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This Recording

is dedicated to the enjoyment of audio and visual stimuli. Please visit our archives where we have uncovered the true importance of nearly everything. Should you want to reach us, e-mail alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com, but don't tell the spam robots. Consider contacting us if you wish to use This Recording in your classroom or club setting. We have given several talks at local Rotarys that we feel went really well.

Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Robert Altman Week


In Which Alan Bennett Used To Find This All Quite Daring

East Is Danger

Alan Bennett: the son of a butcher who rose from a modest background to become one of the most celebrated British playwrights of the century. The diaries Bennett kept, especially during his visits to America, eclipse those of de Tocqueville and Dickens, amounting to a catalogue of perspectives from humblest to bourgeois. These writings show off a lot more than Bennett displayed in plays like The History Boys or Kafka's Dick, describing a man who almost unknowingly belonged to a different time than the one he was in.

Why American is a foreign language: we like in a cafe near Gramercy Park, sitting out on a heavy, overcast day. I order a screwdriver and drink it quickly and ask for another.

"I guess it's kind of hot," the waiter says.

"Yes," says Lynn, "and the glasses are kind of small."

"Yes," says the waiter. "That's true also."

No Englishman would say, 'That's true also' (although it's a perfectly grammatical sentence), because it's written not spoken English. Only Ivy Compton-Burnett would write it as dialogue.


Mary-Kay rings from Geneva to tell the children their grandfather has died. Sam answers the phone, is told the news, and then immediately announces to the room in his gruff eight year old voice, "He's dead."

William (six) now comes to the phone. "Can I pretend that I don't know and you tell me all over again?"


Ten years ago it was thought (or I thought it) quite daring for a girl to loosen her bikini top to brown her whole back. Nowadays girls bare their breasts and bake them openly just as a matter of course. Or girls with nice breasts do. Charlotte H., for instance, who sits across the swimming-pool from me now, has huge unexpected breasts with large, snub nipples; they look like the noses of koala bears.

I wear a pair of flip-flop sandals, the sort of with a sole and one strap across - the biblical type, I suppose. When I was a boy and read of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples, I thought of their feet as like my own in 1943, sweating in grey Utility socks and encased in heavy black shoes with stuck-on rubber soles. Consequently I regarded Jesus's gesture as far more self-sacrificing, even heroic, than it actually was. After twelve pairs of such feet, I thought, the Crucifixion would have been a pushover.


An article on playwrights in the Daily Mail, listed according to Hard Left, Soft Left, Hard Right, Soft Right and Centre. I am not listed. I should probably come under Soft Centre.


I am walking in the Lower East Side in New York, strolling east through the village. I am surprised by how much of it has been smartened up. Then I come out into an intersection between warehouses and railway buildings, where, across a large central triangle, I see a herd of mackintoshed derelicts, who are also convicts, each with a white oblong on his boots carrying his prison number. I turn and run, much as one might run to get out of the way of a herd of cows, for I know they are not individually dangerous.

Now I am walking back towards safety - east is danger, I know, and west is home - back along a narrow track beside fields of standing corn. A colourful character waves me on, and then I am confronted by a young man in a smart cavalry-twill coat, the coat slightly too big for him; he has a small head, with gummy, edgy hair. He wants money, and I reach into my right-hand back pocket, where I have several bills, and, taking them out, pull out one for ten dollars. I notice that all the colour has drained from the note. Knowing that I have only taken out one bill among many, he suddenly has a knife in his hand which he is holding before his face, a small knife, the blade of which I can hardly see.

I know as we confront each other in the standing corn that this young man of twenty-six or so is going to kill me and that I had been misled by the cavalry-twill coat into thinking him a better class of person. Suddenly I see why the coat is too big - because that too is stolen. I look into the face of this cold-eyed runt and see as I wake and die that I will perish because I have been a snob.


When, like today, I feel I have got a little way with a plot and knock off for the day, it is like a climber going up a sheer face who pitches camp on a narrow ledge. Tomorrow he may get no further; he may even roll off during the night.


Telephoned by the Evening News to see if I have any comment to offer on the occasion of Harold Pinter's fiftieth birthday I don't; it's only later I realize I could have suggested two minutes' silence.


