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Alex Carnevale

Features Editor
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 Our Work Contains Such Tenderness

photo by Oliver Bacquet

Nearly A Woman


"Sarah's a woman, definitely," Joseph said, and immediately I pictured Sarah sitting in our class, her helmet-like hipster hair and pin-straight gaze. She was only a year older than me – twenty – but it felt like forever.

"How about Eliza?"

"Girl, definitely," Joseph said gravely.

"And Joan?"

"She’s a girl," Joseph decided, stroking his beard a little.

"How about Victoria?” someone else said. I don’t remember who was keeping this crap going – probably he was rattling on all by himself. My wine glass grew sweaty as I waited for his verdict. "Nearly a woman," he said, leaning back in his chair until it bumped, rather gently, against the grimy bar.

If this were to happen today, I’d probably suggest he refrain from this sexist bullshit in the future, and toss the rest of my wine on his lap. But of course, if this were today, I wouldn’t be hanging out with someone like Joseph. That’s the thing: no self-respecting twenty-nine-year-old woman would, so he preyed on the nineteen year olds in his shitty creative writing class. To my credit, I changed the subject.

"So what’re you writing for next week’s class?"

He nodded several times before responding. "Just, you know, short fiction. I’ll send it to you first."

At home that night, countering my wine-dizziness with drug-store chocolate, I refreshed and re-refreshed my inbox, and within a few hours I was reading "Breakables." The plot centered around a thirty-something husband and wife, Cameron and Melinda Givens, who dolefully drifted through a house that seemed rather beyond the means of, respectively, a poet and a flower-arranger, packed floor-to-ceiling with plot-device-y tchokches and photo albums. Typical of bad literary fiction, there was improbably gymnastic kitchen-sex; there was a broken-down grandfather clock that Cameron refused to fix – ("I don’t know when it stopped, but it won’t start again," he tells Melinda, meaningfully) – and there was a young writer, Virginia, who just couldn’t keep her hands off Cameron, despite his feeble attempts to resist. Virginia was a spunky, nineteen-year-old brunette – precocious and nubile and nearly a woman. Of course, I was flattered beyond belief. Even so, while I could tell that Cameron was supposed to be this total poetic genius, tragically hindered by existential languor and heartbreakingly wasted in a provincial family life – there was mention of children dousing their pasta in ketchup – something didn’t feel right. I realized much later that Joseph’s characters could only be as funny and as intelligent as he was, and as a result, they were neither. It’s also interesting to note that, despite the already dismal limitations on Cameron’s intelligence, neither Melinda nor Virginia could be as smart as him, because they were women. Subsequently, they said a lot of things like this:

“But what does it all mean?" Rachel shouts, her large eyes blinking back tears…

"Can you explain?" Virginia cries, her red lips falling open…

And so on – in fact, variations on this question comprise most of the stuff Rachel and Virginia say, allowing Cameron to drop poetic insights like this:

Why do the commitment-hungry forget, in a split second, the longest view?

and, my personal favorite:

For a while I felt like an abortionist, in the lightest sense of the word.

On my way to the creative writing class the next week, I decided that, despite the canonical immortalization of ‘Virginia’ the nineteen-year-old nymph, I didn’t like his story. What was I going to say? Did he expect me to fuck him now? My hands grew sweaty again as I cut through a park. It was almost November, and the leaves that still clung glowed golden throughout the woods.

I stopped abruptly: Joseph was sitting in his car, hanging out the window and blowing cigarette smoke up at the trees. He kept his cigarette in his mouth as he pulled his long black hair into a ponytail, still leaning several feet from the car, then rolled his sleeves higher on his thick arms. He spotted me and called me over, offering a ride.

"Why don’t you just get out to smoke?" I asked, getting in.

We sat in the car, and I smelled the hot close car smell and watched three ladybugs crawl over the rear-view mirror’s Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear text – their yellow pointed claw-feet doubled and tiny; the road curling back into light-bending trees. Something solidified in me then, a sort of cold and slippery feeling.

"So," he beard-stroked, "what did you think?"

