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Alex Carnevale
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Kara VanderBijl
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Mia Nguyen
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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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Friday
Feb272015

In Which Until We Were Twenty-Eight We Had A Kind Of A Buried Self

Seek to Hide

The tragic and disturbed life of Anne Sexton began with a rocky and abusive childhood, and ended with an adulthood roughly along the same lines. Despite the harm she suffered and inflicted on others, her honest comments about her introduction to the world of poetry in these interviews with Patricia Marx and Barbara Kevles appear level-headed. Beneath that cold logic existed a hidden, sometimes mistaken faith in the world; as she wrote of her friend Sylvia Plath, "Something told me to bet on her but I didn't know why." (In the following excerpts, these two interviews have been abridged and combined.)

You were almost thirty before you began writing poetry. Why?

Until I was twenty-eight I had a kind of buried self who didn't know she could do anything but make white sauce and diaper babies. I didn't know I had any creative depths. I was a victim of the American Dream, the bourgeois, middle-class dream. All I wanted was a little piece of life, to be married, to have children. I thought the nightmares, the visions, the demons would go away if there was enough love to put them down. I was trying my damnedest to lead a conventional life, for that was how I was brought up, and it was what my husband wanted of me. The surface cracked when I was about twenty-eight. I had a psychotic break and tried to kill myself.

Didn't anyone encourage you?

It wouldn't have mattered. My mother was top billing in our house.

In the beginning, what was the relationship between your poetry and your therapy?

Sometimes, my doctors tell me that I understand something in a poem that I haven't integrated into my life. In fact, I may be concealing it from myself, while I was revealing it to the readers. The poetry is often more advanced, in terms of my unconscious, than I am.

About three or four years ago my analyst asked me what I thought of my parents having intercourse when I was young. I couldn't talk. I knew there was suddenly a poem there, and I selfishly guarded it from him.

About three weeks ago, he said to me, "Were you beaten as a child? I told that I had been, when I was about nine. I had torn up a five-dollar bill that my father gave to my sister; my father took me into his bedroom, laid me down on his bed, pulled off my pants and beat me with a riding crop. As I related this to my doctor, he said, "See, that was quite a royal strapping," thus revealing to me, by way of my own image, the intensity of that moment, the sexuality of that beating, the little masochistic seizure - it's so classic it's almost corny.

Once you began writing, did you attend any formal classes to bone up on technique?

After I'd been writing about three months, I dared to go into the poetry class at the Boston Center for Adult Education taught by John Holmes. I started i the middle of the term, very shy, writing very bad poems, solemnly handing them in for the eighteen others in the class to hear. The most important aspect of that class as that I felt I belonged somewhere.

How about Holmes or the poets in your class, what did they say?

During the years of that class, John Holmes saw me as something evil and warned Maxine Kumin to stay away from me. He told me I shouldn't write such personal poems about the madhouse. He said, "That isn't a fit subject for poetry." I knew no one who thought it was; even my doctor clammed up at that time. I was on my own. I tried to mind them. I tried to write the way the others, especially Maxine , wrote, but it didn't work. I always ended up sounding like myself.

And Lowell, how did he strike you?

He was formal in a rather awkward New England sense. His voice was soft and slow as he read the students' poems. At first I felt the impatient desire to interrupt his slow, line-by-line readings. He would read the first line, stop, and then discuss it at length. I wanted to go through the whole poem quickly and then go back. I couldn't see any merit in dragging through it until you almost hated the damned thing, even your own poems, especially your own.

I wrote to Snodgrass about my impatience, and his reply went this way: "Frankly, I used to nod my head at his every statement, and he taught me more than a whole gang of scholars could." So I kept my mouth shut, and Snodgrass was right. Robert Lowell's method of teaching is intuitive and open. After he had read a student's poem, he would read another evoked by it. Comparison was often painful. He worked with a cold chisel, with no more mercy than a dentist. He got out the decay, but if he was never kind to the poem, he was kind to the poet.

Are you ever influenced, or do you ever learn anything from critics?

