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Love, death and cigarettes

Julian Barnes examines mortality and loss in his new collection of finely wrought stories. But most of them lack the richness and energy of his best fiction

By Amanda Craig   January 2011

Pulse by Julian Barnes (Jonathan Cape, £16.99)

The black-and-white cover suggests the waver of heartbeats on a monitor, or the veins in marble—but closer inspection reveals its fine, wispy white lines to be those of tiny roots, searching for space and nutrients. Nothing could be more appropriate for Julian Barnes’s third book of short stories, which comes two years after his non-fiction meditation on death, Nothing To Be Frightened Of.

These are tales of love, death and cigarettes; of the pleasures of gossip and the revenges of art. It’s a strange and heady mixture, and for the most part predictably Barnesian.…

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