All of a sudden, I wanted to devastate him. So I shrugged. "I dunno. It was nice."

He blushed and started the engine, and we drove in silence.

The classroom, when we got there, was almost empty and full of sunlight. "Look who’s here," Eliza sang, gripping the end of her long red braid with one hand and flashing us a dazzling smile, and Joseph nodded briskly at her. Eliza and Joan had both been ballerinas at one point, and it showed. Our instructor arrived, all leather jacket and grizzled energy, and started the class at once. I shouldn’t reveal who he was, but many Canadians have read at least one of his books.

When it was Joseph’s turn to share his piece, I tried to catch Sarah’s eye in solidarity, and felt my stomach pound with excitement: surely our instructor wouldn’t stand for this crap. My print-out of "Breakables" had grown nearly transparent with sweat.

photo by Umberto Salvagnin

But Joseph left his story in his bag and took out a small leather-bound book instead, leafing through it slowly. "This is a little unorthodox and spur-of-the moment," he said, "but, if I may, I’d like to share a poem." Our instructor nodded, and Joseph cleared his throat and read aloud:

So I guess you’re my husband
she whispered the morning after, considerately
bringing me complimentary coffee and newspaper
and underlining our names on the marriage license with her finger
("Oh man," our instructor murmured),
Words don’t lie but poets do – I’m thinking –
Is there some way outta this now?
("Mm, m-hmm," our instructor went),
I’m a man, yes, torn between two worlds
Born and powerful in my own respect,
Proper appendages in proper proportions
and so, I am enough.

He closed the book, and all heads swivelled toward our instructor, who was gnawing on his fingertips. "Great piece," he said, leaning toward Joseph. "Great energy. Your work has such tenderness. And your women, Joseph – I mean, let’s just say: you’re a very sensitive man."

Joseph stroked his beard, and they smiled at each other.

"I’m actually working on a collection of poems, so this feedback is great," Joseph said, then looked over at me. "Maybe fiction just isn’t my thing."

After class, as we shuffled our papers, Joan leaned over to Joseph. "So you’re writing a poetry collection too," she said.

"That’s the idea," he replied, chuckling. I wanted to throw something at his head.

"How long is it," she asked, cupping her face in one delicate hand.

"Right now? You know, I’m not too sure," he said. "It’s in Word. Haven’t counted in a while."

"If it was me, I’d know every page of it," Joan mused, rotating her cupped head toward me. This was the first time she’d ever looked at me directly. "It’s so exciting – like where does it come from? It’s like nature, just coming from itself."

Then Eliza said, "I write poetry."

"Is that so?" Joseph said, smiling a cryptic little smile. "I guess we all write poetry." He leaned back in his chair.

"I – I read your blog," Eliza continued. "I love the poem you submitted for that contest," she added. "I can’t believe it didn’t win – but I’m so glad you posted it anyway." She half-glanced at me, and Joan cupped her face in her other hand, her expression inscrutable. The three of them left together.

I spotted our instructor standing outside afterwards, smoking and watching a couple of ladybugs crawl across the stone walkway. "Lots of ladybugs around," I observed, and he nodded thoughtfully. "There’s nothing for them to eat," he said. "All the other bugs are gone."

Poor hungry bugs, I thought, who dies first? The big yellow angry hornets, their brain-chips ripped apart by the frost? What do they eat – ants? Do all the ants die first? I imagined millions of ant-bodies under the ground, frozen mid-business, curled stacked little husks. I imagined squirrels seeking the ant-crypts in winter, burrowing through the glass-hard ground – white-gray, then brown-black, then black-black, yielding open tunnels at last.

"You know, Victoria," he said, "I didn’t say this in class, but the short story you wrote for this week…when you think about it in terms of its genre, it shows great promise."

My heart leapt. "Yeah?"

"Yeah!" he said, smiling a huge and genuine smile. "I mean, it’s such a smart move – people can’t get enough of chick lit right now. There’s a huge market for it – it’s just exploding! They just can’t read it fast enough. Good for you for getting in there."

"Oh. Thanks," I said.

"Yeah!" he said, clapping me on the shoulder, still smiling. "You know, I think you’re gonna do well."

