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Alex Carnevale
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Kara VanderBijl
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Brittany Julious
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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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Monday
Jan262015

In Which We Reveal All In The Time And Place Of Our Choosing

12 1/2 Months

by LINDA EDDINGS

January. He is the surprising replacement for the host's brother at a themed dinner party held by my oldest, most literal friend Janet. "Here is Simon," she says. "That is not his name, but it is what he likes to go by." I never ask the story behind it, because I am truly tired of the games we play, naming things, asking what everyone wants to be called.

Simon is dressed very finely, but only if you take careful notice. "My apartment just burned down," he announces to everyone, and receives a round of condolences. He is living in a hotel. He confesses that he could move out of it, live in a short term lease that would be less expensive, that offers more space, but he does not really want to.

I ask what it feels like to have all of his things gone, and what started the fire. "It feels terrible," he said, "but I don't remember what's gone. When they asked me to make a list, I could not even do it." "You had insurance?" He doesn't answer, but Janet tells me that he did. I ask her if she was ever in the apartment. "Once," she tells me. "It was a sty. I'm not surprised in the least that it no longer exists."

February. He asked for my number. I gave it to him, not really thinking much of it. Lately, that is how it goes with these flimsy meetings. There is never anything like an attachment being formed; all contact seems so preliminary.

He does not call until the middle of the month. He asks what I want to do. Whatever I suggest, he says he has either already done it, or was not interested. Finally he tells me to show up in Bryant Park. I come early to write; he is already there.

He walks around looking at all the people. I ask him what he does for a living, but he does tell me that either. It was not much of a first date. The only thing he wants to talk about are the other people. Who did I think they were, where did they live, what were they doing in the park in the middle of the day?

He asked me to show him my apartment. When I said no, he reached into his back pocket and gave me a little blank book, like some curio journal you would purchase in a small bookstore. He told me not to open it until I left. On the first page was a detailed, highly realistic drawing of my face.

March. Simon did not call me for all of March, and I figured I would not hear from him again. He left a message with Janet, who I gathered he had hit it off with, perhaps better than he had with me. She told me that he was in Los Angeles working on set design for a small film, but that he would be back in a month, and that he wanted to see me again.

I asked Janet, "Isn't it strange that he would use you to relay that message to me? It's kind of insulting." She said, "That's the way he is. Perhaps he sees me more accurately than you see me."

I bristled at the time, but now I think that is no doubt true.

April. He calls me the day he comes back, and he asks if I wanted to get dinner. I hate that stinking phrase, and I tell him so. "You're not the first eccentric person I've met," I tell him. "It's not funny, or more entertaining. Surprises aren't an artistic medium." He apologizes, and says our evening will not be like Bryant Park.

I wish I had not said yes, but I did. His body was surprising muscular underneath his light clothing. No one could be like that through no exertion of effort, of time spent in the gym or natural world. He showed no sign of this. He had, then, long blonde hair tied up. The one thing I did not like about that night was the apologizing. He seemed genuinely sorry about our previous meeting, but it went overboard. At first I thought I was seeing him as he is, but after some time I discerned it was simply another layer.

May. When he wakes in the morning the first thing he does is draw. He is basically non-responsive during this period, so I learn to do other things while he crouches over himself. It is a relief to not have someone desperately trying to get away from you. I am grateful he allows me into that space, and then I pity myself for being pleased by something so innocuous.

His mother visits from Sweden. She stays at a cheap hotel near Times Square. She is a small, insensate woman with grey and blonde hair who is always putting herself down. She strains her hip bending over to pick up a quarter she has dropped, but she won't let Simon take her to the doctor. "A little thing," she scolds herself, "a little thing."

His father couldn't make the trip, Simon tells me. I want to ask Janet if she knows what the story is here, but she is no longer returning my phone calls. The sex we have while his mother is here is multidimensional and very satisfying, like a lozenge on a sore throat.

"This is not exactly what I mean," Laura Riding wrote, "any more than the sun is the sun."

