Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Fiction: Pulse by Julian Barnes

The title of Julian Barnes’ 17th book refers to the rhythms that function within each relationship. So, at least, it would seem, because Pulse concerns itself entirely with love and relationships, a topic that turns out to be as fraught with danger as his previous collection, Nothing to Be Frightened Of, which focused on death.

Barnes has broken this collection into two distinct parts. In the first, he explores contemporary relationships, punctuated by repeated appearances of a set of couples at regular dinner parties, observing and commenting, most often not too kindly.
“Did you see the map of global warming the paper the other day? It said a four-degree rise would be utterly disastrous -- no water in most of Africa, cyclones, epidemics, rising sea levels, the Netherlands and southeast England underwater.”

“can’t we rely on the Dutch to sort something out? They did before.”

“What time span are we actually talking about?”

“If we don’t agree now, we could have a four-degree rise by 2060.”

In the second part of Pulse, Barnes looks at love in a more historical way, with forays into the 18th and 19th centuries. The results are somewhat predictable: times change, but the human heart, truly, does not. ◊

Aaron Blanton is a contributing editor to January Magazine. He’s currently working on a book based on his experiences as an American living abroad.

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