Book review: Pulse by Julian Barnes

Condensed tales offer memorable insights into life, laughter and lessons learned

Pulse: Stories  Julian Barnes Vintage Canada 2012 Paperback $19.95

Pulse: Stories
Julian Barnes
Vintage Canada

This collection of short stories predates the Man Booker Prize win for Julian Barnes but all of the hallmarks of the award-winning author are on display. Beautifully crafted, elegantly written sentences grace the pages of these 14 stories. Told with great compassion and humour these stories examine love and relationships, loss and mourning, and the moral complexities of modern life.

Heady stuff for such a slim volume, but that is the wonder of a Julian Barnes’ short story; he is a master of economy. The four interlinked pieces entitled “At Phil and Joanna’s” are a summation of the first decade of the 21st century and a meditation on aging as told by a group of friends around a dinner table. You feel as if you are the unacknowledged guest who never gets a word in edgewise. Brilliant. “Gardener’s World” follows the progress of a new garden and a not so new relationship where the participants have reached the stage of giving “useful presents, ones that confirmed their joint project in life rather than expressed their feelings. “Their differences of opinion and approach towards the garden mirror the marriage. Anyone who has started a garden from scratch will chuckle at how Ken and Martha engage in the cultivation of their small space. “Marriage Lines” is a powerful evocation of grief as we follow the progress of a man’s return to a Scottish island and the acceptance of his wife’s death. Powerful and precise; all of these stories will captivate you.

These stories will make you laugh out loud and clench your heart. For days afterwards, lines came bubbling up from my memory and had me longing for a glass of wine at Phil and Joanna’s table and a chance to interject. A wonderful book for any literature fan. I suggest a long afternoon by the fire with a glass or two of port and let Julian Barnes transport you from the winter doldrums.

Straight talk from a money chaser: there’s no shame in wanting to get paid
Where's My Cash Stu Woolley Civil Sector Press 2012 Paperback $19.95

Where’s My Cash
Stu Woolley
Civil Sector Press

Stu Woolley has written a call to arms for all Accounts Receivable professionals. “Where’s My Cash,” lays out the case for a set of organized, methodical and effective accounts receivable procedures that will help businesses of any size manage cash flow.

“Testimony of a Money Chaser” is the subtitle to this brief but well-argued book, and with 20 years of commercial receivables experience behind him, Woolley certainly is a money chaser. As a book reviewer I submit my article and invoice to the magazine. They in turn publish the piece and cut me a cheque. My accounts receivable department is pretty small as you would imagine and consequently I’ve never spent much time wondering about effective cash recovery. If I had 500 or 5,000 customers with invoices outstanding I would think otherwise. For some business folk, especially those in the sales department, receivables are “the unpleasant topic” not to be discussed. Woolley puts this notion on its head from the first page “if everybody pays, everybody gets paid.” Getting clients to pay up in a timely manner is his specialty.

“Where’s My Cash” sets out a clear best practices set of guidelines to follow for effective account receivable techniques. Woolley examines various scenarios and shows the pitfalls inherent in not paying attention to detail. His thoughts on a good paper trail for every transaction should be required reading. A stylistic quibble: Stu is a little too folksy for me. The ‘n substituting for and, as in “fingers ‘n toes,” just bugged me. He does it with “crash ‘n burn” and nuts ‘n bolts” and a couple more besides. He’s also a fan of the sports metaphor, but I’ll forgive him that for introducing me to the Aging Report, as I hope you will too dear reader.

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