Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Julian Barnes Archive (1971-2000)

Vanessa Guignery looks through a folder in the Julian Barnes Archive at the Harry Ransom Center, AustinHoused at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin, the Julian Barnes Archive spans the author's career from his first published fiction "A Self-Possessed Woman" (1975) to Love, etc. published in 2000. Additional papers will find their way to the archive in due course.

Scholars will be interested to learn that the Harry Ransom Center sponsors fellowships to conduct research in their collections, including the Julian Barnes Archive. Recent fellowships have been awarded to Ryan Roberts (2003-2004) and Vanessa Guignery (2005-2006), pictured here with Barnes's unpublished manuscript for A Literary History of Oxford.

Fight to Save Conan Doyle's House

Julian Barnes writes to save Conan Doyle's House in 'Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Property Developers', The Guardian, 8 July 2006.

Millionaire Sherlockians should contact the Victorian Society:

Undershaw as it stands today

Those wishing to urge on Waverley borough council when it considers the listed building application should write to Mrs Wright, Planning Department, The Burys, Godalming, Surrey GU7 1HR.

From the article:
'There is a poignant timeliness in the recent news of a planning application to break up Undershaw, Arthur Conan Doyle's former house in Hindhead, Surrey, into several smaller homes. It was entirely because of Doyle's first wife Louise, known as Touie, that the house came into being; and it was exactly 100 years ago this week, on July 4 1906, that she died there.'

Rimbaud and Verlaine House

Julian Barnes and others try to save a London home once lived in by Rimbaud and VerlaineA house in London (Camden) where the French poets Rimbaud and Verlaine lived after they fled Paris in the 1870s is up for sale, and Julian Barnes and a number of literary figures are trying to save it.

Barnes spoke about the rescue efforts on BBC Radio 4.

Listen to the program at the Radio 4 Today website (for a limited time).

View photos of the house by Isabelle Bocon-Gibod.

The contact for the campaign is Gerry Harrison:

Julian Barnes on Book Collecting

Slate's editor Jacob Weisberg visits Julian Barnes to discuss book collecting.

"When I reach Julian Barnes on the phone to tell him that I'm interested in talking about his book collection, the first words out of his mouth are that he's an 'ex-collector.'"

Read the full article at

Guignery on Julian Barnes

Vanessa Guignery
The Fiction of Julian Barnes: A Reader's Guide to Essential Criticism
Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. Pp. 240

Vanessa Guignery has written extensively about Julian Barnes, including her most recent book, The Fiction Of Julian Barnes: A Reader's Guide to Essential Criticism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006). Her insightful and scholarly critiques of Barnes's works are complemented by accessible writing and a genuine understanding of the author. Covers all novels from Metroland through the bestselling Arthur & George.

Incredibly up-to-date (Guignery was allowed to read Arthur & George in draft form in order to include it in her volume), The Fiction of Julian Barnes is a "must read" for anyone studying Barnes's work.

Order online through,, or through other fine booksellers.

Matthew Pateman's Julian Barnes

Matthew Pateman
Julian Barnes (Writers and Their Work Series)
Northcote House, 2002. 106 p.
ISBN 0-7463-0978-3

Pateman has previously explored Julian Barnes's works (see below), and this volume stands as the culmination of his insightful reflections on Barnes's ouevre. Pateman's analysis covers the full range of Barnes's work, beginning with Metroland through Love, etc. In addition to Pateman's analysis, the volume contains a bibliography of additional criticism that will lead students and curious readers to some of the better essays and texts related to Barnes's works.

While thin at 106 pages, Pateman has created an excellent addition to the growing list of critical texts related to Barnes. Anyone writing on Barnes's works will need to consult this book.

-- Ryan Roberts, June 2006

Pateman, Matthew. "Julian Barnes and the Popularity of Ethics." In Postmodern Surroundings. Edited by Steven Earnshaw. Amsterdam; Atlanta, GA: Rodopi, 1994. 179-191.

Pateman, Matthew. "Is there a novel in this text? Identities of narrative in Flaubert's Parrot." In L'Exil et l'allégorie dans le roman anglophone contemporain. ed. Morel, Michel. Paris: Ed. Messene / Collection "Dire le Récit", 1998. p. 35-47.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Short, but Sweet

TLS Short Stories
Edited by Lindsay Duguid
The Times Literary Supplement, 2003. 171 p.
ISBN 1-841221-62-7. (Available only to new subscribers)

In September 1998, Julian Barnes published a short story titled "Vigilance" in the Times Literary Supplement. Set in a concert hall, Barnes's protagonist discusses his displeasure with the audience's behavior and outlines strict methods for dealing with errant coughs and annoying shifting in seats. The irony of the narrator's confessional is enhanced by his direct reference to the reader and his personal stance on public interactions.

"Vigilance" is just one of sixteen stories from the pages of the Times Literary Supplement gathered together in TLS Short Stories. Other authors include Dan Jacobson, Penelope Fitzgerald, and Tibor Fischer.

For a limited time, this book is offered as a gift for new subscribers.

-- Ryan Roberts, May 2003

To subscribe to the Times Literary Supplement, please visit their website at

On Writing and Writers

Marie Arana, ed.
The Writing Life: Writers on How They Think and Work
PublicAffairs, 2003. 404 p.
ISBN 1-58648-149-5 ($16.00)

One topic of which writers seldom weary is writing. The hows, the whys, the inspirations and the obstacles -- all combine to shape a writer's stories and, often, career. The pieces gathered by Marie Arana, editor in chief of The Washington Post Book World, reflect the frustrations and pleasures a writer's life entails. The contributors list is impressive: Umberto Eco, Jane Smiley, Wendy Wasserstein, Joyce Carol Oates, Ray Bradbury, Julia Alvarez and, along with numerous others, Julian Barnes.

Barnes's essay "Literary Executions" explores his friendship with Dodie Smith, author of I Capture the Castle and 101 Dalmatians. In 1987, three years before Smith's death, Barnes became her literary executor, and the essay details the responsibilities involved in promoting and protecting another author's work and reputation. Of particular interest is Barnes's inner-struggle with "being Dodie" as he attempted to place her archive and decide whether to authorize a biography -- ensuring that he acted in her best interest, but also according to her character and wishes.

Dealings with Disney are only briefly touched upon by Barnes, who refers to "the notoriously rebarbative business of negotiating with the Disney corporation". These negotiations, and Barnes's brilliance in handling them, is only now coming to light. As Sue Summers writes in a recent Guardian article, shortly after the publication of Smith's I Capture the Castle in 1949, Disney purchased the film rights, intending to develop a movie for their famous child star, Hayley Mills. The movie was never made, however, and Disney refused to return the rights. When Disney approached the Smith estate seeking permission for its live-action remake of The Hundred and One Dalmatians in the mid-Nineties, Barnes negotiated the return of film rights for I Capture the Castle as part of the deal. After fifty years, the movie is scheduled to premiere in May 2003. It will star Romola Garai as Cassandra, Bill Nighy, and Henry Thomas.

As she does with all the authors in The Writing Life, Marie Arana prefaces Barnes's wonderful essay with a lengthy biographical statement. The collection contains dozens of other enjoyable works and is highly recommended for anyone interested in writers or writing.

For more information on the film adaptation of Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle, read Sue Summers's "Her Castle Was Her Home" (Guardian, 6 April 2003).

-- Ryan Roberts, April 2003

A Long Journey to a Questionable End

Bruce Sesto
Language, History, and Metanarrative in the Fiction of Julian Barnes
Studies in Twentieth-Century British Literature, Vol. 3
Peter Lang, 2001. 136 p.
ISBN 0-8204-44677. ($45.95)

I first read Bruce Sesto's book on Julian Barnes when it was titled The Fictional World of Julian Barnes. Submitted as his dissertation to the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1995, Sesto's study of Barnes was typical fare -- mostly plot summary wrapped around light literary theory. When I learned Peter Lang would publish the book in 1999 (and with a new, fancy title, no less), I was excited at the possibility of a thorough reworking of the text. I waited … and waited … I wrote Sesto and was told it would be published soon, so I waited … and waited … and wrote the general editor at Peter Lang. Soon … it would be published soon. Years passed (literally), but finally the book made the slow progression to hardback in November 2001. The suspense, the build-up, the high hopes were quickly squashed, however, because the book is merely a word-for-word copy of Sesto's dissertation. What could have been the holdup?

Despite all the months to clean up the text, the book contains its share of newly added textual errors, including strange title insertions (45) and missed indentions (133), none of which reflects well on Peter Lang or the author. The very first page of the introduction, in fact, makes strange use of a hyphen: 'faith- fully'. The original dissertation lists "faithfully", of course, which suggests the error resulted from a failure to catch a word processing program's "faithful" use of the auto-hyphen option. Other errors present in the original dissertation also make their way into the final book, such as an improperly italicized word before a novel title: "In Before She Met Me" (book, 27; diss., 48).

Perhaps it's petty to point out such mistakes, but they are representative of something much more disturbing about the book's content. During the text's six-year journey from dissertation to book, Sesto failed to keep his study updated. Both England, England and Love, etc are completely absent from the study. Given it's publication date, perhaps there wasn't time to add a chapter on Love, etc, but ignoring England, England is both surprising and disappointing. My guess is that Sesto simply lost interest in his book and refused to consider editing, updating, or enhancing the text. Proof of this comes in the very first line of chapter 4: "The subject of Barnes' most recent novel, The Porcupine ..." (113; 173). To clarify the glorious laziness of this statement, consider the following publishing timeline:

The Porcupine (published in 1992)
Sesto's dissertation (1995)
England, England (1998)
Love, etc (2000)
Sesto's book (November 2001)

More frustrating than the absence of England, England and Love, etc is the fact that they are not the only novels ignored by Sesto. Having discussed Metroland, Before She Met Me, and Flaubert's Parrot in the first two chapters, Sesto begins chapter three with the statement, "Barnes' fourth novel, A History of the World in 10½ Chapters ..." (53; 85). Ah, yes, that pesky little jewel of a novel titled Staring at the Sun (1986). How did Sesto keep himself ignorant of one of Barnes's novels? A better question may be how he kept his dissertation committee oblivious of the fact.