On his way to his car he stepped on two of those ladybugs. I still wonder if he noticed.

Victoria Hetherington is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Toronto. This is her first appearance in these pages. You can find her website here.

"Night in the Ocean" - Young Magic (mp3)

"You With Air" - Young Magic (mp3)

"Yalam" - Young Magic (mp3)

photo by Elias Gayles


In Which We Refold Our Fingers Regularly

by wendy zhao

An Index of Fears



Today the girls are updating their index of fears. The previous index is, well, dated: moths, pop culture, earthquakes, facts, ex-boyfriends (theirs, other peoples'). But it’s 2012 and no one is afraid of these things anymore. The girls have earthquake-proofed their home, and they now keep ex-boyfriends as pets. The new index of fears will be alphabetized for easier reference. It will include more relevant, pressing fears: animals carrying other, smaller animals in their mouths; chimpanzees and what they might do to your face.

The smallest girl says something quietly. “What?” the other girls say. (Sometimes it gets pretty noisy in here.)

“But what if I fear having an index of fears?” she repeats.

The largest girl begins to hit her with the pages of the old index, the very large and heavy one from three years ago. The other girls join in. This is a good method for releasing tension, as everyone knows.


The brand new disease ravaged the village. "We've never seen anything like it," the elders cried. The disease had no name, and no cure, and hardly any symptoms. When you woke up the next morning, convinced that you'd caught it, I cried and cried and cried and cried. Stop crying, you said. What if it's contagious through tears, you said. Then you'd really be setting yourself up for something.

Like I said, there was no cure, and you lingered on for months. As far as I could tell, the only obvious symptom was that your sense of humor got much worse. You wouldn't leave a man with a disease, you said, You're not that kind of person. Due to the disease, it was unclear whether or not this was a joke. By now, just to be safe, I had figured out not to laugh at anything anymore. You're not that kind of person, you said again, more firmly, and I smiled at you sweetly from inside my quarantine suit.


The last time we met, you didn’t recognize me. I was welcomed into the antechamber, and your assistants anointed me. You were sitting in a large chair with your fingers folded. From the far end of the room, I thought you looked sad. Up close, though, I saw that you had just fallen asleep. When I showed you my wedding ring, you began to remember. “Oh yes,” you said. “There was a beach? And a hammock? Frozen drinks with twisty straws?” The acolyte who was washing your feet looked up, confused. “I tried to bring you a twisty straw,” I said, "But they confiscated it, your assistants." You refolded your fingers and your face turned stony. There were people - lots of people - who said that you were the Messiah.


I was in a canoe in the middle of a lake with my son. It was evening. The lake was ringed by lesser mountains, the kind that take only half an hour to climb, if you are moving quickly, which I usually do. I am fit; my son, less so.

My son believed that he had a magical talent for fishing - his mother was always whispering to him about his secret abilities, hidden royal lineage, magical gifts, all the ways he was invisibly set apart from other children. Three hours had passed and nothing was nibbling.

My son began to shout. Fish, I am your king. I command you to rise. A shadow of his voice bounced off the mountains, echoed back at us. And the water’s surface began to shiver.


My married friend tells me about her husband. I don’t have a husband, so I tell my married friend about my dreams. This week, they are full of small animals. First it was a tiny kitten, perched in my palm. The next night I dreamt of mice in the kitchen: one ran by my foot, a darling little mouse, and then a similarly darling mouse-sized chipmunk. The last small animal was a tinier mouse - he trotted across the dream-kitchen, holding something in his mouth, the way a cat will trot across the kitchen holding in his mouth a mouse he’s caught, and intends to take somewhere for torturing. In my dream, what this mouse was holding in his mouth was an even smaller mouse.

My married friend sighed. “It’s just that you’re ovulating,” she said. I sighed; she sighed. We sat together and considered the small things moving within us.


The government said that we should go down into the basement, so we did. Our family was having problems, but we could all agree on one thing: the government knew what it was talking about. We also agreed that the basement was the safest place. We had prepared it that way. Down there we had jars, canisters, casks, kits, jugs, trunks, racks, and other helpful things. Before we went down, we looked out the window one last time: the sky was wide, pale, wispy, innocent. But that's exactly what some threats look like, we decided. The worst ones.

