Saturday, 28 May 2016

Пепел и алмаз

В четыре тридцать утра, в полуразрушенном польском отеле, мы танцевали Полонез Огинского. Сил не оставалось – после банкета, смеха, слез, коньяка.

Полуживые пары неуверенно ходили по комнате – едва попадая в такт. Ноги сгибались в коленях, и красные веки сыпали холодными искрами.

А оркестр – оркестр! Полонез было узнать все трудней. Смычок прилипал к струнам, труба валилась на пол, дирижер неловко танцевал с красивой польской официанткой.

Я закричал, чтобы играли громче, потому что страшней всего было уснуть и превратиться в пепел. Или алмаз. И так ли уж это важно, во что именно, в те беспамятные предрассветные часы, когда хочется лишь танцевать? 

"Ля-мажор!" вяло мычал дирижер. И я снова кого-то подхватывал. Либо кто-то подхватывал меня. А где-то за окном салют гремел окончанием какой-то войны.

по мотивам Анджея Вайды

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Favourite Bookstores, p.1

A tiny bookstore in the centre of Prague, off the Charles Bridge. I got there by chance. In fact, I think I got sucked into it on my way back from the museum of Franz Kafka (I will not die a happy man if I never visit that museum again), feeling as confused and enchanted as one can only feel after spending weeks looking for Klamm. In all honesty, going past that door would have been the easiest thing in the world. Instead, I was pulled in by the sheer force of gravity whose origin remained a mystery.

First thing I noticed was the frankly impenetrable The Book Of Dave by Will Self. Needless to say, I felt right at home. Three or four visitors were shuffling about, scattered evenly, looking like various forms of bugs (I needed a few more hours to adjust to a world outside Kafka). The place was bright and tidy in that neat Eastern European way. Calm and phlegmatic. I felt at peace.

God knows I love huge bookstores. I can spend days crouched on the floor in Foyles on Charing Cross Road and once I almost did. But huge bookstores will never give you that kind of intimacy. You won't feel the bookshelves moving in on you, and for all the light crammed inside the Prague bookstore – the place was suffocating with books. It left no breathing space other than the smell of a million printed pages.

Flicking through their selection of Saul Bellow (opening The Adventures Of Augie March on any random page is one of life's simple pleasures), I was thinking how much visiting a great bookstore is similar to going to a great restaurant. And if this was the famous Czech strudel, I was happy to stick my teeth into it.

In fact, I kept them stuck right until the closing time, feeling like a kid seduced by shiny covers, and in the end settling on Martin Amis's excellent The Pregnant Widow that had just been published. This turned out to be his best novel in many years, possibly since The Information, but crossing the Charles Bridge later that day, doing it for the umpteenth time, I kept thinking about the origin of the force that had pulled me into that bookstore. 

That charm. I think I got it half an hour later, in a loud restaurant where the famous Czech strudel (with cherries) was quite real. That bookstore was great not because of helpful staff, Kafka or even The Pregnant Widow. Its charm was its location. Because there is nothing more special in a major city than an intimate place at its very heart. Especially if it's a bookstore whose name you cannot recall.

Friday, 13 May 2016


Looks like Holland and Belgium managed to smuggle actual songs in there. With melodies and stuff. What the hell? Okay, so one is generic country pop and the other is second-rate Motown, but still. Real songs. I think that's very irresponsible and just plain unprofessional. Never again, please. Don't ruin it for us. 

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Exotic Creatures Of The Deep

Jesus it’s that time of the year.

Asking me if I like Eurovision is like asking Hitler if he likes Eva Braun. In fact, people tend to think I'm being ironic when I say I watch it. Am I? I haven't missed a single show since 1997 and I intend to keep it that way. Right until I'm a toothless 87-year old bastard sitting in a rocking chair, with a pipe in his mouth and a vague desire to outlive Winston Churchill.

Face it, as a social experiment – it's priceless. You stock up on cheap cider, you write down the ratings, you get a message from a friend telling you that Luxemburg (or some other nonexistent country) fucking blew it, you give your own country ‘-175’ and a ‘7’ to some autistic pub rock from Albania, you get sloshed wondering how in God's name the whole of Europe thought the bullshit song from Turkey (what?!?) was any fucking good.

