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Pulse: Stories (Vintage International) Paperback – February 21, 2012

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Pulse: Stories (Vintage International) + The Lemon Table + The Sense of an Ending
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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage International
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (February 21, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780307742407
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307742407
  • ASIN: 0307742407
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #747,067 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Companionship—the search for, the basking in, and the loss of—binds Barnes's first-rate collection of short stories, his first since 2004's The Lemon Table. In a lesser author's hands, a single story composed almost entirely of dialogue—let alone four of them—would collapse under the pressure of carrying off such a task and still moving along the narrative. But Barnes proves himself an erudite fly on the wall in his "At Phil and Joanna's" series, which involves the postdinner conversations of a group of London friends discussing everything from the 2008 election to marmalade, sex, and testicle operations—and each character comes alive despite the slightest hints of description and exposition. Vernon in "East Wind," on the other hand, takes the notion of observing a step too far during an awkward courtship with a German waitress in a seaside town. Though their circumstances couldn't be more different, the characters in "Sleeping with John Updike," "Gardeners' World," and "Harmony" all find themselves at one time or another content in the knowledge of the space they share with a friend, spouse or healer, yet it is when this companionship is just out of reach, as in the dryly witty "Trespass," or snuffed out, as in the poignant title story, that Barnes shines brightest. (May)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“Vibrant. . . . Full of life and voice. . . . As Barnes fans know, love itself is a lifeline for this playful, erudite writer.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“A collection that shows a contemporary master working at the height of his ability. . . . Pulse sneaks up on you, and by the end, you cannot help but be moved.” —The Oregonian

“[Barnes is a] confident literary decathlete, proficient at old-fashioned storytelling, dialogue-driven portraiture, postmodern collage, political allegory and farce, [and the] ability to create narratives with both surface brio and finely calibrated philosophical subtexts.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“Outrageously witty and suave. . . . Wry, urbane.” —The Washington Post

“Barnes is among the most adventurous writers—in style, versatility and narrative structure—of his Amis-McEwan-Hitchens generation.” —The New York Times Book Review
“A moving and truth-telling work of fiction.” —The Boston Globe
“Of our leading novelists, Julian Barnes has one of the richest historical imaginations. . . . His stories tend to be quietly observational, rather traditional in manner, and his characters are never tragic. They are inhabitants of a gray-scale world, plugging on through life chastened by the experiences Barnes recounts, but not devastated by them. That may be why we identify with them so easily.” —The Los Angeles Times
“Full of the sidelong wit and intelligence that make the writer one of our most consistently deft short-form stylists. . . . [A] quietly remarkable, elegant book.” —The Telegraph (London)
“A book that is almost entirely masterly. . . . These stories are acutely observational. They neither satirize the speakers, nor celebrate them. They make art out of the quotidian details of modern conversation—and they are very funny.” —The Denver Post
“A collection of stories that engages the reader’s intellect and heart, the best of fiction’s traditional concerns.” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“In Pulse, Julian Barnes is as perceptive and intelligent as in any other of his dazzling novels and nonfiction, and, it must be said, fully as serious. . . . The reader appreciates Barnes’ unflinching realism and his determination to boil life down to its essence, however disconcerting that process may be.” —Providence Journal
“Sharply elegant, piercing investigations of relationships.” —Vogue
“Barnes is a master at establishing the intimacies of mortality in this kind of relationship, forever testing the limits to which our faith in human connection might stretch.” —The Observer (London)

More About the Author

Julian Barnes is the author of nine novels, including Metroland, Flaubert's Parrot, A History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters, England, England and Arthur and George, and two collections of short stories, Cross Channel and The Lemon Table.

Customer Reviews

A Barnes short story will be well written.
David R. Anderson
He is revealing in respect to his characters and can conversely express humor as well as pathos in the same paragraph.
G.I Gurdjieff
The books is very readable and hard to put down.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Hande Z on January 16, 2011
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.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Morris Massel on May 31, 2011
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).
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By G.I Gurdjieff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 17, 2011
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.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Roger Brunyate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 3, 2011
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.
Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Vanessa Wu on August 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Julian Barnes is a gentleman. His stories are subtle and unshowy but they have a good heart and are written with consummate skill. I like a man who is understated but nevertheless has his finger on the pulse.
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