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Alex Carnevale

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Mia Nguyen

Senior Editor
Brittany Julious

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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In Which Walter Benjamin's Troubles Possessed Far Simpler Remedies

A Genius of Dwelling


Walter Benjamin's father Emil was something of a dilettante. His major focus was the Berlin villa he purchased for his wife Pauline and their growing family. It was basically the house in The Royal Tenenbaums with nothing rotten or outdated; the culture it recalled had long since vanished from the earth.

At a very tender age Walter Benjamin was ensconced in a custom of indoor and outdoor living. If there was something to take lessons in - butterfly hunting or ice skating, for example  he joined with all the aplomb he could muster. Each room of his father's house held a different sort of emotion, and could be inhabited completely or discarded with the closing of a door.

1902Emil's favorite place to be was on the telephone  this way a part of himself could be elsewhere, and a part with his family at all times. The self Emil Benjamin sent out, angry and forceful, was often different from the one they got back. His moustache was ranked either excellent or nonpareil depending on the humidity or time of day.

In a new biography from Howard Eiland and Michael W. Jennings, Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life, Benjamin's younger days are given a reverent kind of attention as though they're depicting a young man either recovering from or developing a psychosis. In reality, Emil's disturbing utopia was all the more perplexing because it anticipated the complete destruction of the German residence, which perished during the war.

Walter's mother Pauline was thirteen years his father's junior. She called Walter "Mr. Clumsy" because he never lived up to her idea of decorum.

His brother and sister were both separated from Walter by age, Eiland reports, so that they each experienced life as an only child. When Walter was finally divested of his private tutors and send to class with other pupils, it may not surprise you to learn that he did not fit in whatsoever. He was sick so often that other arrangements had to be made; it was good to get those illnesses out in the open air.

In a country boarding school called Haubinda, Benjamin found a love of learning that separated him from all else  nothing was closer to him than that pedagogy. Upon his graduation from high school, his father gave him a trip as a gift. The family had already traveled around Europe at their leisure, this was Walter's first trip to Italy on his own, the first where he determined the direction and purpose: Como, Milan, Verona, Vicenza, Padua. Among the masters he never cowered.

This temporary elation passed, a miasma of longing mixed with a desire to survive persisted. At University Benjamin found himself again outside the times, and eventually he returned to the villa to live at home while he pursued his studies. He had one friend of any import, a painter/novelist named Philip, and he steered clear of everyone else.

University, Eiland and Jennings say, was Benjamin's first introduction to his Judaism. Really, it was only his first introduction to Zionism, because although the Benjamin family was entirely secular, the boy's upbringing was hardly divorced from some bare essentials of the European Jewish experience. He now fancied himself the quintessential Jew, and all of his friends were similarly disposed financially and ethnically.

Unsuccessful liasions with women would depress him, but their troubles never superseded his intellectual ones, and indeed possessed far simpler remedies.

His friend Charlotte Wolff wrote of the man he became:

He had not the male bearing of his generation. And there were disturbing features about him which did not fit with the rest of his personality. The rosy apple-cheeks of a child, the black curly hair and fine brow were appealing, but there was sometimes a cynical glint in his eyes. His thick, sensuous lips, badly hidden by a moustache, were also an unexpected feature, not fitting with the rest. His posture and gestures were 'uptight' and lacked spontaneity, except when he spoke of things he was involved in or of people he loved.

He held, always, a part of himself back from those closest to him. Even his first amorous relationships with women never mention his body or theirs, as if he were describing two minds touching at the brainstem. All of Walter's friends felt this dissonance in their relationships with him: from the time he left home, he was far closer to ideas than people.

Ellen Copperfield is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in San Francisco. She last wrote in these pages about the life of Jules Verne. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

The Best of Ellen Copperfield on This Recording

Dorothea Lange's Failed Marriage

Sex Life Of Marlon Brando

Lifetime of Threats and Insults

The Onset Of The Western Canon

Entitled To Madonna's Opinion

Barbra Streisand Grows Up In Flatbush

A Sneaking Suspicion of Literature

Anjelica Huston Falls Off The Horse

Prefer To Be Simone de Beauvoir

The Marriage of Mia Farrow and Frank Sinatra

Elongated Childhood of Jorge Luis Borges

Jokes At The Expense Of Tom Hanks

Which One Is The Gay?


In Which We Have Run Away In Fear Of So Much Less

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.


My friend Ami has a new boyfriend names Jacques. Jacques goes out a lot to the clubs and although Ami never took drugs before this, her life consists of taking them and going dancing. I really miss my friend and worry for her. She is so messed up the other night that I had to carry her home and put her to bed.

P.S. Jacques is not a bad guy, he is just fun-loving.

Frederique N.

Dear Frederique,

The role of the caretaker is a time-honored one in the drug culture. I hope I'm not being too broad here when I say you should never take of anyone for any reason except hefty financial remuneration.

If Ami ends up in the hospital or dead, do you really want to be the person who enabled her all this time, allowing her to think she could act however she wanted and someone else would pick up the pieces? You think you are helping her but the reality couldn't be more different: you are the one putting her in danger.

This Jacques fellow sounds like a real prince. He is not really interested in your friend's well-being, and he is not nice. He's just wearing a nice sweater.


I am in a committed relationship with my girlfriend of two years, Amy. We live together, and share many laughs and bon mots.

