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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
Sep222012

In Which Neither Of Them Had Seen It Before

Experience the archive of our Saturday fiction series here.

Your Pawn

by LINDA EDDINGS

Q: What do you think about when I mention the idea of self-expression?

A: I picture something closing, then opening again.

Q: You were the third of four children.

A: My mother worked as a veterinarian. She loved animals when she began her practice; by the end she was completely indifferent to them.

Q: Can you suggest a particular incident or anecdote to illustrate that point?

A: Yes. Self-expression... it isn't that the concept itself is a fallacy, it's that what we usually think of as self-expression is actually more like lies which benefit us the moment they are announced.

Q: I have noticed you are fascinated by what something isn't.

A: You're right. It's a problem I have.

Q: Do you mean an actual problem or is that simply a flip statement designed to ward off future questions on the topic?

A: I honestly don't know.

Q: When I was thirteen I was taking a bus to visit my father. Tunneling through some bad part of town, I saw a family roasting an animal on a spit. It was a cat.

A: That's not what I call self-expression.

Q: Do you dream?

A: Only when I have had too much to drink.

Q: For the rest of our conversation, I want you to speak without using the verb "to be."

A: All right.

Q: For the rest of our conversation I want you to speak without thinking of what I will think.

A: My father worked as a physician. He never developed my mother's indifference. He spoke often of his patients. Posssibly this was unethical, I always felt in my heart that it was unkind. When he hugged or kissed me I felt in his embrace that the act meant something but perhaps no more than it meant for him to shake the hand of an acquaintance.

Q: Go on.

A: He always seemed impossibly old.

Q: That word "seemed." It is overused. Be careful.

A: It refers to a perception.

Q: It's not as if, comparatively, he was young.

Bird with Truck and Pawpaw, 2009 Marian Drew

A: My mother's 68 now. She looks a decade older. When I visit her, I have to remind myself the person I knew left some time ago.

Q: It is the same person. Numerical age means nothing except insofar as we adjust our own behavior. It's all preconditioned.

A: Why do you lie?

Q: A nightengale, for example.

A: A bird.

Q: One can never exactly know how old it is. (pause) A moment ago, you used the word "is." Before that, "was." Just because you used a contraction doesn't mean I did not notice.

A: When I have had. Don't. When I have had too much to drink, I begin to anticipate my dream, hoping for certain things it might contain. The idea that how old something is does not matter is an invention of the old and the young.

Q: In my dream, a white lion went down on all fours. She screamed in agony. A bird in flight caroused back and forth, slamming down a forty. The lion shuddered and arched her back. The bird ceased its flight. The lion's front paws turned into licorice. The bird began its ascent.

A: If you were the bird, it means you're going to die someday. If you were the lion, it means the same thing.

Linda Eddings is a writer living in Brooklyn.

Dusky Moorhen with Chinese Teapot, 2008, Marian Drew

Friday
Sep212012

In Which We Find Our Least Dirty Dress

by Su Zihan

Do It Over The Birdbath

by VICTORIA HETHERINGTON

The day before Tyler died was warm enough to brighten the ice with rain, and back and forth across the widened hospital sidewalk extended family members and friends carried trays of food and blankets and a pot of flowers brightly pink, uncovered.

Tyler’s mother invited all the kids in our class over the evening of his last birthday. Maybe all the adults in the glassed-off dining room, eating beans and raisins to be polite — maybe they knew he would die in the morning.

As the cake glowed I glimpsed white socks and his head of hair as his father carried him in.

Ten years later I’m struggling into the least dirty dress I can find, feeling pinched and late. I hide my credit cards under my mattress, as I sense the kind of night it’ll be.

Once I’m drunk and planted you have the gall to lean back and say, after a pause, “So. What else?”

And I realize it’s been five dates already: the heavy summer has aged into early fall, and we’ve witnessed it together, in a sense, still young and unfamiliar with life’s foreclosures, and isn’t that something else? Isn’t it lots else? How could we ever run out of things?

You take me home to a depressing low-slung building near the very same glittering built-up downtown hospital – Tyler’s hospital, I think childishly – its glass tunnels extending out in all directions with newly yellow leaves slathering them and I ask, What is it like to live here, right here?