The absence of Staring at the Sun disturbs me so much, I'm nearly speechless. I can look past the fact that the book doesn't include an index and has a rather thin bibliography, but no Staring at the Sun? Truly disheartening. In the end, I imagine Barnes scholars will want to consult this book, if only to evaluate some of Sesto's arguments for themselves. At nearly $50.00, I don't know that I could recommend buying a copy for the collection -- interlibrary loan it instead.

-- Ryan Roberts, December 2002

Worth a thousand words ...

Benoît Heimermann
foot: les 100 photos
EPA-Hachette Livre, 2002
ISBN 285-120581-1. (€37.90)

Julian Barnes is an avid sports enthusiast. He has written about sports of endurance (cycling), accuracy (snooker/golf), and mental fortitude (chess), all with equal interest and respect. Not suprisingly, football, the sport of choice in Barnes's writing, combines all of these characteristics with the qualities of passion and emotion.

Barnes's third novel written as Dan Kavanagh (Putting the Boot In, 1985) centers on the third division football club 'Athletic' and the mystery behind its slow slide down the League tables. The finest of the four Duffy novels, Barnes's portrayal of Duffy's noble attempt to play goalie is one of the finest bits of sports writing to be found.

Given Barnes's appreciation for the sport, his contribution to Heimermann's foot: les 100 photos is not surprising. The book isn't something to be purchased exclusively for Barnes's short paragraph (p. 98), as fine as it may be, or for the countless other contributions compiled in its pages, but for the images that reveal the true nature of football -- passion, elation, glory, disbelief, destruction, bloody injury -- on the faces of its players and spectators alike. This book is all the explaination one needs to understand the beauty of the sport.

-- Ryan Roberts, November 2002

A Word or Two With Julian Barnes

Flaubert’s Parrot forms part of the syllabus for the agrégation competitive examination in France in 2001/2002, an examination for students who want to become teachers in secondary schools or university. In previous years, The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi, A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro were part of the syllabus and the Sorbonne research centre “Écritures du roman contemporain de langue anglaise”, headed by François Gallix and Vanessa Guignery,
invited Hanif Kureishi (1997), Margaret Atwood (1998) and Kazuo Ishiguro (1999) to talk about their books. The debates proved extremely lively and stimulating. This year, Julian Barnes generously offered some of his very precious time by kindly accepting to come to the Sorbonne and talk about Flaubert’s Parrot, despite his general reluctance to take part in academic meetings. The debate took place on November 14, 2001 at the Guizot amphitheatre at the Sorbonne University in front of about 250 people and it lasted about 90 minutes. It consisted of an interview with Julian Barnes, led by François Gallix, professor of English contemporary literature at the Sorbonne, and Vanessa Guignery, senior lecturer at the Sorbonne and author of a thesis, two books and several articles on the work of Julian Barnes.

To answer François Gallix’s first question on the genesis of Flaubert’s Parrot, Julian Barnes explained that in 1981 he had been commissioned by a publisher to write a guide - that he finally never wrote - to the houses of French writers and artists. This led him to visit many houses, but also the two museums devoted to Gustave Flaubert in Rouen and Croisset. Julian Barnes had brought to the Sorbonne the travel notebook that he had kept on that journey and read passages related to the question of the parrots, which proved extremely close to some passages of the first chapter of Flaubert’s Parrot. Julian Barnes then answered a question on biography and gave several reasons for his suspicion of biography as a genre. He pointed to the fact that a biography is usually boring until the subject has grown up, argued that a biography is often reductive and tends to minimise the work itself, and suggested that it is a mistake to judge the subject of a biography from a contemporary point of view. Asked about the amount of control over his characters, Julian Barnes said that he sat in the middle of two extremes, i.e. between writers who strictly control their characters and writers who suggest that the characters are completely free. As Vanessa Guignery suggested that Flaubert’s Parrot might be considered as an original form of detective fiction, Julian Barnes concurred that there were mysteries in the book (about the parrots, about the narrator’s life), but argued that the book was not characterised by a thrilling narrative drive and was more based on diversion. Attention was then drawn to similarities between Flaubert’s Parrot and The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford, which led Julian Barnes to explain why he deeply admired this book which is still undervalued. He explained the difference between John Dowell, the narrator of The Good Soldier, who defers telling his own story because he doesn’t understand it, and Geoffrey Braithwaite who defers telling his private story because of emotional blockage. Julian Barnes then said a few words on Something to Declare, the volume of essays to be published in January 2002, and In The Land of Pain, his translation into English of La Doulou by Alphonse Daudet which will be published in March 2002.

A member of the audience then raised the question of the influence of Gustave Flaubert on the style of Flaubert’s Parrot; Julian Barnes answered that he agreed with some of Flaubert’s positions but refused to acknowledge a word-to-word level influence. Asked whether he was a postmodernist writer, Julian Barnes was typically ironic and sarcastic, suggesting that the concept was no longer up-to-date and that he didn’t want to be imprisoned in such a box. He remarked that Flaubert’s Parrot and A History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters certainly bent form but added that he also wrote more conventional novels. Matthew Pateman, senior lecturer at the university of Scarborough, author of a thesis and several articles on Julian Barnes’ work, asked whether Geoffrey Braithwaite was a Larkinesque character, which led Julian Barnes to claim his admiration for Philip Larkin, pointing to both his gloominess and his humour, and to define Braithwaite as a very British character. The debate ended with Julian Barnes saying that he hoped people read his books in ideal circumstances but arguing that he had no ideal reader in mind when writing.

The full transcript of the interview, together with an introduction and a bibliography on Flaubert’s Parrot, will be published in English by Études britanniques contemporaines: Gallix François and Vanessa Guignery. “Julian Barnes at the Sorbonne. 14th November 2001.” Études britanniques contemporaines 21 (Dec. 2001).

Orders can be sent to Service des Publications, Montpellier III, Route de Mende, 34199 Montpellier Cedex 5, France. (email: The issue costs 10€ (approximately $10).

Rouen - 9th November 2001

Flaubert’s Parrot forming part of the syllabus for the agrégation competitive examination in France in 2001/2002, and Rouen being the Flaubertian city and the place where the enigma of the parrots started, Antoine Capet, Professor at the University of Rouen, decided to organise a symposium on Julian Barnes’ book. Among the participants were specialists of the contemporary novel (Nicole Terrien, Christelle Chaussinand), distinguished Flaubertians, both French and English (Yvan Leclerc, Lionel Archer, Tony Williams, Michael Wetherill), a member of the French department (Catriona Seth), and Barnes scholars (Matthew Pateman, Vanessa Guignery). The first day of the symposium ended with an interview with Julian Barnes, led by Vanessa Guignery.

The first question concerned the genesis of Flaubert’s Parrot, and Julian Barnes explained how he had been commissioned to write a guide to the houses of French writers and artists in 1981, and how it led him to visit several houses including the two museums devoted to Flaubert in Rouen and Croisset. Julian Barnes read passages from the travel notebook that he had kept on that journey and the extracts he chose proved extremely close to some passages of the first chapter of Flaubert’s Parrot. He then explained how he turned the anecdote into a piece of fiction and eventually wrote a whole book. On being asked to talk about the fragmented structure of Flaubert’s Parrot, Julian Barnes described his book as a non-conventional upside-down novel, “half homage and half junk-shop”. He said that he deliberately avoided the official mode of writing a biography, for example undermining conventional chronologies by proposing three different versions. Julian Barnes then denied trying to confuse the reader at some points in Flaubert’s Parrot; he argued that everything Geoffrey Braithwaite says about Flaubert is true and that the fact of proposing three chronologies is not confusing but illuminating. Asked about the fictional infrastructure of the novel, Julian Barnes concurred that the book wouldn’t be coherent without it and said that it was, among many other things, a book about grief and about a man’s inability to express his grief. On the subject of the third chapter concerning Juliet Herbert, Julian Barnes developed the metaphor of the net that he proposes in Flaubert’s Parrot to point to the necessarily incomplete nature of biographies; he explained that he decided to write this chapter on lost letters to bring in some kind of narrative excitement. In the wake of his “Letter from Genoa” published in the TLS in 1999, Julian Barnes then talked about another quest, that of the painting called The Temptation of Saint Antony which inspired Flaubert for his book. Barnes went to Genoa in 1999 to see the painting just as Flaubert had seen it in 1845, but he was told that the painting was no longer there but in Rome. Asked what attracted him to museums devoted to writers, Julian Barnes answered that he liked them to be messy, dusty and incoherent. That’s what he particularly enjoyed about the pavillon in Croisset where disparate objects draw you into contact with Flaubert.

