Photographic print to the left available in the shop
“I had to contend with boredom. Meaning,
when I was bored, I had to be bored and keep
walking. As opposed to: sling up the ‘ole smartphone
and walk-n-suck on another list of headlines. ”
It is a narrow, winding road through the hills. It is nestled by the bowing hardwood trees that line it on both sides, and as the well-tuned engine pours on the road, the fallen golden leaves fly off, a brisk sign of more blustery times ahead. The car window is down, just enough to feel the crisp autumn air. It is a pleasant feeling, one of the best. The rush of summer is finally over and nature seems to breath a new life and start to slow down and get cosy at the same time, until it enters the deep silence of winter. The road is almost empty. You watch. And listen. A Mazda MX5 sports car picks up speed – you can’t blame it, the road is inviting – but finally agrees that the ride is best enjoyed when shifting the gear down. By taking any turn left, the road goes up, still meandering, and the view is clearing up as the forests fall sideways, turning into an idyllic countryside scenery of meadows guarded by wooden fences and bushes of rosehip, sea buckthorn, cranberries and blackberries. You can leave the car on the side of the road and pick up a hiking trail, the leaves turning rusty on the ground starting to ruffle under your feet. Four boys with their bikes have stopped by the side of the road, gathered around and plotting away. It looks like a scene from The Goonies. Back in the car after you’ve put in some good effort and taken the steepest path up to the hilltop that offers a panoramic view of the surroundings, you return to the main road. The hour is still early. The road is stretching ahead. On and on it goes. You follow it. How can you not? There’s still plenty of gas in the tank.
Nadya Zim photographic print to the left available in the shop
The Classiq Journal newsletter goes out the first Sunday of each month. It’s a culture trip.
The Lost Pianos of Siberia* is a book you have to take your time with. Because the book itself is slow-paced and revealing such depth of history and thoughts and feelings that it reminds you that not every book, as good as it may be, should be read in a one-go. In her literary non-fiction book, Sophy Roberts takes us on a thoroughly researched and deeply experienced journey “into music, exile and landscape,” as noted by Edmund de Waal. A land generally known for its harshness, terrifying, unimaginable exile stories and primitive life conditions, is shown another face, of poetry, humanity, survival and unique beauty, as Sophy Roberts sets out to track down a piano for a piano player friend of hers, and then to find out how music entered and was cultivated in Siberia throughout its troubled and dark past. And I am glad it is a westerner who brings this view up in the open. This kind of writing and this kind of book could only be possible by the deep understating and deep bond the author, though her repeated trips there and relentless passion and honest interest, had of and formed with this outlandish part of the world and its people, the people’s people. And there is no other time when I would recommend this book more than at the moment: art and culture have this subtlety in revealing some truths in an impactful way that can change thoughts and minds. In this case, it’s this: there were other moments in history when people were forced, most of the times unjustifiably, to immobility for years or maybe a lifetime and yet found beauty or created beauty out of misery and hardship. The world at large is formed of ordinary people. Cold hands, warm hearts. To hear or read their story is a privilege. It makes you question your perspective.
When she left her Hollywood career behind, Louise Brooks re-emerged as a serious film historian and critic. Lulu in Hollywood, her compilation of film journal essays from the 1960s, was considered by Roger Ebert “one of the few film books that can be called indispensable”. Her Thirteen Women on Film, her book of essays on Hollywood icons such as Joan Crawford, Gloria Swanson, Greta Garbo and Clara Bow reveals Brooks as a pioneer of Hollywood star and celebrity studies.
Each issue of Légende magazine focuses on an iconic figure, personalities who embodied and defined the times they lived or have lived in. The first issue, launched this summer, was dedicated to Zinédine Zidane. The second issue, just out, is about Angela Davis. Each story is told by historians, journalists, illustrators and photographers. “It is conceived as a collector’s item. Only on paper can we produce this effect,” says editor-in-chief François Vey.