And you say: “I’ve seen more people smoking outside that hospital than anywhere else,” and I say,

“Wow, crazy,” meaning,

“I’m waiting for, but not expecting, an accompanying profound insight,” but also thinking, maybe I’m being mean, or dismissive, because if I look hard enough, that in itself has meaning: it’s a distinct social ritual conducted within an unlikely and charged social setting to which endless people are bound, horrifically bound, in tight aching familial orbits and deep palliative pools of sleep like Tyler’s

And you say: “Crazy? Do you think it is?” meaning,

“What, you think you’re smarter than me?” or

“You’re down to fuck anyway, right?”

And I say, “I’m so excited to see your place, John,” meaning

“Yes to both,” and you usher me inside.

+

The walls hum and vibrate with scattered dancing light and shadow as your completely bald roommate plays a video game involving a gigantic machine gun attached to the TV with its wires trailing through an open and nearly empty pizza box, and I look at his feet curled together in white-enough socks jerking together with each successive vigorous round of killing.

And he says, “Oh, hey,” meaning,

“Oh, tits,” and you guide me to the kitchen, turning on the light, and evidently read my stricken face, because you say, “Dylan and I happen to be extremely busy and I find hiring cleaning women unethical, so.”

And I say, “That’s OK,” meaning,

unfortunately, just that, because I’m lonely and so heartbroken and I’d fuck just about anyone, and suddenly I understand I don’t like you at all, and you don’t like me either –

‘So what else?’ So everything else!

So everything else until we’re fucking dead!

+

Alone in your shower, feeling witnessed and hastily scraping grime and smoke and spit from my hair, I wonder which of the shampoos your completely bald roommate uses. Dylan.

And empirically I discover your household’s hands-off attitude towards domestic labor extends to laundering the towels, and pat myself down with flaking toilet paper, flushed and naked in the mirror. Dylan?

And on my way back to your bedroom I hear you murmur "…I love you," into your phone, and stand thinking, thinking, then turn back around.

Dylan sits on a kitchen stool, drumming on the counter, his knees knocking and heartbreakingly thin, and he takes in my wet hair, my face no doubt still faintly toilet-papered in places, and as we stare at each other, I’m seized by a flash of deep knowing: Dylan. We grew up together; I knew him when his brother was dying. Dylan and Tyler. Leukemia. My god.

“Hey?" he says, meaning: "What?”

“John’s just…on the phone,” I say.

I sit down beside Dylan, amazed at the breadth of his body, the clamshell-like muscle at the base of his shaved, nicked skull, which flicks as he turns to press START on the microwave.

“Did you win the game?” I ask, and he shrugs, and we sit, waiting for the microwave to finish, and I’m amazed at what I really want: proximity.

“So what do you do?” I ask, maybe meaning,

“So how did you cope?” and Dylan shrugs again.

“I’m still in school. Astronomy.” He nods toward the night sky through the window  “Because look at all that shit.”

+

by Su Zihan

You appear in the kitchen doorway, anxiety etched like bad dreams over your face. Dylan calls you over and we sit, sharing a joint, blowing its sweet smoke out the window, looking through his thick glossy textbooks, reading about orbits and stars. I can tell from your eyes that, mostly, you're just looking at the pictures, very stoned. Eventually you goes to watch TV, and Dylan reads from the book:

“If you lived on a platform floating in Uranus's atmosphere near its north pole, you'd have continuous daylight for half of its orbit of the Sun, or 42 years. Then, after a very gradual sunset, you'd enter into a 42-year-long night. I can’t believe it  a night that long.”

“Me neither,” I say. I can’t.

“What?” he says, and I realize I’ve been staring at him, a little too high, imagining his skull beneath his skin.

“I was wondering how often you shave your head.”

“Like four times a week.” he pauses, then says: “I’m a little overdue.”

“Can I try?”

Wordlessly he gets up and retrieves a razor from his room, and we pause: John’s whistling in the bathroom. “Do it over the birdbath,” he says.

