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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Julian Barnes

[an overview of the reviews and critical reactions]

general information | review summaries | links | about the author

To purchase Pulse

Title: Pulse
Author: Julian Barnes
Genre: Stories
Written: 2011
Length: 228 pages
Availability: Pulse - US
Pulse - UK
Pulse - Canada

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Why we haven't reviewed it yet:

Not available in US yet (May 2011 publication date)

Chances that we will review it:

Eventually, probably (it's a story-collection; if it were a Barnes-novel we'd be on it quicker ...)

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Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Financial Times . 23/12/2010 D.J.Taylor
The Guardian . 8/1/2011 Rachel Cusk
The Independent . 7/1/2011 Michèle Roberts
Independent on Sunday . 9/1/2011 Leyla Sanai
New Statesman . 6/1/2011 Kate Saunders
The Observer . 2/1/2011 Tim Adams
The Spectator . 8/1/2011 Caroline Moore
The Telegraph . 2/1/2011 Tim Martin
TLS . 7/1/2011 Edmund Gordon

  Review Consensus:

  Slight reservations, but overall: very impressed

  From the Reviews:
  • "These are tight, rueful and almost desperately ironic stories whose characters are in permanent danger of being engulfed by the things they do. (...) 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." - D.J.Taylor, Financial Times

  • "At this point Barnes is certainly the master of his own style: what preoccupies him here are the novelistic qualities of endurance, unity, cohesiveness, qualities for which the short story is made to act as an anti-metaphor. It is an interesting textual game, though the voice of artistic self-consciousness has expressed itself before in Barnes's fictions, by means of an overt awareness of artifice or form that often acts as the interface with the actual, so that it isn't always clear where the force of limitation lies. Is it in the factitiousness of art ? Or is it in the value and sufficiency of the life being represented ?" - Rachel Cusk, The Guardian

  • "The artful arrangement of the short stories in Julian Barnes's new collection dramatises the conventional split between mind and body. (...) 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." - Michèle Roberts,The Independent

  • "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." - Leyla Sanai, Independent on Sunday

  • "All the stories in Pulse have the absolute completeness and density of the very best short fiction. You could add a litre of water to the last two mentioned and there would still be enough material to flavour a whole novel. Barnes writes wonderfully about dying, but is interested mainly in the experience of being alive -- even if he does know more about everything than he quite likes." - Kate Saunders, New Statesman

  • "The book is divided into two halves. The first nine stories, if they are love stories at all, seem to be all about disconnection. The five that make up the second half are delicately concerned with each of the senses, the curious apparatus of touch and sight and smell and hearing and taste that represent all we have to get close to another person. (...) 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." - Tim Adams, The Observer

  • "The finest stories in this collection explore the minute, mysterious and delicate impulses that cause possibly significant (but also possibly delusive) shifts within relationships. (...) Barnesí stories, at their, best, are always exploring the borderlines of what is knowable." - Caroline Moore, The Spectator

  • "Pulse is Barnesís 17th book, and 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." - Tim Martin, The Telegraph

  • "The familiar teacherly Barnesian narrator presides over only a couple of these stories (.....) Without the aid of expository narrative, it is often ifficult to distinguish the speakers -- their remarks are uniformly fatuous. More worryingly, without the traditional Barnes narrator to point us in the right direction, it is hard to see what these stories are meant to achieve. Are they slyly satirical ?" - Edmund Gordon, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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Pulse: Reviews: Julian Barnes: Other books by Julian Barnes under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Contemporary British fiction at the complete review

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About the Author:

       English author Julian Barnes was born in 1946. He is the author of several highly acclaimed novels.

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© 2011-2021 the complete review

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