Devs

My favourite lockdown binge so far, though it’s kind of hard to describe: a cross between Killing Eve and Jesus Christ Superstar (Jesus even makes a cameo appearance). It’s funny, inventive, has one of the best deadpan cast of characters I’ve ever seen. (Nick Offerman is pure genius), and the script is a pared-down thing of joy. Devs takes place round about now-ish and is the story of a company that is working to develop the holy grail of computer systems: a quantum machine that can

Yup, a game-changer, and the shady techs behind it will kill employees, foreign spies and just about anyone else to keep it a secret.

Devs is a slow-burner: the set (especially the computer – they’re actually working inside the computer!) is a work of art. The whole piece is quiet, atmospheric with dialogue that works effortlessly around some pretty mind-blowing concepts: probability, quantum computing, multiple universes: they’ve thrown the whole Sci-Fi manual at it, and still managed to keep it compulsive viewing. As I’ve said, it’s a standout performance by Nick Offerman (remember Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation?) as the haunted CEO of the company, wracked with doubts over what he’s trying to do.

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The Young Bride by Alessandro Baricco

I read Silk a couple of years ago, and to this day it remains the best book I’ve ever read. In fact, it was so good, I couldn’t finish another book for months. But I realised … and I’m doing it again: this isn’t about Silk, this is about another piece from Alessandro Baricco’s multi-room writing studio.

I’m not sure how the Young Bride escaped my radar for so long, but when I found it, it was a day of joy. It’s an odd story; a dense, literary tale about a young woman who comes to live with a family of wealthy textile merchants. She has been promised to the Son of the family’s patriarch, but on her arrival she discovers the Son has travelled to England to study manufacturing. No one is sure when he will return, so she decides to wait for him, slowly becoming indoctrinated into the strange domestic and sexual rituals of the Family. After a time though, it becomes clear that the Son is no longer in England; he left the country to travel further, and has not been heard from since. The Bride, now bewitched by the Family, and weaving an intricate web of desire of her own, must face the possibility that the Son may never return.

Yes, it’s Alessandro Baricco, so you know it’s going to be a great book, though that doesn’t mean you’re going to like everything about it. I mean, I like a good poetic read as much as the next would-be writer, but sometimes I found the prose a little dense, to the point that it sometimes got in the way of the story, and that’s a shame because it really is a great story. The characters are perfectly flawed, the setting is immaculately crafted and the pace, while measured, is pretty much what a book like this needs. But occasionally, very occasionally, the story gets lost in the poetry.

But aside from that, this is a thoroughly enjoyable read that doesn’t builds to a gentle but satisfying end.

Seven out of ten

Christina’s World

I’ve been reading about a painting called Christina’s World. The woman featured in the painting is Anna Christina Olsen who was the subject of several paintings by Andrew Wyeth.

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Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth

Christina suffered from a neurological disorder that crippled her from the waist down. Wyeth painted this picture as he watched her making her way across a field to a nearby house.

To be honest, I’m not really into art. I can go to a gallery, stand in front of any picture and not feel a thing aside from a mild cheesecake craving.

This picture is different. It’s not just the beauty and detail of the landscape; it’s her. I look at this picture and I wonder how far she’s travelled. Does she do this journey every day? How long does it take? I look at this picture and it makes me think about about the kind of hardships that people suffer every day without so much as a sigh or a word of complaint.

And so this picture makes me feel profoundly grateful.