June. His mother flies out of JFK, giving me this weird, wooden hug. I felt embarrassed when it is the three of us. I want to explain how uncomfortable their coldness makes me. I'm not writing very much these days. It feels like my life is my writing, and my writing is my life, a state of affairs Levi-Strauss referred to as a "double-twist."

l am a bit tired, I start to think, by the time I spend with him. We have grown closer, it is true, but it is the kind of interdependence I have never sought from other guys. My friends tell me that they miss me, and suddenly I feel the same. I am not this kind of person to be so wrapped up in someone else.

Before I do anything, I try to talk to Simon about it. He is placid, then excitable, like a child who has never had to defend his playtime. (Somewhere in there he cut his hair down to a low buzz.) My therapist says this behavior was probably returned to him by his mother's visit. It scares me that someone I care for is so transparent.

With a start one night, I recognize the taste of the herbal tea his mother drank at every meal.

"We spend all our time in my apartment," I say. "Don't you think that is strange?" Cowed and dutiful, he finally agrees to take me to his hotel room. Drawings and whiteboards are everywhere. Plates of eaten and uneaten food. Stack of burned and bruised pages float on trays and underfoot. It is a mess, the kind you would not know how to start cleaning up. "I have another week here," he says, and reclines on the bed, his eyes darting back and forth like ping pong balls.

July. This is the month that I end it.

Before that, I let him keep everything salvageable in boxes within my apartment. A few of his friends show up to help him move; a Bangladeshi girl who could have walked right off a runway, and a medical student named Artis who chuckles when he sees the scene. "This is nothing," Artis tells me. "You should have seen what burned."

I am surprised at how much these two know about me; his mother barely remembered my name. We sit down for dinner in a Burmese restaurant where no one comes in for anything but takeout. Janet shows up unexpectedly, practically jumping into my arms. When I tell her that I missed her she says, "Yes, me too. Second place is the first loser."

Once Simon finds a new apartment with a roommate who is a lawyer in midtown, I tell him how things are with me. I force myself to breathe. I think he might cry, but he never does, just watches the people walking by, swiveling his head to get the full view.

August. By next week he has taken it in stride and asks if he can still see me at all. I hesitate - those last few times we had sex resembled a light frenzy, like the last burning off of a storm's horizon.

A few weeks later he wants to know what they all want to know. It is the word that haunts every romance that has never been witnessed by others, that remained hidden from view. Something that is half a secret is still a secret. If he doesn't know why, Simon says, he will never know how to grow from this. "How can I stop thinking about you?" he asks me. I tell him that I will let him know when I figure it out.

September. It is so hard to be alone again. Sundays are particularly unbearable. The only comfort is knowing I was right. Wasn't I?

I had to close the curtains because the trees lost their leaves.

October. Janet tells me that Simon has found a new girlfriend. Do I want to know who she is? At first I resent her for putting it to me in this fashion. It's not like I would have found out if she did not tell me. But I would have wondered.

So often now my curiosity is satisfied again and again. This constant satiation never happened in another age and time. I wish I did not know the end of every story, although I suppose I may never know what has become of Simon's mother, or why she came to visit her son at all if she was not going to touch him. I could write it myself, but I do not wish to do so, this time.

Simon's new squeeze is an artist, small and blonde, of intensely tiny paintings. In what Janet regards as a solid put-down, she informs me that they represent the size of the painter's world. She graduated from a New England college where she could not have amassed much more information about life than a squirrel does from living in one tree.

These are Janet's observations only. I go to see the paintings myself one morning when the gallery opens. Despite being of ordinary objects, for the most part, they are so finely focused I find myself staring in utter absorption before having to look away.

November. Simon calls me before Thanksgiving. He is living back in Brooklyn now, he says. He has a new place. Would I like to come over? The first time he asks, I manage to decline.

