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Alex Carnevale

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen

Reviews Editor
Ethan Peterson

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 You Get What You Want From Me

Run of the Play


New York at the start. Windswept jack-o-lanterns, the mighty gamble.

She wore all kinds of things. Prim dresses, outdated lingerie. I saw her on stage. She was in Cyrano at the National Theater. I always hated that play. It didn't make any sense to me, in a world where everyone generally knew who everyone else was.

I waited for her, expecting other admirers. There were none. The play closed at the end of the month, the newspaper said it was "a spirited revival in the way that a glass of tap water can also be said to have spirits."

She let me into her apartment and she assembled herself on the rug Indian style, breathing deeply, before she changed. I had a bottle of something she had put in a cooler for me. My shirt was almost soaked through. As soon as she was in her new things, I was undressing her, like that. She stopped me when I was having trouble with a certain latch, and she explained that if she screamed No! it meant keep going, but if she said anything in French, I should leave.

I finally got the latch, so I said, "The more costume changes there are in an act, the less likely I am to be interested in it."

Fucking was like a high-wire act for the first bit, until she relaxed. She could really control her breathing, and she was athletic - not like, limber, but she could slam down on my cock from almost any angle, and she always did me the courtesy of pretending I was so big it hurt. I knew immediately that nothing like this was possible with the third lead in Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary.

When we came back to her flat after that, she never changed. Her sweat was redolent of chamomile. I did like that she would listen to me, but I never got a big head about it. I knew she had other men, but she did not see them after her performances. I was there, I know.

It felt like most people we knew were actors. She possessed loads of friends, she would wave to them along the avenue. She did not stop to talk to them, and when I asked her why, she said, "Je sais les hommes de un autre existence." Her French was poor. I spoke it better, but not in front of her.

Her apartment was a hole but mine was not much better and if I suggested taking her there she would pretend to cry. I did not really want to, so I said okay.

One day I came in late. She had a very severe look, the sort where you know apologizing isn't going to get you to the place you want to go. I thought she was going to tell me to be on the other side of the door, but instead she asked me if I knew the story of the man with the golden arm. I shook my head, so she said, "He lifted everything, until he could not even lift his own arm."

Figuring if she wanted me to get lost, she would have said so in her perverted French, I said, "Who's troubling you?" It turned out to be some lope who lived a few floors above her. I went to take care of it, but she held me back and brought me to bed. You know what happened after that.

More often than not she was a mess when I got there. I couldn't tell if it was to add spice to our sex, or for some other reason. Her stomach got a little larger, but I did not know what that meant either.

Finally once when she was asleep, and the night had been a particularly bad one, I tiptoed upstairs to find this wretch. I make it sound like it was a spur-of-the-moment decision, when I have never once decided something like that lightly in my life. For one, I had been looking at the ceiling all night, thinking of the man with the golden arm. And also, I had already half-unscrewed every doorknob in the building - in case I had the wrong room, or I had to hide.

Once I saw the light I knew whose room it was. I lowered myself to the ground, carefully unscrewed the doorknob and peeked in. A man held a small boy, perhaps only three or four, in his arms. He rocked the child back and forth, singing a lullaby. His voice, low and soft, kneaded up in itself. He sang,

La lune trop blême
Pose un diadème
Sur tes cheveux roux
La lune trop rousse
De gloire éclabousse
Ton jupon plein d'trous

An older child came out from a bedroom, holding his little sister's hand. He asked where his mother was.

Mark Arturo is a writer living in Brooklyn. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.

"Torpedoes" - Lake (mp3)

"Don't Hate Yourself" - Lake (mp3)

The new album from Lake is entitled Circular Doorway and you can purchase it here.


In Which We Descend Upon The Only Arab City

The Only Arab City Without A European Quarter


I am no stranger to the prefix pan: pan-Slavism, pan-Arabism, pan-Islamism, and if all things go well, by the year 2050 pan-Europeanism. These concepts and the presupposed membership of my family in it were the Santa Claus and the New Year that were celebrated in my parents' house; the fine illusion of a cause and excuse for all sorts of lacks and sacrifices.

