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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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Tuesday
Aug252015

In Which We Will Ask You To Keep It In Your Backpack

Interjection

by TAYLOR HINE

If, in conversation, I don’t understand a reference, I have this habit (one that I’m trying really hard to break) of going along with it anyway, thinking that the risk of looking uninformed or stupid is diminished if I only appear to understand it. I can get away with this sometimes. But it’s also landed me in trouble, if not with others, then with myself. I’ll feel as though I betrayed the both of us during discourse long after it’s over.

When my boyfriend told me about Infinite Jest and its complexities, I couldn’t even pretend to have heard of the novel before. I hadn’t – not in any meaningful way, until he recommended it to me. I hadn’t heard of David Foster Wallace, either. From the way my boyfriend described Wallace’s work, I would have felt especially like a cheat if I’d done anything other than let him talk about Wallace. I also knew he’d catch me in the lie.


When, though, on my first day of college, I saw a guy pulling Infinite Jest out of his backpack before our biology class, I had to say something. He wore baggy clothes and looked almost as scared as I felt. Students were milling about the stadial classroom, calling out to friends or finding a place to sit on their own. We were in the back row, where everyone sat alone rather than in groups.

“David Foster Wallace,” I called down the row of seats to him in a friendly voice, smiling.

He beamed. “You’ve read Infinite Jest?” It was more appraisal than an actual question. I didn’t even know this guy’s name and I was about to lie to him.

“Most of it,” I said. He nodded his approval and started reading.

+

Watching The End of the Tour, I realized that pretending to have read Infinite Jest would have been exactly something that Wallace – or anyone who wants to have meaningful conversations – would hate. Pretending to connect with someone often means that you want someone – perhaps someone you know, or someone you think you’d like to befriend – to like you so much that you’ll say virtually anything to get their approval.

The relationship that arises out of David Lipsky (played by Jesse Eisenberg) wanting to interview David Foster Wallace (played by Jason Segel) is rooted in self-interest, at least on Lipsky’s part: he wants to talk to Wallace both for a Rolling Stone interview (despite the magazine never having profiled a writer in the past) and, perhaps, to gain some writerly wisdom from someone he admires. (And he’s going to join him on the last stop of his Infinite Jest book tour, no less.) Why else would he have suggested profiling him? Lipsky has to get the best interview he can; his editor demands that he get Wallace to essentially spill his guts. Nevertheless, a friendship grows between the two Davids: Lipsky sees that to be understood as a person rather than a capital-w Writer is most important. He travels to Bloomington, Illinois, one of those regular places of the most midwestern variety, and stays with Wallace in his modest brick house facing an open field in the dead of winter.


Oddly enough, the piece was never published. According to Rolling Stone, “a series of events took place — a rock star's untimely death, a heated political season — and the profile never saw publication.”

The film doesn’t set out to mythologize Wallace the Writer. In fact, it does the opposite: it shows us Wallace the Human, Wallace the Regular Guy. Where Lipsky may have thought that the story of David Foster Wallace was of the Rolling Stone truth-be-told caliber, he realizes by the end that the real story is in understanding and connecting with Wallace on a deeper level. Once, when Wallace and Lipsky are watching TV (which, he claims, he would do every minute of every day if he owned one) with a couple of Wallace’s friends – an old classmate, Betsy, a poet and something of a love interest, and a fan of his, named Julie–Betsy gives Lipsky a copy of the literary magazine she’d recently gotten her poem published in. Lipsky, too, is a fledgling writer; he had his first novel published recently. Wallace eyes them pointedly from the couch, then corners Lipsky in the kitchen later, telling him to leave her alone. “Be a good guy,” Wallace says. In retaliation, Lipsky cracks open a beer after promising Wallace he wouldn’t drink around him.

See, guys? These are people like us.


The End of the Tour was a familiar story to me. Getting to know someone you’ve admired from afar is a pleasure, especially when you find that you two get along better than you have with anyone else in quite awhile. But more than that, they didn’t pretend to be anything more than themselves: they didn’t spend the entirety of the film discussing and dissecting their Writers’ Troubles. They didn’t pretend to be great.

Lipsky and Wallace have lunch at the Mall of America after a radio interview and have breakfast at McDonald’s on their last morning together. Lipsky befriends Wallace’s two dogs. They have a couples’ spat about not remembering where the car was parked after flying home from Minneapolis. They remain stubbornly silent on the car ride home and alternately proffer bits and pieces of their own stories in lieu of apology. They come to understand each other’s foibles and peculiarities the way friends do.

