The Hollow of the Hand by PJ Harvey & Seamus Murphy

Even for a die hard PJ Harvey fan like me, this first ever PJ's book of poetry left me untouched and bored. Lulled me to sleep.

A combination of poetry and photographs, compiled out of Polly Jean's trips to Kosovo, Afghanistan and Washington, DC in 2011-2014, and accompanied by her buddy Seamus Murphy's much earlier photos in the same locations, from 1999 to 2014. Black and white, sepia, bones, body parts, beggars in rags, sad eyes, broken backs, extended palms, give me a dollar, mister.

Published in 2015, it precedes Harvey's brilliant ninth album The Hope Six Demolition Project, based on the same trips and themes. Yet, without music and rhythm, without Polly's sharp, mesmerizing voice, it feels numb, out of pace, disjointed in a way. Expected more.

 


Millennium People. A Novel by J.G.Ballard

A poet of the perverse, sad, twisted and deranged, the late J.G. Ballard is a genius – well, in my scorecard he is. This post-millennium and even post 9/11 Chelsea suburban anarchy novel is a gulp of fresh air, sharp, thought-provoking, full of perennial wisdom quotes.

Chelsea Marina burns, as its middle class residents of law abiding salariat of lawyers, doctors, accountants and university professors gradually turn into radical arsonists, gallery bombmakers and indiscriminate murderers. Finding the meaning of life in acts of meaningless violence and cruelty, a revolt against nothing, nil, zero, zilch.

Brilliant and just as thoughtful as as a much earlier Crash. I just long to see this one in a camera frame – and preferably, directed by David Cronenberg.

“I'm a fund-raiser for the Royal Academy. It's an easy job. All those Ceos think art is good for their souls.”

“Not so?”

“It rots their brains. Tate Modern, the Royal Academy, the Hayward… they're Walt Disney for the middle classes.”

 


Black Watch by Gregory Burke

A short play about Scotland's royal infantry coming to Iraq in 2004 to support Uncle Sam's pet invasion of the House of Saddam.

A modern play, it would probably be perfect and quite entertaining if I attended a theater performance – off a kindle page, however, words, stories, scoffs and swearing from the retired Black Watch vets touched me a lot less.

Nonetheless, it has a good balance between “support our boys” and “what in the world are we fighting for”.

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Well, we'll need to get fucking used tay it. Bullying's the fucking job. That's what you have a fucking army for.

 


Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton

Not a bad book about the early days of Twitter and fights, allegiances and struggles of its founders, which I plowed through at great speed, upon recommendation of my venerable friend and venture entrepreneur SW.

The book was no doubt written by a fan of Evan Williams and Biz Stone, as the third founder and CEO, Jack Dorsey, takes a huge beating here. He is the usurper of the Iron Throne and the destructor of everything what the other Twitter guys stood for. How much truth is in that? Hell if I knew.

What I do know, though, that these two are grand masters of their own demise. You don't need to be a venture capitalist genius to figure out that when you fire somebody, you fire him, and not let him run with a Chairman title, full access to press and your investors, and a shiny smile. Typical investment banking approach of “your email and blackberry have been disabled, your entry pass no longer works, please pack you bags, and the security will escort you out” sounds very reasonable when you fire a CEO against his will, no?

On a separate note, yours truly, I was interested in the book in a special way, as I was a rather early Twitter adopter, well, here in Russia, well before my Facebook days (where I was a very late one). I even wanted to check when I joined exactly, but scrolling down over 57 hundred tweets to find the time stamp proved an impossible task. Yeah, I've been a chatterbox in my old days, and I have seen the Twitter whale far too many times.

All in all, Twitter was a hot thing in everyone-had-blackberry days, with 140 symbols of text only, no pictures, a device to send sms to the world. And I loved it. iPhone and Facebook totally killed it all for me, frankly. And then it become the best newswire for some time. But even as a newswire, last time I read it was in 2011-2012, when Russia was burning with strange hopes and spitting out far too much energy in the streets. And after that, I'm just reading traditional newswire.

 


The Blade Artist by Irvine Welsh

Good lord, let me start with a friggin spoiler – the dumb of me, I didn't pay attention to the cover, I didn't read the summary on Amazon – so man, I nearly jumped at the end of chapter five. Cause damn, it's not yet another US novel by Irvine Welsh, no sir – it's a FRANK BEGBIE novel – God, who could've thought.

Overall, as Welsh's prose typically is, it's a fast read pulp fiction novel, spanned between California and Edinburgh. Filled with archetypical rage, hatred, violence – but also totally shows Welsh (well, Begbie) getting old, reserved, treacherously double-faced. Breathe, man, breathe, one, two, three

The finale, with all the knives and chisels, is somewhat like a ball gag scene from Tarantino – but despite all that, the book lacks something. It just needed more – story, drama, action, well, I dunno what. And it sure as hell left the page open for a new Renton sequel. I'm in, always!

Read my first Welsh's book in 1996. 20 years have past, everyone chose life, and sadly, no-one got a bit younger. And yeah, Decent Ride was much funnier.

