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I miei libri preferiti.


Hell’s Angels: a strange and terrible saga
Hunter S. Thompson
1967

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To the friends who lent me money and kept me mercifully unemployed. No writer can function without them. Again, thanks. HST
Actually we’re conformists. To be an Angel, you have to conform to the rules of our society, and the Angels’ rules are the toughest
Now, looking for labels, it is hard to call the Hell’s Angels anything but mutants. They are urban outlaws with a rural ethic and a new, improvised style of self-preservation. Their image of themselves derives mainly from Celluloid, from the Western movies and two-fisted TV shows that have taught them most of what they know about the society they live in. Very few read books, and in most cases their formal education ended at fifteen or sixteen. What little they know of history has come from the mass media, beginning with comics … so if they see themselves in terms of the past, it’s because they can’t grasp the terms of the present, much less the future.
Scritto con lo stile inconfondibile di Hunter S. Thompson, di cui mi sono innamorato, è il racconto del paio d’anni che ha passato a strettissimo contatto con gli Hell’s Angels. Per quanto mi riguarda potrebbe anche scrivere l’elenco del telefono che sarebbe comunque bello: in certi passaggi mi è venuto da applaudire.
E in certi momenti mi è tornata la voglia di avere una moto (ma mi è già passata).


The obstacle is the way. The ancient art of turning adversity to advantage
Ryan Holiday
2014

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To steal good fortune from misfortune.
Great times are great softeners. Abundance can be its own obstacle, as many people can attest.
Our generation needs an approach for overcoming obstacles and thriving amid chaos more than ever.
The phrase “This happened and it is bad” is actually two impressions. The first—“This happened”—is objective. The second—“it is bad”—is subjective.

Ryan Holiday, oltre ad avere quella che secondo me è la newsletter di libri migliore di tutte, è una delle persone che leggo più volentieri in assoluto.
The Obstacle is the way è dichiaratamente ispirato allo stoicismo, e anche se è facile scambiarlo per un libro da cui prendere citazioni da abbinare a foto profilo a caso su Facebook, è pieno di cose su cui pensare (con esempi reali).
Si parla molto dell’importanza di restare calmi, e questo si ricollega a qualcosa a cui mi capita spesso ultimamente, cioè che la vita non è un gioco a somma zero, e a quanto siamo portati istintivamente a pensare il contrario, reagendo sempre con “Oh ma non è giusto!” più o meno a tutto. No, non è giusto, ma è così, quindi non aspettarti che qualcuno metta le cose in pari, fai quello che puoi/devi, e il risultato importa relativamente.


Clair de lune
Guy de Maupassant
1883

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Un sceptique de génie a dit : « Dieu a fait l’homme à son image, mais l’homme le lui a bien rendu. »   Ce mot est d’une éternelle vérité et il serait fort curieux de faire dans chaque continent l’histoire de la divinité locale, ainsi que l’histoire des saints patrons dans chacune de nos provinces. Le nègre a des idoles féroces, mangeuses d’hommes ; le mahométan polygame peuple son paradis de femmes ; les Grecs, en gens pratiques, avaient divinisé toutes les passions.

Raccolta di racconti di De Maupassant, per allenarmi un po’ col francese.


Gonzo Papers, Vol. 1: The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time
Hunter S. Thompson
1979

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The only other important thing to be said about Fear & Loathing at this time is that it was fun to write, and that’s rare — for me, at least, because I’ve always considered writing the most hateful kind of work. I suspect it’s a bit like fucking, which is only fun for amateurs. Old whores don’t do much giggling.
Nothing is fun when you have to do it — over & over, again & again — or else you’ll be evicted, and that gets old. So it’s a rare goddamn trip for a locked-in, rent-paying writer to get into a gig that, even in retrospect, was a kinghell, highlife fuckaround from start to finish. . . and then to actually get paid for writing this kind of maniac gibberish seems genuinely weird;(…)
The Nixon I remembered was absolutely humorless; I couldn’t imagine him laughing at anything except maybe a paraplegic who wanted to vote Democratic but couldn’t quite reach the lever on the voting machine.
There is a cynicism at the core of it, the confident assumption that success in politics depends more on shrewd technique than on the quality of the product. The “old Nixon” didn’t make it. Neither did earlier models of the “new Nixon.” So now we have “Nixon Mark IV,” and as a journalist I suppose it’s only fair to say that this latest model might be different and maybe even better in some ways. But as a customer, I wouldn’t touch it — except with a long cattle prod
[Hemingway] Perhaps he found what he came here for, but the odds are huge that he didn’t. He was an old, sick, and very troubled man, and the illusion of peace and contentment was not enough for him — not even when his friends came up from Cuba and played bullfight with him in the Tram. So finally, and for what he must have thought the best of reasons, he ended it with a shotgun.
Una raccolta con alcune perle dei primi anni di Hunter S. Thompson, con estratti di libri e molti articoli per Rolling Stones.
Credo sia l’unico scrittore al mondo che possa parlare di Nixon (Nixon!) e tenermi incollato alla pagina. Ma è tutto bello.