In early May I received a package in the mail from an ex. It was a box that my girlfriend unknowingly opened. While almost everything in the box only held a sentimental meaning obvious to the parties involved, there was one letter in the group, written by me, which could be described as romantic in nature.

The majority of the letter itself was chaste, but there was a reference to anal sex in it (a practice my ex enjoyed but is not a part of my life now). At first Amy seemed fine with what was undoubtedly a bit of a shock, but now she seems to have trouble overcoming the idea that the sex life I had with my ex was some kind of winsomely exotic menagerie, which it most certainly was not.

How can I get her to realize it wasn't all that important?

Henry L.

Dear Henry,

Telling Amy in minute detail what occurred is only going to open a Pandora's Box of insecurity. You need to give her an airtight reassurance to rely on in her mind: a recurring, comfortable phrase whose mere repetition is a solace. (Jonah Hill uses slurs.)

Sit her down with her favorite beverage. Perhaps she likes a piping hot tea? Who doesn't, as long as it's not a cherished part of anal play. She'll associate the taste of those ground beans with your definitive statement that she is in every way better than your ex. Having imprinted that idea, if Amy mentions it again, clearly state that you feel you have already addressed the issue, and that if she continues bringing it up she is liable to be shown the door.

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


"Thick As Blood" - Stubborn Son (mp3)

"Head Above Water" - Stubborn Son (mp3)


In Which We Agree At The Very Last Moment

Not Completely In Love


I am reluctant to write about Harper Lee’s new release, Go Set a Watchman. I’m not calling this a “new novel” because, though it may be new to us, it’s been hidden away for over fifty years in a safety deposit box. Watchman was Lee’s first attempt at writing a novel, and her publisher at the time advised her to rewrite the story with Jean Louise Finch as a child. To Kill a Mockingbird was born.

There has been considerable controversy surrounding the release of Watchman. Lee kept it from the public eye for so long, and for good reason: it reads like a first draft, perhaps a second. It is less a cohesive novel with good dialogue than it is, well, an attempt at one. There are those who claim that Harper Lee could not have decided to have Watchman published on her own. According to the Washington Post:

Harper Lee, 88, had a stroke in 2007. She is, by all accounts, almost completely deaf and blind. She resides in an assisted-living facility out on the Highway 21 bypass in this slow-moving town of 6,500, still not all that much different from how she immortalized it more than half-century ago.

Her current lawyer found the manuscript in the safety deposit box and read it. According to many news sources, Lee expressed her enthusiasm at the possibility of having Watchman published.

It’s a mystery. But these are details you have probably read about already.

It is important to read Go Set a Watchman independent of the beloved plot and characters of To Kill a Mockingbird. It is imperative to remember, also, that Watchman was an early draft of a later work; much was changed in Watchman to produce the masterpiece that was Mockingbird. It is more concerned with Jean Louise Finch’s disillusionment — and, dishearteningly, of her ultimate acceptance — of her racist community than it is about justice being served. She realizes, also, that she had been idolizing her father her entire life, as children often do: she sees that his views are not so different from others’ in Maycomb.

Jean Louise Finch (at twenty-six, it makes sense that she’s dropped her nickname, Scout) is traveling home by train to Maycomb County when the novel opens. Meeting her at her stop instead of her father is Henry Clinton, Atticus’s protege of sorts.

Since Jem died a few years previously of a sudden heart attack, Henry, a neighbor of the Finches from the time he was a child, has been a replacement son, learning the ins and outs of Atticus’s law practice. Jean Louise strings him along throughout the novel, telling him at times that she planned on marrying him, and at other times, denying him either because she’s “not completely in love with him” or because he’s a racist bigot.

The novel explores Jean Louise’s conscience as she observes the changes in her hometown’s community after the Supreme Court decision of Brown vs. Board of Education. Her father, along with her aunt Alexandra, uncle Jack, and even Henry Clinton, are all against integration. She rails against them at first, calling her father a “son of a bitch,” but he eventually compels her to see both sides of the argument. The ending of the novel is eerie:

Dear goodness, the things I learned. I did not want my world disturbed, but I wanted to crush [Atticus,] who’s trying to preserve it for me. I wanted to stamp out all the people like him. I guess it’s like an airplane: they’re the drag and we’re the thrust, together we make the thing fly. Too much of us and we’re nose-heavy, too much of them and we’re tail-heavy — it’s a matter of balance. I can’t beat him, and I can’t join him.

What we can glean from Watchman is a more realistic account of racist tension than Mockingbird. I had mixed feelings about the “lesson” she learns by the end of the novel, to say the least; it’s difficult to stomach, whether or not Mockingbird has been read first. Jean Louise’s journey is upsetting, it is discouraging. Her characterization is shaky: she possesses much of the same independent spirit that we know and love, but she wavers severely back and forth between conviction and acceptance.

The novel is dotted with flashbacks to some of her spectacularly awkward experiences: at one point, she wears fake boobs to a school dance and they fall out of place; she thinks she’s been impregnated as a result of a boy French kissing her and carries the secret around with her for nine months. Jean Louise learns some painful lessons: the father she once idolized is an imperfect man; the world she knew and loved as a child will never be the same. The house she grew up in was torn down and an ice cream parlor was erected in its place. It’s time to grow up.

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.

"Always Back In Town" - Parquet Courts (mp3)

"Dear Ramona" - Parquet Courts (mp3)