The last thing Wallace says to Lipsky before he goes home is, “I don’t think you want to be like me.” I smiled up at him from the back row of the theater and remembered that I wasn’t smiling at Wallace. I was smiling at a screen, at an actor, wishing it was Wallace in the flesh. I wanted to sit down and talk to him; I had nothing to prove to him and no need to impress him.

After the movie, I went home and dug out my copy of Infinite Jest. I’ve passed the point where, on my last two attempts at reading it, I gave up, and I don’t plan on stopping this time. I’m ready to be part of the conversation.

Taylor Hine is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Asheville. She tumbls here. You can find an archive of her writing for This Recording here.

"Shadow Fighter" - The Levels (mp3)


Monday
Aug242015

In Which We Teach Chaos Theory To Young Children

Sext the Walking Dead

by DICK CHENEY

Fear the Walking Dead
creators Robert Kirkman & Dave Erickson


Every American in Los Angeles is in an interracial relationship except for Nick (Frank Dillane). The most likely explanation for this is that Dillane is British, portraying the heroin-addicted son of a woman named Madison Clark (Kim Dickens). Nothing could possibly be less mystifying than the viral spread of the undead, but the cast of AMC's Fear the Walking Dead — perhaps the most cynical cash-in since CBS' short-lived Friends of M.A.S.H. — has no idea what is going on. Who are these people with bloody mouths? Should we offer them napkins, so they may tidy themselves?

After her son's childhood friend Calvin stumbles down a dark alley towards her, Madison responds by going up to him and asking, "Calvin, what's wrong?" She has been conditioned to believe that anything her own son says is bullshit, so when Nick tells her he has shot and killed Calvin in self-defense, she insists that he is lying. Not exactly Mom of the Year.

Tell me what's wrong. Tell me what's wrong. Tell me what's wrong.

Madison (what a stupid fucking name) has a love relationship with an ethnic Māori named Travis (Cliff Curtis). Despite being the school's guidance counselor, Madison's family is bursting at the seams. Her ungrateful daughter Alicia is planning on running away with her interracial relationship, and she has zero concern for her children, admonishing their stepfather for coddling the kids.

The charges for calling New Zealand are astronomical.

Travis is a great boyfriend. "I love you," he tells Madison, and she tells him that he is stupid for doing so. Usually people are good at receiving or giving love, one or the other, but that is not the case for Madison Clark. She is not even a good guidance counselor, as she proves when she takes away a knife from a poor student trying to defend himself from the violence to come.

Why doesn't he just bite the bullet and teach the works of Karl Marx?

Madison is at least a better guidance counselor than her boyfriend is an English teacher. For some reason he is teaching Jack London — perhaps unaware that there is no Jack London, just an office full of ghostwriters churning out material for the name on the cover of the book. The irony of The Walking Dead firing all their writers after the first season and proclaiming Robert Kirkman as the one true genius is somehow lost in the manic clichés of Fear the Walking Dead. There is no irony before death, I guess, but then one of the major characteristics of The Walking Dead was that it had no jokes in it, less it turn into a Shaun of the Dead-like parody.

Now that her boyfriend is dead, I'm excited for a romantic storyline between her and Rick Grimes' little boy.

I think the idea is that eventually the spinoff will just replace the main series, which added a bunch of new writers last season and turned from one of the worst shows on television to a kind of dark comedy involving the unique character of Rick Grimes — a charismatic, logical maniac. It can't possibly go on forever, because the shelf life on a rage as character motivation burns fast.

I almost put my fist through the television during the Chaos Theory lesson.
Fear the Walking Dead corrupts the far more innocent. Rick Grimes was a sheriff in the south - he had already seen some shit before his apocalyptic troubles began. Robert Kirkman has no prayer of being able to write realistic, modern teenagers — there's a reason he took away all their cellphones, so he didn't have to write scenes like this:

This is some shit-tier sexting.

The denizens of Los Angeles are really not cut out for this, suggests Fear the Walking Dead, and in comparison to their southern counterparts, these city dwellers are ill equipped for any kind of survival. Fear the Walking Dead gives the tale of the city mouse, and it is bleak.

The end of the world is most depressing for those of us with hot gfs.

None of the people in the cast are overly sympathetic except for heroin addict Nick, only because he at least never kept up a pretense of being able to gainfully survive in the world. What both shows has been willfully short of so far is giving us any developments about the larger picture. The spiteful Frank Darabont seemed to be taking Kirkman's basic concept a science-fiction direction in its first season, but after they got rid of him, The Walking Dead never touched that material again.

In a Donald Trump presidency, none of this would be an issue. Each night, we would tune into the president's daily radio address, where he would tell us about the cookies he had recently eaten and rip into Rachel Maddow or Eleanor Clift at his leisure. Jeb Bush's new line is that Trump's record is not meaningfully different from Hillary Clinton's. One interracial relationship is much like another.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

I think they missed an opportunity to drop "Such Great Heights" on the soundtrack here.