Attempting normal
Marc Maron
2013

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Her dad was a psychiatrist. In retrospect he must not have been a very good one. I mean, he let her marry me.
Can you imagine if you were up on the altar and the rabbi said, “Do you take this woman?” and you said, “You know what, I don’t! HA HA HA!!!” What a cathartic, profound moment that would be. At that moment everyone you know in your life would think you were a fuckin’ asshole and you would be truly free. How often do you get that opportunity? “Yeah, fuck all of you!”
We all have the right to cherry-pick the advice given us in order to do exactly what we wanted to do in the first place.
Sometimes I would just become obsessed with an individual song. I would play the records over and over again, the music like an aural IV that changed my brain chemistry and paced my heart, taking me where I needed to go depending on my mood. There was driving music and there was sad music. Driving had to be done and sadness needed to be managed. Music transformed both into magical journeys.
The fact is, she was right. I was an abusive, selfish, needy, angry asshole.
 Now I’m just kind of selfish, a little less angry, occasionally needy, with flights of asshole. I’ve grown.
People who have babies tell me I will know a love that is beyond anything I can imagine, and a joy that is indescribable. Love and joy? That sounds horrifying. I have no way of knowing whether I can handle either of those. I’m much better with need and fear. They are what ground me.
Running away works. Sometimes you have to change it up: new people, new restaurants, new Laundromat, new barista, new life. Yeah, the adage is true—that wherever you go, there you are—but you in an entirely new setting is a new you, or at least the old you in a new context, and that’s not nothing.
 That is why I’ve grown to like the road. There is a freedom that comes through the loneliness of being stranded by work in another town or country. My freedom initially takes the form of self-abuse of some kind: food, sex, masturbation, drugs, making a mess, or oversleeping. My impulse: “I can make this mess here. It doesn’t count. This is planet road.”

Uno dei libri che mi hanno fatto più ridere di sempre. D’altra parte Marc Maron è un comico, che però si è reinventato “podcaster” nel momento più basso della sua vita, inizialmente intervistando colleghi e poi più o meno tutti, compreso Obama. In quest’articolo c’è il riassunto della sua vita/carriera (e quindi di questo libro, che è una sorta di autobiografia super dettagliata, anche troppo, certi particolari sono quasi morbosi e ne avrei fatto a meno senza problemi).

Ho letto anche il suo primo libro, The Jerusalem syndrome, ma non mi sento di consigliarlo.


Mad Men Carousel: The Complete Critical Companion
Matt Zoller Seitz
2015

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And now, paging through this book, we see that Seitz has given us the very thing we want most now that the series has ended. Hundreds of reminders of how rich, complicated, and moving the show was. How raw, how resonant, how personal our relationship with it was.
As usual, Mad Men is not only interested in the What (the secrets themselves, and the repercussions of their exposure) but also the Why (the reason for doing the thing that must then be kept secret). It rarely presents people’s motivations in a simplistic way because it respects the messiness of people. It
Again, as is so often the case, Mad Men displays great openness to the idea that people aren’t either/or, but both/and.
Weiner and company get this. They’re more interested in what you could call the non-story-ness of life—how existence is filled with the devices of fiction, yet never coheres in a satisfying way.
This subplot says a lot without telling us how to feel. No sooner have we gotten a read on what we think is the scene’s verdict on the characters than we’re reminded that there is no verdict, because this is not the sort of show that issues them. It just listens to its characters, watching them move through time and life.
Given all this, when I decided to publish a book about Mad Men, my friends asked, Haven’t you had enough?
 The answer is no, because Mad Men is built to last.
 It is the most richly textured, intricately structured drama I’ve seen in the nearly twenty years I’ve been a TV critic.
Chi non ha mai visto Mad Men non può capire la sensazione di smarrimento nel sapere che non ci saranno mai più nuovi episodi da vedere, per cui dopo aver visto l’intera serie 5 volte ho letto questo libro, che analizza puntata per puntata il capolavoro di Matthew Weiner. Potrai pensare “che cazzo ci sarà da scoprire se l’hai già vista 5 volte”, la cosa incredibile invece è che circa ogni dieci righe ho imparato qualcosa di nuovo.
Un libro imprescindibile per tutti i fanatici di Mad Men, non riesco nemmeno a immaginare quanto ci si possa mettere per fare tutte le ricerche che stanno dietro queste 600 e qualcosa pagine. Chapeau.
Sono d’accordissimo con Seitz quando elogia le puntate dirette da John Slattery, che oltre ad essere geniale nel ruolo di Roger Sterling si dimostra un fenomeno anche dietro la cinepresa.
Non capisco invece come Seitz possa difendere sempre a spada tratta Joan (che non mi sta simpatica per niente), e criticare i flashback di Don (che per me sono dei gioielli e da soli valevano la puntata che li ospitava): va beh.