Then you remember the naked dancers shaking their hips and flashing their breasts and you think that maybe… well, no. No, it really was bad. And then the votes, the votes! 12 points from Slovakia going to Slovenia, etc. It's beautiful.

So no, I haven't missed a single Eurovision show since 1997. Last year, I even had to slightly reschedule my flight to Moscow so as not to skip the final. Why did I have to go to Moscow in the first place? To see Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. But then… Nick Cave who? Come on now, there's a ghastly Adele-esque ballad from Malta whose melody was diluted to the point where it no longer exists. 

Ah that ghastly ballad from Malta. There is always one. And we all love it. I know I do.

Monday, 9 May 2016

До свидания, мальчики

Счастье, что в этом угаре парадов и цветов есть такой фильм, как "До свидания, мальчики". Тут и войны-то нет. Есть нервные документальные кадры нацистских выкриков и рвущихся снарядов. И гениальная музыка Таривердиева, от которой сдавливает голову и стреляет в горле. 

Одесский парикмахер, вафельное мороженое, первый бокал красного вина. Невероятная легкость гавайской гитары и пляжа. Это война без войны, но только разве она нужна? Разве не хватает последнего безумного взгляда Ангелины Стапановой на вокзале? Ведь любой ребенок знает, что нет привидения страшнее того, которого ты не видишь. 

Стеблов, Досталь и Кононов. Последний поезд, последний крик девочки. И совершенно жуткий, преждевременный курок взросления. "Мужчина интересен своим будущим, а женщина - своим прошлым". Господи, ну что это за мальчики. И что это за фильм.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

April: 5 Albums

PJ HARVEY - The Hope Six Demolition Project

Let's put it this way: the last two minutes of "The Ministry Of Social Affairs" are pure orgasm. Indeed, this album is so many heads and shoulders above everything else released these days that when I see a negative review I go mad. To paraphrase Alec Baldwin in that scene from Glengarry Glen Ross, 'Lyrics are weak? Fucking lyrics are weak? You are weak'. Besides, you don't hold lyrics against a rock star. You just don't. To be fair, even Harvey's slighter stuff like "Medicinals" has a melody that will beat your year. Forget about politics, this is excellent rock music. 9/10


On a purely subconscious level. 9/10

TACOCAT - Lost Time

If you don't like "I Hate The Weekend", you are just trying to be clever. And it's not even the best song on the album. "The Internet" updates the "I Can't Explain" riff for 2016 and tells you everything you need to know about the subject in question. Plus, "You Can't Fire Me, I Quit" has the song title of the year. If you ever try to break up with a girl, you will know exactly what they are talking about. Punk rock with an edgy pop twist, Lost Time defines irresistible. 8/10

ANDREW BIRD - Are You Serious

"Left Handed Kisses"And ten other songs, granted, but God oh God, "Left Handed Kisses". Here was I, talking to a friend, writing a story, going to a pub, and suddenly there came the song I'd longed to hear for goddamn years. Fiona Apple and Andrew Bird are doing something exceptional here, and despite the fact that the title song is almost as good and despite the fact that this is Andrew's best and most inventive album in years (musical details are incessant), "Left Handed Kisses" is what this is all about. 8/10

WIRE - Nocturnal Koreans

Nocturnal Koreans (interesting title - definitely puts ideas into your head) is a collection of songs that didn't make it to the eponymous album from 2015. I loved Wire and I loved Nocturnal Koreans (oh the sound of it). Again, this is perfect music for a hopelessly rainy day. 8/10 

P.S. Oh, and Malamore is an enticing new album from the French band The Limiñanas, The Last Shadow Puppets are just toothless and Cheap Trick will never write another "He's A Whore".   

Monday, 2 May 2016

Art Lesson In One Minute Thirty-Five Seconds

Francis Ford Coppola is good at many things, but mainly at these two:

1. Making films

2. Doing a Marlon Brando impersonation 

Also, Coppola is one of the most intelligent people you will ever have the pleasure to hear. This short excerpt (0:58 till 2:33) from an Apocalypse Now interview says more about art than any lecture or thesis. Basically, the whole point is laid bare before you.