Nicole Terrien, senior lecturer at the University of Rouen, then asked a question about the structure of the novel and the non-linear organisation of chapters. Julian Barnes explained that he first put the key chapters in place and then tried to balance narrative drive against the pleasures of diversion and digression. Tony Williams, a Flaubert scholar from the University of Hull (Great Britain), wondered if Julian Barnes had ever considered making Geoffrey Braithwaite go off to the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris to look at the manuscripts of Un Coeur simple. Julian Barnes answered that Braithwaite is only an amateur cranky scholar and would certainly have a fear of manuscripts and libraries, that’s why he chose the practical way, meeting M. Lucien Andrieu at the end of the book. There’s no solution at the end of Flaubert’s Parrot because Julian Barnes likes works of art that leave things unresolved.

The full transcript of the interview, together with the papers of the symposium, will be published by the Publications de l’Université de Rouen in January 2002. Orders can be sent to Publications de l’Université de Rouen, rue Lavoisier, 76821 Mont-Saint-Aignan Cedex, France.

The titles of the papers presented during the symposium are the following:

  • Nicole Terrien (Rouen) : Le psittacisme ou la parole de l’autre.
  • Matthew Pateman (Scarborough) : “Knees not quite unbent” : Precision and uncertainty in Flaubert’s Parrot.
  • Christelle Chaussinand (Dijon) : Lexicophagie et ipsophagie dans Flaubert’s Parrot de Julian Barnes.
  • Catriona Seth (Rouen) : “Your favourite mode of utterance”: Italics in Flaubert’s Parrot.
  • Vanessa Guignery (Paris IV-Sorbonne) : Sur la piste des perroquets : les figures de la quête dans Flaubert’s
    de Julian Barnes.
  • Tony Williams (Hull) : A Trainspotter’s Guide to Julian Barnes.
  • Lionel Acher (Rouen) : Jeux de miroir(s) dans Le Perroquet de Flaubert.
  • Michael Wetherill (Manchester) : Mixing it up as you go along - history then and now.
  • Yvan Leclerc (Rouen) : L’impossible biographie.

-- Vanessa Guignery, © December 2001

A Distant, Receding Coastline

Julian Barnes
Something to Declare
London: Jonathan Cape, 2002. (318 p.)
ISBN 0-330-48916-X. (£8.99)

The great poet and literary critic Ian Hamilton died of cancer on December 27, 2001. In addition to his poetry, biographies, and essays, Hamilton’s literary legacy includes the editorship of two of the most influential journals of the 1960s and 1970s: The Review and The New Review. Under Hamilton’s critical eye, Julian Barnes published his first column for The New Review in November 1976. The following year Barnes began writing The New Review’s "Greek Street" column under the pseudonym of Edward Pygge, a name created by Hamilton in the early days of The Review. Barnes has said of Hamilton’s influence, "He was the Gaffer, and what that means in literary journalism is: someone whose presence and example makes you write as well as you are able" (20). Barnes had written over 140 reviews before his November 1976 appearance in The New Review and, since that time, he has published (conservatively) over 700 additional articles. In 1986, Barnes quit being a full-time journalist to concentrate on writing fiction.

Fortunately, this decision did not result in the complete cessation of his journalistic output. What happened instead was that Barnes allowed himself the opportunity to become the type of quality reviewer Hamilton makes reference to in an interview recently published in the London Review of Books as "You Muddy Fools" (published in book form by Between the Lines):
    "I like reading book reviews, if they are any good. And I know they are very hard to write. Mostly they are written by people who think they are easy to do. In fact, they are not. They ought to be constructed, and listened to, and they shouldn't contain a word out of place. And there should be some rhythm in their sentences and some wit. They should be entertaining and evince some justice and fair play to the thing reviewed. There's a lot that goes into a good book review, and it does irritate me when I see kids just out of university working away in the book pages as if the review is just an extension of some dinner party throwaway thing, a bit of idle opinionating. The idea of the well-made review and of the essay form itself interests me as something between fiction and non-fiction - a form you can do all sorts of things in. An underrated form. There's a joy in finding the right word in a book review that's comparable to finding it for a poem." -- Ian Hamilton, 2001.
All but one of the articles gathered for Something to Declare were written by Barnes between 1986 and 2000. Free of his "Grub Street" responsibilities -- the deadlines, the limits on copy length, the demands of weekly output -- Barnes’s reviews and essays during this period developed in style and narrative voice. Reviews soon became essays, artistic and beautiful in their own right. Written not to criticize the work, per se, but to illuminate some outward truth, Barnes’s reviews, particularly over the past ten years, reveal his preference of themes and subject matter (often the favored subject was France and, in particular, Flaubert). In this way, Something to Declare is more than a selection of Barnes’s journalism output over the past two decades -- it is the natural culmination of his personal literary preferences, his self-chosen literary consumption.

Barnes once told Christopher Hawtree, "I revere John Updike, but he collects up almost everything, every article, and knowing that you’ll do that must affect the way that you write in the first place." That twenty years have passed between the earliest and most recent essays in the collection should be proof enough that Barnes has heeded his own words. Additional evidence of his devotion to both this collection and its subject lies in the fact that the majority of the essays in Something to Declare were substantially edited or revised prior to publication. Barnes reorders several passages in his essay on Georges Simenon, for example, and, more drastically, reworks an entire two paragraphs in his essay about Henry James’s motor trip with Edith Wharton (STD 67-68; Motor-Flight 3-4). In other essays, the changes are minimal, but their subtle existence helps remind us of the care with which Barnes constructed the volume as a whole. The chapter "Flaubert’s Death-Masks", for instance, contains a piece on Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Perpetual Orgy that was originally published as a review in the New York Times Book Review. Initially intended for an American audience, Barnes has thoughtfully reconsidered every word, even taking care to change "savor" back to the English "savour" (155). This may seem an insignificant moment of editing, but the results of these cumulative changes are tighter narratives, cleaner lines, and an improved quality and sense of unity throughout the entire volume. In Flaubert’s Parrot, Barnes paraphrases his literary mentor as saying that, "hair only shone after much combing, and that the same could be said of style" (150). Something to Declare stands as a fine example of this sentiment -- finely groomed and a delight to read.

-- Ryan Roberts, January 2002

Academically Speaking

Vanessa Guignery
Julian Barnes. L’art du mélange.
Bordeaux: Presses Universitaires de Bordeaux, 2001. (136 p.)
ISBN 2-86781-281-X. (12€)

Vanessa Guignery
Flaubert’s Parrot de Julian Barnes.
Paris: Nathan université/Armand Colin, 2001. (140 p.)
ISBN 2-200-26198-5. (15€)

Julian Barnes. L’art du mélange (2001) by Vanessa Guignery is the second volume of the new collection Couleurs anglaises directed by Bernard Gilbert at the Presses Universitaires de Bordeaux (France). This collection aims at presenting the works of major or promising British contemporary writers from the perspective of a specialist who wishes to communicate to the reader his/her personal enthusiasm for a work of art. The volumes on David Lodge and Julian Barnes have been published in Autumn 2001; volumes on Kazuo Ishiguro, Graham Swift, Jeanette Winterson, Salman Rushdie and others will soon follow. The books, entirely written in French, are intended for keen readers of British contemporary literature, undergraduate and postgraduate students but also a wider public eager to know more about new forms of writing.

Julian Barnes. L’art du mélange is an attempt to testify to the prodigious heterogeneity of Julian Barnes’ fictional work which oscillates between the realist tradition and a deconstruction of codes and conventions. Chapter one, "The choice of hybridity", first gives a broad view of the various forms of Barnes’s work, starting with the novels of formation and the detective fiction, going on with the short stories, essays and novels that focus on contemporary history, and ending with the formal experiments of innovative works of fiction. The analysis then moves to the polyphony of voices and the multiplicity of perspectives that may be found in various novels. Chapter two, "A love song towards France", delineates Julian Barnes’ deep attachment to Gustave Flaubert and presents the various intertextual processes in Flaubert’s Parrot, before recording the traces of French culture in Julian Barnes’ work, be they geographical, linguistic, literary, filmic or pictorial. Chapter three, "The confessional mode", first analyses the forms of Geoffrey Braithwaite’s emotional blockage in Flaubert’s Parrot, then pores over the reflections on love in “Parenthesis” from A History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters, and eventually considers Talking It Over and Love, etc as original means of suggesting an intimate conversation with the reader. Chapter four, "The relation to the past", shows how many of Julian Barnes’s works attempt to preserve historical traces and fight against oblivion, but also acknowledge the irretrievability of the past and the uncertainty of historical knowledge. Chapter five, "Humour strategies", first analyses the provocative cheekiness of the woodworm’s rewriting of the biblical deluge in the first chapter of A History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters, then focuses on the various forms of eccentricity in Julian Barnes’ work, and eventually demonstrates the writer’s wonderful knack for irony. The book ends with a brief chronology of Julian Barnes’s life and a selective bibliography of primary and secondary sources.