At odds with most of the pan-isms, their symbolic meaning was closes to the one of the candles in Judaism. We lit them on happy days that were hard to distinguish from the sad and hungry days when we ought to light them again. Small people do that: imagine people like them and believe that one day they would all be together crossing the Red Sea under competent leadership.

Later an older version of you notices that people are already crossing not just the Red Sea but pretty much all seas and oceans, alone. Once they have crossed to a place far from where home used to be, they are tuning to a broadcast of a prayer during Ramadan from Mecca, and they are thinking of their simple uneventful afternoon in late autumn when the sun was gentle as if drawn with watercolors and how it moved slowly over the mountain, the almond trees, the lemon trees, the orange sand, the stray dogs nobody loved, and a freckled noise eager to inhale all that.

When I came to Naples I was set on meeting a girl who would understand what I have just wrote, who could tell me if it ever snows in Naples and does she then draw almond trees in the snow and sign her name next to the drawing in Arabic?

The bottom line of Naples is not a camorra ditch or graveyard, it is that Naples belongs to nobody. In very narrow streets those dark black eyes own you, everything on you and in your bag, but only for seconds. Seconds it took for you to smell the detergent evaporating from shirts and undershirts and socks assembled in a cloth line above your head. Some 25 white, blue, pink, yellow and dotted flags of hello and welcome.

If that is not enough, touch the graceful angels imprinted on the crusty walls of the passage and continue on. Keep walking, nobody cares, and even if it seems they do, it is your skirt, waist and breast they would love to meet and greet.

On an unrelated note, a man’s ideal woman is the one the conquistadors met on the shore of an uncharted island chestnut eyes, bare-chested, afraid, unable to utter a word of English, Spanish or Portuguese and thus mysterious. The sailor (better call him a sailor than the conquistador as the latter can butcher, burn and enslave her village) loves her instantly. She is perfect. She will be so easy to leave. From the same place he found her with tears in her chestnut eyes she will wave at his sailing ship.

An often-neglected streak of Islamic and Arabic tradition is traveling. The traveling is almost always a kind of ransom. Hardly ever do the roads lead to exceptional raptures or gifts. Almost always it is a surviving strategy, a refuge-seeking mission to extend life in the outskirts of Mecca, in Taif, in Medina, Ontario, New York, Paris, Palermo.

Centuries ago came Arabs to Naples with turbans smelling of sweat and flower water, carrying lemons and oranges, coveting numbers, concealing intentions. I don’t think any curious chestnut eyes met them on the shore. The wind must have blown very hard as it does on eventful days. Prayers were said and hopes set high. Centuries will pass and new young Arabs will come. Young students from Nablus, Haifa, Gaza with slick hair and tight shirts and pockets full of words like wattan (homeland), hurreya (freedom), adouw (enemy).

As the beautiful Napolitan girlfriend runs her hands over her Palestinian man’s hairy chest, she feels the spikey wire that trapped the white dove. His swaying affection would evaporate in the shabby dark room. Two things would dominate the silence – the strong perfume he wears and the skillful way he manages to look through her without it being so obvious.

At first she didn’t get it. Nights and months into their love she knew the streetlight or the pathetic moonlight creeping through the window takes him places. As she wished for solid thick clouds and electricity failure, he chanted something. Much like his protests in front of the university, or his shouting at his Arabs sitting around a table covered with newspapers where Yasser Arafat’s face is glued to Nasser’s hand by the sweet tea the Moroccans made, and the Syrians spilled over the paper. It sounds something like a lullaby that culminates in a wedding where, at some dull moment, guns will be fired.

At times when I am heartbroken and away from home, I would literally pay to hear azan or see a mosque. At best, in the frightening moments of insecurity, when I’m failing at everything, I would press against his shoulder and then say Hey! Look there. My people!  My people is a covered women with her brood and her man and his mustache and his sister that, even from the tram I was in I could tell, was loudly chewing pink gum. My people are my mosque, my cross of protection and preclusion.

I point rudely with my index finger at them, but what I actually do is frame them with my palms that are summoned by the word Amen! Following this very self-centered reasoning, I am not surprised to meet an Algerian Facebook poet at the exit of a masjid in Naples. I could see him dancing in a drunken sea resort on the Mediterranean or in a trashy Parisian bar among pale and eager patrons. I could see him ride a motorcycle up the Atlas just so he can lie near the cliff and gaze at the sun from behind his retro chic Police sunglasses. He must be chronically heartbroken here in Naples.

