Just like I wrote a blog entry about Haruki Murakami without having read ‘1Q84’, I will today be writing about Julian Barnes without having read ‘The Sense of an Ending’. Forgive me if I’m rarely up-to-date with anything.
Saying that, this week, I have read Barnes’s most recent collection of short stories ‘Pulse’ as well as his debut novel ‘Metroland’ first published some thirty years ago. ‘Metroland’ is a coming-of-age story set in London and Paris in the 1960s and 1970s which has some nice touches of subtle irony and acute observations about youth and relationships even if the meandering plot resulted in somewhat less developed characters. This is probably why I enjoyed reading ‘Pulse’ more as his perceptive wit seems to be more effective in the form of a short story. Split into two parts, the stories are all in some way linked with wider themes of love and loss while the stories in Part Two each explore one of the five senses. The first and final stories in the collection, ‘East Wind’ and ‘Pulse’ respectively, were the most poignant while ‘Sleeping with John Updike’ was the most successful of his comic work. The sequence of dinner-party conversations written entirely in dialogue, however, would surely have worked more effectively as scripts than short stories. Overall though, ‘Pulse’ is an impressive collection which demonstrates Barnes’s exquisite versatility and perceptiveness.