Flaubert’s Parrot de Julian Barnes (2001) by Vanessa Guignery is a scholarly analysis of Julian Barnes’ novel, intended for postgraduate students, particularly those who are preparing the agrégation competitive examination in France. The aim of this study, written in French, is to present a thorough examination of Flaubert’s Parrot so as to determine its specificity and originality in contemporary British literature. Chapter one, "A generic, structural and ontological instability", presents Flaubert’s Parrot as a book which challenges any attempt at categorisation, classification and genre taxonomy, mixes fiction and non-fiction, and simultaneously exploits and subverts the need for structure. Chapter two, "The haunting presence of Gustave Flaubert", traces Julian Barnes’ attachment to Gustave Flaubert and analyses the various forms of Flaubertian metatextuality, intertextuality and hypertextuality in the novel. Chapter three, "The choice of hybridity", focuses first on the circulation of texts in Flaubert’s Parrot which demands that the reader be active and take part in a form of intertextual game, and then on the linguistic medley between English and French, based on contrastive phenomena, literal translations and bilingual puns, whose aim is mainly humorous but also reveals the author’s keen concerns about novelistic techniques. Chapter four, "The figure of the narrator", tackles the question of the possible confusion between author and narrator, and discusses the main features of Geoffrey Braithwaite, a self-conscious and reluctant narrator who wavers between a reluctance to discuss his private life, as emblematised by the indirections, delays, ellipses and gaps in the text, and a willingness to share with the reader the traumatic subject of his wife’s adultery and suicide. Chapter five, "The knowledge of the past", shows how Braithwaite creates a new form of biography which is hybrid, subjective, partial, incomplete and contradictory, hence reflecting the new awareness of the irretrievability of the past. Flaubert’s Parrot presents itself as a historiographic metafiction in which the narrator does not consider historical or biographical knowledge as an unproblematic category, but questions the ways in which we come to know the past.

-- Vanessa Guignery, December 2001 (© 2001 by Vanessa Guignery)

Vanessa Guignery is a Senior Lecturer in British literature at the University of La Sorbonne in Paris (France). She is the author of a thesis called Postmodernism and modes of blurring in Julian Barnes' fiction (Septentrion, 2001), and of several articles on Julian Barnes' work. She is the co-director of the research centre « Ecritures du roman contemporain de langue anglaise » at the Sorbonne.

Soundly on Track

Julian Barnes
Metroland (Read by Greg Wise)
London: Chivers Audio, 1999. (6 hours)
ISBN 0-7540-0375-0

Julian Barnes’s first novel Metroland depicts the life of Christopher Lloyd from his formative teenage years through his college days and into middleclass life in the suburbs of London. More importantly, the novel reveals the development of Chris’s relationships with his best childhood friend Toni, his Parisian lover Annick, and, as he settles into middle age, his wife Marion. The novel is expertly constructed and finely balanced between these three time periods in Chris’s life. Barnes uses French liberally throughout the novel and includes numerous references to works of literature and art. The novel is highly intelligent, humorous, and strikingly touching as Chris is forced to decide whether the life he is leading as a husband and father is an abandonment of his childhood values and beliefs and, if so, whether he should accept his life or leave Metroland to pursue the dreams he once had.

In presenting the novel as an audiobook, Greg Wise does more than simply read the words Barnes has already finely tuned. Wise relays the tones and inflections of the characters, adding additional clarity to their statements. Importantly, Wise paces his reading well, stammering when the characters stammer and pausing slightly when the absence of sound might allow the reader time to absorb the meaning of the story. The many French passages are handled with a qualified accent, which adds to the overall enjoyment of the novel.

The Chivers packaging consists of 6 cassette tapes running approximately six hours in length.

-- Ryan Roberts, November 2001

Blinded by Love

P. D. James and Harriet Harvey Wood, editors
London: Vintage, 2001. (392 p.)
ISBN 0-099-42282-4 (£7.99)

Sightlines is a collection of new writing published to support the Royal National Institute for the Blind and its Talking Book Appeal. As the introduction explains, the RNIB's Talking Book service provides "pleasure, stimulus, entertainment and life-enhancing joy of literature to thousands of deeply appreciative listeners" (vii). Contributors were not restricted by subject or style, but the editors have included several passages "about the lack of sight from sources as widely varied in time as the Bible and modern fiction" (viii). Authors included in the anthology include A. S. Byatt, Douglas Dunn, Ruth Rendell, David Lodge, Doris Lessing, Peter Porter, Michèle Roberts, Anthony Thwaite, Fay Weldon, Tibor Fischer, and many, many others.

Julian Barnes contributed a short story titled "The Things You Know" (138-150). Broken into three sections, the story tells of a friendship between two women, Merrill and Janice, who meet regularly for breakfast and conversation. Both women are widowed, but the memory of their husbands lingers and is often discussed. The story does not deal with the physical subject of sight or blindness, but it is apparent that love each woman still carries for their spouse causes them to be unable to see clearly certain truths about their marriage. The pacing and subject matter are clean and light compared with some of Barnes's more recent short stories, such as "Appetite" (published in Areté). Craig Raine, editor of Areté, also contributes a fine poem titled "Dasvidanye: the Russian for Goodbye" for the Sightlines volume.

For more information about the Royal National Institute for the Blind and its services, please visit their website at

-- Ryan Roberts, September 2001

Reliably Clever

Clive James
Reliable Essays: The Best of Clive James
(Introduction by Julian Barnes)
London: Picador, 2001. (349 p.)
ISBN 0-330-48129-0 (£14.99)

I first discovered Clive James’s writing while sifting through the back pages of some Observer issues published in the early eighties. His insightful television reviews published during this time helped make his name known to the larger public in England during the 1980s, as had his regular television appearances for the BBC and ITV. James, being Australian, is renowned in that country, as well, having been made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1992. In America, however, James’s work remains vastly and sadly under-appreciated. Most likely, much of the problem stems from American’s self-focused interests (not many receive the London Times, let alone the Observer), particularly during the eighties. The continued absence of British television programming in the U.S. doesn’t help, either. What’s so special about Clive James, after all?

One of my favorite Clive James works is the now little-known, but once vastly praised epic poem Peregrine Prykke’s Pilgrimage through the London Literary World first published in 1974 and revised with illustrations by Russell Davies in 1976. James’s poem is a treatise on the literary scene and the politics involved in publishing. Prykke is a truly classic work that depicts caricatures of famous (and infamous) literary giants and up-and-coming stars, such as Kingsley Amis, Philip Larkin, Martin Amis, and Seamus Heaney to name a few. One of the best portrayals is of Ian Hamilton, the important editor of The Review and The New Review, biographer, poet, and literary critic and the bar in which he held court: The Pillars of Hercules.

With Reliable Essays, James puts his best foot forward to present a collection of his finest essays and criticisms. In the personalized introduction to the collection, Julian Barnes tells James, “your literary essays are your best work” (xv) and, with the examples presented here, few can argue differently. With subjects ranging from Philip Larkin, Nabokov, Seamus Heaney, and Raymond Chandler to Germaine Greer and Margaret Thatcher, James is never offbeat.

-- Ryan Roberts, June 2001

Thursday, August 24, 2006

On Collecting a Collector

Thirty-Seventh Antiquarian Book Fair 1996
Introduction by Julian Barnes.
London: Antiquarian Booksellers Association, 1996.

Several years ago I became a collector of Julian Barnes books. I had read most of the novels and had acquired the standard set of Picador and Vintage paperbacks, but one act pushed me beyond the realm of mere reader and into the unqualified world of collector. It wasn't my purchase of a signed UK first edition of Staring at the Sun. It's a nice copy, I admit, with a loose and flurried signature by Barnes in blue ball-point pen to someone named Peter with 'best wishes'. I still remember the thrill of owning my first signed title and of wondering what Peter must have been thinking when he took his personalized edition to the used book store. Was he a graduate student, as I was at the time, struggling to pay his tuition? Had his horse come up lame at the track? Did he buy the book new at a signing and, upon flipping through a few pages, decide that Barnes wasn't to his taste? (Surely not!) Did he take trade instead of cash? What titles did he leave with? Did he read those books or leave them to gather dust on some forgotten shelf? I didn't have any answers, but I did feel, as I placed the book on a special shelf in my cramped apartment, that I had rescued this once-cherished book.

Still, despite the importance of this purchase, I can't claim it as the turning point to bibliomania. Closer to the mark was the purchase several weeks later of a signed copy of the UK "London Limited Editions" version of Talking It Over. Purchased at what is still a good price (£35), I remember cradling the book and carefully checking the limitation: 161 of 200 copies printed with a special, marbled binding. I was a graduate student, as I've mentioned, and this book represented improperly spent student loan money. It wouldn't be the last.

I should have seen the event coming, building its momentum with these first few unnecessarily specialized purchases. The Internet was still relatively new, and several key online databases of used books were soon receiving my daily visits. Bibliofind, which is now run by (much to its detriment), was one of my regular temptresses. Interloc featured mostly British book sellers, which was particularly destructive to my bank account, but it eventually morphed into Alibris and started raising prices with its 20-30% handling surcharge. Then there was -- the last of the great used book store databases. continues to lure me with its stock and even sends me daily updates of newly added titles related to Barnes. Alas, none of these sources were responsible for the single act that placed me in the ranks of abashed "collector".

Pacific Book Auction ... How had I even stumbled upon the website? It was the summer of 1997, and I was finishing the last few classes required before graduation. In auction #138, (17 July 1997), PBA announced for sale the following:

    288. Barnes, Julian. Cross Channel. Gilt-lettered dark blue morocco, a.e.g. No. 18 of 50 copies. First Edition. London: Jonathan Cape, [1996]. Signed & numbered by Barnes on the title page. Fine.

I didn't even own the basic first UK edition of Cross Channel (strangely, I still don't), but here in front of me was the opportunity to acquire one of only fifty copies of a specially signed edition. I am still amazed at the absence of any hesitation as I dialled the listed number and placed my bid: $190. I hung up the phone and my stomach hurt. I had bid nearly a month's rent. To my surprise, I won the auction at $184, including auction fees (shipping and insurance were extra). Despite the shame I felt for having squandered so much money on a stack of paper, I had to admit feeling an undeniable satisfaction when I finally held the book in hand. I had managed to acquire a superbly rare book, the one item I was sure would escape my grasp for the longest period of time, the essential peak of any Barnes collection that strives for completeness.