"She Walks So Fast" - Drinks (mp3)

 

Friday
Aug212015

In Which We Consider Them All Monsters

with Philip Roth

Veronica in the Extreme

by HELEN SCHUMACHER

Even after her death, her friends didn't hesitate to call her a monster. Veronica Geng, a contributor and fiction editor at the New Yorker during the '70s and '80s, was stubborn to a fault. Roger Angell, who was responsible for bringing Geng to the magazine, declared her the hardest person he ever had to edit. Best known as a humor writer, Geng's satire could be relentlessly brutal, but she wrote with a sui generis wit and dexterity that gave her work an extraordinary quality and had colleagues willing to look past her fierce temperament.

Geng joined the New Yorker in 1976 after a piece she wrote for the New York Review of Books, a film review written as a parody of Pauline Kael, got the attention of Angell. The short piece mocks Kael’s notoriously overenthusiastic review of Robert Altman's Nashville. In Geng's spoof the movie is called St. Pete, and Geng writes: "The picture’s a knockout. There’s nothing the matter with it. It's Altman’s farewell to the movies, with their Esperanto sensibilities, their bogus art and darling 'actors.' It's as if the whole sanctimonious-aesthete-in-tinsel-land scene bombed out ten years ago, and he’s the only one who’s noticed, or who's cared."

Veronica Geng (the surname is Alsatian) was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and spent much of her childhood in Philadelphia, where she lived with her younger brother and parents. Her father worked as an officer in the army's quartermaster corps and, in her teens, he moved the family around Europe — to Heidelberg, Munich, and then Paris. After high school graduation, Geng returned to the United States to study at the University of Pennsylvania (where she wrote her honors thesis on Seymour Glass) before moving to Manhattan and taking up with the city’s literary scene. Up until her breakthrough NYRB piece, Geng had been laboring away in book-editing gigs and composing freelance pieces for glossy women’s mags under the pseudonym Phyllis Penn.

with her brother

In 2007 Geng's brother, Steve, a career thief and drug addict, published a memoir about his junkie exploits and relationship with his sister. In it he describes Veronica as an extremely private, guarded girl who was endlessly rolling her eyes at those less quick-witted than her and who liked to make her brother laugh with impressions of the politicians of the McCarthy hearings. She was a dedicated student and reader, but still known to smuggle gin in perfume bottles on Girl Scout trips.

While Steve's memoir provides the rare account of Veronica's childhood, traces of the personalities and events that shaped it show up everywhere in her writing, in particular, the voice of her bullying father, an insecure man who hid behind military diction (an infantry manual was among the reference books Geng kept at her desk). As fellow New Yorker Ian Frazier, with whom she shared a deep, long-standing friendship, points out in the introduction to one of her collections, of all the voices Geng used in her writing, the voice of the overbearing American guy was the one she knew best. "She could be playful with the overbearing-guy voice, and she sometimes even celebrated it," Frazier wrote. "More often, though, she fiercely mocked it. Her contempt for it, and other contemporary stupidities, was withering. … She just understood better than the rest of us how coercive, how oppressive, such voices can be."

Undoubtedly, one of her greatest virtues was her manipulation of the voice of power. While most of us grow numb to its tyranny, she never lost her ear for it, nor her indignation at its pompousness. Often she executed her slick attacks by taking the quotes of politicians and placing them in a new context, exposing their asininity and hypocrisy. Fittingly, she claimed her two favorite books were Alice in Wonderland and the paperback collection of the Watergate transcripts.

"My Dream Team" begins with an epigraph from the 1991 Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings of Senator Arlen Specter questioning Hill as to why she never took exact notes on Thomas' sexual harassment, knowing that her "evidentiary position would be much stronger" if she had. In the piece, an assistant stealthily takes stream-of-consciousness notes (but with full attention to proper legal notation) while in conversation with a lecherous co-worker.

I hereby affirm that the person whose words I just wrote down while pretending to work and ignore him, and whose actions I intend to note insofar as I can see while feigning inattention and writing fast enough to keep up with his lohgh lhoggohr shit what a stupid word to pick under this kind of pressure his blabbering—I do solemnly swear and state that this person is one and the same Mr. Barry Sloat, co-worker and subject of Contemporaneous Notes Parts 1-85; and further I avow that this, Part 86, commences on October 6, 1995, 3:45PM, when Mr. Sloat made known his presence in my office doorway, whereupon I once again made Standard Warning Statement (as per Manual p.5) in conformance with EEOC Anti-Entrapment Guidelines (Attachment to Part 1) and then wrote down what he said, contemporaneously with his saying it. By the way (chance here to squeeze this in while Mr. Sloat pausing for dramatic effect enjoyed by him alone), I also attest that I am not type of woman who normally uses 'shit' as expletive, but crossing it out now might look as if I have something to hide.

