I’ve never been a fan of Julian Barnes and this piece isn’t going to do anything to change that.
The story involves Vernon, a divorced father of two who is a real estate agent on the English east coast. He’s mostly just plodding along and doesn’t care about anything. In fact, he says repeatedly that he “doesn’t mind one way or the other.” He’s not good at flirting, to his credit, but he gives it a go anyway, and eventually beds Andrea, a woman he thinks is Polish. It’s hard to see what he sees in her. She’s brusque and not particularly attractive: “broad face, streaked hair, chunky body.” Although he says he’s growing attached to her, maybe falling in love, his actions don’t support that and it is in fact hard to believe. The sex doesn’t even seem that great and she’s not forthcoming about her past. He becomes curious when she reveals she isn’t worried about getting pregnant and instead of asking her what’s going on, he snoops on her, sneaks into her apartment, even Googles her using the bits of information he’s gleaned. And then he lets slip that he knows something about her that she hasn’t told him. Whereupon she disappears. And he doesn’t seem to mind one way or the other. So, we have a character who doesn’t care and generally doesn’t feel, who hooks up with another character who doesn’t seem to feel, and because he’s kind of a jerk their relationship doesn’t last. This isn’t the kind of story that gets me excited. In fact, I’d have to say that I don’t mind one way or the other.
May 19, 2008: "East Wind" by Julian Barnes