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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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Saturday
Apr062013

In Which We Attempt To Stop Ourselves From Weeping

Morning Star

by KATE NURSAS

She explained she had brought her boyfriend, Davidson Legrange, to see her family on some minor holiday.

He wore a handmade shirt with the letter 'P' on it. Her mother asked him what it meant. "It refers to Plato," he said, and she saw her mother almost imperceptibly grimace. Later her cousins, all decked out in Raiders jerseys, got wind of the fact that Davidson Legrange had written a poem for her.

She found him in her father's garage, tapping on a toy piano that no longer could produce any discernible noise other than a soft G. He had not yet begun to cry, holding his hands in his hands.

The poem began,

Night falls.
Stars manage to bow,
I see you in the light
or out of it.

You know
you should just let your
hair grow.

It went on like this, mostly about his feelings for her or himself, replete with so many broken metaphors it made her a little dizzy when she had read it the day before. She did not know if the purpose of the poem was praise or advice, but the more she thought it about, the nearer she was to the conclusion that this distinction eluded her fairly often.

While her family cut up cakes, he begged her to drive him to Home Depot. His broken Schwinn sat in the back of her truck. She watched him try to fix it outside a Dunkin' Donuts. Across from them, at a picnic table, an officiously dressed up family of four mildly ate bagel sandwiches. Their voices, low and steady, sounded like worship in the cool night.

When she pointed them out to Davidson Legrange, he shuddered, recalling her mother. It is one thing, she thought, to love the women who gave you life and another completely to be reminded of her when you really did not want to be. The faithful family joined hands around the table and let out a sigh. She reflexively put her hand on his boater.

Another part of the poem read

A lighthouse
tumbles into the ocean.

A man stands on his heels
or falls to his knees
in supplication. Your hand touches my face.

She had looked up from his notebook and told him she thought using the word 'tumbles' was inappropriate. "It's nothing wrong with the word itself." She went on: "It's the association it has with a popular website." She has suspected at first this would make Davidson Legrange angry or chagrined, but he had kind of grunted and put an index finger to his temple. Then his face softened and he nodded. She supposed that meant he felt he was the one wandering through the lighthouse, the person this was all happening to. At that thought she herself had made a face.

The moon bristled and ascended over the Dunkin' Donuts. It did not surprise her that he could fix his own bike. He had said to her more than once before that he did not understand the idea of starting something and not seeing it through to its completion. At the time had been clearly referring to a mentorship program with underprivileged youth he had joined as an undergraduate. In time she had begun to wonder if it applied to her as well.

When they returned to her parents' house, everyone was watching the game in a drunken fugue. At halftime Davidson Legrange read his poem when her cousins demanded it, brushing his bangs back from his face and periodically looking at the sky. He never met her eyes. It was not that the poem was unkind to him or to her. It was that it existed at all.

Back at their apartment in the city he kept opening and closing the refrigerator, or drawing circles on his mousepad. She knew saying something was probably going to lead to unkindness on her part, so she suppressed it. She did not think he had ever been willfully cruel, or she hoped she had not been.

The end of the poem read,

A maelstorm. A haunted, caloric cavern.
Where I stand thinking of you forever.
Your embrace.

She watched him at the desk from her sid of the bed, always about to say what she was going to have to say. His back was to her, and her mouth felt dry.

Once in a book by an author she used to admire, she read that a woman would tell you something on her own time, when she was ready for it, or not at all. This, she still believed, was not only sexist, but completely without even the slightest grain of truth that such generalizations usually possessed.

To her, both sexes seemed remarkably transparent. Even if someone she knew did not come out and explain their difficulties, it took no great insight to uncover the truth. As soon as this idea entered her mind, she knew that it was not about the world, held only as far from her as the top of the lighthouse might be from the ocean below in order to guide those who passed, but about Davidson Legrange.

Tears on a fucking mousepad. Jesus.

Kate Nursas is a writer living in Chicago. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

"40 Times A Day" - Jil Is Lucky (mp3)

"Dead Star" - Jil Is Lucky (mp3)

Friday
Apr052013

In Which We Send Them To You In Baskets

by jeff blackPros and Cons of Cairo

by HEATHER MCROBIE

PRO: The elevators, I’ve always thought, are like how H.G. Wells imagined time machines. So rickety, so brassy, buttons like old saxophones and levers like The Future. The way the past imagined the future. I know logically it’s because I don’t live in Cairo. When I lived in Amman the elevator just signified nuisance, especially after that time it broke down, 3:30 p.m. in late summer, in an air-conditionless purgatory and my useless fists hitting at the door. It felt like a sign of my uselessness in those years, that I’d be using my energy punching things while obsolete engineering suspended me between two actual places. 