Struck by the completeness of New York, much of it still as it was in 1930. Today is Thanksgiving Day and the streets are emptied of humanity, Prince Street swept clean of people, every detail of the fretted fronts of warehouses clear and sharp, buildings cut up like cheese, segmented against the sky. It was like this the Thanksgiving Day after JFK's assassination, when I walked down a totally empty Seventh Avenue with not a soul to be seen.


In the new form of service God is throughout referred to as You; only one Thou left in the world, and the fools have abolished it. Of course they can't do away with the vocative, which is every bit as archaic, so we still say 'O God.' It's a good job God doesn't have a name, or we'd probably be calling him Dave.


Commentators on Kafka tend to enlist him. Heller enlists him, holds him up to the rest of the literature class as a good example. How he would have squirmed! Cannetti does the same, annexes Kafka for his own stringency.

Kafka could never have written as he did had he lived in a house. His writing is that of someone whose life was spent in apartments, with lifts, stairwells, muffled voices behind closed doors, and sounds through walls. Put him in a nice detached villa and he'd never have written a word.


Someone writes asking advice about where to send a TV script. "We sent it to Kenneth Williams and he was extremely enthusiastic about our script but he committed suicide soon after."


Continuing appreciations of Olivier, all of them avoiding the unspoken English question: "But was he nice?"


Steven Berkoff, who is currently everywhere, is quoted as saying that critics are like worn-out old tarts. If only they were, the theatre would be in a better state. In fact, critics are much more like dizzy girls out for the evening, just hoping to be fucked and happy to be taken in by a plausible rogue who'll flatter their silly heads while knowing roughly the whereabouts of their private part. A cheap thrill is all they want.


"What is it?" said Ariel C. today, "that I've no need to do now that I'm an old lady? Oh, I remember: tell the truth."

I am having supper at The Odeon when word goes round the tables that John Lennon has been shot. "This country of ours," sighs my waiter. "May I tell you the specials for this evening?"


A grand seaside hotel in the twenties.

A young woman in black sits in the window, in sharp contrast to other guests in blazers and shorts on their way to the beach.

The hotel manager comes in and tells the woman that unless her bill is paid that day she must leave the hotel. There is an argument.

Meanwhile waiters come in with very expensive luggage, belonging to a millionaire whose yacht has just anchored in the harbour. The millionaire comes in and takes a seat while his room is got ready.

The young woman summons a waiter and tells him to move her seat further away from the millionaire. The millionaire is intrigued. He summons the same waiter, who is noticeably more polite to him than to the woman, and tells him to move his seat closer to her. The process is repeated. The increasingly disgruntled waiter has to move the chairs again.

The millionaire asks why she is moving. She says it is because she can smell money. She is allergic to the sight and smell of money.

The millionaire cannot smell money. She is allergic to the sight and smell of money.

The millionaire cannot smell money. He smells his hand but cannot detect it. He offers the young woman his hand to smell, and she very gingerly does so, and promptly collapses. The millionaire summons the waiter for some champagne. A glass revives her, but the sight of the millionaire tipping the waiter promptly makes her swoon again.

The millionaire asks her how she came to be like this. She says that she married a poor man, and they were very happy, but he worked very hard and gradually became rich. Making money took over his life. He used to come home smelling of money. They lived in a house that smelled of money. He dressed her in clothes, gave her jewels - all smelling of money. She began to suffer from asthma, rashes, fainting fits - all brought on by the sight and smell of money. Even signing a cheque fetched her out in spots.

Eventually her husband died, leaving her very rich. But, valuing her health, she could not touch the money, and besides it nauseated her.

The millionaire is overjoyed. He has spent all his life looking for someone who would love him for himself, regardless of his fortune. He approaches her, but she begins to feel faint.

Suddenly the manager appears with her bill. The millionaire orders the manager to strip, so he can put on his clothes. The manager, obsequious to a fault, does so and the millionaire, now dressed in the manager's clothes, which do not smell of money, is at last able to kiss the young woman's hand.

She says she cannot stand the hotel, and wants to leave. Despite being in his underpants, the manager still insists that her bill be paid, but at the very mention of it, the young woman collapses again.

The millionaire is furious with the manager, saying that he will settle her bill. She begins to revive, and as she does so the millionaire begs her to come away with him on his yacht.