+

We wrap on our coats and step outside, smoking and shivering and craning upwards, and the city night sky seems bleached gray-purple, speckled with faint stars. He sits in a plastic lawn chair, and bends his neck over the silty birdbath. I grip the back of his head with one hand. His living head. Tyler. I think about Uranus, its atmosphere, and the unfathomable black of space; but passed time, grade six, and Tyler feel unimaginably further. The moon, the roof, and Dylan’s dreamy upturned face swim sickeningly close. Unmoored and trapped, I say:

“Oh my god.”

“Yeah,” he says. The tendons in his neck tighten up and I drag the razor along his scalp.

“Let’s say you were born alone on the atmospheric platform, at the start of a day/night Uranus epoch thing. Would you prefer to be young for the day or for the night?”

“Day,” he says, keeping still. “I love the morning.”

And I remember hearing that Tyler died in the morning, but at three, as dark as it is right now. He didn’t see the real morning: gray and then white  and then riotous  but maybe he heard the early, early bird noise through the winter vacuum. I tap the razor against the birdbath rim. I hope Tyler woke to hear the birds, and forgot the talk of low blood count creeping round the glass dining doors  those sparrows hailing the dark new morning, as yet innocent, innocent for as long as he would know it

+

Dylan lets me finish, and when it is done we look at his shucked skull a bit at a time using both of my smudgy makeup mirrors. I watch the peeled and shiny and slightly bleeding skin that goes all the way over his head.

“You get used to it,” he says.

“To shaving your head?”

“Yes but also, I don’t know – anything. Yeah, shaving your head. And loneliness. Or someone in bed. As long as it’s every day. Because you feel like it’s always been a certain way, and it’ll never change and that if it changes you’ll die  until it does.”

“Until it does.”

“And then there will be more days of something different, one at first, and then more and more, one on top of the next. And then you’ll barely be able to remember how you lived before, when it was different.”

And we’re quiet, looking up again. He asks me: “What about you? Day first, or night?” And the answer comes over me like a shadow: night. I imagine months of dawn tendrils painstakingly blessing my forty-one- point-six-year-old eyes with miraculous sight. I imagine joyfully learning of the two dozen moons pushing swift shadows along my platform, circling the green gaseous world with me 90000 kilometers up. (Don't we all trade youth for knowledge anyway? And probably it's the lucky ones among us who learn anything at all.) I imagine thinking and aging alone on my platform, with the passage of years changing the methane-rich sky to red, as if in sympathy. Then growing dimmer and dimmer, assisting my months-long farewell to the moons, my old friends, and to my own rich age of sight, of experience.

Some time later I open the front door as quietly as I can, as the TV reverberates and the sound goes funny in the narrow hall. I find you sitting on the couch by yourself. “I thought you’d gone,” you say, bleary-eyed like a little kid on New Year’s, on Christmas Eve, waiting through the early hours of the morning. These are the hours for a child’s version of adults, for their cushioned quiet and for the otherworldly too; the realm we always expect to enter as we age and never really do.

Victoria Hetherington is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Toronto. She last wrote in these pages about something to come home to. You can find her website here. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

"Holland Road" - Mumford & Sons (mp3)

"Not With Haste" - Mumford & Sons (mp3)

The new album from Mumford & Sons is entitled Babel and it will be released in the United States on September 25th.

by Su Zihan

Thursday
Sep202012

In Which We Begin Dating Jack Nicholson

Star in the Heavens

by ELLEN COPPERFIELD

That's the great self-indulgence, isn't it? To do what interests you?

- Katharine Hepburn on the director John Huston

Anjelica Huston was born in the absence of her father. Weeks earlier, shortly after John Huston began shooting The African Queen in the Congo, he killed his first elephant. A week previous to that, the married director (not to Anjelica's mother, naturally) had made a pass at the film's 22-year old script coordinator. She cried. Lauren Bacall noted, "He was a little frightening to watch."