In the basement, we felt it begin. Was the trembling from outside, or did it come from somewhere else? In the basement, we sat among all the things we'd saved, waiting for the shaking to stop, for someone to stop the shaking.


The three Russian men were in love. (Not with each other, though.) They jumped in the lake with their clothes on and kicked their way to the far bank; they picknicked on gooseberries, black bread, cheese, kvas. In the lake, after lunch, each one put his hand on his full belly, and pretended - for a moment only - that he was pregnant.


The girls were playing chess. Team chess! It involved cheering, extended narratives, emotional blackmail, kicks under the table, quadruple-crossing, the kinds of jokes that might also have been flirting. It was brutal, so the whole town came to watch. A fighter jet flew overhead, a spectating chimpanzee rested his head on his chin: from a certain distance, it was really quite depressing. The audience was sweating from empathy. This was the kind of chess that burned calories. Check! half the girls yelled; the other half cried. One did a cartwheel. The chimp knew something that no one else did: that it would never get better than this. That this was the absolute tops.


All day, near misses. The bird barreled toward your car but barely brushed the windshield with his wingtip. I almost drank the sour milk, but smelled it in time. You tripped and felt your body preparing for pain, then caught yourself. Still, your heart pounded. You sat on a bench to calm down, and I walked by, but I was on the phone. On the phone, a near miss: I almost told someone what I really thought, but then I was distracted by your face. Just to be clear: we had never met. When we were introduced two years later, I spontaneously hugged you. We both felt like we had been doing something wrong for a long, long time, and only now were we going to start to figure out what it was.

Rachel Monroe is a writer living in Baltimore. She tumbls here.

Wendy Zhao is an artist living in Brooklyn. You can find her website here.

"Dead & Gone" - These United States (mp3)

"Sun Is Below and Above" - These United States (mp3)

"Diving Boards Pointed At The Sky" - These United States (mp3)

The new self titled album from These United States will be released on June 12th.


In Which We Are Simply A Natural At This

Piece of Cake


Rachel McAdams has Olympic caliber poise. Somewhat jelled, her smile is red-lettered, her jaw, prominent, and her body, sprightly. It's as if she just landed a double axel or performed a clean dismount from the balance beam, no sweat. In romantic roles her male co-stars regularly lift her, carry her, or nimbly swing her, but I suspect it’s McAdams who supplies any, if not all, cantilevered grace.

What lends most to screen is her strikingly nostalgic features. Owing perhaps to the alien twinkle in her eyes, her dimples, or her downy skin, McAdams appears especially saturated on celluloid; especially Sirk. Like Jane Wyman she is puckish and beautiful, and at times lost in thought. Both women look buffed — a near satin sheen. Both women have incredibly expressive foreheads.

In The Vow she plays Paige, a woman who after emerging from a car accident induced coma, suffers from amnesia. She cannot remember the last four years of her life which include an artsy, permissive turn — sculpting, air-dried hair, loft living — and more importantly includes her marriage to Leo played by Channing Tatum. As a result she wakes confused and returns to her old life: estranged parents, law school, quotidian suburban customs, blueberry mojitos, a sister’s wedding, sweater sets, and Scott Speedman. Unfortunately, not much happens. Despite the potential for something far creepier, sadder, syrupy and even peculiar, the film bops from scene to scene as if dispirited and mooney, much like Tatum-speak and Tatum-mien.

Ironically, it’s McAdams’ performance as a character whose life has been erased, that provides the most vitality. She has filmic gumption and a bounty of grins and laughs that rescue stale moments. (Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock pioneered that particular bail out; McAdams and Anne Hathaway have revived it). Moreover, Paige has whims. She resists but ultimately surrenders to tickling, she feeds a stray cat, she buries herself in an oversized sweatshirt, and offers plump strawberries to Leo’s friends at breakfast. Her wedding dress was pink and her vows were written on a coffee shop menu.