He said that he could show me things and make me nice food. I said thanks, but I have a meeting with the Imam. Beside, if you cook for me and show me places, eventually I’ll fail at reciprocity. And then what? You are My people. I cannot scare you by pointing at you. Also, in Naples it is all masjids without minarets. How would I distinguish God’s house from any other house?! Go away! I must talk to the Imam.

Up narrow stairs tailored after those in Amsterdam I am sure, I found the Imam. He was younger than me, and regardless of his authority, he was modest and very comfortable with not speaking too much, or at all. His working desk was a mess and he looked at me like I am a human, not a temptation. I knew straight away that he reads poems during some afternoons and maybe named his goats after the Seven Hanged Poets.

That is something I would have done, but as he tells me in classical Arabic that he studied literature in Libya and became an ”oversea imam” after the revolution, I knew he had really done it. Goat after goat elegantly stupid and reckless, jumping and bleating he named them after poets once showered by masters of Mecca with golden coins.

Typical of students of literature, and of shepherds as well, the imam delegated the speaking of the practicalities of the Muslim Arab life in Naples to his aide. His aide is a middle-aged man who looked like my father, and spoke like my mother first the most dire and stressful issues, and then, if we have time, we will be thankful for the little joys that miraculously appear against all odds.

Muslim Arabs like all other immigrant communities, and pretty much every other southern Italian, are heavily struck by the economic crisis. There is a growing dependency on aid from charity organizations, a rising number of people that are becoming homeless. Most of the men roam the streets hungry during the day or sit in Piazza Garibaldi and other squares. At night they sleep at entrances of churches, somewhat wet and cold but protected. Decades after they have been in Italy, they are either buried in a mass grave or shipped back to the country of their origin. Having in mind that the transport is costly, most end up in a mass grave mourned by few, forgotten very soon. Italy has one or two Muslims cemeteries with ridiculously small capacities. I try to constrain myself from pointing how all that can be seen as a spin of Sophocles’ tragedy Antigone.

Straight down from Piazza Bellini is a place described as “a square for relaxing and socializing," a mosaic of youth, leafs, pedals, pizza, marijuana and music. Down a steep street still wet with unexpected rain I met girl’s father the girl that must have dreamt of the almond, olive and orange trees of her father’s country. She is a dancer or an actress, I cannot tell now, but she sure exists. Her father loves her very much and she is free to do whatever she wants but go to Bellini and inhale pedals.

The English ambassador in the mid-1800s called Naples “the only Arab city without a European quarter.” This malicious allegory of the place's somewhat dysfunctional social and architectural mixture is true today, but doesn’t do justice to all other cities within Naples. For one, let's wait for the metro stations to be completed. Until then, inhale paddles and leafs and dance in Bellini even when it rains. When you get tired, and your pan-isms kick in, open the windows of your apartment and play loudly Fairuz or Marcel Khalifa. Play loud enough so your nagging neighbor shouts her complaints. And when she does, in her yelling you will hear Umm Omar from next door in Homs. I swear.    

Sumeja Tulic is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer and photographer living in Sarajevo. You can find her website here and her flickr here.

Photographs by the author. 

The Best of Sumeja Tulic on This Recording

The saddest day to leave Beirut

Planning to learn to skate

The charm of a Libyan night

Stifling her natural, hideous laughter

Possibly a woman needs a place

Dislike of geographical distances


In Which There Is Something Better Than Wireless Communication

Sinister World


Vuillard lived with his mother and sister. The shy painter spent all his time either representing them in his small, pursed canvases or writing in his journal. A short distance away workers labored to construct that ugliest of monuments: The Eiffel Tower.

His older sister Marie was, to her mother's disappointment, not yet married. The static scenes of the two women we find again and again in the artist's early work characterize the relationship between mother and daughter, but it was a subject easily exhausted. Vuillard resolved to change this: he would get his sister married.