Anjelica's mother Ricki Soma eventually became John's fourth wife. As an eighteen year old ballerina she had been on the cover of Life magazine:

Until he divorced his third wife, Evelyn Keyes, Ricki officially occupied the position of John Huston's mistress. Still, they lived together in Malibu. Ricki's first pregnancy was something of a surprise, but by the seventh month, John was divorced and they were married. The boy was named Walter Anthony after John's father, and they called him Tony, after Ricki's.

John was soon cheating again, this time with a woman who was essentially Ricki Huston's double, Suzanne Flon. To his surprise, he fell in love with her. (One of John's exes once called him "an angel with a gun in his pocket.") Proceeds from his next picture, the popular 1953 jaunt Moulin Rouge, allowed Huston to resume a more lavish lifestyle. He rented a house in Ireland and moved Ricki there. John drove very fast everywhere he went.

St. Clerans

In Ireland Huston's son Tony almost died in a horse accident, and Anjelica lost part of her finger in a lawn mower. She also fell over their dog Rosie and badly bruised her hip. Another time, she put her arm in a clothes wringer and could barely extract herself from the device. In time, Ricki would move with the kids to Italy. But instead of then divorcing her philandering husband, she found a house in Galway, Ireland, and the family stayed together.

John's next project was a collaboration about the life of Freud with Jean-Paul Sartre. The two giants hated each other immediately. John said of Sartre, "One eye going in one direction, and the eye itself wasn't very beautiful, like an omelet. And he had a pitted face." Sartre was constantly writing down things he himself said in conversation, and he never stopped talking. The lack of respect was mutual. Sartre wrote to Simone de Beauvoir, "Through this immensity of identical rooms, a great Romantic, melancholic and lonely, aimlessly roams. Our friend Huston is absent, aged, and literally unable to speak to his guests... his emptiness is purer than death."

Anjelica lived in her own little world, only associating with the children of the household's groom. Little of their parents' angst reached the kids. Anjelica would later tell biographer Lawrence Grobel, "They were sort of two stars in the heavens when I was growing up." Anjelica wanted to become a nun, because they were the only other women she associated with on a regular basis. When she told her father of her intentions, he said, "That's great, when are you going to start?"

Her parents kept their secrets close to the vest. For a long time she did not know her father had impregnated another woman, a young Indian actress named Zoe Sallis. When John finally decided to rid himself of Ricki, they barely informed the kids. Anjelica later said, "We were just told, 'You have to go to school in London now. And your mother will live in London with you, and you'll come back to Ireland for holidays.'" She was put into the Lycée Français, where she was expected to learn in French. For tax reasons, Ricki would not grant him a divorce. John kept Ricki in London and Zoe in Rome.

John, Danny and Zoe Sallis

Once, at a family meal, the discussion revolved around Van Gogh. "I said somewhat flippantly that I didn't like Van Gogh," Anjelica recalled in Lawrence Grobel's 1989 portrait of the family, The Hustons. He said, 'You don't like Van Gogh? Then name six of his paintings and tell me why you don't like Van Gogh.' I couldn't, of course. And he said, 'Leave the room, and until you know what you're talking about, don't come back with your opinions to the dinner table.'"

They still visited Ireland in the summer. The girls would sit in the barn's hay loft, watching the horses have sex. A stallion would take on mare after mare. Anjelica's friend Joan Buck noted, "Anjelica and I thought this was the way it went."

Anjelica with Joan Buck, Christmas 1959

Anjelica hated taking the London underground to school. She wished her mother had more money so she could come to school in a limo like the other girls. Her father was increasingly absent, and her mother became pregnant by an English writer/aristocrat with a family of his own. She did not tell Anjelica she was with child until the baby's birth was three months away. (Anjelica recalled, "I thought she was putting on weight.") A week later, John Huston told her for the first time about her half-brother Danny, now two years old.

Anjelica's emotions were sky high one minute, pathetically low the next. While she was away in Ireland, her poodle Mindy died. John Huston goaded a visiting John Steinbeck into playing Santa Claus for the kids. Steinbeck's wife almost stroked out.

By the age of fifteen, Anjelica was the second-tallest girl in her class. Suddenly, John's little girl had become a woman, and in makeup and adult clothing, she was more than a simple beauty. Her mother encouraged adoption of the latest fashions, wanting to relive her own youth in her children. Ricki's friend Dirk Bogarde would remark, "There seemed to be no age difference at all."

