Monday, 18 September 2017


There's a young man I will never write about. I do not quite understand why, but there are сlauses you'd rather not trigger. Places you'd rather not go. 

He works in a modern art gallery, like so many of them do, and I see him in places as different as Warsaw and Dublin. His job is to walk around the room with landscapes by Gabriele Münter and to make sure that no one gets too close. Or else his job is to sit on one of those basic chairs and stare blankly at the visitors.

The visitors say something, on occasion, like "her genius was underrated" or "wasn't her ambition a little bit too studied?" Sometimes they would even broach a wider issue and whisper: "Gauguin almost works for me, but doesn't" and "Cezanne almost doesn't work for me, but does". Most often, however, they settle on "My God this is awful". 

And through all of that, he looks bored but intelligent. Aloof yet self-confident. A man of mystery. 

But here's the funny thing: they do not notice the young man. Almost no one does. I try to cut him open with a sideways glance, but my knife is much too blunt. I can't get in, though not for want of trying. He's been here for days, weeks, months, in this tiny room overlooked by red cubes, black squares and disfigured farmers. To him, we are hopeless drifters. I think that in all this time surrounded by Kandinsky and Pollock... well, he must have learnt some underlying mystery, but his eyes give away so little.

There is, however, a chance that he knows no mystery. All these years in the sun are fake years, they taught him nothing beyond the fleeting backs of a million visitors.  

Either way, I can't write about him. For if I do, a story or perhaps a novel, something stretching beyond this brief sketch here, I'm afraid that I could accidentally find him out.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Monday, 4 September 2017

After that scream?

Imagine being a journalist. Imagine having to write about the Twin Peaks finale and trying to talk yourself into a new TV show that will - oh yes it will - come soon. With a new world crashing into your doorstep. With a new name. With new twists, characters, plot devices. You are so good at talking yourself into things.

Imagine living in a modern world. Switching onto something new every two seconds. Leaving everything behind. Always remembering, always forgetting. Making selfies instead of memories. Preferring orgasm to sex. Clicking every time you are bored. And then, suddenly hijacked into the world of Twin Peaks, imagine hearing that scream.

There must have been something about that time twenty-five years ago that made it possible - to show Twin Peaks populated by giants and dwarves and dancing Audreys. To show Twin Peaks without episode 18. The devastating part is that even David Lynch cannot pull it off, in 2017, a world undisturbed by gruesome reality and that scream

And after that scream? 

God knows. Probably nothing. 

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Album of the Month: EXILE ON THE OUTER RING by EMA

Whenever I think of EMA, it's the glorious piano chords of "California" that pound all over me. Oh what a song it was. It had everything: fucked up beauty, tortured lyricism, raw energy. These days, I'm not too sure I can get as much out of it as I did six years ago, but I will never stop looking for her new albums. The trick was cheap, but I won't care.

The Future's Void was decent but I forgot about it in a week or two as it rarely matched the haunting single "When She Comes". This new one, though, could well be her best. 


It's not perfect, nor needs to be (nor can be, frankly, as Erika's talents just don't stretch that far), but I simply can't imagine a better album from her. Exile In The Outer Ring has every base covered. You get hypnotic grooves, you get grungy outbursts, you get those rough glimpses of utter beauty. Most importantly, however, you get an excellent set of the world's simplest melodies. "I Wanna Destroy" will work its way into your brain like sweet poison. As will "7 Years". As will "Blood And Chalk". As will the lead single "Aryan Nation". 

Elsewhere, "Receive Love" is just gorgeous and has the sort of brilliant understatement that is almost a rarity in this day and age. Lovely guitar chords, quiet vocals - it couldn't be farther away from "California". It's not a better song (what is?), but the songwriting leap is undeniable. Or is this maturity, a word you could not pronounce back in 2011. Back when she was 22 and 'did not mind dying'.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Le Sherry Butt

Talking to bartenders is a forgotten art. The questions you ask, the answers you give. The pauses. It all counts. Because God knows there is nothing more tedious than a boring conversation at the bar counter. The one which centres around John Coltrane or the pros and cons of going to Bordeaux. 

First of all, don't be yourself. The bartender will soon find out that you are just another fucking tourist anyway, and at the end of the day (or, rather, night) you do not want to be lumped with a talkative Scottish student or a gawky Russian. Being yourself at the bar counter is a nuisance, and a waste. Bartenders won't care and you will die an alcoholic. 

Secondly, don't start speaking before the second glass, you won't say anything of note anyway. If, however, the bartender tries to engage you into some dreary chat about your favourite cocktails, say something curt and meaningless, or just grin at him. In other words, do not rush it. Stay cold. Be a mystery.  

And then, when the second glass is staring at you with a glorious abandon, go for it. In a voice smoked by silence and Japanese whisky, ask the bartender if he recognises you from the third season of Twin Peaks... 

Or better still, try to find your way to a bar called Le Sherry Butt off Place de la Bastille in central Paris. The one place where the art of talking to bartenders is a waste. The sheer magic of these cocktails will shed a new light on one of Saul Bellow's brightest quotes: 'the great weight of the unspoken left them little to talk about'. 

Monday, 21 August 2017

Три минуты

В конце августа бывают дни, когда воздух застывает. Ничего не происходит. Сигарета не выдыхает дым, а люди ходят в пустоту. Жаркие, невыносимо жаркие дни. В такие дни наконец понимаешь, о чем писал Набоков на последней странице "Прозрачных вещей". 

И вот мы садимся в пыльный автобус, который трещит по швам и гремит музыкой случайного радио, и я возвращаюсь к старым местам. И выдыхаю, от удивления, но больше от счастья: старые места не меняются. Особенно в эти жаркие дни второй половины августа.

Старые места тем и любимы, что не меняются. Покрашенный столб? Другая вывеска? Переставленные ворота? Какая глупость. Ерунда. Мелочи. Важно то, что в легких тысячи воспоминаний, которыми надуваешь все вокруг. Пустые качели, высохшую реку, но особенно блеклую, желтоватую киноафишу, на которой уже ни слова.

И так до бесконечности. 

Но все-таки, случайно проходя по улице, что в трех минутах от прежней калитки прежнего дома, понимаешь удивительную вещь. Ты никогда здесь не был. То есть тебе знакомо название, ты слышал об этой улице, но в те времена она казалась другой вселенной. А теперь три минуты. Три.

И тогда глаза перестают слезиться. Все открывается: люди идут по своим делам, а сигаретный дым привычно устремляется вверх. Но только это другие люди, и это новые сигареты. А день самый обычный. Просто август - тот же ноябрь. Только жаркий. 

Sunday, 20 August 2017

travelling notes (xxxviii)

Interesting how I had always been telling everyone about green Munich (green as in colours, green as in trees). Interesting - because I have only discovered this recently. Because previously I had seen it in late January - when it is cold, and snowy, and totally white.