Nothing to Be Frightened Of
By Julian Barnes
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780307389985, 256pp.)
Publication Date: October 6, 2009
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A NEW YORK TIMES BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
A memoir on mortality as only Julian Barnes can write it, one that touches on faith and science and family as well as a rich array of exemplary figures who over the centuries have confronted the same questions he now poses about the most basic fact of life: its inevitable extinction. If the fear of death is “the most rational thing in the world,” how does one contend with it? An atheist at twenty and an agnostic at sixty, Barnes looks into the various arguments for, against, and with God, and at his own bloodline, which has become, following his parents’ death, another realm of mystery.
Deadly serious, masterfully playful, and surprisingly hilarious, Nothing to Be Frightened Of is a riveting display of how this supremely gifted writer goes about his business and a highly personal tour of the human condition and what might follow the final diagnosis.
Julian Barnes is the author of ten novels, two books of stories, two collections of essays, and a translation of Alphonse Daudet’s In the Land of Pain. His honors include the Somerset Maugham Award, the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, and the E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2004 he was named Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French ministry of Culture. He lives in London.
“Beautiful and funny. . . . An elegant memoir and meditation, a deep seismic tremor of a book that keeps rumbling and grumbling in the mind for weeks thereafter.” –The New York Times Book Review
“Brilliantly written and also funny . . . cunningly composed . . . held together in a rather Proustian fashion . . . Barnes has an extremely lively mind, and a distinctive voice, which gives a certain welcome jauntiness or gaiety to his darker musings.” –Frank Kermode, The New York Review of Books
“A delicious mix of personal reminiscence, family history, literary criticism, and philosophical speculation.” –The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Barbarously intelligent [and] a rare thing in literature . . . marvelously engaging, even uplifting . . . Briskly, rigorously, this unusual book gives us something to think about until that nothingness comes knocking." –NPR
“Beautifully done . . . an extended meditation on human mortality, but one that is neither clinical nor falsely consoling. Instead, the witty and melancholic author simply converses with us about our most universal fear.” –The Washington Post
“Surprisingly jocular–although also dead earnest . . . highly literary, thoughtful but playful.” –San Francisco Chronicle
“Very entertaining and, best of all, wholesomely provocative.” –O, The Oprah Magazine
“Barnes is a writer of impulsive insights, many of them remarkable . . . of humane irony, antic imagination, and unsettling perceptiveness. He constructs a many-leveled scaffolding of argument, memoir, literary reference, and musings all around the dark pit.” –The Boston Globe
“For those who think that facing death is life's most pressing test, Barnes is an amiable and articulate companion [who] sees humor in the impossibility of finding lasting comfort . . . His contemplation of death invariably becomes a treatise on living.” –The Tennessean
“[Nothing to Be Frightened Of] call[s] to mind Woody Allen . . . Touching–and very funny.” –Providence Phoenix
“Just try to put this memoir down . . . A dazzling blend of wry humor, keen philosophy and perceptive observations as Barnes ruminates about the inevitability of death and what it all means.” –Rocky Mountain News
“Strange and marvelous . . . Despite [its] mordant wit, erudition, and typically British understatement, the fear and trembling at its heart are always palpable . . . It is so good–an item of high literary quality and, paradoxically, great good humor.” –Barnes & Noble Review
“Barnes is a great conversationalist, and this is a humorous book in spite of its serious subject.” –St. Petersburg Times
“Erudite and entertaining.” –Playboy
“A brilliant bible of elegant despair . . . that most urgent kind of self-help manual: the one you must read before you die.” –Men's Vogue
“Unexpectedly jaunty . . . On virtually every page there is a good joke, even when–or perhaps especially when–Barnes is writing about the grimmest events. Julian Barnes is wonderful at keeping awe and flippancy in perfect balance . . . One of the joys of this book is that it contains so many playful asides, so many exhilaration diversions from its gloomy central theme.’ –Mail on Sunday (London)
“Speculative and precise, intimate and metaphysical, capacious and democratic in the variety of voices, alive and dead, that are invited to counsel the author as he edges his way towards the void.” –Times Literary Supplement (London)
“Julian Barnes is a delightful companion and much of the book (its informal tone included) is like an extended and very interesting conversation.” –Literary Review(London)
“Compelling . . . witty and erudite . . . consistently interesting and entertaining.” –Val Hennessy, Daily Mail (London)
“Both fun and funny. It is sharp, too, in the sense of painful as well as witty . . . You are in the presence of a nimble mind in complete mastery of, and engagement with, his chosen subject.” –New Statesman (London)
“Intensely fascinating.” –The Times (London)
“Entertaining, intriguing, absorbing and so expansive that I was startled, on finishing, to note its brevity . . . Irresistible reading.” –Financial Times (London)
“Superb . . . [Barnes’s] funniest and frankest work yet.” –Daily Telegraph (London)