Cairo elevators, as a novelty, are the opposite of purgatory  you are in the past and future together, up and down all at once and with such handsome structure for the journey. When the doors close the stutter noise is so elegant, like the machinery is speaking a second language it learned at a school where uniforms were compulsory. You get in and your companion is a neighbour still smoking indoors or someone coming to fix something else inside the building or just your daydreaming. If the elevator is going up, your daydreaming is that you are Charlie in the Chocolate Factory, except instead of chocolate you are being given the gift of an evening. If the elevator is going down, your daydreaming is that you are plunging, like Jacques Cousteau, in a complicated apparatus whose confines are a small price to pay for the endless expanse it buys you, to explore — a sea, a city. In this Jacques Cousteau daydream Cairo is a coral reef wide as the side of Australia, street corners covered in star-fish. Elevators are the second-best thing made out of iron in this city. The first best thing is bed-frames.

CON: In a taxi, this is not in any of the many views I respect The Way To The Airport.

PRO: The stray cats have never forgotten that they were once worshipped. Like many people on the periphery of my life, I get the tingling sense that they are biding their time  that they know their turn will come again. They have never gotten into the elevator with me, the way they did with my friend. Instead they get me just outside the door, tail-up and too-clever and insistent. When I lived in another Middle Eastern city, the rule I had with my housemate was that a cat had to follow me all the way home  cross the threshold like a bride  and then I’d be allowed to keep it.

Here both I and the cats are too proud to make the necessary moves, and instead share lunch and afternoons as I take cigarette breaks too often between my solitary report-writing. But since I do not have a companion or rule-making housemate here, I indulge them in my afternoon-daydream literary allusions. I talk about Colette’s cats, and T.S Eliot’s. And the other Eliot. My favourite George Eliot novel is the unshowy, graceful Daniel Deronda, a wrought iron elevator of a novel if ever there was one. But even in her maturity Eliot gives in to the literary clemency that cats inspire. The house cat in Daniel Deronda, the opulently-named Hafiz, offsets the handsomeness of the human characters, a single pure indulgence. In breaks from my work I talk to the creatures on the doorstep about which works of contemporary literature would have been improved by the presence of cats. The unanimous verdict we reach is ‘all of them’.

CON: In a taxi, I think of all the people who may have opinions on the act  perhaps doctors or bureaucrats.

PRO: Some of my friends here laugh and others roll their eyes when I tell them that I have come up with the name the ‘Ikhwan Ice-cream Van’. It is the truck that goes round in the run-up to the December constitutional referendum, telling the neighbourhood during the lull of the afternoon that “the people demand the implementation of shari’a”. This is a reworking of the Tahrir Square cry that “the people demand the overthrow of the regime”. Like a bad 2012 remix. The ‘Ikhwan Ice-cream Van’ truck drives up and down the streets with its loudspeakers and its lack of tact. The neighbourhood replies with children running around in groups of five or six, the voices of soap operas tentacling out of windows, and the dissenting mewling of the cats. I love this neighbourhood; it is the first time I have stayed here. It is also the first time I have been here since the revolution. I love it even when, living-alone and lost in my thoughts, I hear things in the night that make me hold the edges of anything I can touch. I should probably state here that the Muslim Brotherhood did not  as far as I am aware and according to my sources  hand out any ice-cream to Egyptian citizens in the run-up to the December constitutional referendum. 

CON: In a taxi, I curse  of all things  my fingernails.

PRO:  My landlady lives in the same apartment building, some floors directly above. With the complications since Morsi’s decree in November and the referendum in December, prices of things have warped, the economy buckled like scrap metal. As it gets colder, the price of staying warm goes up. I know this from the newspapers and from friends but still my landlady tells me I need to stay warm, she has a spare electric heater. From high up in her apartment, she lowers it down to me in a basket, making a pulley system which we also later use for me to send paperwork up to her. The basket dangles past my window. The basket makes me think idly about Moses. This makes me think idly about scrolls. I unwrap the packaging of the sweets I’ve bought like they’re sacred. I lie back into the blank-page of the iron-framed bed. In text and in reality, it is one of the best afternoons the world has given me. I dream that everything I have to write will be sent to me from baskets, from stone tablets, or via elevators. Delivered to my door as certain as a cat.

CON: In a taxi, I make prayers I don’t believe and no-one else believes and even if they did believe they would say it was too late anyway. 

