Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama by Alison Bechdel

Alison Bechdel just had a new autobio comic book out, a follow up to her immensely successful Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic masterpiece, probably one of a dozen most critically acclaimed comic books of all time.

Fun Home, which I read around 3 or 4 years ago (and loved it!), revolves above Bechdel’s realization that she is a lesbian, her subsequent and dificult coming out, especially to her family, her slow understanding that her father is also gay – and different events in her life leading to her father’s suicide – all seen through the prism of a number of major literary works. At least, that’s the way I remember it – and I tend to forget things easily.

In Are You My Mother?, the style is heavily repeated – not an easy book to flip through, it is a non-linear maze of sorts – but here the key theme is psychoanalysis. It is structured as deconstruction of seven Alison’s dreams, the discussion of these with a number of analysts/shrinks she goes to, her relations with her mother in light of Fun Home publication – all seen thorough her reading of Freud, Jung and, most importantly, Donald Winnicott, a paediatrician and psychoanalyst she seem to hold in most esteem. Plus, not unexpectedly, Mrs. Virginia Woolf – to my shame, haven’t read a single book of hers – after this one, I know where to start at least. To the Lighthouse.

 

 

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How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss

Kindle sometimes pushes you (well, me) to read some, ehem, funny stuff, not usually found on my home shelf – like bad girl Jenna’s 2004 autobiography in whopping (as I realized far too late) 600 pages – ghost-written by Neil Strauss, whose book with Marilyn Manson has been on my shelves for years (unread to this date – mommy, promise, I will read it someday).

This book, in spite of a suggesting and rather provocative title, is in fact a Cinderella story in the adult world – well, adult in you-know-what-I-mean sense ;-)) Far too many bad things happened to poor Mrs. JJ – or so she claims – but you need at least a few big bad wolves for the Red Riding Hood to pass through the woods and find her way home, to her darling porn-director-turned-second-husband prince. Well, after one porn-director-failed-first-husband folly and quite a few non-husband ones.

And in the end, “rags to riches” is spun as porn starlet to “porn CEO”, as she proudly calls herself. Oh well.

I’ve never told anyone about either the Montana experience or the one with the Preacher [no mires’ note: rapes in her teens] because I don’t want to be thought of as a victim. I want to be judged by who I am as a person, not by what happened to me. In fact, all the bad things only contributed to my confidence and sense of self, because I survived them and became a better and stronger person for it.


The Accidental Investment Banker by Jonathan A. Knee

The Accidental Investment Banker: Inside the Decade that Transformed Wall Street turned out to be a book I would strongly recommend all junior bankers to read. And senior bankers. And clients – umm, maybe.

A dear old friend and revered former boss ZS suggested it to me back in November 2007 in London, during a roadshow, at the height of the IPO craze – back in the good old times, as now they are called in bankers lingo.

Not as sensational as House of Lies – an image-shattering tv show about consulting powerhouses, especially in the eyes of less sophisticated Russian clients – but quite educational indeed for those not too familiar with the i-banking industry.

The fact that it is not as funny and as politically incorrect as Liar’s Poker or Monkey Business, both of which tended to hyperbolize trading floor and i-banking paranoias respectively, is a strong plus. This book, written a couple of years ahead of the Too Big To Fail drama, gives a much more balanced and candid view of what banking was and what it evolved into. All the conflicts of interest, hidden agenda, internal politics, tricks and treats of the trade, sugar and spice and all things nice, you name it.

In total, it has been one of the most gripping reads recently. Get a copy indeed.

Some bankers were famous for getting revenue credit for a wide range of transactions to which their connection was obscure at best. Referred to internally as “velcro bankers,” because they would stick their name on any deal in the general vicinity, it was said that they engaged in “hoverage” rather than “coverage” of accounts. These bankers consistently managed to get revenue credit on deals even where there they would fail my own “police- lineup” test for awarding secondary revenues: if the client could pick the banker out of a police lineup, he gets secondary credit.


