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Nothing to Be Frightened Of Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 2, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In this virtuosic memoir, Barnes (Arthur & George) makes little mention of his personal or professional life, allowing his audience very limited ingress into his philosophical musings on mortality. But like Alice tumbling through the rabbit hole, readers will find themselves granted access to an unexpectedly large world, populated with Barnes's daily companions and his chosen ancestors (most of them dead, and quite a few of them French, like Jules Renard, Flaubert, Zola). This is not 'my autobiography,' Barnes emphasizes in this hilariously unsentimental portrait of his family and childhood. Part of what I'm doing—which may seem unnecessary—is trying to work out how dead they are. And in this exploration of what remains, the author sifts through unreliable memory to summon up how his ancestors—real and assumed—contemplated death and grappled with the perils and pleasures of pit-gazing. If Barnes's self-professed amateur philosophical rambling feels occasionally self-indulgent, his vivid description delights. (Sept.)
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From Bookmarks Magazine
Most critics strongly recommended Julian Barnes's reflections on mortality. However, perhaps reluctant to embrace his disbelief, they seemed more impressed by his descriptive skill in depicting his family—in particular, his emotionally remote brother—even though a few critics cited the author himself as emotionally closed in his personal writing. Reviewers also praised the scope of Barnes's literary erudition more than any actual insight into the subject of death. A few reviewers felt that this dance around the subject makes Nothing to Be Frightened Of weaker than Barnes's other books. But most embraced the book's novelistic ambiguity, enjoying the story even if the author himself does not know how it will end.
Copyright 2008 Bookmarks Publishing LLC
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This is a remarkably intelligent entertaining look at death. Especially as it applies to your own case. It's on the horizon for everyone. Yeah, for me too, I know...
Among the many confirmations in this book that we are all headed toward our last breath, there is lots of philosophy mixed in, ancient and modern, and lots of humor too, to make the grim reminders more bearable.
He tells stories of deaths in his own family, and the deaths of the rich and famous. And the infamous. He tells of their various strategies of avoidance and convenient religious conversions at the end-- just in case. He includes here lots of 'famous last words' and unusual last wishes and requests. He speculates about the existence of some beneficent deity that may save us and he tells of the happy realms many have imagined that awaits us, finally, beyond this vale of tears. He has something creative and intelligent and sometimes even wise to tell us about the entire spectrum of mankind's stratagems of avoidance and preparation.
I can't say there is 'nothing to be frightened of' -- you're entitled to your feelings. But, heck, if you can realize our absolute oneness in the future that awaits one and all, and even laugh a little, perhaps we will dread-- at least a little less-- the visit that we know will be coming from the Grim One upon whose lists our name will most certainly, sooner or later, appear.
I daresay that this is not a work for young people because some aspects of life and death come while ageing. the fact that we lose our parents, how we react.
I enjoyed the book and learned a lot of things further than thinking about death in general and my own.