"Will it," she asks fearful, "will it smell of money?"

"No," says the millionaire. "It is a very petite yacht, and all it will smell of is the sea and freedom."

The couple leave hand in hand, and as the yacht sails out of the bay, the waiter clears away the champagne, complaining that neither of them has left him a tip.


I  leave the Odeon around eleven, the place already a frenzy of streamers and horn-blowing. Back at the apartment all is quiet, but as firecrackers go off in the street and the noises in her head are blotted out by the whistles and bangs, Rose sings in the new year with a love song.

I love you
and I find it to be true
And the whole world smiles at you.

Except that five minutes into 1985 the fireworks stop, the noises come back, and once more she thinks there is a boy bouncing his ball on her ceiling. No matter that she has thought this for twenty-five years and if there were a boy he would now be a middle-aged man, for Rose he is still bouncing his ball.

"Stop it. Stop it," she shouts. "I can't have this. Stop it, you goddamn filthy bum."



In Which We Sincerely Hope To Impart This Information

Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to justhardtosay@gmail.com or by dropping us a note at our tumblr.


I recently received an anonymous message through social. The sender was a woman I did not know, and it said, I apologize for doing this, and linked to this Dear Abby column about cheating.

I'm fairly sure my boyfriend Jon is not cheating on me. At least I could think of no feasible time he would be able to accomplish this feat, since we spend most of our days together.

For various reasons I don't want to bring this up to him. I'd like to find out more without him knowing or invading his privacy in any way. Help! 

Janine L. 


Dear Janine,

Mention the girl's name in an innocent context and watch for his reaction. He need not know about the message.

If he says, "That's this crazy girl I used to work with," ask for more information. Why does he call women girls? Does he realize crazy is a trigger pejorative often imposed on women who simply don't accept sublimated roles in a patriarchal society? Has he read tumblr?

If this does not resolve your problem, then go to Plan B, the morning after pill. Just kidding, instead wait for the right drunken moment to have the "wild" idea of placing a location tracker on both of your phones.

This part is important: once you have placed a tracker on his phone, if you yourself are cheating, remove the tracker from your phone. The point of this is to catch him, not to expose your own peccadilloes.

Hi guys,

My friend Judy Liederschmidt recently split up with her boyfriend of five years. They went around the world together and took lots of photos in exotic places, such as Bali, the Alps, Papua. New Guinea and Mindy Kaling's birthplace.

These photos are very prominently displayed in the home they used to share, and everytime I go to see Judy Liederschmidt, who is not dealing with this situation all that well, I feel like her ex is staring a hole in my gullet. He cheated on her and it doesn't seem healthy for her to be reminded of it at all times.

How can I broach this subject with her and what do I say?

Frederick R.

Dear Frederick,

You have a few options, each with its own drawbacks.

The first of these strategeries involves heavily complimenting her appearance in a way that conveys the idea that these photos are an outdated, disgusting version of her and she requires new snaps to convey the current state of her gorgeous repose.

Failing that, find a friend who is purportedly single and bring him over to her house. She will probably hide the photos before the young man's arrival, but they may reappear upon the suitor's departure.

At this point, it would be time for full measures. Has she read John Berger's Ways of Seeing?

JK, although someone once gave us that book and said it changed his life.

No, instead you have to pretend it is you who has a problem letting go of someone. Be casually having a thing where you throw romantic letters and trinkets into a fire for some reason  it doesn't have to be the possessions of a love interest, it can be anyone in your life. Heck, it could even be Judy Liederschmidt if she doesn't straighten her fucking shit out.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.



In Which We Answer A Series Of Pretentious Questions

Absolute Zero


I am thinking carefully about everything Eva told me the night before. The look someone gets when they have heard too much: I tried not to show it.

Eva asked if I had ever been to Marrakech. I thought: What a fucking pretentious question.

Once, many years ago, I was with someone I thought was too good for me. This one was not like Eva. She would ask terrible questions all the time, e.g. "What do you think Lawrence Durrell was thinking when he wrote Justine?" or "Can I get egg whites on a flagel?" (A flagel refers to a flat bagel.) I looked up what happened to her yesterday: she does PR for Maybelline.

I was telling you what my girlfriend said last night that so appalled me. Other thoughts keep intruding. Did you know that scientists brought a molecule down to absolute zero? It was a mitzvah.