Oh, they're very disturbing. I don't know what I learn. I just want to say, "Gee whiz, kids, that's the best way I could do it," something like that. One prolific poet who I greatly admire can hardly write a damning review without mentioning my name in connection with "mechanically bad writing." What should I do? Send him a telegram? I carried one very bad review in my wallet all over Europe. The good reviews I left at home. But even over there I was still Anne. I couldn't change her. I think mostly reviewers are upsetting. You just love the praise, and you try to shut out the criticism. I don't know how much they can influence you. I don't think they always read you correctly, but you always think the ones that like you are reading you pretty well.

I wonder what is the relationship between form and making a poem function like an axe. In what way do you approach a poem stylistically and in what way does content dominate?

Content dominates, but style is the master. I think that's what makes a poet. The form is always important. To me there's something about fiction that is too large to hold. I can see a poem, even my long ones, as something you could hold, like a piece of something. It isn't that I care about the shape of it on the page, but the line must look right to me.

Is there any time of day, any particular mood that is better for writing?

No. Those moments before a poems comes, when the heightened awareness comes over you and you realize a poem is buried there somewhere, you prepare yourself. I run around, you know, kind of skipping around the house, marvelous elation. It's as though I could fly, almost, and I get very tense before I've told the truth - hard. Then I sit down at the desk and get going with it.

1966, 1974

"These Things I've Come To Know" - James McMurtry (mp3)

"Deaver's Crossing" - James McMurtry (mp3)

The new album from James McMurtry is entitled Complicated Game and it was released on February 24th.

Thursday
Feb262015

In Which We Name Our Detective After The Painter

David Simon's Afterbirth

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Bosch
creators Eric Overmyer & Michael Connelly


Were you potentially interested in a show that is a lot like The Wire, but you know, not? Amazon Studios' ten episode series Bosch, based on the character from Michael Connelly's mediocre novels, gruffly enters the scene. A white man made us and shall save us.

The highest art made from the lowest original source material is a ticklish subject. I guess the right answer would be Wes Anderson's The Fantastic Mr. Fox? This rarely comes up; truly bad books are rarely made into magnificent anything. Bosch is nowhere near magnificent, but simply through Eric Overmyer's involvement, it becomes a major improvement on the novels about the too often fictionalized Los Angeles area.


Hieronymous Bosch (Lost's Titus Welliver) is one hell of a homicide detective. I mean, he allows a serial killer to nearly escape from his clutches, spends two months trying to solve a decades old cold case for no reason, causes a suicide and two other deaths, shoots an unarmed man who he says is a killer, and consumates a relationship with a junior officer in his department (Annie Wershing). Besides that, the man is a damn genius.

Bosch is also a terrible father. His ex-wife is a retired FBI profiler who lives in Las Vegas and competes against whales in high stakes poker. Her new husband is every bit the father Bosch does not want to be, because our detective has "cases." He actually only has one case for most of Bosch, and it takes him forever to solve it. Vegas is only a few hours away, but he never goes there.


Bosch's superior is Deputy Chief Irvin Irving (Lance Reddick), who is basically reprising his exact role from Overmyer's The Wire for no reason I can discern. Reddick's low voice is his signature. Emoting and bringing vibracy to an underwritten scene is not really his signature. There is one moment where Reddick talks to a prosecutor while both sit in cars that happens on all of Overmyer's shows, because it is the kind of thing that occurs in real life, and Overmyer loves stuff like that. But here the tête-à-auto accomplishes the opposite effect it makes everything seem fake.

The thing that was actually good about The Wire was not the writing or the performances both varied greatly in quality. What made the show different was that every scene had consequences, unfolding the butterfly effect through bleak streets and inside quiet homes.


Bosch's house, which he supposedly bought from the proceeds of a movie adapted from one of his cases, is completely open to the world. Massive windows look out on the metropolis below. (Bosch's daughter has never even been there.) His girlfriend is not invited to this inner sanctum at any time, but she shows up unexpectedly and Bosch begrudgingly invites her in. What would she want to do with this monster?

In order to make someone so devastatingly banal sympathetic, Connelly has created a detailed backstory that involves Bosch's mother being a prostitute who was murdered, and him being raised in an abusive Catholic orphanage. It turns out the serial murderer (Jason Gedrick) came through that same orphanage, where a dark room with a soiled mattress isolated the most disrespectful boys.


