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[ Nothing to Be Frightened of ] By Barnes, Julian ( Author ) [ 2009 ) [ ]

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | [ Nothing to Be Frightened of ] By Barnes, Julian ( Author ) [ 2009 ) [ ].pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Julian Barnes(Author)

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Will be shipped from US. Used books may not include companion materials, may have some shelf wear, may contain highlighting/notes, may not include CDs or access codes. 100% money back guarantee.

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Book details

  • PDF | Unknown pages
  • Julian Barnes(Author)
  • Vintage International (October 6, 2009)
  • English
  • 5
  • Other books

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Review Text

  • By a reader in Cornwall NY on February 25, 2009

    If this book were written by someone other than Barnes, I'd have given it another star or two, perhaps. But I hold Barnes to a higher standard. (I'll never forget restudying Madame Bovary as a grad student, then reading Flaubert's Parrot and being blown away by it in every regard--exquisite literary criticism, intricately fascinating plot, overall brilliance.)But reading Nothing to Be Frightened Of was akin to being stuck over too many cups of tea with a garrulous old fogey, more self satisfied with his clever reflections than he is interested in the purpose of them--in this case, the theme of his book.For one thing, I found something extra-literarily embarrassing about the details of his father, his mother, and their deaths. As an author, Barnes abandons these intimacies to the page without taking on their one salient quality--their homely mundanity. (One exception: the leather pouffe brought home from India by his father and subsequently stuffed with the letters--shredded--of his parents' courtship. What a stunning exemplar of the cruel entropy of time--and how Barnesian! (Except, there it lies on page 33, kerplunk.))To belabor the tea analogy: I have sat at my kitchen table over tea with any number of old fogey friends and listened to their musings on death, replete with their memories and literary correspondences, and have found them as interesting in vivo as Barnes might be, if also in vivo. But a book is not a chat between generous friends. I perked up on page 47 at the introduction of Jules Renard, he who uttered "I don't know if God exists, but it would be better for His reputation if He didn't." By page 52 I was wishing Barnes would dodder off already and leave his seat to Jules while I made a fresh pot.Here's what it seems to me is going on with this book. Barnes, contemplating his end, is invoking his claim to immortality by publishing NTBFO. But the horrible irony is that this is the most forgettable of his books. Fear of death is perhaps the most mundane human experience of all, and I'd looked to Barnes for some elevation of it. Instead, I got lots of clever nattering. I hope that having vented, he lives long enough to live up to himself on the page again.

  • By Rob Hardy on September 27, 2008

    Novelist Julian Barnes thinks a lot about death. And he doesn't like it; he describes himself as "one who wouldn't mind dying as long as I didn't end up dead afterwards." Naturally death has been part of some of his books, but in _Nothing to Be Frightened Of_ (Knopf), death takes center stage in what is a memoir and an essay on a popular subject. Everybody thinks about dying, but Barnes has used his thoughts to power a book that is funny (look at the two meanings in that title), sad, informative, and earnest. Barnes quotes many stars from history about the big subject, like Freud, who said that it was impossible for any of us to imagine our own deaths. Barnes strongly disagrees. He is 62, and does not give any intimation of ill-health, but since adolescence he has been thinking about his own death, and those of others. He isn't morbid. "I am certainly melancholic myself," he writes, "and sometimes find life an overrated way of passing the time; but have never wanted not to be myself anymore, never desired oblivion." The inevitable end is coming, however, so Barnes seems to be saying let's look at it seriously, and learn and laugh, and keep it in mind to season the days of our lives. Just remember, as he says, "that the death rate for the human race is not a jot lower than one hundred per cent."Barnes's family had a family Bible, but it was someone else's family's, bought at auction, "... and was never opened except when Dad jovially consulted it for a crossword clue." His father was a "death-fearing agnostic", his mother a "fearless atheist", and much of his book has to do with how the two of them interacted, and then, well, died. The other family member frequently consulted in these pages is Barnes's older brother, an analytic philosopher and expert on ancient Greek, who lives in France, teaches, and keeps llamas. The brother has come very close to death, and even breathed out what it seemed were going to be his last words: "Make sure that Ben gets my copy of Bekker's Aristotle." Barnes remarks that the wife of the philosopher found this "insufficiently affectionate." For an unbeliever, Barnes finds God all over the place. Barnes reflects that the important divide may not be between believer or nonbeliever, but between those who fear death and those who don't. He tells us how he conquered his fear of flying; perhaps he will conquer his fear of death, but he admits that even writing about it, which other people would think an exercise "to get it out of your system", does not work.It doesn't matter. Barnes has a terrific subject, and if he doesn't have firm answers, he has great questions which any reader will enjoy thinking about. After all, as he quotes Montaigne, "The end of our course is death. It is the objective necessarily within our sights. If death frightens us how can we go one step forward without anguish?" Barnes himself wonders at the beginning, "How is it best to write about illness, and dying, and death?" And if we are not writers, how are we to think about death? And as a writer, he wonders about the last person to turn the pages of a Julian Barnes book, ages hence; he is no sentimentalist, cursing such a person for not recommending the book to the next reader. What is the meaning of words carved on a neglected headstone, or a mutilated photo within a family album? If you don't have faith, does this keep you from fully appreciating religious music and paintings? Do we have less fear of death if we consider how insignificant we are in the cosmos, or do we have more? Maybe there is no consolation on offer here: "We live, we die, we are remembered, we are forgotten," he concludes, but if there is no consolation here, there is also little despair, and there are heaping amounts of joviality, sympathy, and curiosity. "For me, death is the one appalling fact which defines life; unless you are constantly aware of it, you cannot begin to understand what life is about; unless you know and feel that the days of wine and roses are limited, that the wine will madeirize and the roses turn brown in their stinking water before all are thrown out forever - including the jug - there is no context to such pleasures and interests as come your way on the road to the grave. But then I would say that, wouldn't I?" Readers with any interest in the subject (and we all are) will find conversational but lucid prose from a writer who has complete engagement and enthusiasm for his subject.


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