Self Portrait with Sister

Vuillard was sustained by the women in his life. After he convinced his best friend Roussel to marry Marie, who was seven years the man's elder, he was forced to find other females to surround him. He met women in the parks of Paris, the only place he could freely move about without anxiety. it was there that he came upon Misia Nathanson and her husband Thadee.

Seducing painters had always been Misia's metier. She loved toying with them, making them fall in love with her, putting them off and on. She was as charismatic as she was intelligent, finally perishing in Paris in the year 1950. Before then, she lived off her skills as a pianist. Vuillard professed his love almost immediately. He wrote her letters:

I have always been shy in your presence, but the security, the assurance of a perfect understanding relieved me of all embarrassment; nothing was lost by this understanding being a wordless one. Now that we have been so long without seeing each other I have sometimes anxiously wondered if it is still as perfect as it once was. Your postcard arrived in answer to my question.

And no, I found nothing ridiculous in your thought: I saw it simply as a token of your affection. You met halfway a desire that flashed across my mind yesterday and that I was afraid of not having time to mention to you. So there is something better than wireless communication. The best thing was that you were there! It seems to me I am happy now, thanks to you. I am calm...

his 1925 painting of Misia and her niece and the black cups Liaisons of this sort were nothing new for Misia. Later, she would take up with Bonnard and Toulouse-Lautrec among others. But now her omnipotent position in Vuillard's work started to make some of his patrons uncomfortable. After all, she was a married woman. A painter in Paris could sleep with a married woman, or paint her without any repercussions, but not both.

Misia was his love instructor more than his intended, however. In his sights was another married woman, Lucy Hessel.

lucy hessel

Keeping his affairs a secret was not exactly Vuillard's strong point. Soon enough people knew that he and Lucy weren't platonic simply by the volume of their public screaming matches. They began spending the summers together, half-encouraged by her husband Jos Hessel, who sold his wife's lover's paintings for a lucrative profit. The three spent the next forty years in a perversion of symbiosis.

the reader, 1896

Vuillard kept his journal faithfully during this period, but it was destroyed by Jos after his death. Confidence in his work and love life filled him. The attraction of two outstanding women to his person enabled him to conceive of soliciting others to the position. He dallied with models in his studio until he became absorbed by an actress named Lucie Belin. It is no surprise that Vuillard's favorite play was A Midsummer Night's Dream.

In 1897, he bought his first camera, a Kodak. He immediately set to work taking pictures of his aging, sick mother. I mean, what else was there?

It is one thing to be a great artist and another completely to be told that you are in your lifetime. Even for painters there is a sophomore slump, a momentary lull in creativity. Vuillard's first representations of his life resembled a turtle poking out of its shell; his characterizations afterwards lacked that artistic caution. Japanese and medieval art constituted the pillars he returned to; a shy man loves history because it justifies his prejudice that the world is filled with terrors.

Yet artistic confidence can overcome whatever the passing of first inspiration evaporates. Any white man must go outside his own experience in his art, or else his work is reduced, eventually, to caricature. The Dreyfus affair and the events of the first World War had a tremendous impact on Vuillard's view of his country. Misia Natanson, Leon Blum and others were persecuted as a result of these events, and Vuillard leapt to their defense when he could. A gentile man who mixes with those outside his own experience finds there is another world beneath this one, and a menace beyond the menace he suspects he exists when he is a child.

Vuillard's mean portrait of Popescu

Still, Vuillard's art never approached the political. It is always personal for him, from the first time his work, so different from the others, was presented to his peers at Lycee. When the Romanian actress Elvire Popescu missed various sittings for her portrait, Vuillard avenged this slight by putting wrinkles where there weren't any.

Vuillard's mother remained of utmost importance to him until the day she died in his arms. He lived with her until he was 60. She represents, in his many depictions of her, that world into which he first entered. Her slow deterioriation only enhanced the sinister quality she possessed in some of her son's canvases. Because something he loved was vanishing before his eyes, the joy seems to fade from these images as we view them.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He is a writer living in Manhattan. He last wrote in these pages about The Last of Us. He tumbls here and twitters here. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.

"Astronaut" - Gregory Alan Isakov (mp3)

The new album from Gregory Alan Isakov is entitled The Weatherman, and you can purchase it here.