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I know bgo prefers people to post reviews rather than link to blogs but am not sure what policy is regards articles elsewhere that are copyrighted so that it's not possible to copy and paste the review here. I will post a link to my review in The Independent on Sunday of Julian Barnes's new collection of short stories, Pulse, and if it's against bgo rules someone can let me know and I'll remove it.



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  • Similar Content

    • By tagesmann
      So, you are so worried that the KGB will come calling one night that you can't sleep. And because you can't sleep, neither can your wife.  So you pack a small suitcase with a change of underwear, pyjamas and some cigarettes.  Then you stand on the landing, by the lift, waiting... And thinking.
      An involving account of what it might have been like for an artist to live under Soviet rule. Was Shostakovich a coward as he thought? Or just a survivor?
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    • By MisterHobgoblin
      Once upon a time, when he was only moderately famous, Julian Barnes wrote a column for The Guardian called The Pedant In The Kitchen. The idea was that a “Late Onset Cook” would slavishly adhere to recipes and run aghast at the idea of improvisation in the kitchen. This book bring together those columns into a single (very) slim volume padded with pictures.
      The concept appealed to me – I am an enthusiastic cook and would happily spend a day following recipes of some considerable complication. I do so to the letter; I see cooking as a co-production between myself as the technician and the writer as the conceptualiser. I think there’s a dose of art on both parts, but I know I will never be able to generate my own culinary ideas.
      It was therefore reassuring to find Julian Barnes to be a soulmate. He has an obvious care and passion to put out the best food he possibly can. He too will adopts one or two recipes in a book whilst leaving many untested for no obvious reason. And he shares my frustration at imprecise wording or processes that are logistically impossible (such as the instruction to cook pork chops and halved endives face down in the same pan at the same time). It was even more heartening to find it all written with a delightful, self-deprecating humour. Julian Barnes’s recipe books are very much of his generation – Sophie Grigson and Elizabeth David rather than the names that fill my shelves – and he spends rather longer talking about soufflés than he might. What even is a soufflé? .
      However, the columns run out of steam. After the initial rantings against specific recipes and specific writers, we depart into name dropping where Barnes discusses recipes with the various celebrity chefs, even eats at their homes. Then, in a futile attempt to breathe life into the series, Barnes falls back on cookery as discussed in literature. The series ends with a sort of whimper as Barnes tells us he’d rather be in his kitchen, trying out something new. By this point, so too are his readers.
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    • By MisterHobgoblin
      Levels of Life is an unusual thing. It is not a novel; not a biography and not a memoir. The closest it probably comes to classification is a long essay, bound in its own hardback cover.
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      We start out with a couple of rather dull stories about ballooning. The central conceit is that sometimes, when two things come together the world is changed. The first story is a mini-history of ballooning, ending when ballooning and photography come together to create something new.
      The second story is a sort of love story between the French actress Sara Bernhardt and an English balloonist, Frederick Burnaby. It doesn't quite work out.
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      Like Anthony Webster, the narrator of The Sense Of An Ending, I "just don't get it".
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