 


The Hills of Chianti by Piero Antinori

The Hills of Chinati is a simple short entertaining book, written by Piero Antinori himself, one of the original masterminds behind the Super Tuscan revolution, a true patriarch of Italian wine culture.

The book is a candid yet rather anecdotal collection of stories of how several of the well known Antinori bottles came into existence, but it is clearly a bit more than just that. It rotates about three key topics: Tuscany winemaking, love of wine and family heritage.

Mr. Antinori is a 25th generation Florentine winemaker, who learnt the trade from his father and who, lovingly, describes at what lengths he had to go to to instill and inspire the same love and devotion in his three daughters, who are now the face and the management of his company. It gives simple yet quite deep insight into how several centuries old family business goes about successful succession of the trade and the family name.

Wine wise, Antinori proudly explains how his uncle coined Sassicaia, while he was putting out Tignanello and subsequently Solaia. And more bottles like Cervaro etcetera. These are the achievements not so easy to match, huh.

And third, but not last, Tuscany. Hell, what can I add to the great man's words about Tuscany? 😉

Overall, a quick entertaining read, and, I would add, a must for wine enthusiasts. From the master to the crowds.

 


How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg

An interesting book by two notable Googlers, Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg.

Starts up as a very simple and way too I'm very proud of myself, the Introduction chapter nearly made me throw the book away (believe it or not, it's been an actual book, not my dearest kindle – kindly given to me as a gift by VS).

Later on, however, the book turned into a good self-motivation-meets-HR gospel, written by the leaders of this huge Silicon Valley behemoth praised for its “we-love-and-cherish-our-people” agenda.

For me, that was not a book on technology and transformation – it was rather a cue for me to think about whether my goals, priorities, direction etc were right – and books that force me to think about such stuff, well, for this I'm always grateful.

Good, easy to read – however, miraculously it also made me appreciate technology – real books are nice to touch, their pages new and immaculate – but they are a total hassle to read – hell, I forgot that already – you need external light without your kindle!

 


A Decent Ride by Irvine Welsh

A good funny read from Mr. Irvine “Scotland-moved-to-Miami-and-then-came-back” Welsh.

As it's quite typical for Welsh to reuse and expand his old characters, this is now a third book about “Juice” Terry Lawson, a rough and cynical fellow from both Glue and Porno novels – and, to tell you the truth, I'm quite sad that I seem to remember very little from both of them. Need to re-read Glue one day anyway.

So as I was saying, the story revolves around Terry, who is mid-forties, works as an Edinburgh cab driver and, surprise-surprise, still acts as a true insatiable ladies man. Sex, drugs and rock'and'roll – and sex again.

Then, suddenly enough, the story of Terry charges its course – it becomes the epitome for aging and getting a bit more sad and mature at the same time. I couldn't but felt that Mr. Lawson caught up some of Irvine Welsh's own nostalgia of getting older – a former poet of Leith skag and casual youth, Welsh now writes about the same very folks, but 25 years older, 50 pounds heavier, and with a bad ticker on a brink of an imminent heart attack.

And then, miraculously enough again, it comes back positive again in the end. But no spoilers, eh, no spoilers.

PS: It's not yet available in the US, only comes out in Feb next year – so I had hit the shelves in the UK store of Amazon instead.

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Everything’s negotiable. As ah eywis say: fuck off means naw, naw means mibbe, mibbe means aye n aye means anal. Guaranteed!

Ah’ve goat a bookcase wi some books Rab Birrell lends ays which ah nivir fuckin read but ah keep tae impress the student burds. Moby-Dick, Crime and Punishment, that sort ay shite. That Dostoyevsky cunt, ah tried tae read um but every fucker hud aboot five different names, n ah left the scheme tae git away fae aw that! Too fuckin right.


The Dead and the Dying. A Criminal edition by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

Part three of the Criminal series is a beautiful three-part story told from three different angles.

Ed Brubaker's storytelling gets better by each part, it seems. Coward was ok, Lawless was good, and this one even better.

No point retelling the storyline here, though. Never saw a point in that.

 


The Brothers: The Road to an American Tragedy by Masha Gessen

The Brothers is not Masha Gessen's best book, but it sure is an interesting and quick read, like most of Gessen's stuff.

It may be incomplete and not investigative enough (published before the final sentence was pronounced for the surviving marathon bomber), the storyline may be not too polished – but nonetheless the first two parts (out of the total of three) are page-turners.

The first is history – in particular, Chechnya and Dagestan history – well, rather the Tsarnaevs family story against the Soviet background – and later growing up in Boston of the two future perps.

The second focuses on the day of the marathon and how friends, family, cops etc reacted to the fact that two perfectly ordinary boys turned out butchers.

The trial part of the book is its weakest. It has tons of non-pertinent data, discussions, thoughts etc – but mostly, it's just pure speculation by the author. Why did they do it? Radicals? Oppose U.S. Foreign policy? Like hell we find out. The cops and FBI did quite a number of strange and spooky things? Well, who could've guessed otherwise. Capital punishment is wrong? Damn it ,in this very case I'm fully on board with the most liberal state of MA who has decided to put this curly baby to sleep with a proper pinch of potassium chloride in each of his arms. Собаке собачья смерть. A cur's death for a cur.