The Proof by David Auburn

Hell, I never knew that this play was so famous, Pulitzer and Tony prize winner and stuff – I just downloaded a random one that seemed ok based on reviews. Didn't know there's a movie of the same name by John Madden with Gwyneth Paltrow, Jake Gyllenhaal and Anthony Hopkins in it! And the play had Anne Heche and Jeremy Sisto.
The first part was rather slow, not too disappointing, but slow – but once the second half kicked in, it was then when I became all ears (audio play, no visuals, huh). And luckily, no math or math jargon involved – even the Enron play had much more special lingo.
The way I look at theater recordings now, they're my best pals on the solitary taxi ride from the airport – they're dramatized, and dramatized equals gripping. When the pilot says “Ladies and gentlemen, the plane now starts to descend, and we will be landing in Moscow [VKO/SVO/DME] airport shortly”, that's the moment to switch on a new play, listen to it furtively while the plane lands (I hate airlines' superstitious rules against electronic devices – at least they don't force us to pray, just yet), while I clear border control and customs, and then through the entire taxi ride home – and most likely, it's kinda over around the time I reach my doorstep or a few moments after. Nice, better than listening to some crappy radio.

Код Дурова Николая Кононова

На фоне ожидаемого высаживания питерского Цукерберга из его доли в “вконтактике” в виде одной решительной гос. спец. операции и последующей весьма логичной дружественной сделки, я решил прочитать-таки короткую книжку Кононова про человека, в чьей сети я был, кажется, раз пять.
Ну, в общем, книжка и книжка, ничего особенного – главная прелесть – всего 200 страниц, kindle оценил ее в чуть менее 3 часов чтения (по факту не знаю, сколько вышло). Без особой романтизации, драматизации, фанатизма, родился, учился, стебался, и вдруг напал на тогда вовсе не казавшуюся золотой жилу – и одноклассник у него оказался правильный. Я не хочу приуменьшать – парень, конечно, молодец – скопировать-то тогда могли все – а он реально скопировал и ушел в стратосферу.
Для тех, кто осилит – вот ссылка на завершение истории от того же г-на Кононова, которая подтолкнула меня к прочтению и всколыхнула интернет заложенным в нее easter egg – в который я, кстати, готов поверить на 99% (но не на 146%)

Anthem by Ayn Rand

I just love this short dystopian anticommunist manifesto! It's so full of fresh air.
Back several years ago I listened to (not read) Altas Shrugged, and it was amazing. Now, with my renewed interest in audiobooks, I should seize the moment and listen to all of Rand's body of work, I guess – as her words sound much more impressive and powerful when read out loud to you. Well, to me, for I shall not get involved with other men's preferences nor be bound by them 😉

I shall choose friends among men, but neither slaves nor masters. And I shall choose only such as please me, and them I shall love and respect, but neither command nor obey. And we shall join our hands when we wish, or walk alone when we so desire. For in the temple of his spirit, each man is alone. Let each man keep his temple untouched and undefiled. Then let him join hands with others if he wishes, but only beyond his holy threshold.

For the word “We” must never be spoken, save by one's choice and as a second thought. This word must never be placed first within man's soul, else it becomes a monster, the root of all the evils on earth, the root of man's torture by men, and of an unspeakable lie.

The word “We” is as lime poured over men, which sets and hardens to stone, and crushes all beneath it, and that which is white and that which is black are lost equally in the grey of it. It is the word by which the depraved steal the virtue of the good, by which the weak steal the might of the strong, by which the fools steal the wisdom of the sages.

What is my joy if all hands, even the unclean, can reach into it? What is my wisdom, if even the fools can dictate to me? What is my freedom, if all creatures, even the botched and the impotent, are my masters? What is my life, if I am but to bow, to agree and to obey?

But I am done with this creed of corruption.

I am done with the monster of “We,” the word of serfdom, of plunder, of misery, falsehood and shame.

And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this god whom men have sought since men came into being, this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride.

We have hundreds more books for your enjoyment. Read them all!

This god, this one word:



Enron by Lucy Prebble

A rather grotesque theater play, which oversimplifies the Enron story a bit, to make it into a light and more or less funny comedy.
The thing which I don't like about such comedies – though insignificant, you can still sense some tiny whiny socialist feel about them – oh, all those greedy bastards, they were after the money, the money is the root of all evil blah blah. Well, who is John Galt?