В Сырах Эдуарда Лимонова

Дочитал в самолете последний художественный (не псевдонаучный) труд состарившегося, но не сдающего позиции неунывающего революционера (жуть-жуть-жуть) и плодовитого писателя и поэта Эдуарда Савенко. В хорошей традиции всего того, что у Эдуарда Вениаминыча читать нужно обязательно (а список сей литературы известен и охватывает большинство его трудов до конца СССР и тюремные мытарства после), книжка эта, как и следовало полагать, о нем самом – ну а то! Ну и о женщинах его, конечное (тут нельзя не вспомнить Укрощение тигра в Париже, да-да-да).

Не могу сказать, что жизнь лидера гонимой партии, еще до абаев кунанбаевых вступившей в неравную борьбу с буржуинами и их приспешниками и предводителями, стала интересней для прочтения – я бы сказал, наоборот. Книга эта – обязательная программа для любителей Лимонова-писателя (как я) – но для незнатоков жанра, она далеко не первом десятке его трудов к употреблению. Резюмируя – писатель есть, язык прежний, злой, но как-то подскисло всё немного, а вот поэт – поэт расцвел!

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Я подумал, что мне нужна девка. И что я возьму первую попавшуюся. Когда меня спрашивали, где моя жена, я со смехом говорил, что сбежала в Индию и что я теперь «соломенный вдовец». Подожду месяц, говорил я, и буду считать брак недействительным. Так ведь было принято на Руси в старину. Если супруг либо супружница отсутствовали без уважительной причины (война, болезнь и т.д.) более месяца, брак считался расторгнутым.

Я даже прибавил ей три дня сверху. 16 февраля, ровно через 33 дня, приехала из Питера девочка Наташа, 1990 года рождения, ей было ещё семнадцать лет, и я выспался с Наташкой и стал с нею совокупляться то в Москве, то в Петербурге.

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Заговариваю ей зубы, что-то о литературе: «То Генрих Манн, то Томас Манн, / а сам рукой тебе в карман / Папаша, папа, ой-ой-ой / Не по-отцовски вы смелы / Но тот к кому вы так милы / Видавший виды воробей / Спустилась шторка на окне / Корабль несётся по волне»,― приходят мне на ум строки Кузмина, в момент, когда вдруг инстинктивно глажу её колени в брюках. И вдруг вспоминаю, что прошло пол столетия, и девка из художественного училища приехала ко мне из Петербурга, сознательно ожидая, что я привезу её, раздену и употреблю по назначению. Это девочек 1960 года нужно было уговаривать, медленно подводить к моменту. За полстолетия нравы облегчились, какие нафиг поглаживания, папаша, папа, ой-ёй-ёй!


My Life as a Russian Novel by Emmanuel Carrère

In anticipation of the upcoming translation (I hope) of Carrère's recently published and acclaimed Limonov book, I have picked up his Un Roman Russe to try. Unexpectedly, it was a real page turner, a memoir (unless he lies) depicting a few years of his life – last page finished near 2:30am in the morning, my poor kindle afraid of the bubbling bathtub.

Covers three subjects, predominantly.

Firstly, his vertiginous relationship with his partner Sophie, a true Santa Barbara styled saga of sorts with such unexpected twists and ambushes that one can't but suspects a pinch of fiction spicing up real events. I googled Le Monde story – you would too. Also, the beginning of the book especially, I couldn't but compare it to Limonov's Taming the Tiger in Paris, the book I adore. That Sophie theme, I felt, as key to the book.

Two, Carrère's multiple trips to a small Russian lost-in-the-middle-of-nowhere town of Kotelnich to shoot two movies – a TV piece about WWII Hungarian PoW discovered there in 00s, held over 50 years in a mental asylum for no reason, and subsequently, to shoot a documentary about the city and its people, Retour à Kotelnitch, a movie I now urgently need to watch. Judging by the book, and as the Russian saying goes, начали за здравие, закончили за упокой (started drinking for health, ended up drinking for dead) – I guess Russian reality gave a much bigger twist of the unexpected than his Parisienne Santa Barbara.
Well, and three – the story of his grandfather, a Georgian emigre in France, shot dead as Fascist collaborator in 1944 by the French resistance – his childhood, youth and exile from Georgia. The most boring bit, if you ask me.
All in all, an unexpected good read.