Almost everyone else I know has left New York to visit friends and family. I am not going home for Christmas. The city empties out, stores and restaurants are closed. The avenues are left to tourists. Wood floors in his apartment shine, newly buffed. He is not seeing Jacqueline any more, he says, if he ever was. She had another boyfriend, a businessman who travels a lot. The man promised to work from the home office from now on. His choice changed my life.

December. I say, "Some women want to know there is a specific type of future available, one that they can comfortably fit into. Maybe she did not think you were capable of providing that." Even as the words escape my mouth, I realize that they are meaningless.

His smell. One whiff is like the next day after you roast nuts, but just a bit sour. I cannot believe I was ever able to escape from this sensation of someone so fine, interwoven through and around me, an irrestible aspect of Linda. Without meaning to, I have impressed myself.

January. I turn him away when he comes to my door. At the end of my building's hallway, a mirror shows his despondent face. "Thought looking out on thought makes one an eye," offered Laura Riding.

Linda Eddings is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Brooklyn.

Paintings by Edite Grinberga.

"Aluminum Crown" - of Montreal (mp3)

"Virgilian Lots" - of Montreal (mp3)

Friday
Jan232015

In Which Joseph Cornell Cannot Be Taken At Face Value

Constellations

by ALEX CARNEVALE

After a long detour of dreams, I've learned to love reality a little better.

- Pierre Reverdy

1911. Joseph Cornell's father develops leukemia. Six years later he dies deeply in debt.

1918. The Cornell family moves to Queens.

1945. Cornell asks Marianne Moore to recommend him for a Guggenheim fellowship. She does so reluctantly. He doesn't get it.

1962. Cornell wants to incorporate nudes into his work. He asks his friend Larry Jordan take nudes of young women, including those of his daughter. He returns the photographs in 1970, not wanting them to be found after his death.

1949. The Hugo Gallery presents La Lanterne Magique du Ballet Romantique of Joseph Cornell.

1965. Joseph's brother Robert Cornell dies. A friend says of Robert's battle with cerebral palsy, "He had the minimum amount of body that would contain a soul."



1941. Cornell writes, "A suggestion of that wonderful feeling of detachment which comes over me so often  a leisurely kind of feeling that seems to impart to the routine events of the day a certain sense of 'festivity.' This feeling which I started off the day with was increased by an unexpected letter from Tamara Toumanova written with deep feeling and sincerity. She sends a ticket for her performance of Swan Lake this Thursday and invites me to her dressing room afterwards. Have never seen her dance but she has told me before that it is one of her favorites."

1943. World War II arrives, and Cornell works in a defense plant.

1929. Cornell moves into a house with his mother and brother in Flushing, where he resides for the majority of his adult life.

1962. Cornell meets a waitress on Sixth Avenue named Joyce Hunter. All his thoughts are soon consumed by her. She is a single mother who takes a job as the cashier at Ripley's Believe-It-Or-Not Museum in Times Square.

1964. After he nervously begs her, Joyce Hunter moves in with Cornell.

1950. Cornell writes, "Lunch of pancakes a complete sense of peace (rare) before leaving for New York."

1921. Cornell takes a job as a woolen goods salesman for the William Whitman Company. He works there for the next ten years.

1952. He meets the artist Robert Motherwell, who complains that you can never have a conversation with Cornell: "It's always a monologue."

1951. Cornell writes to Mina Loy:

I had a beautiful early morning in the back yard under the Chinese quince tree  very early, in fact not much after five; and I could not help but think of you, looking up at the moon, when the first rays of the sun turn into silver. A long time ago, you may remember, you told me that your destiny was ravelled up somehow with the lunar globe, but even aside from this I have always experienced something wonderful evoked in this mood.

1966. His mother dies in the Hamptons. "What a beautiful child she once was."



1958. "Subway ride home 'people' etc too obsessive. People on subway  preoccupation with faces." Cornell sits for hours in cafes and train stations, picking at a danish, nursing his tea until it gets cold, staring.