What I failed to realize, of course, was just how wide the base collection had become. Beyond the first US and UK editions were the proofs, the advance reader copies, the books with contributed essays, prefaces, or introductions by Barnes, those in foreign languages, and the audio books (stretching here, I admit, but nonetheless). What I also hadn't realized was that this rare find, this limited edition Cross Channel, would eventually be usurped in my heart by other, equally wonderful Barnes books -- The first book personally inscribed to me, for instance, or the fantastically rare UK proof of Fiddle City, or the surprising bookclub edition of Metroland from 1980. There is also the feeling of satisfaction that resurfaces each time I sit before a new and unread work by Barnes.

And what about completeness? Ironically, despite the fact that several copies are for sale online for under $25, I still don't own a hardback first UK edition of Cross Channel ...

-- Ryan Roberts, May 2001

Jim Shepard, editor
Writers at the Movies: Twenty-Six Contemporary Authors Celebrate Twenty-Six Memorable Movies.
New York: Perennial, 2000. (277 p.)
ISBN: 0-06-095491-4

In 1992, Julian Barnes travelled to Gennes, France to interview the film director Claude Chabrol. Madame Bovary had been released with Isabelle Huppert playing the role of Emma, and Barnes was writing a piece that would be published in the Observer Magazine. The Chabrol profile is interesting for its insights into the director's nearly obsessive faithfulness to Flaubert's novel, including the fact that Chabrol "established an inventory of all the noises mentioned by Flaubert -- the bird calls, buzzing wasps, animal bleats and baas -- to use as a basis for the soundtrack." Such fidelity to the text seems ironic given the novel's subject matter, but it also serves to raise questions about the nature of storytelling and the translation of the written word into images on celluloid. Barnes briefly comments on what he calls "the question of Book into Film" by asking, "What do we want of it, what is it for, and whom is it for? . . . And for those who know the book, is the film a parallel experience, an extension, or an alternative?" Chabrol offers his view, saying, "I had always believed that cinema and literature were going in the same direction, were companions."

Eight years after the Chabrol interview, Julian Barnes offers an extended study of the film Madame Bovary in Jim Shepard's Writers at the Movies. The essay begins with a few familiar paragraphs pulled from the 1992 article. Some words and phrases are changed (the split infinitive "to merely punt" becomes "merely to punt" and a "stream" is reduced to a "flow"), but they are only surface alterations, cosmetic touches. Then, three paragraphs in, just when you begin to think Barnes has simply rehashed an old piece, the essay explodes with a block quote from Chabrol that begins, "I started reading Madame Bovary the day before I lost my virginity." We learned this from the Observer article, as well, but in Barnes's words, not as a direct quote. Somehow reading the whole of Chabrol's statement enriches the story. It also serves as the point of departure from the original article, as Barnes expands his interpretation of the film and incorporates information about other attempts to adapt Flaubert's masterpiece to the movies.

Barnes is, of course, a tremendous admirer of Flaubert. The extent of his Flaubertian passion is best expressed in his novel Flaubert's Parrot in 1984. Since that time, his devotion to the French author has led him to publish on many other aspects of Flaubertian studies, including the tracking of the painting that inspired The Temptation of Saint Anthony, a wonderfully insightful study of the character Justin in Madame Bovary, and numerous reviews of books that deal with the author. All of this attention to Flaubert may suggest obsession, though Barnes would likely dismiss this characterization. Barnes does have incredible depth of knowledge about Flaubert, though. Who else could write:

    "When I saw the film, I thought I picked up two moments of Charbrolian invention, even if neither was much of a betrayal. Isabelle Huppert shows us her tongue on only two occasions--the first time, very early on, when she licks out the bottom of a wineglass as a coarse come-on to Charles, and the second, right at the end, when the tongue is burgundy with blood as she is dying. This subtle linking of eroticism and death was, as it turned out, in the novel all along (though more strongly accentuated by being made visual). The other was a tiny moment as Charles and Emma are leaving their wedding feast: Charles, bumbling along beside his bride, manages to drop his hat and then awkwardly pick it up. Apart from being in character, this also seemed to point usefully forward to the probably maladroitness of the wedding night. Pressed, Chabrol admits to not exactly an invention but rather a trouvaille (find). 'We did the scene three or four times. In only one of them Charles dropped his hat. It was the best take. But let's call it a trouvaille that comes from Flaubert.'"

Whether this sort of statement can be construed as obsession or mere observation is open for debate. What is certain, however, is that Barnes has an innate ability to use Flaubert as a springboard for explorations into what at first seem to be only loosely-related topics, whether art, author worship, or cinema.

-- Ryan Roberts, February 2001

Works mentioned in this review:

Barnes, Julian. "Films, Flaubert and Fidelity." The Observer Magazine (London), (18 October 1992): 34-35, 37-38.

Barnes, Julian. "Letter From Genoa." Times Literary Supplement , no. 5043 (26 November 1999): 19.

Barnes, Julian. "Justin A Small Major Character." In The Process of Art Essays on Nineteenth-Century French Literature, Music, and Painting in Honour of Alan Raitt. Edited by Freeman, Michael, Elizabeth Fallaize, Jill Forbes, Toby Garfitt, et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998. p. 1-10.

Breeding Humor

Volker KriegelThe Truth About Dogs.Translated and introduced by Julian BarnesBloomsbury, 1986. (121 p.)

I cried the first time I read The Truth About Dogs. Tears literally fell down my face. I don't remember now which of the cartoons I read first, whether it was the image of a man checking the bottom of his shoe with the caption "Dogs shit everywhere" or whether it was the series titled "A Comparison of Breeds" that showed various dogs caught in the act, straddled and intent. Whatever it was, it was brilliant. The subtle humor exhibited in Volker Kriegel's collection builds inside you until no amount of restraint can control your laughter. Kriegel's drawings are intelligent and timeless for their insights into both canines and, more importantly, humans. The dogs presented here are surprisingly real. They serve as mirrors of our own laziness, carelessness, crassness, ineptitude, kindness, and silliness. Of special interest to Barnes readers is the thoughtful, considered, and warmly funny introduction that Barnes provides for the collection.

Kriegel's relationship to Julian Barnes does not end with The Truth About Dogs. For several German editions of Barnes's novels, Volker Kriegel provided illustrations for the dust jackets. As a gifted illustrator, Kriegel could have easily thrown together some generic images to satisfy a deadline, to receive a paycheck and be on his way. What is heartening, however, is the attention to thematic detail and the respect Kriegel shows Barnes's work. The Metroland cover shows the expected train, but notice the gaze and direction of the man's face. Distinctly British, this suited ("settled"?) man stares away from the train toward its destination, leaning for a better look. He does not smile and his general stance reveals an additional insight into the characterization of Metroland's protagonist Chris.

Kriegel's illustration for Talking It Over shows the trio of friends just after Stuart and Gillian have married. The couple is happily embraced in laughter with expectations of a new life together. Oliver is smiling, too. He has just fallen in love with his best friend's wife and knowingly places a supportive hand on Stuart's shoulder. In a superb touch by Kriegel, Oliver is staring directly at the reader in a visual attempt to mimic the novel's tendency to have the characters address the reader.

In one of the best dust jacket illustrations to any Barnes novel, Kriegel presents a woman's belly, thighs, and pubic hair being watched over by a group of men with leering eyes. The scene perfectly matches the sentiment of the novel, suggesting all that Graham Hendrick fears about his wife's former love life. The imagine immediately brings to mind a passage from the chapter "Mister Carwash":

    'Now stop me if I'm boring you, Graham, but you see, what she really liked wasn't just me. It was all of us. All of us at the same time. Doing different things to her. I won't be specific, I know these things can be hurtful; I'll just leave you to imagine it. But the first time she got us all to do things to her at the same time, we were all sort of swarming over her, licking her and stuff, she said it was just like being in a carwash.' p. 94

Knowing the care with which Kriegel crafted these dust jacket images makes one realize just how much thought went into each of the cartoons in The Truth About Dogs. The shock and blatant humor of the pieces supply the initial round of pleasure, but the details and truth of the scenes are what give the book longevity.

-- Ryan Roberts, January 2001

Reviews of an Editor

Julian Barnes. "Bitter Lemon Days" in Another Round at the Pillars: Essays, Poems, & Reflections
on Ian Hamilton.

Harsent, David, ed.
Cargo Press, 1999. (151 p.)
ISBN: 1-899-98006-7 (hardback)
Pretending Not to Sleep, 1964
Ian Hamilton. I came to know that name a few years ago when I started collecting articles written by Julian Barnes for an as yet to be completed bibliography. Barnes's writing hit a number of targets in the 1970s and 1980s, buck-shotting the London literary scene in the usual fashion of an upstart writer in those days. What was intriguing, however, as I culled through stacks and stacks of fading, acidic newsprint, was the overwhelming presence throughout these journals of two other names: Russell Davies and Ian Hamilton. Davies is known today for his radio presence, including last year's year-long series on Jazz for the BBC. He is, I believe, one of Britain's greatest talents. The quality of his sly humor during the high days of The New Statesman in the 1970s and in Punch during the early 1980s is unmatched, and his artistic ability is best seen in the numerous ink drawings for Clive James's landmark epic poem Peregrine Prykke's Pilgrimage through the London Literary World. One of these classic images shows Ian Hamilton, Douglas Dunn, and Hugo Williams standing in the Pillars of Hercules, a pub once located across the street from the offices of Hamilton's The New Review. From the testimonials printed in Another Round at the Pillars: Essays, Poems, & Reflections on Ian Hamilton, one gets the impression that the Pillars was the office. Davies's drawing is reprinted on page forty of this festschrift and comes courtesy of none other than Julian Barnes, who now owns the original drawing.