Regardless of these parts, Leo and Paige’s love story plays out like a music video. Or the music video for a song on The Vow’s original soundtrack. Or something Josh Hartnett may have done in 2004. In many ways, its finest function is as a catalog of required proportions: McAdams’ hands are the size of Tatum’s neck and when he scoops her up, she screeches. He is shirtless for nearly forty percent of the film. She wears a classic rotation of outfits: pajamas (his), pajamas (hers), formal wedding attire, messy studio clothes, lace underwear. She has a six-to-one, charismatic to gross, ratio of habits. Even so, they are never that gross.

The camera loves McAdams. It is her moon. Tina Fey admits learning from her throughout Mean Girls. "That was the first movie that I had ever been on. And I would watch – I would stand with the director sometimes and watch her scenes. And I would say to the director: Like, that’s really small. Is she doing it? And then watching her on film, watching the dailies, I’m like: Oh, yes, she’s amazing. She’s a film actor. She’s not pushing. And so I kind of learned that lesson from watching her…"

What Fey recalls, those "small", minor mannerisms are McAdams’ register of finely controlled facial muscles. She can call upon each one as if summoning an invisible series of nylon strings secured to her cheekbones, chin, temples, ears. The slightest twitch or eye roll, easy! The faintest pout or cartoonish gaze, done! A toothy hee-haw, no problem! A single, bulging vein, why not! She is a natural. She knows when to elongate her neck, how to scurry in heels, how far to dip back when laughing, how to kiss passionately and dispassionately, and how to eat cake as if it were more satisfying than the man sharing the slice with her.

McAdams’ performances are truly athletic. And unlike Keira Knightley or Scarlett Johansson, whose acting we often watch as curious spectators, (anthropological!), too far removed from their traits to relate, wondering perhaps how they will pull it off, McAdams, we simply cheer.

There’s a moment near the end of The Family Stone, where McAdams — who plays Amy, the cranky and defensive, but ultimately very loving "mean sister" — is sitting in an ambulance on Christmas day with the guy who "popped her cherry” years ago. His name is Brad Stevenson (Paul Schneider). He is shy, mumbles and has a slight swallow. He’s an EMT who wrapped her present in a clock radio box. "Don’t worry, it’s not a clock radio." She’s gruff and impatient but appreciates the gesture, and perhaps even him, once more. Inside the box is a snow globe that McAdams cups in her hands as if it were hidden treasure. As if she was a child. As if she might, in that moment, be living inside the stillness of a snow globe. She smiles and quietly exclaims, "Wow, Brad.” The scene is interrupted by yet another madcap Stone family moment, but the peaceful way Amy appreciates Brad, the way McAdams says "Wow" as if it were her first word, chimes until the end of the film

As Diane Keaton, who starred with McAdams in both The Family Stone and Morning Glory, remarked, "She's like a violin. She can do anything, and she can play anything. She's a dynamo, but she's also soft. She can be bitchy but also light. She can do serious drama; she can do comedy. She has a lot of things going on, which makes her absolutely captivating.”

At the 2005 MTV Movie Awards, McAdams and Gosling won the award for Best Kiss. She in a bustier and jeans and he chewing gum and wearing a white Darfur t-shirt, the then couple reenacted their Notebook kiss as Maroon 5’s "She Will be Loved” played. The crowd went crazy, Lindsay Lohan screamed "Oh my God!” and Hillary Duff giggled with her sister. The entire two minutes are a pop culture capsule and emphasize McAdams’ irrefutable appeal. As she walks off the stage with Gosling, who picks up her blazer and coolly throws it over his shoulder, McAdams looks flush, a little embarrassed, but triumphant with her Golden Popcorn, silly sure, nevertheless, a medal.

Durga Chew-Bose is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Brooklyn. She last wrote in these pages about Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret She tumbls here and twitters here. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

"Mad Mad Me" - Bonnie Prince Billy & Mariee Sioux (mp3)

"Bird Child" - Bonnie Prince Billy & Mariee Sioux (mp3)

"Loveskulls" - Bonnie Prince Billy & Mariee Sioux (mp3)