For the reader that chooses his writing on the elegance of its phrasing, the precision of its language, maybe this isn't a great book. Even for the reFor the reader that chooses his writing on the elegance of its phrasing, the precision of its language, maybe this isn't a great book. Even for the reader who just wants a lively narrative venture-- maybe this isn't the book. (In fact, I read an Advance copy, unadorned by notes or index though complete with typos and awkward grammar at points).
But for the reader whose idea of Writing consists of witnessing the author engaged in a death struggle with his themes, perhaps even not knowing what a given theme might be called-- watching the elements of a million unrelated threads weave themselves into a worldview, and a record of a time and place-- Pomerantsev's Nothing Is True is a miraculous, if unwieldy, construction. And something not to be missed.
No plot, of course, a parade of characters that are perhaps not even real people, but what stunning atmospherics, the vibe of a vast dystopian novel put into terms that are disconcertingly for real.
It is Pomerantsev's thesis, one of many, that Russians were privy to a kind of inside track to Millennial Insanity, long before the turn of the century, or anything historical-iconic like the Internet or the world polarization of the 9-11 disaster. His book reads a little like the wry multi-voices of T.S. Elliot, another chronicler of ruined empire and consequent diaspora.
And as Russia can now be anywhere, as much in Paris or New York with the waves of outbound travelers, Pomerantsev finds London to be the exile of choice, the most compelling illustration of the New Moscow, and what has become of his country, his culture :
Past the bouncers outside and the girls smoking long, skinny cigarettes, past the tinted glass doors ... There are three floors. One floor is 'Asian', all black walls and plates. Another floor is 'Italian', with domino tiled floors and a faux thatched cottage in the corner. Downstairs is the bar-cum-club, in the style of a library in an English country house with wooden bookshelves and rows of hard-cover books... a series of quotes, of references wrapped in a tinted window void, shorn of their original memories and meanings (but so much colder and more distant that the accessible, colorful pastiche of somewhere like Las Vegas). This had always been the style and mood in the 'elite' 'VIP' places in Moscow, all along the Rublevka and in the Garden Ring, where the just-made rich exist in a great void where they can buy anything but nothing means anything because all of the old orders of meaning are gone. Here objects become unconnected to any binding force. Old Masters and English Boarding Schools and Faberge eggs all floating, suspended in a culture of zero gravity.
But now it's not just Moscow any more where this style resonates. Over in Bernie Arnaut's Bulgari Hotel, on the corner of Hyde Park, the most expensive hotel in London (rooms start at ₤850 a night, the penthouse is ₤14,000), the floors are black granite and the walls are black glass, with older men and younger women in the blackness hard, scowling and sparkling. The lost-in-new-wealth world of Moscow rises and blends with the sudden global money from all the emerging, expanding new economies. And the Russians are the pace-setters. Because they've been perfecting this for just a few years longer, because the learning curve was so much harder and faster when one Soviet world disappeared and they were all shot into cold space. They became post-Soviet a breath before the whole world went post-everything. Post-national and post-west and post-Bretton-Woods and post-whatever-else. The Gagarins of the culture of zero gravity.
Pomerantsev doesn't set up models or hypotheses about the concept of Russia; he gets out the shovel and finds where the bodies are buried. Describing as he goes, the layers of mystification and disorientation as the truth is disinterred. Bitter, rueful, yes, and no conclusion to ruin the macabre scenery; Nothing Is True is a picaresque without a center, a grim account of lost souls.
A study in unforeseeable outcomes, with an unlikely man finding an unlikely end to his days on the opposite edge of the world. Names are dropped in brA study in unforeseeable outcomes, with an unlikely man finding an unlikely end to his days on the opposite edge of the world. Names are dropped in breathtaking number, and world-famous persona show up late to borrow the couch for the night. Remarkable to read this final chapter in the great writer's life, wherein all the civilized world ends up shipwrecked on this distant shore, having tea with Garbo....more
Disappointingly generic macro analysis of- well, how marketing ate our culture. Unless you're somehow innocently unaware of the calculation and precisDisappointingly generic macro analysis of- well, how marketing ate our culture. Unless you're somehow innocently unaware of the calculation and precision that goes into modern advertising, there's nothing new here. Reminiscent of the blandly wide-angle material you find in the pocket of the airline seat in front of you... ...more
Charmingly period-perfect view of Advertising from the poised & tasteful Mr. Ogilvy. Covering the fundamentals from the origins forward, even a reCharmingly period-perfect view of Advertising from the poised & tasteful Mr. Ogilvy. Covering the fundamentals from the origins forward, even a really broad overview like this one is capable of conveying the glee of discovery, the dizzying successes & wretched failures -- of a distinctly modern discipline.
Most appropriate anecdote : When Fortune Magazine featured him with the blurb "Is Ogilvy A Genius?" --he is reported to have reflected, "you know, I almost sued them over that. The question mark, I mean." ...more