The Visit, 1970As you can see, "Literary London" was, and some would argue is still, a web of connections. In the early 1980s, there was talk in the papers of a "Literary Mafia" that consisted of Barnes, Martin Amis, Ian McEwan and others, but the truth of the matter was less than what was suggested. True, there were authors who tended to work for similar magazines, eat together, relax together, etc., but the suggestion that these authors somehow controlled the British literary world was unfounded. Too many market forces were entering the picture by the late 1970s. Art was being forced to fend for itself, to make ends meet when the bills came at the end of the month. As Barnes states, "The notion that a literary magazine might receive an Arts Council subsidy was regularly denounced in the press. The fact that the New Review was a large-format glossy and not printed on recycled Bronco was an extra offence." Escaping from creditors was a full-time job. As Barnes and the other contributors to Another Round develop this theme in greater detail, each story adds to the next until one can hardly imagine how Hamilton lived through the New Review experience at all. In the end, any semblance of power or control over art and writing evaporated when Hamilton was forced to end publication of The New Review. The largest and best of the literary dragons had been gutted.

Tomorrow Magazine - Edited by Ian HamiltonMost of Another Round deals with Hamilton's New Review days, but a number of contributors recall the struggles of Hamilton's earlier literary publications, including the short-lived Tomorrow Magazine. More impressive was Hamilton's The Review, a poetry journal published for ten years, mostly throughout the 1960s. To look over issues of The Review is to watch the development of a great talent. Not in the contributors, necessarily, but in the editor. Hamilton was The Review and his influence and expectations for quality are what made it one of the most influential poetry journals of all time.

The New Review - Edited by Ian HamiltonHamilton's reputation as a literary force only grew with The New Review. He published a new generation of authors, including Ian McEwan's first short stories (detailed in McEwans's entry in Another Round), Martin Amis, and James Fenton. Craig Raine was made books editor and Barnes was made a contributing editor. Small steps, but important ones in the early days of these authors' careers. Hamilton's influence is difficult to judge, but the fact that many of these authors have contributed to his festschrift speaks volumes. Barnes writes, "[Ian] was the Gaffer, and what this means in literary journalism is: someone whose presence and example make you write as well as you are able." What greater testimony could one ask for?

-- Ryan Roberts, December 2000

Related Websites or Cited References:

"Ian Hamilton - editor and interviewer." Between the Lines. 30 July 2000. 15 January 2001.

Barnes, Julian. "One Famous Writer brought him a piece and was told it might serve as cat litter." The Guardian 17 April 1999. 25 February 2001. NOTE: This essay was also published under the title "Bitter Lemon Days" as part of Another Round At The Pillars: Essays, Poems & Reflections on Ian Hamilton, to mark Hamilton's 60th birthday.

Writing for Granta

Granta: Best of Young British NovelistsNo. 7 Granta Publications, 1983.
Granta: HistoryNo. 32 Granta Publications, 1990.
Granta: LosersNo. 47 Granta Publications, 1994.
Granta: Fifty!No. 50 Granta Publications, 19.
Granta: London -- The Lives of the CityNo. 65 Granta Publications, 1999.

In 1983, the British literary magazine Granta published a special issue titled "Best of Young British Novelists". Edited by Bill Buford, the volume often has been cited as the launching pad for several of today's best British writers, including Salman Rushdie, Martin Amis, and Julian Barnes. Barnes disputes this notion, however. In an interview with, Carl Swanson discusses the issue with Barnes, stating, "You and other people -- part of a circle which developed with Granta -- sort of rose with [Bill Buford]." To this Barnes replies,

    "Yes, though what happens is -- it's the same with writing schools and magazines -- the editor or the professor always claims more credit than is due. Bill now says that he launched me, which is complete bullshit. . . . Whereas in fact he published me once, and he behaved so badly toward the copy that I swore I'd never write for him again. And he only published me then because I was in some sort of collection, some promotion of young British authors. He decided to do them all, so he did them all. But then when I became successful later on, he decided he'd launched me. So they over-claim for you and you in return are graceless about their help to you."

The "copy" Buford "behaved so badly toward" was Barnes's "Emma Bovary Eyes", a chapter from his then upcoming Flaubert's Parrot. There are many texual differences between the Granta text and the final published version, but many of those changes were initiated by Barnes between UK proof and final UK hardback. Decifering which were Buford's contribution without direct guidance from either Barnes or Buford would be too difficult. The truth, as it were, is not recorded.

Barnes published with Granta seven years later in issue 32. Buford was still editor, but he did not handle Barnes's contribution, a short story titled "Dragons" that would later be included in Cross Channel. The Granta version is introduced by an image of Louis XIV (le Roi Soleil) as a hooded figure with the face of a sun. The image is both flattering and menacing. Louis is credited as a great patron of the arts and literature in France, a ruler who enlightened a country with classical ideals. Notice the torch clenched in the king's hand, however. The fire looms as a reminder of Louis's persecution of Protestants and the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. (The Edict of Nantes originated in 1598 with Henry IV of France and granted freedom of worship to French Protestants.)

Barnes's next Granta contribution dealt with kings, as well. "Trap. Dominate. Fuck." traces the events of The Times World Chess Championship between Gary Kasparov and Nigel Short. While skillfully describing the buzz surrounding the events within the match, Barnes also comments on the buzz that surrounded the event of the match itself. Barnes's discussion of chess as a marketable sport is particularly interesting.

In Granta's 50th issue, Barnes contributed another short story that he would later gather in Cross Channel. "Gnossienne" is a curious tale of a British writer's trip to a "literary conference" in France. Many readers of Barnes will assume the story is based on some factual event. There are several indicators, such as the line, "My replies are sent on postcards free of my own address." Barnes is known to send postcards as a means of answering mail from readers and inquiries by scholars. A profile of Barnes written for Independent Magazine describes his study and desk and notes, "There is evidence that he is both polite and organised enough to reply to even tedious letters. Propped on the desk is a postcard ready for dispatch to a student in Honolulu: '. . . Staring at the Sun was not inspired by Vidal's Julian, because I have not read the latter book. However, I wish you luck . . .'" Another seemingly biographical inclusion is that both Barnes and the narrator of "Gnossienne" took family holidays in France as children. The tone of the excursions in the story mirror comments made by Barnes about his own family in various interviews. The problem with such theories, however, is that their supporting facts lack uniqueness. Many people send postcards, and the majority of them don't include a return address. Many young Brits travel with their families to France, and the majority of them are likely nervous about the foreign country. Like the narrator of "Gnossienne", we are asked to question the truth of the events that are presented. Things and people are not always what they appear to be.

Barnes's most recent contribution to Granta is a short entry on London, one of many such contributions by authors gathered under the uniform title of "A London View". In it, Barnes discusses his youthful travels into the city by tube to attend school and the frequent sight of the entrance to the former Blackfriars mainline station. Destinations, such as Berlin and Dresden, were etched into the stone archway as an indication of the world's expanse. Though short in length, the sentiment of this piece has its foundation in Barnes's "Out of Place" article for Architectural Digest (v.54, no. 5, April 1997, p.36,38). Barnes claims he does not have a sense of "Place", particularly with regards to his writing, despite having lived in the same part of London for several decades. In "A London View", he explains that his daily travels to school within the city made him feel like he was traveling "from family dullsville to the centre of the world." As time passed, the names on the station entrance helped him realize that London was not where the tracks ended. "I realized that I did not travel each morning to the centre of the world. Northwood was to London as London was to Europe. . . . I enjoy the city; but I have always felt it as a place on the way to somewhere else." "Place" is defined by boundaries. With a constant reminder that there are tracks leading in every direction to new and interesting locations, it is easy to understand Barnes's earlier claim that he is "out of place".

-- Ryan Roberts, October/November 2000

Lawson, Mark. "A Short History of Julian Barnes." Independent Magazine, July 13, 1991, p. 34-36.

Swanson, Carl. "Old fartery & literary dish." 13 May 1996. 22 October 2000.

An Interview of Historical Importance

"History in question(s): An interview with Julian Barnes."Conducted and with an introduction by Vanessa Guignery.Sources 8 (printemps 2000): 59-72.

What reader of Julian Barnes's fiction has not wished to question the author on his view of history? Central to Barnes's writing, the theme of history, with its various permutations of biography and national identity, has often eluded explanation and understanding. Given a few brief moments and a handful of deftly worded questions, would we manage to clear up some of the more difficult aspects of Barnes's historical themes? Faced with the opportunity to question, how would we begin?

Vanessa Guignery begins with an introduction that analyzes Barnes's process of questioning "the foundations of traditional historiography" by means of "ontological, epistemological and political" viewpoints. This introduction is an essay unto itself and worth the time of any Barnes scholar interested in pursuing an understanding of the author's historical themes. What follows, as Guignery accepts the role as our representative interviewer, is a direct and capable questioning of Barnes on his view of historiography.

In her introduction to the interview, Vanessa Guignery refers to the "acute historical consciousness" in Barnes's work. Indeed, Barnes deals with the grander themes of history by consistently pursuing the undertones of personal history, the creation of national history, and the relationship of history to art, fiction, and biography. Through each of these perspectives, Barnes attempts to bring into focus a small piece of history's "distant, receding coastline" (Flaubert's Parrot, 101). In a similar way, Barnes's explanations of his historical themes in this interview add additional perspectives to his purpose and quality as a writer.