The Fata Morgana Books by Jonathan Littell

Now, what a strange book! I now eagerly and in vain try to read anything and everything that Jonathan Littell publishes (I'm sure that's post-traumatic Les Bienveillantes effect similar to a drug), but this recollection of various short stories is indeed very strange. Some of them were written before, some after The Kindly Ones, so this is not a real proper new book – rather, as Irvine Welsh once brilliantly put it, some reheated cabbage.
From one angle, the book often resembles the terrific signature style of Les Bienveillantes writing, and you want to think – vow, Obersturmbannführer Aue is back – but the key difference between Littell's style per se (here) and the real Aue novel is the brilliant, mesmerizing, can't-put-it-down story of The Kindly Ones, the one that The Fata Morgana Books lack completely. In absence of a proper storyline, my mind drifted away from the text every 5 minutes, and I had to read, and re-read, and re-read again. Maybe, it would've felt differently in Russian, the language I read The Kindly Ones in, who knows.

So in the end, the book was short, and I kinda suffered through it ))) The étude about the missing planes was quite ok, and the last story had a distinctive Cortázar / Borges element about it – but due to extreme gay part of it, if I now say I liked it, I would probably be in violation of Russia's recent notorious homophobic laws – and frankly, it's not an alluring read for a straight person, umm… but even taking that element aside, the story, to my mind, lacked story – and that was key why it didn't click with me.
Still, even with my lukewarm feel about this book, the eye-opening effect of Les Bienveillantes remains strong – and I will rush to the book store to buy whichever new novel Littell writes. And better sooner than later.

Speed the Plow by David Mamet

I just love David Mamet – and truly enjoyed Speed the Plow dramatized by Jeff Goldblum and Adam Arkin.
Written on a topic Mamet is so knowledgeable about – the movie business. The fun version of Bambi, huh 😉 And it's just 1 hr 20 mins. Bought it on audible as a trial book maybe 2 years ago – and now got my hands on it. Grrrreat.
As far as I know, Madonna played the leading female role on Broadway – shall I search YouTube for the record of the performance? Hm

The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin by Masha Gessen

After seeing this book being sold in virtually every European airport newsstands in the course of the past two years, I finally decided to get down to reading it – actually, reading and listening to it, 50/50 style – just at the same time as its author published a new book about Pussy Riot.

As Gessen has always been an avid and harsh critic of the regime, I expected something extremely one-sided – and, to an extent, it was. Frankly, for a person that follows Russian politics more or less regularly, it had nothing new nor gave any new insights – so in a sense, indeed it was aimed at international audiences, not the local Gessen readership body. My gut feel, though, that this ain’t the reason why this book was never published in Russian – as I would love to give it to my wife’s 77yo granddad to read, in order to provide a one-sided answer to his no less one-sided Channel One view of the world.

If I start the count, it would be the enumeration of buzzwords: KGB, Gorbatchev, dissidents, the 1991 Putch, Gaidar times, October 1993, the first Chechen war, Berezovsky, Yeltsin losing popular support, the successor plan, who is Mr. Putin, the Moscow and Volgodonsk bombings, the notorious Ryazan FSB “training”, замочить в сортире, the second war, the President for the people, Gusinsky and NTV, Berezovsky in exile, Kursk, Nord-Ost, the Soviet anthem yet again, Yushenkov, Beslan, Politkovskaya, Ramzan, Litvinenko, Khodorkovsky, Baikal Finance Group, Browder, Magnitsky, the Gelenjik palace, a short Medvedev intermission, the list goes on and on and on. For foreign readers, though, it seems to be a neat collection of whatever bad happened in Russia in the past decade or so.

The one thing that, surprisingly, was very new and interesting to me, was Gessen’s very detailed view on Putin’s first post-USSR boss St. Pete’s mayor Anatoly Sobchak. Apart from a conspiracy theory that Mr. Sobchak was poisoned (ummm, though I find anything possible, this is kind of hard to believe), Gessen portrays Sobchak as an anti-liberal goon that tricked the old dissidents that brought him to power and who seeked no reforms – he rather was after raw political power, not exactly Game of Thrones style, but close. This view of Mr. S seems to go in line with whatever recollections I have of the gentleman, despite some recent propaganda to the contrary.

And secondly, the book’s epilogue, written around the time of and about December 2011 protests, now reads a bit naive and sad. “It is a tiny moment of great change,” – Gessen writes. Oh well.

P.S. … and now I love amazon’s and whispersync audiobooks! Yikes!