They parted ways on the issue of drugs. Ricki desperately wanted to keep Anjelica away from London's scene. When a producer on John's new project wanted Anjelica for a role (it would have kept costs down), her mother strenously objected to that as well. Anjelica wanted to play Juliet in Franco Zeffirelli's version of Shakespeare's play, and had been encouraged by several callbacks. Her father made the decision for her.

"A Walk with Love and Death"

When she showed up on set of A Walk with Love and Death, John was incensed to see she had cut her hair. (Extensions were required and took hours to insert properly.) Father and daughter did not get along on set. She later told Grobel, "The fact that I was ungrateful and petulant about it was hardly something he could have expected. Katharine Hepburn didn't criticize his direction? Why should I?"

Her next gig was as understudy to Marianne Faithful in Tony Richard's stage version of Hamlet. It helped shape her into a somewhat decent performer. Although news that a topless photograph might appear in an Italian magazine horrified Ricki, she went to great lengths to get her daughter her first spread in Vogue. The following January, Ricki's car hit an Italian pothole and her boyfriend swerved into the path of an incoming van. Anjelica's only mother was instantly killed.

Bogarde said, "Ricki was dead. I'd never see those humorous eyes, the sadness beneath them almost concealed; I'd never see the idiotic daisy-chains, hear the laughter, discuss the latest book, play, ballet or opera; never see her come in from a walk, muddy, wet, with the dogs. Life would go on, but never quite in the same way ever again." John Huston was not in great shape either. Even though he had difficulty breathing, he still smoked four cigars a day. (He tried pot once years before and had to be hospitalized.)

Her mother's death pushed Anjelica deeper into modeling. A relationship with photographer Bob Richardson was a tonic of sorts; he kept her extremely thin and yelled at her constantly.

Richard Avedon had told Ricki he thought Anjelica's shoulders were too big. Despite that, her unique look found work. "I had a big nose," she later said. "I was still growing into my body. The idea of beauty for me was Jean Shrimpton — big blue eyes and little noses, wide bee-stung mouths. It was an odd dichotomy — and this happens to many girls who find themselves in front of the camera a lot, who truly don't like their looks. It's almost as thought they can forget their looks in front of the camera. And I used to love working for the camera. But when faced with the reality of my pictures, I was generally deeply depressed." New York became her adopted home.

When her father remarried again, Anjelica was not even invited. When her relationship with Richardson flamed out, she began staying in the Palisades with John and his new wife, Cici. In time she moved into a house on Beachwood Drive. It was Cici Huston who would introduce her to Jack Nicholson. She was just 22, he was 36. They began dating straight away, in an on-and-off relationship that would consume sixteen years of her life.

It was March of 1977 when Anjelica headed to Jack's house to pick up some clothes. She intended to take them back to the apartment of her new boyfriend, Ryan O'Neal. Instead of Jack or an empty house, she found Roman Polanski and a thirteen year old girl named Sandra. When the police came back to the house with Polanski to search, they found both Anjelica and the cocaine in her purse. In order to protect herself from prosecution, she agreed to testify against Polanski. Without her testimony, it was doubtful there would ever be a conviction. She agreed, and the director fled.

Things with O'Neal were no better than they had been with Jack. He frequently exploded at Anjelica's half-sister Allegra, who John cared for as his own. Allegra still did not know who her real father was, and it was John's new wife Cici who finally forced the issue, informing the girl herself. In time, Anjelica returned to Nicholson. She came along when he travelled to England to shoot The Shining with Stanley Kubrick. They broke up for good in 1989.

In 1980 she was involved in a car accident which would alter the rest of her life. She was hit by a drunk 16 year old driving a BMW. She was not wearing a seatbelt and her face was decimated. She immediately directed the attending ambulance to Cedars-Sinai, sensing she would need extensive plastic surgery. When she left the hospital, her nose was actually looking somewhat better. She changed her life, moving out of Jack's house and living alone for the first time.

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 Simone de Beauvoir. 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

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?