PRO: I met you at the church at just the time you said  the traffic mushed all over the bridge couldn’t keep me. Evening was falling in great chunks like stubborn shop-front shutters: a section of sky, and then another, and then another, dimmed itself in turn. Cafés are opening now like oysters or like flowers or like scrolls. Café after café unfolds. The streets are thick with people and also some roadblocks and also some cats. I tell you about my research and all the things I didn’t write properly. I tell you about all the places I haven’t seen or should have seen more properly. In general my way of looking is  all there is still to do, to be done. This is early-evening thinking. You look like early evening too, lashes falling. You look like Moses baskets falling from the sky, the way your eyebrows shoot up when you are explaining something. You wave your hands around like palm trees. You laugh like copper or brass. We go into one café where I take photos and you laugh at me. We go to another one where I’m really feeling all these things so then you don’t laugh at me. When we walk back out and into the thick of the street the church makes a noise like pearls or the sea or something and I don’t want to leave. I explain to you about coral reefs and cats and Costeau diving-suits and the Moses baskets and all the everything-all-at-once that I love. At least, I try to explain things.

CON: In a taxi, weighed against all of that, is the inconvenience of bodies.

Heather McRobie is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Oxford. She last wrote in these pages about Leonard Cohen and Montreal. She twitters here. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

"Hero" - Family of the Year (mp3)

"In the End" - Family of the Year (mp3)


Thursday
Apr042013

In Which All Good Reading Is Best Done Cautiously

The Way They Were Meant To Be Read

by ELLEN COPPERFIELD

Coming across a person who is completely jaded about something you enjoy is either amusing or frustrating. In the case of my boss - let's call her Ms. J - it's a little of both. She's clearly "well-read" even though that expression is itself so overused as to become meaningless, but she also seems to have elaborate gaps in her education. We all have blind spots, but none are so educational as Ms. J's appraisal of modern literature. Here are some of her comments on books I asked if she read.

The Scarlet Letter

"She should have been thankful all they did was put on a letter on her: they could have also tweeted about it."

Journey to the End of Night

"If I wanted to read a book by a man with a woman's name, I'd read Justinians."

On Beauty

"It would be nice if nobody ever used liberal arts colleges as settings for novels ever again, but I'm not that naive."

The Cider House Rules

"Fun fact: there has never been a condom in any book that sexist ponce ever wrote."

The Last of the Mohicans

"You just know James Fenimore Cooper would have been, like, a writer for The Atlantic Monthly."

The Secret History

"They got high and killed someone? Big deal. Didn't that also happen in E.T.?"

The Brothers Karamazov

"One of the brothers was way out of line, can't remember which one. The one that looked like Rutger Hauer."

Middlemarch

"Could we lose the last million pages?"

The Tin Drum

"Was that where he kept his Jewish friends? Don't tell me, I'm going to read it after I finish Motherless Brooklyn, e.g. never."

Hunger

"My college roommate ate a lot of ramen noodles. Was that not an option in Scandinavia?"

Henry and June

"Studies show that 90% of young female bloggers owe their existence to Nin's success as a writer. I'm not sure which party should be more insulted."

Trainspotting

"Wow, drugs are so crazy, aren't they? Let me know when that guy starts writing in English. When people can actually read his work, they might notice he's a hack."

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

"This guy ruined irony for at least the next decade, but who doesn't love a man with curly hair?"

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

"I can't read a book that doesn't have a woman over the age of thirty in it unless it's by Wayne Koestenbaum."

Mansfield Park

"Everyone is always holding back a slight smile. Perhaps there was a lot of food on other people's faces in Austen's time."

Lolita

"She was a lot more mature than Gwyneth Paltrow."

Things Fall Apart

"The expectation that things would come together in turn-of-the-century Nigeria was perhaps premature."

The Things They Carried

"Vietnam was full of happy memories, wasn't it? No."

To Kill A Mockingbird

"Wow, what white people can accomplish when they put their mind to it. Scout later grew up and became the star on the The Real Housewives of Maycomb."

The Adventures of Augie March

"I can't read anything by anyone who I know is an asshole, unless it's about how much Dale Peck sucks."

Chilly Scenes of Winter

"It should have had an unhappy ending." 

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

"More like extremely manipulative and incredibly overrated."

Time and Again

"If you suddenly find yourself in 1882, and you're a man, for christ's sake stay there and never come back."

The Recognitions

"Whenever I see an emdash before someone talks, a part of me dies inside. Actually whenever I see an emdash anywhere, I get a little twinge in my rectum."

The Hour of the Star

"The only thing more confusing than this book is realizing you emerged into the world from Ayelet Waldman's uterus."

The End of the Affair

"The first and last time anyone had sex with a civil servant and did not regret it."

Gravity's Rainbow

"This was responsible for over 90 percent of Fredric Jameson's orgasms in the 1970s."

The Catcher in the Rye

"No subtler novel about a homosexual was ever written. Still, it should have been called A Bottom In the Bottom."

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 childhood of Jorge Luis Borges. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

"Gently Down the Stream" - Hem (mp3)

"Things Are Not Perfect In Our Yard" - Hem (mp3)