I have to mention once again Craig Mod’s weekly newsletter Ridgeline. This week’s letter in particular rang extremely close to home.
The Pretenders have released a new album, Hate for Sale, and Chrissie Hynde talks to The Rolling Stones about it and about life lately. Lockdown has not kept her down and she doesn’t see the point of socially-distanced shows either: “Why do artists think that they’re going to heal everybody, and their music is so important? It’s a little bit pompous.” I love her way of thinking. You just have to wait. It doesn’t apply just to music. And it is true, music can not be played just anywhere and anyhow.
Watching a good film noir I hadn’t yet discovered can still make my day. The Good Die Young (1954) features John Ireland, Gloria Grahame, Richard Basehart, and the great Laurence Harvey, whom I especially loved in Room at the Top (1959) alongside Simone Signoret. It was directed by Lewis Gilbert, who also made three Bond films (You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker), which could be a good idea to revisit in the run-up to the release of No Time to Die. This conversation may also inspire you to do just that.
I have finally caught up with watching the last three seasons of Homeland and it is as good as ever (episode 5 of season 6, and the entire season 6 altogether, is one of the best – Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin and Rupert Friend, what a team!). I rarely watch tv series (the interesting thing is that not even in the last six months of sheltering in place and socially distancing have I watched any), but give me something like 24, Breaking Bad and Homeland and I may easily get caught up in this bindge-watching thing.
Right: Illustration part of the Angela Davis issue of Légende magazine
On margins is a podcast about making books (this is as good as it gets), hosted by none other than Craig Mod. Among his guests have been book cover designer Jon Gray, photographer, author and backpacker Kevin Kelly, and designer, letterer and children’s book best-selling author Jessica Hische.
Anthony Bourdain took the profession of cook as an adventure, just as he did life. For him, it was a calling, a reason to live. Cooking was for him “the last meritocracy – where what we do is all that matters”. He wrote Kitchen Confidential while he was still working the line, giving you the feel and beat of the buzz of the kitchen, a real taste of that frantic world – the life of a rock ‘n’ roller, but also the life of a craftsman. I loved the honesty, the humour, the verve, and how he threw movies into his stories about food: “Please treat your garlic with respect. Sliver it for pasta, like you saw in Goodfellas”. To listen to his follow-up to Kitchen Confidential audio book, Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People who Cook, narrated by Bourdain himself, should be nothing less than a real treat.
Each month I highlight one fashion and/or lifestyle brand I believe in 100%. This October, it’s & Daughter. Slow knitwear brand, English sensibility, timeless appeal. And it’s even more worth exploring this time of year.
The concept of “friluftsliv”, or open-air living, encourages outdoor adventures for all ages in all weather. How a Norwegian idea of outdoor living could help us all this winter.
On an end note
Give up Google: don’t hit “accept all”. In her book, Privacy Is Power, professor Carissa Vériz wants to shake us out of our complacency and fight for our privacy. There have been many online publications and websites I used to visit and which I don’t anymore, because the multitude of ads they had was disorienting, annoying and just too much, but, most importantly, because of their harassing cookies pop-ups. No piece of news or film review is worth an invasion of my privacy. There are plenty of independent publications, just like this online cultural journal, that are worth reading, not just because of their high quality content, but because they respect their readers’ privacy and value their time. Or better yet, read more paper books, magazines and newspapers, and check in with real life more often than you check in on your Instagram.
“Sometimes you just have to wait. That’s what
I’ve learned. You just have to wait, but that
doesn’t mean you stop doing what you do.”
*Note: For an easily accessible, official synopsis of the books recommended here, I have linked to the respective publishing house or author. However, in these trying times, our intention is to support artists and small businesses of any kind, especially bookstores, therefore I will not link to global online book chains or corporations, leaving you to make the choice of helping your favourite independent bookshop and placing your order with them. If you don’t have a favourite indie bookstore, here is how to find one you can support.