Guignery draws on her vast knowledge of Barnes's texts in asking a series of appropriate and difficult questions on the nature of history. The discussion concentrates on Flaubert's Parrot, A History of the World in 10½ Chapters, selections from Cross Channel, and England, England, but Barnes's responses can be applied more universally to the whole of his work. The discussion ranges from direct commentaries on specific passages or phrases from his novels to the general nature of myth and national identity, as exemplified in England, England. Guignery's scholarly knowledge of literary theory and impressive grasp of his oeuvre compliment Barnes's responses. The end result is the creation of Barnes's most detailed interview on his "historical consciousness" to date. Readers in general, but scholars in particular, will find a great number of insights in these few pages.

-- Ryan Roberts, September 2000

Vanessa Guinery is Maître de Conférences in British and American literature a the University of Paris IV - La Sorbonne. She has recently completed a thesis entitled "Postmodernism and modes of blurring in Julian Barnes's fiction." She has published several articles on Barnes's work, the citations for which can be located throughout the Julian Barnes Website.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Love, etc, etc.

Love, etc
Julian Barnes
London: Jonathan Cape, 2000. (250 p.)
ISBN: 0-224-06109-7 (hardback)

Stuart: I've come to some conclusions in my time ... My conclusions may not be blindingly original, but they're still mine. For instance, I'm suspicious of people comparing things with other things. (159)

Love, etc is, in the pure sense of the word, a sequel. It continues the events first developed in Talking It Over, picking up the activity after ten years of silence. The structure of the novel is continued, as well, but take Stuart's statement above to heart, because further comparisons may prove tenuous at best.

Everyone and everything in Love, etc shows the age of the past ten years. Stuart's hair is grey when he returns to London after a successful stint as an American businessman. He is older and, at times, he seems wiser, but he is also still bitter about his past and his lost love, Gillian. Oliver is still struggling with his stormy career and is having a nice attempt at being a failed screenwriter. He retains his command of language, but his use of "crepuscular" and "steatopygous" within the first twelve pages serves only to echo his younger self -- and echoes are never quite as strong as the original voice they answer. One senses his wit and jovality will only carry him so far at his age. Gillian's emotions are confused by Stuart's triumphant return and offers of financial assistance. She is also worn, as all the characters are, by the ten years that followed the brutal scene which ended Talking It Over.

Barnes carefully maintains the tone of the novel, which will undoubtably be called "dark". The truth is that it is simply realistic. Reality is often cruel and sad and unexpected, and Barnes understands this well. Talking It Over was centered on the conflict between two best friends fighting for the love of one woman. While the final scene of the novel was surprising, the ending was not. Oliver won. We saw it coming. The joy of the novel was in the language and the pure pleasure and intimacy the characters brought to us. With Love, etc, reality takes hold -- of everyone. The struggle seems to be the same, but in reverse, as Stuart returns to reclaim Gillian as his own. But life has worked on these characters and on us as readers. Stuart points to this issue on page 1, "Oh, and by the way, you've changed too. You probably think you're pretty much the same as you were back then. Believe me, you aren't." Are we too wise to believe Barnes would simply reverse the tables of fortune and cover the old territory again?

One interesting feature of both Talking It Over and Love, etc is the role the reader plays in the story. The US edition of Talking It Over is built on the narrative structure of the characters talking to the reader. The reader is generic, colorless, and nationless and seems to act as one of the characters. The reader was an essential part of the characters' discussions. Each begged for direct attention and love. In Love, etc, the characters still play to the reader, still beg for understanding, but, at least in this UK edition, the reader is blatantly British. Terri, Stuart's American, second ex-wife, seems the first to address this fact when she says:

"We have our picture of Brits, especially in a city like Baltimore, which is a very American city in case you never heard. Wallis Simpson came from Baltimore, the one who married your King. We don't get too many of you coming through, so we buy into the stereotype, which is that Brits are snobby and stick together and don't pick up the tab for drinks if they can possibly avoid it" (34).

If the reader is not British, this simple statement seems to change their role in a subtle way. Instead of being an active character in the novel, playing the willing ear, the reliable shoulder, the non-British reader is made passive, aware that there is someone else, someone British involved. I mention this curiosity only because no British reviewer of the novel has addressed the issue. The novel's force is not lessened, of course, nor is its ability to move, but it poses an interesting theoretical question about the presence of the reader.

Of greater interest, is the novel's ending. No less dramatic than that of Talking It Over, the events which unfold are just as surprisingly obvious and unexpected, just as darkly sad and true. Love, etc forces us to approach the mirror of human frailty and look deeply into our own eyes. It is funny and sad, playful and deliberate. And when it is finished, we are left wondering what will happen next. Only Barnes knows for sure, but he isn't hinting. He offers only the statement, "Something will happen. Or nothing" (250).

-- Ryan Roberts, August 2000

With a Little Help from His Friends

Areté Magazine
Edited by Craig Raine

Issue One Winter 1999. (158 p.)
ISBN: 0904 241 165

Issue Two Spring-Summer 2000. (158 p.)
ISBN: 0904 241 211

When Craig Raine decided to become the editor of a literary magazine, he knew what he had to do to succeed. "No one is being paid," Raine made clear in a New Statesman piece. "All unpaid - in advance. A first." Who would contribute to a new literary venture without expectation of compensation? Friends. Raine has quite a few of them, and he has reaped the rewards of their labors for the first two issues. Martin Amis shows up in interview. Julian Barnes offers a new short story. Ian McEwan appears in both issues, as does Rosemary Hill, Jerzy Jarniewicz, and Jeremy Noel-Tod. Areté does not suffer from a lack of quality.

Of all the highlights offered in Issue One, Raine's own contribution deserves special attention. "A la recherche du temps perdu", a candid portrayal of a past love affair, was much maligned in the press for its harsh reality and forthcoming nature. "Raine's work has always been pretty yucky," claims a Guardian article, which then goes on to add, "Raine's reality, the way it was for him, is a bit too real for me." Talking to the Daily Telegraph, friends of the deceased lover (the poem reveals she died of AIDS) believe Raine "should have left her alone". In the end, all of the commotion fails to convince that the poem is anything but brilliant. Julian Barnes is quoted in the Sunday Times as stating, "Nobody else could have done such a thing except Craig." In the same Daily Telegraph piece mentioned above, Barnes adds, "The headline should be: Craig Raine writes a wonderful new extraordinary poem. I don't know if it's causing a stir. I think it should cause a stir ... as a poem."

The reality the critics disparage is the exact feature that allows the sometimes "graphic" details of the lost relationship to flourish. In Raine's hands, nipple hair is transformed from banal pubic growth to a touching, symbolic tribute, a memory of something tangible and true. The following passages (pages in parenthesis) are but a few examples of Raine's tenderness toward his subject. Raine's poem isn't about graphic details or explicit sexual encounters, but about genuine concern and feelings, both lost and lingering.

What has all this to do with anyone else?
Why all these intimate details?

You taught me sex
was conversation and not a speech. (67)

I licked a nostril, kissed your chin.
Never so close again.

And now I have remembered you.

You difficult, lovely, lost masterpiece,
this is my purpose.

To make you real.
To make you see, to make you feel,

to make you hear.

To make you here. (84)

Raine followed the success of Issue One with a Spring/Summer issue brimming with continued promise. Areté is filled with many great contributions, but Julian Barnes's short story "Appetite" offers the greatest enjoyment. Barnes's story deals with ageing and the loss of self and is filled with as much clarity and shocking reality as Raine's poem mentioned above. Similar in style to "Interference", the great opening story of Cross Channel, "Appetite" develops a tone that is much darker, perhaps because of the all too common familiarity of the subject. In previous works, Barnes has developed the idea that we are made of memories. In this short story, he addressed what it is like to be lost to those memories. To discuss the story further would only diminish its strength, but the £8.00 price of Areté is worth paying for this story alone.

The other great contribution to Issue Two is a letter submitted by one Barret Crampik. Accompanying his letter of congratulations for the publishing of Areté's first issue, Mr. Crampik submits a poem titled "The Beautiful Testicle". Raine publishes the poem directly after Mr. Crampik's letter and both are a tremendous joy to read -- again and again. One hopes that the good Mr. Crampik will submit more such poems in future issues.

If the success of a literary magazine were determined by the quality of the writing it contains, we should expect to see many more issues of Raine's new venture. Since money is always a factor in the publishing world, you may wish to support Raine's efforts by subscribing. Please consult the Areté Magazine Website for details.

-- Ryan Roberts, June/July 2000

A-Leveling the Playing Field

A History of the World in 10½ Chapters
Edited by Ron Middleton
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. (349 p.)
(The Cambridge Literature Series)
ISBN: 0-521-48478-2 (paperback)

The history of the world ... It's a lot to digest.

Just ask any A-Level English student writing about Julian Barnes's A History of the World in 10½ Chapters. Yes, it's on the list. No, I'm sorry, but I can't provide you with "everything there is to know about chapter number X." Besides, telling one's opinions fills the student of Barnes's novels with false hope. No master key exists that will unlock the sturdy vault holding the "proper" literary interpretation of History. In the end, readers much decide the answers, if there are to be any, for themselves.

So where do you go to get started? Ron Middleton would tell you to go to the Cambridge Literature edition of History. Middleton claims to have "edited" Barnes's novel, which is to say he has added a "Resource Guide" as an appendix. The text itself contains the occasional asterisk marking a word which appears in Middleton's helpful "Glossary" (35 total words), but otherwise remains unchanged, with on regrettable exception. The text was repaginated for this new edition, meaning Middleton's History has page numbering that does not match any other standard edition of the novel. (The UK hardback and paperback, as well as the US hardback and paperback, all match each other page by page.)