There is this episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents where this hotshot business executive is driving on a long road trip, and his car gets totaled by a truck. He survives, but he is catatonic. Men come to take his bags and jewelry, never noticing that he continues to live. Other men come in prison jumpsuits and strip off his clothes. Right before they're about to toss his body in the incinerator, a coroner notices a single tear dropping from the executive's eye. That was basically the face I was making, last night.

I remember once, an evening like that not too long ago, she was asking me about my past. I felt like I had to reveal something, or else she might stop asking. "When was the last time you were in love?" she managed. First I said, "Murphy Brown."

Just because Eva originates from something flawed, does not mean that she herself is wrong.

She did not want my real story, the same as I did not want her real story. But we had been together for about fourteen months, although maybe 1/3 of that time was long distance, while I finished a job in Seattle. It felt like she could not wait another moment. She brought out this old photo album. It took us right through her teenage years. We saw her dad, an intensely obese man who had been killed by a drunk driver when she was 14. He had not been around much before that.

I met Eva's mother in San Diego, where she used to live. My girlfriend prepared me a lot for this meeting, she said she felt it was too soon, but that since her mom usually was overseas, this could be the only chance we would have to all get to know each other.

I have never been to Marrakech. I was in Bilbao once for a month. I met a girl online and she invited me to stay. The food is the only thing I remember, and how she never washed her hair. I told her I could not have sex before marriage, as a stipulation of my religion, but we could do whatever else she wanted. Eventually we did have sex anyway, but not until the last week I was there. By then, we both probably could have lived a lifetime on the anticipation alone, and I asked her to wash her hair, so that was no longer any kind of impediment. When I summarized this life experience to Eva, I stated, "I fell in love once in Spain."

I attended a lecture last week by a man who wrote a verbose novel that numbered many leatherbound volumes. Someone asked him during the Q & A how he was able to be so prolific. He said that he had gotten divorced. The crowd gave a knowing laugh, but I felt my head get warm. It happens to me in these fast moments. Say it, I thought, say the real reason.

Last night Eva started talking about this ex-boyfriend, who I will call Max. You see, she loved Max dearly but he had some problems. I assumed the end of the story involved Max being the drunk driver who killed her dad, but this was sadly not the case.

Max actually did not treat her all that badly, until he got off drugs. He did not hit her or even yell at her or scream. He just made her feel really bad about herself, for like, years.

There is a compulsion among certain people who believe that others are "too good" for them. Over the years I have heard this every once in awhile, but not as often as some of my friends. It is apparently what her mother told her about me, after we spent an afternoon by the woman's pool.

I looked in the mirror for a long time after that, wondering what Eva and her mother saw in me. They had both encouraged me to go in the water, but I shook my head and said nothing.

Max is married and he looks happy. His wife has the longest blonde hair I have seen since I used to go to this cafe in San Luis Obispo, where every single picture on the wall was of Max's wife.

You are probably wondering aloud to your flatmate, I wonder what his girlfriend will think when she reads this! The answer is, she will realize I am the finest writer of my generation.

Tolstoy bought a villa for his daughter Olga in Marrakech. Before his marriage to Olga's mother Sophia, he listed all his prostitutes, and admitted fathering a child with one of the women. Sophia Tolstoy took it in good stride. We always know the kind of person we are with, since it is the only meaningful way we can understand ourselves.

I told this to Eva just now, when she woke. She said, "Don't act like you know me," and turned over.  The woman on the walls of the coffee shop was actually Marilyn Monroe. She died of an overdose. The drunk driver who killed Eva's dad died in prison from a brain tumor. No one else in this essay is dead.

I do not like knowing these hard stories, even if it is about a person I care so much for. But I would like them a lot less if I was the one telling them. I know we can't forget what happened to us, even if a choice made now, today, projects itself backwards to change our past actions as Milosz wrote. From that vantage the past is as nebulous and alterable as the present. Taking the next logical leap, it means that the present is as fixed as what preceded it.

Bilbao had the most wonderful restaurants. San Luis Obispo is a great place to live. Seattle's not so bad either, even if there is not much history. You can always make it up.

Ellis Denklin is a writer living in Los Angeles. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.

Photographs by Hannah Collins.

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