1964. Joyce Hunter moves out of Cornell's house. She and her friends take nine of his boxes. Instead of prosecuting her, he makes a box depicting her as a winsome rat with tiny pink babies.

1925. Cornell becomes a member of the First Church of Christ, Scientist in Great Neck.

1958. Cornell hires assistants to begin cataloguing the vast store of boxes housed in his basement. He is absolutely compulsive about the order of them, calling his collections of clippings and illustrations of birds "extensions," and the folders that contain them "dossiers."

1956. Cornell's fascination with young women becomes more important to him. He writes, "Jackie as much personal diary when too harassed to enter properly the events seeming flavored so beautifully by preoccupation as vs. personal obsession but these multiple overtones could not get captured in words." Robert Motherwell later has to prevent an usher at a movie theater from calling the police when Cornell gives her a bouquet of flowers.

1938. Julien Levy holds Cornell's first solo show, and some of his boxes are included in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.

1962. "Loneliness is stronger than sex."

1944. Cornell has a nightmare about his frail, incapacitated brother Robert. "Dreamed that a crow flew right through the windowpane without breaking it and lighted upon Robert's chest. Took him into the bathroom and opened the window for him to fly out."


1969.
He asks Allegra Kent, a ballerina, to gift him a book on erotic art because he is ashamed to buy it for himself. She does so, but thinks it weird.

1940. He works for Vogue and House and Garden, contributing some freelance design.

1951. Robert and Joseph Cornell visit their sister Elizabeth at her farm. They continue to go there often in the summer.

1956. "Satie music. This seemingly almost miraculous accomplishment amidst vile days of sluggishness — expressing lethargy."

1963. The poet Charles Henri Ford  Cornell's friend by way of correspondence  brings Robert Indiana, Andy Warhol and James Rosenquist for a visit to his house. They are absolutely flabbergasted.


1964. Joyce Hunter is found murdered in a West Side hotel room.

1966. "My recent reading: Gadda's Pasticiaccio, Foucault's Madness and Civilization. Sontag's Against Interpretation. I had not been au courant with the pieces as published. They are the most meaningful things I've come across lately." Cornell pursues strange, intimate correspondences with the young daughters of his friends.

1972. Cornell dies a virgin.

1959. "Recurrent obsession to make objects move."

1956. The dancer Carole Schneemann occasionally goes out to Flushing in order to visit Cornell. "He would have everything set up like a little tea party, and it would be enchanting, like something out of a poem. But he'd get very upset if I said anything real."

1948. Objects by Joseph Cornell is shown in Beverly Hills.

1966. Letter to John Ashbery: "I have certain dossiers capable of a high potential for someone like yourself but it needs a very close rapport and empathy  they are past my own labors and have been so for a few years now."

1957. In a letter to Ford: "The sunset mingling the past and present with a special grace."

1967. "What seemed special at the start of writing all this may seem commonplace, taken for granted by many."

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here. Visit our mobile site at http://thisrecording.wordpress.com.

"Game That I Play" - Jessica Pratt (mp3)

"Strange Melody" - Jessica Pratt (mp3)

Thursday
Jan222015

In Which We Cannot Pass Unseen Or Untouched

My Disposition

by KARA VANDERBIJL

I am always a little surprised to discover that I have a body. Soon after I’d moved to Chicago, someone brushed my arm on the train and I almost cried because I could not remember the last time someone had touched me.

In the summer I bruise easily. The backs of my calves bloom with purple-black spots at the impact of bike pedals. Now, on my thigh above my knee, there’s a yellow-green spot from when I walked into a drawer that I had opened just moments prior. It’s disappointing, as an adult, to discover that you cannot pass unseen or untouched as easily as you did when you were a child.

I would rather reveal a deep, humiliating secret than have somebody invade my personal space. In the city, there are degrees of closeness. A certain touch in the train is formal, compartmentalized into what we refer to as “rush hour”: the slow sludge movement of hundreds of people trying to squeeze through doorways and turnstiles, through the curled spaces between other humans.