Because we see no actual evidence of how this impacts who Bosch is, the context feels fake. Everything around Bosch is actually more fascinating and vibrant than he is: a lesbian police captain (Amy Aquino) with a child, a repressed homosexual serial killer, Bosch's divorced African-American partner (The Wire's brilliant Jamie Hector), his rookie love interest who has her growing pains, his sympathetic but hard-nosed ex-wife (24's Sarah Clarke). All these characters get plenty of screen time, as Overmyer smartly emphasizes the ensemble.

But the focus is too often on Bosch himself. Welliver tries his best to imbue the thankless role with a brusque charm, but he fails partly because he is never given anything to do. He has one costume change in the entire run of the show. (He takes his shirt off once to have sex.) He never moves quickly or decides something at once from all appearances the only thing he is any good at is drinking and smoking.

Nobody watched Treme, even though it was the best musical by far that has ever been created. It was also hard to follow without detailed notes. Overmyer takes Bosch in a much simpler direction: instead of a thousand storylines, we get one procedural stretched over an entire season of episodes. The plotline of Bosch would have been wrapped up in mere minutes by any other detective. I understand the idea of following a single character over the expense of a large group makes television easier to follow and understand, but airing as it is on Amazon Prime, Bosch did not need to appeal to that audience.

As long as Bosch waited to become a show, and as much as it cost Connelly personally to buy the rights back from Paramount, did we really need another white cop who doesn't follow the rules, unless he is portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal?

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Lovit" - Marian Hill (mp3)

"Wasted" - Marian Hill (mp3)

The new album from Marian Hill is entitled Sway and it was released on February 17th.

Wednesday
Feb252015

In Which We Do Not Know How To Get Along With Him

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.

Hi,

I am five months pregnant with my first child, a boy. My husband Theo and I are very excited for this new addition to the family, but lately I have been feeling a bit fixated on the guy who Theo wanted to be the godfather, Mark. Mark is a friend of Theo's from college, and he still acts like he is still in college despite being closer to middle-age. He smokes pot and drinks, which would be fine in itself, but he frequently inebriates himself to the point of not remembering his activities. 

I'm worried Mark will continue this kind of behavior around the baby. Theo decided the godfather thing would be a bad idea, but says that Mark will probably grow up by the time our child is old enough to notice. Am I right to be worried?

Ashley T.

Dear Ashley,

Mark sounds like a bunch of human garbage, but he's not going to be the baby's parents: you are. Sometimes children need a bad example to understand how things can go so terribly wrong. You know those cautionary tales that head into juvenile prisons to educate youths on the dangers of drug addiction, prostitution and reading the Atlantic? Mark could play this key role for your chile. Upon his departure you can quietly exhale to your son, whose name will probably also be Ashley, that Mark just didn't make the right choices in life. "Mark thinks Cristela is a really light-skinned black woman!" you can crow deliciously as this ne'er-do-well leaves your child's house.

Also, Mark will probably be dead in a decade or more, so why worry about things that may never come to pass? Just pretend to be accomodating now and put your foot down later.

I assume you're having a water birth?

Hi,

My stepsister Joann recently got married to a wonderful man and is pregnant with her first child. The two are planning a wedding before the baby arrives. With the prospect of a baby shower, an engagement brunch (no clue what that is), a bachelorette party, bridesmaid dress and other incidentals, Joann's fertility is probably going to cost me in four figures. I don't have the kind of income where I can absorb these expenses; on the other hand I don't want to let my stepsister down. What should I do?

Kate T.

Dear Kate,

Marriage is a wonderful institution, except when Lauren Bacall married Humphrey Bogart: that was completely gross.

Whatever you do, do not bring this problem up to Joann. Create an entirely independent drama that requires your attention. For example, your car broke down and needs a new hamburglarator. She has bigger issues on her mind, she's not going to check if it's actually part of a car. For a more plausible excuse, humbly reveal that you have to take a weeklong trip during her bachelorette party to accomplish a continuing education bonafide. For some reason, using the word "education" justifies any expense or behavior.

Failing that, is there the possibility of suggesting Joann's fiance may not be the father? Because that could really shake up this loathsome set of obligations on your plate. Also, when you lie, don't touch your face.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen. Access This Recording's mobile site at thisrecording.wordpress.com.

 

"Underground" - Ben Lee ft. Angie Hart (mp3)

"Protect Me (From What I Want)" - Ben Lee ft. Sean Lennon & Neil Finn (mp3)