Mr. Sloat resumed talking few seconds ago but only telling au pair anecdote again (#4: see Appendix A, Full Versions of Au Pair Anecdotes He Tells). Heeeeere's punch line!...

Geng cloaked sharp observations in nonsense, and sometimes nonsense was just nonsense. Her work could be as difficult as it was funny. In an article for New York magazine published upon the release of a posthumous edition of Geng's essays, Jennifer Senior wrote, "Geng was one of the writers [Wallace] Shawn hired during the sixties and seventies whose work was extravagantly intelligent but not always intelligible — 'extreme writers,' as his successor, Robert Gottlieb, so aptly called them, who would require time and faith to develop a constituency."

Initially given this time and faith, Geng thrived at the New Yorker, taking on a role as fiction editor. Frazier called her the best editor of humor pieces he had ever worked with. He has said, "I wrote humor pieces specifically for her to read, and when she didn't like them, as happened sometimes, I would be depressed for days and consider radical revisions of my entire life in order to make myself funny again." As an editor, she worked with Donald Barthelme (with whom she shared a knack for absurdist quips), Jamaica Kincaid, Roy Blount Jr., William Trevor, and Milan Kundera. Philip Roth came to depend on her as an unofficial editor for nearly all of his work.

In one of her best known shorts, "Love Trouble Is My Business", she draws inspiration from a quote by Village Voice columnist Geoff Stokes that commented on a Times article containing the line: "Subjects such as the Soviet Union seem to haunt Mr. Reagan the way vows to read Proust dog other Americans at leisure." Stokes' declaration that the Times article would be the only time the words "Mr. Reagan" and "read Proust" would appear in the same sentence inspired Geng to write a noir detective story using the words "Mr. Reagan" and "read Proust" in every sentence. It begins: "I glanced over at the dame sleeping next to me, and all of a sudden I wanted some other dame, the way you see Mr. Reagan on TV and all of a sudden get a yen to read Proust.” True enough! It later continues: “She chuckled insanely, like Mr. Reagan looped on something you wouldn’t want to drink while you read Proust. Then she touched me, with the practiced efficiency of a protocol officer steering some terribly junior diplomat through a receiving line to meet Mr. Reagan — and funny, but I got the idea she wasn’t suggesting we curl up and read Proust. As her hand slid along my thigh, I noticed that she wore a ring with a diamond the size of the brain of a guy who read Proust all the time, and if I'd been Mr. Reagan, I’d have been dumb enough to buy her another one to go with it.”

In her capable hands, what could have been a silly exercise in form was turned into a taunting and brilliant sketch. Geng commented on composing the piece, “What a gift! … Stokes’s premise was so ripe that even writing bad lines was fun — like making lists of improbable rhymes. ("It was too early to read Proust, so I went out and bought myself a pint of 'Mr. Reagan'.") … The title (which piggybacks on Chandler) has an extra meaning for me, because it's my business to love trouble."

Geng did not just love trouble, she created it. Her brother claims it was a favorite game of her and Frazier’s to slip inappropriate and senseless material past their editors. She fought bitterly with those who tried to edit her writing, yet she was heartless when she thought a friend's work wasn’t up to par. In 1992, a dispute with Tina Brown, who had recently been hired as editor of the New Yorker, led to Geng's departure from the magazine (whether she quit or was fired is up for debate). Her personal life could be similarly rocky; the scorn that was aimed at politicians and the ilk with great acuity in her writing was less charming when she directed it at her friends and lovers.

Geng never married, instead preferring to be the mistress to professional athletes, actors, musicians, and other writers. Mark Singer, another New Yorker staffer whom she dated, said, "She was one of the most feminine women I ever met. In her posture, her figure, her walk..." Her most significant relationship was with the photographer James Hamilton. It was Hamilton who would arrange her memorial service after she died from a grapefruit-sized brain tumor on Christmas Eve 1997.

It may have been characteristic of Geng's writing to adopt the voices of others, but she did it with flair and humor distinctly her own. From those voices, she crafted work the reader could crawl into — her essays smug shelter from bland hegemony. Her brother recalls a conversation with Roger Angell after her death when Angell told him: "When people as different as Veronica come along, everything changes. Veronica changed humor because there was nobody like her. Your sister was so passionate about the work she did here she changed all of us."

Helen Schumacher is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Brooklyn. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

"Jitter" - Grace Mitchell (mp3)