Seitz è anche l’autore di The Wes Anderson CollectionThe Wes Anderson Collection: The Grand Budapest Hotel, che ho in programma di leggere da un po’. Non sapevo che l’autore fosse anche appassionato di Mad Men, altrimenti probabilemente li avrei già letti.


The right stuff
Tom Wolfe
1979

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The Right Stuff became the story of why men were willing—willing?—delighted!—to take on such odds in this, an era literary people had long since characterized as the age of the anti-hero.
No, herein the world was divided into those who had it and those who did not. This quality, this it, was never named, however, nor was it talked about in any way. As to just what this ineffable quality was… well, it obviously involved bravery. But it was not bravery in the simple sense of being willing to risk your life. The idea seemed to be that any fool could do that, if that was all that was required, just as any fool could throw away his life in the process. No, the idea here (in the all-enclosing fraternity) seemed to be that a man should have the ability to go up in a hurtling piece of machinery and put his hide on the line and then have the moxie, the reflexes, the experience, the coolness, to pull it back in the last yawning moment—and then to go up again the next day, and the next day, and every next day, even if the series should prove infinite—and, ultimately, in its best expression, do so in a cause that means something to thousands, to a people, a nation, to humanity, to God. Nor was there a test to show whether or not a pilot had this righteous quality. There was, instead, a seemingly infinite series of tests.
And everyone nodded, (He failed—but I wouldn’t have!) Once the theorem and the corollary were understood, the Navy’s statistics about one in every four Navy aviators dying meant nothing. The figures were averages, and averages applied to those with average stuff.
(…) to describe it, even to wife, child, near ones and dear ones, seemed impossible. So the pilot kept it to himself, along with an even more indescribable… an even more sinfully inconfessable… feeling of superiority, appropriate to him and to his kind, lone bearers of the right stuff
Having seen four nights from up close, Wally couldn’t help but have noticed that the secret of a successful mission lay in a simplified checklist with white space between tasks. The fewer tasks you had, the better chance you had for a one hundred percent performance.
La storia delle prime missioni spaziali della Nasa, ai tempi della guerra fredda, scritta con lo stile perfetto di Tom Wolfe. Si legge tutto d’un fiato. The right stuff è quella roba lì che ci vuole per arrivare al top, quella cosa di cui, tra piloti, non si parla mai, ma tutti sanno chi ce l’ha e chi non ce l’ha. Chi ce l’ha la può perdere, chi non ce l’ha non la può ottenere.

Interessante che parli anche di Checklist, ovvero le liste di controllo di cui parla Atul Gawande in The chechlist manifesto, uno dei libri più interessanti che ho letto quest’anno. Lui è un chirurgo e le applica al suo mestiere, ma dice esplicitamente di aver preso spunto dai piloti di aerei. È bello averne la conferma, se ne parlava già in un libro del 1979 ma finché Gawande non ha scritto il suo libro nel 2011 non le conosceva nessuno.


ALTRO (ARTICOLI, ECC)

The Interview Master: Cal Fussman and the Power of Listening (podcast)

Podcast di Tim Ferriss in cui intervista Cal Fussman, giornalista specializzato in interviste (che non conoscevo): lungo ma pieno di aneddoti che per gli appassionati del genere sono vere perle.


Dr. Dre: What I’ve Learned

Appena ho sentito che Fussman aveva intervistato Dr. Dre sono andato a leggere subito il pezzo, molto bello.


Song of the Sausage Creature

Hunter S. Thompson, e già non ci sarebbe bisogno di dire altro. È una recensione, diciamo atipica, della Ducati 900 Supersport, ma questo poco importa. Potrebbe essere anche la recensione di uno scolapiatti, ma quando uno scrive così bene…

Some people will tell you that slow is good – and it may be, on some days – but I am here to tell you that fast is better.

Whoops! What am I saying? Tall stories, ho, ho… We are motorcycle people; we walk tall and we laugh at whatever’s funny. We shit on the chests of the Weird….


Matteo Pezzi

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