Synopses & Reviews
From the Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Sense of an Ending
and one of Britain’s greatest writers: a brilliant collection of essays on the books and authors that have meant the most to him throughout his illustrious career.
In these seventeen essays (plus a short story and a special preface, “A Life with Books”), Julian Barnes examines the British, French and American writers who have shaped his writing, as well as the cross-currents and overlappings of their different cultures. From the deceptiveness of Penelope Fitzgerald to the directness of Hemingway, from Kipling’s view of France to the French view of Kipling, from the many translations of Madame Bovary to the fabulations of Ford Madox Ford, from the National Treasure status of George Orwell to the despair of Michel Houellebecq, Julian Barnes considers what fiction is, and what it can do. As he writes, “Novels tell us the most truth about life: what it is, how we live it, what it might be for, how we enjoy and value it, and how we lose it.”
"In this anthology, Man Booker Prize-winning British novelist Barnes (The Sense of an Ending) takes us through a life lived in literature. The 17 essays, previously published in newspapers and magazines, pay tribute to writers beloved of Barnes; the one piece of fiction is called 'Homage to Hemingway: A Short Story.' There is a lack of unity among the essays, which is to be expected from a showcase of disparate pieces spanning more than 15 years and presented non-chronologically. Many of the pieces shine individually, the anthology is at its best when Barnes writes historically (the detailed account and analysis of the difficulties encountered by generations of translators of Madame Bovary is especially illuminating, or biographically (the essay 'George Orwell and the Fucking Elephant' a deeper perspective about how large Orwell looms in British culture and why). However, some of the most personal compositions devolve into unadulterated love-fests, like the opening essay about Penelope Fitzgerald, and the remembrance of John Updike. As a whole, though, most avid readers will find more here to like than to dislike; unsurprisingly, one's mileage may vary based on enthusiasm for, and familiarity with, the books and poems Barnes discusses. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Julian Barnes is the author of ten previous novels, three books of short stories, and three collections of journalism. In addition to the Booker Prize, his other honors include the Somerset Maugham Award, the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, and the E.M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in London.
Table of Contents
The Deceptiveness of Penelope Fitzgerald
The ‘Unpoetical’ Clough
George Orwell and the Fucking Elephant
Ford’s The Good Soldier
Ford and Provence
Ford’s Anglican Saint
The Wisdom of Chamfort
The Man Who Saved Old France
The Profile of Félix Fénéon
Michel Houellebecq and the Sin of Despair
Translating Madame Bovary
Wharton’s The Reef
Homage to Hemingway: a Short Story
Lorrie Moore Takes Wing
Remembering Updike, Remembering Rabbit