here that are almost as fine as the earlier ones, but none that are better. In "Harmony," one of Barnes' historical reconstructions, an eighteenth-century doctor attempts to cure a young musical prodigy of her blindness; although Barnes uses initials rather than names, this is a true story (I'll identify it in a comment) which he presents as a touching emotional drama with rich philosophical overtones. In "The Limner," another story from roughly the same period, he shows the wretched life but inner beauty of an itinerant portrait-painter. The contemporary "Complicity" shows two damaged people slowly coming together: a divorced man and a doctor, whose sense of touch has been compromised by a rare medical condition. In the title story "Pulse," which is placed at the end, the narrator's father loses his sense of smell; around this fact, Barnes builds an account of a happy marriage contrasted with a troubled one; it hangs together only very loosely as a story, but it contains a lot of sensitive observation and truth.

All these come in Part Two of the collection, which holds five stories. Part One, which is entirely contemporary, also contains five, all weaker than these, separated by four quasi-stories entitled "At Phil & Joanna's," which appear to be the sound-track of a weekly get-together of a number of friends around the dinner table. The conversation, about politics, mores, and sex, is witty and often brilliant, but it is all comment and no substance, entirely devoid of narrative force; it is not even easy to distinguish between the various speakers. All right, so you write four of the stories off; you still have ten left. Yet the trouble is that these four show up the weaknesses of many of the others.

For all his variety, Barnes has always followed a pattern in his stories: something happens, the narrator reflects on that something, and moves on. But when nothing much happens to begin with, all that's left of the story is the author's reflection. The opening story, for instance, "East Wind," begins with a beautifully-realized romance between a divorced estate agent in a windy seaside town and a waitress from somewhere in Eastern Europe, but the crux of the story emerges not from the relationship between them but from something he learns afterwards on the internet, of all things! Time and again, this tendency to pull away from action to reflection weakens the force of the narrative; there is too much telling, too little showing. Though there are still some very poignant moments amid these reflections, none more so than in "Marriage Lines," where a recent widower, hoping to achieve some sense of closure, goes back to the Hebridean island where he and his wife had come annually, only to discover that his memories cannot so easily be laid to rest. Barnes fans (of which I am one) will find things to admire; others should start with THE LEMON TABLE or ARTHUR AND GEORGE.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d285210) out of 5 stars Normal English Things June 3 2011
By David R. Anderson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
You may take it as a given. A Barnes short story will be well written. He is a reader pleaser. In every sense. Take the account of sex with Janice after the bike ride in "Pulse." You don't merely see what's going on, you feel it, smell it, taste and hear it. All engagingly packaged in just a few short paragraphs in the book's title story. For the English sex is quite normal you see.

Part of what makes Barnes' stories so engaging is that he is willing to challenge his readers. In the "Phil & Joanna's" stories, (four in all) Barnes rounds up three 40-ish, well-off, self-satisfied English couples - Phil and Joanna (the host and hostess), Dick (he of the pungent comments) and Sue, Carol and David -- and their American friend Larry, for drinks and dinner every fortnight or so. They eat well, drink a good deal, and so reach the drawing room stage of the evening with no inhibitions. Time for talk, talk, and more talk, almost always and somewhat wistfully, about sex. But who is doing the talking? That's for you to figure out, and the clues keep coming until the end of the fourth story. By contrast, Barnes can not resist having one of his characters pin a facetious nom de guerre on Phil and Donna's maid very early on. She becomes "Doreena the Cleaner."

In "Pulse," the narrator, never named (sound familiar?), brings us around to meet his aging parents, his girl friend Janice (see above) who stood out among his friends "because she has that London edge to her," and his buddies, particularly Jake, who he admires for his easy way with women. The story track takes the narrator back and forth between his concerns about his parents - his Dad has lost his sense of smell, his Mum turns out to have motor neuron disease -- and the ups and downs in his life with his friends and Janice. The story's title is apparently a reference to the pulse sites involved in his father's acupuncture treatment. There is a line in "Complicity" that offers what is perhaps a more plausible basis for the choice of title. The narrator describes the knowing that comes even before the first date this way: "that moment, more of pulse than of thought, which goes, Yes, perhaps her, and, Yes, perhaps him."

Barnes dips into history's arcana for several of his stories. In "Harmony" he builds on the "bright brass gudgeons" of an improbable 18th century musical instrument in the course of a story about what we would consider medical quackery today. In "The Limner," a 19th Century itinerant portrait painter who possesses neither the power of speech or hearing, confronts a subject's demand that he be painted with "more dignity" when, in the painter's view, he clearly lacked the trait he sought to have added. And in "Carcassonne" we find Garibaldi "one of the last romantic heroes of European history" prefiguring the sexual antics of Italy's sitting Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi.

If the stories in this new collection whet your appetite for more of Barnes' short stories, track down a copy of "Cross Channel" (1996). The stories deal with the English in France, the country they most envy while still managing to feel superior in nearly all respects. "Experiment", a story which attempts to answer the question whether a blindfolded Englishman can tell a French woman from an English woman by the way they make love, is very funny and right on. And, in true Barnes' fashion, he provides a surprise ending.

End note. "La Malade Imaginaire" ("The Imaginary Invalid") by Honore Daumier (1830) on the cover of "Pulse" (illustrated above) has no counterpart in the book itself. The poor man's troubled, mindless stare (has he forgotten the way home?) prepares you to meet an equally forlorn soul in the stories. But who? The only possible candidate is the blind- from-age-three harpsichord player in "Harmony". But she is too well managed and successful to be so characterized. Perhaps Barnes prevailed on Knopf, his publisher, to use the drawing because he admires Daumier as a fellow chronicler of the absurd. Or, perhaps, he wanted to create a puzzle to keep us reading to the end in hope of finding the answer.

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