Before She Met Me by Julian Barnes

31st May 2011

The best parts of Before She Met Me by Julian Barnes:

“As soon as Jack introduced the girl, something flickered in his brain and automatically expunged her name. That was what happened at parties. A few years earlier, as an experiment, Graham had tried repeating the person’s name as they shook hands. ‘Hullo, Rachel,’ he’d say, and ‘Hullo, Lionel,’ and ‘Good evening, Marion.’ But the men seemed to think you homosexual for it, and eyed you warily; while the women asked politely if you were Bostonian, or, perhaps, a Positive Thinker. Graham had abandoned the technique and gone back to feeling ashamed of his brain.”

“She no longer expected each dinner to disclose a perfect partner — or even an adequate one.”

“He’d turned into a man like other men: lovingly surprised at his own emotions, while diminishing those of his partner.”

“He was incompetent at arguing with Barbara; she always operated on such fearlessly non-academic principles.”

“He felt a complacent lack of curiosity about why he had ever loved her in the first place.”

“But even so, she had said “Fuck’. It had been a nice evening; they’d had a good dinner together, got on well, hadn’t run short of things to say; but even so, a couple of drops of water and it brought out a ‘Fuck.’ What on earth would she say if something serious happened? If she broke a leg or the Russians landed?”

“One of the first things he’d said to her that made her laugh was, “I’m afraid I’ve got an academic’s body.”

Vocab list:

adamantine – having an adamant quality
ruckle – a wrinkle or crease
gammy – sore or lame
cheroot – cigar with both ends open and untapered
intransigence – unwillingness to change one’s viewpoint
parturate – give birth
senescent -Growing old; aging
tassle – euphemism for a boy’s genitals
homo ludens – man the player, the element of play in society
muleteer – person who drives mules
atavistic – Relating to or characterized by reversion to something ancient or ancestral

British terms/slang, (with aid from Nick and Sarah):

wet – usually ‘wet’ means like soft, or a wuss. Weak-willed. As in, “don’t be wet.”
Junior Scouts – like Cub Scouts
Scrubber – basically means… unattractive… someone who tries to look good, but looks awful. And probably a bit loose.” (I said, “White trash?” and Nick said, “Yeah.”)

4 thoughts on “Before She Met Me by Julian Barnes

  1. The Woman Formerly Known as Beautiful

    Today I’m a bit of a “scrubber,” fortunately or unfortunately, depending on point of view, for my husband I am “probably a bit loose.” (Or does this refer to the “laxity” of the vagina as opposed to the “laxity” of my morals?)

    Also, In MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE Edgar Allen Poe refers to an apple vendor as the “Fruiterer.” Today at Ralph’s I will ask the fruiterer’s opinion of the freshness of the persimmons. (an apple-like fruit)

  2. seaoutof

    I laughed out loud by the time I got to, “He was incompetent at arguing with Barbara.” I’m picking this up, thanks for the excerpts.

  3. iggy

    Julian Barnes!! have you read Talking it Over and Love Etc.? those books slay me. Like the Brit intellectual versions of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset.

  4. Natasha

    I love the vocab list, which tells me that you are as dorky as I am, and I love the excerpts you have chosen. Have to start doing this when I read a book I love.

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