Even if they never reach the same physical proximity as these commuters, someone who means harm can be detected almost immediately. The bodily threat hangs pungent in the space between us. I remember a strange boy putting his hand on my knee when I was in high school, but perhaps he just lifted it from his own and began reaching towards me.

“Don’t touch me,” I warned.

I’m taller than almost any other woman I’ve met, and of a serious, unsmiling disposition. On the street, men whistle, but I don’t know what they’re whistling at. These hips? These breasts? I spent years trying to wish them out of existence, not because I was ashamed of them, but because the fantasy of being admired for simply my mind held an undeniable lure.

When a boy I liked in high school kissed me on the cheek one morning in the hallway before class, I felt it all the way down to my toes. I wasn’t kissed on the mouth until later, long after most people my age had already lost their sense of physical wonder. It was a little bit like being picked last for a sports team, except I was great at it right away, like my body knew things that my mind didn’t, answers to questions that have circulated since the beginning of time.

I took to water like a fish, not afraid of its depths like most children but terrified of the man-made box it was in, the feats of engineering that drained it and filled it and filtered it. When I was seven, I went swimming alone in the deep end by myself. I slipped underwater and reached down to touch the bottom of the pool, near the drain that I feared so much. As I let my body float to the surface of its own buoyant accord, I closed my eyes. My right cheek struck something sharp. I surfaced, bringing my hand to my face, and opened my eyes to see blood covering my palm and running down my arm. I’d gashed my face open on the ladder. At the hospital, they covered my face with tissue paper as they stitched up the wound with a needle shaped like a fish hook.

I forgot to drink water during my freshman year of college. I woke up in the middle of the night sometimes so parched I’d search the whole room, in the dark, trying not to wake my roommate up, for enough change to go buy a bottle of water from the vending machine. Sometimes I couldn’t find enough change and I had to wait until breakfast. The water in the bathrooms tasted metallic, with a twist of chlorine strong enough to make me reminisce about entire Southern California summers spent in the pool. It was a cocktail of childhood, of living in a place I’d lived in before after I’d lived in a place that obliterated all other places for me. My body was the only constant between here and there, and it has never been constant.

I bit my nails for years. Never until they bled, but close. Now, when I see someone on the train with badly bitten fingers, my stomach turns and I have to look away. I wish I could remember how I stopped, or why when I’m taken almost completely out of my body by a book or a film, I resume the old habit.

Eating a lot, and eating well, has always moored me to the physical. But it’s a transient activity. If only I could pick up some sort of tic, a discomfort that would constantly remind me of my body. If I could tap my toes obsessively. If I blinked more than the usual amount. If I possessed one superhuman sensation, even at the expense of another. I realize that these wishes are nonsensical, even offensive. But the desire to change, mutilate, or enhance one’s body has been around forever. It is simply the desire to be a body that we are also proud of, instead of this paradoxical creature that we happen to be but cannot always identify with.

My thighs are touching again. I’m wearing a sundress and the humidity makes my legs stick together uncomfortably. When I’ve felt unbeautiful, I’ve known deep inside that it is simply a result of my own feelings, not the physical reality of me. I’ve always thought more about what I could give to people in terms of my presence or thoughts; giving my body to friends or lovers to embrace and study seems foreign and bizarre even now. I enjoy it with the same wonder as I enjoy pondering a new and difficult concept.

We copyright them sometimes, but in truth, our thoughts are universal. Once you share an idea with someone, you’ve put it out into the universe, and you can’t take it back. Our bodies are the only things that truly belong to us, truly are us. Even in our most intimate physical sharing, we remain separate. You can pass an idea off as your own but you cannot pretend to own somebody else’s body. It’s the part of us that keeps us from becoming truly universal, perhaps from fully belonging.

Kara VanderBijl is the managing editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She tumbls here and twitters here.

Photographs by David Drebin.

"Follow You" - Night Riots (mp3)

"Oh My Heart" - Night Riots (mp3)