Nevertheless, Middleton's "Resource Guide" is a mostly helpful mix of "Activities", questions, and comments developed around each of the novel's 10½ chapters. The more useful of Middleton's questions directly address the book:
Chapter 8: Look at how Charlie reveals himself. At what points are you aware that there is a problem in his relationship with Pippa?
Such a question does, in fact, "guide" the reader toward a better understanding of Barnes's development of character. Similar questions address History's major themes and even offer comparisons with authors such as Auden, Hardy, and Larkin. Middleton seems to have a fine grasp of what Barnes was trying to do in the novel, but he seems on occasion to be stretching to fill his guide's quota of questions, as when he offers up an activity like this:
Parenthesis: Write a short story in which a couple talk about being in love. Their conversation could include their feelings for each other, whether their outlook on life has changed, and anxieties about the durability of their love.
Write a short story?! Is he serious? Such an activity may do less to help someone understand the nature of love than it would to raise their anxiety over whether they are a good fiction
writer or not.

Middleton's "Resource Guide" also includes some very appropriate quotations from Julian Barnes, including an excerpt from his interview with Melvin Bragg on The South Bank Show. The quotations are not only appropriate to the discussion of the chapter at hand, but are often the foundation for several of Middleton's questions and activities. One wonders, then, why he failed to provide citations for the interviews? Melvin Bragg's SBS is an extremely difficult show to track down, particularly if you live outside the UK. After a two-month search, I can tell you, in case you were wondering, that a copy can be purchased direct from London Weekend Television for somewhere in the neighborhood of £50. (I didn't order it, but you can at: London Weekend Television, Upper Ground, London SE1 9LT, UK). Middleton also quotes extensively from an uncited interview conducted by Alexander Stuart for the Los Angeles Times Book Review (15 October 1989, p. 15). Failing to identify such sources detracts considerably from this otherwise very fine volume. In the end, however, Middleton provides some much-needed groundwork for educators and students interested in Barnes's History. A-Levelers cramming for their final exams and teachers faced with creating coursework based on History should consider adding Middleton's Cambridge edition to their list of resources.

-- Ryan Roberts, May 2000

The Art of the Interview

"Do you consider yourself a postmodern author?": Interviews with Contemporary English Writers.
Edited by Rudolf Freiburg and Jan Schnitker
Münster: LIT, 1999. (239 p.)
(Erlanger Studien zur Anglistik und Amerikanistik; 1)
ISBN: 3-8258-4395-5
39,80 DM / £15.99 UK

Rudolf Freiburg's interview with Julian Barnes took place in July 1999, a month which brought a particularly fine stretch of pleasant weather to London. One imagines the warm sun slowly heating Barnes's neck and shoulders as he took "tea and biscuits" (3) in his backyard and prepared himself for a friendly chat with Professor Freiburg. The light air wisping through the trees may have suggested a day of light questions, as well, but then comes along something like this:
Q: Are you familiar with or have you read about Bacon's doctrine of the faculties of the mind, ratio, memoria and imaginatio? (54)
or this:
Q: Do you consider existentialism as a cure for this paradoxical form of life or non-life?
Not exactly what you would expect over tea and biscuits on a warm, summer afternoon. And Freiburg, happily, does not stop with Bacon. In a series of intelligently prepared questions, Freiburg does attempt to address the question of whether Barnes considers himself a postmodern author, but Barnes never truly owns up to an answer. Instead, we are given healthy doses of his humor, as when he offers "five or six quintessences of Germany" (64); his theories on literary theory, "in my case there is no continuing dialogue between writing fiction and literary theory" (52); and the amazing insight that he has tried his hand at writing both poetry and screen-plays (65)!

Each novel is addressed in turn, with Barnes providing many fresh and useful responses. Grand issues, such as Barnes's take on Satire, History, Religion (God), Memory, Happiness, Love, Criticism, the bourgeoisie, are discussed among comments about the smaller incidents of life, such as Barnes's typical writing schedule or whether he has read any recent German literature. Freiburg has conducted one of the finer interviews with Julian Barnes to date. He should be given credit for providing Barnes ample space to formulate his responses, which are nearly always both unique and useful to our understanding of his writings. Those responses are what mark the true quality of this interview. The personal details and the humorous anecdotes are nice, and Barnes supplies several here, but his direct commentary on the works he has written is of much greater value to our understanding of him as a writer.

-- Ryan Roberts, April 2000

Understanding Merritt Moseley's Understanding of Julian Barnes

Understanding Julian Barnes
by Merrit Moseley
Columbia, South Carolina: University of South
Carolina Press, 1997. (200 p.)
ISBN: 1-57003-140-1

"I see the novelist at the stern rail of a cross-Channel ferry, throwing bits of gristle from his sandwich to the hovering gulls" (FP 79).

Julian Barnes, like Flaubert before him, has often stated the importance of separating the author from the novel. "Don't we believe the words enough? Do we think the leavings of a life contain some ancillary truth?" asks Geoffrey Braithwaite in Flaubert's Parrot. Biographical details do not, or should not, offer the reader any greater appreciation of a work of art. "Books are not life, however much we might prefer it if they were" (FP 86), but still we chase the writer by reading the Observer profiles and by advance purchasing the next book of criticism. So what do we expect when faced with Merritt Moseley's Understanding Julian Barnes? That word "understanding" intrigues, as if to say, "Here he is. Finally. Mystery solved." Can it really be that easy?

Moseley arranges the book chronically by publication, except for the Duffy novels, which he combines appropriately into chapter three. Each section contains a great deal of plot summary, which often comes across as unnecessary filler for Moseley's central arguments. In truth, Moseley claims to have only one central thesis, that "Barnes's persistent concern--more than previous works of literature, more than experimentation with form, more than 'the modern condition'--is love. Each of his novels is about love in some central if not exclusive way" (UJB 12). The problem with this argument is not that Barnes does not deal with love as a theme in a great majority of his works, but that Moseley does not seem to develop his thesis outside of the theme of adultery or "Parenthesis" in A History of the World in 10½ Chapters. He itemizes the various occurrences of adultery in Barnes's novels, but then does not provide any "understanding" about what this might mean or why Barnes seems to dwell on unsuccessful relationships.

Moseley has other difficulties with the central thesis as outlined in the opening chapter. He claims that love is "complicated by ambition and duty in The Porcupine" (12), but then fails to develop his remark in Chapter 9, deciding instead that "The Porcupin is about politics" (147). Indeed, Moseley goes so far as to completely contradict his previous statement, saying, "some of the concerns on which Barnes is always acute elude readers here [in The Porcupine], including the complexities of love"(157).

Moseley is also overly fond of quoting Barnes's statement from his Bomb interview with Patrick McGrath that, "what is constant is the human heart and human passions. And the change in who does what with whom--that's a superficial change" (13,68,135,143). Moseley claims this quote "applies more widely to all [of Barnes's] books"(13), but he uses it almost exclusively when referencing Before She Met Me. He does use the quote in relation to Talking It Over, but only to contradict Barnes, claiming, "It is hardly superficial in Talking It Over: the change in who does what with whom, and the reasons for and consequences of that change, is the book" (135; italics are Moseley's). Such repeated reliance on a single quote is a bit surprising in a work of scholarly criticism.

Moseley's book contains other unfortunate mistakes, such as referring to Flaubert's Parrot as Barnes's "fourth novel"(1), instead of his third (fifth if you include the Kavanagh novels). Moseley also misspells part of the title of Flaubert's Dictionaire des idées reçues as "Reéue" (79) and, at one point, mistakenly attributes the Bomb interview to Charles McGrath, instead of Patrick (179; Chap. 9, no.9). This last mistake is perhaps understandable, since Barnes mentions Charles McGrath in his preface "On Author" in Letters to London. One of the few mistake with a positive spin is Moseley's claim that Barnes was "under the age of fifty"(17) when Understanding Julian Barnes was published in 1997. Though Barnes was born in 1946, he probably doesn't mind the extra few years Moseley has offered.

So what is good about Moseley's book? A lot, actually, despite previous evidence to the contrary. His discussion of the Duffy novels, while often filled with plot summary, is one of the few treatments of Barnes's crime fiction. His chapter on A History of the World in 10½ Chapters, despite an overwhelming concentration on the theme of love and "Parenthesis," is helpful for its defense and outline of Barnes's themes throughout the novel. While notcomprehensive by any means, Moseley's bibliography is an excellent starting point for all serious Barnes scholars.

It should be mentioned that Moseley's book is one title in a series called Understanding Contemporary British Literature put out by the South Carolina University Press. The books in this series were designed, according to its general editor Matthew J. Bruccoli, "as guides or companions for students as well as good nonacademic readers" (ix). As great as this consumer group sounds, the books are obviously marketed for libraries where high school and undergraduate students will use them to bulk up their essays on A History of the World in 10½ Chapters and Flaubert's Parrot.

By maintaining a "level of general accessibility"(ix), Understanding Julian Barnes offers a nice, if not entirely adequate, introduction to the author's works. It often falls short of filling the expectations of more serious Barnes scholars, but they are not, afterall, Moseley's intended audience. Despite this, and if only because it is the first book-length study of Barnes, serious scholars will want to consider Moseley's arguments. What if you are one of those "good nonacademic readers"(ix) considering spending $29.95 for a better "understanding" of Julian Barnes? All you need to know is in his novels, so put your cash towards the purchase of two of Barnes's paperbacks instead.

-- Ryan Roberts, March 2000