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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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Wednesday
Dec222010

In Which We Realize We Hated Lost In Translation In Retrospect

Is That It?

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Somewhere

dir. Sofia Coppola

98 minutes

Were you possibly among the many millions of people dying to hear another story about a jaded rich guy living in Los Angeles who reinvents himself due to the presence of his wonderful young daughter? You are in luck. Star actor Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff, in the 101st role he was not at all suited to play) has clearly never seen Californication, because it is loosely based on his life. Does every single man in Hollywood go around half-shaven, divorced, with a daughter of the same age (Dakota's younger sister Elle Fanning)? The answer is yes, and it is a relief.

Somewhere, which gets its U.S. release today, is Sofia Coppola's latest film, on the heels of the tragically boring Marie Antoinette. No one who has to work for a living could possibly feel sympathetic for the tribulations of an actor who lives on hotel room service, and no one who paid to see this film could possibly walk away feeling anything but pity for its creator and disgust for its hero. The drudgery of Johnny Marco having to watch twin strippers in his bedroom is only exceeded by the cruel vicissitudes of being a popular Hollywood star. If having a daughter makes people so warm and appealing, how come Harvey Weinstein has three and he's still a complete piece of shit?

Somewhere not only has the worst title of any movie this year, it also takes itself more seriously than Inception, which many scientists believed was impossible. Most grating about Coppola's directorial style is her obsession with long takes. Granted, extended periods without rapid cuts and reverse angles distinguish her films from say, Hawaii Five-0. But really, her exhausted Los Angeles scapes aren't visually stimulating enough to be engaging; images like those of Dorff's daughter figure skating on an open rink and Dorff's head ensconced in a foam mask for his new movie only pretend to be novel. We've seen these places before — nothing about the locales is exciting or unfamiliar.

Once Johnny Marco almost chases a woman back to her house after making eye contact at a stoplight, but when he gets to her gate and it closes on him, he drives home. For the briefest of moments we feel something like excitement, but then we retreat to the next long take. Quentin Tarantino and Catherine Breillat can get away with two minute takes because at the end of their scenes, Jews flee the Nazis or Caroline Ducey has sex.

Somewhere follows the basic cinematic outline of all such father-daughter partnerships. In the real world, teen girls are a thousand times more intelligent than their parents, operate high level machinery and text at a PhD level. In Coppola's world, they retain the innocence of Anna Paquin in The Piano. It's impossible to watch this film and not think about Katie Holmes, what with the masculine, half-shaven man-boy's total lack of concern for how his treatment of women might influence his daughter or anyone he cares about. Johnny Marco is such a misogynist that he makes his daughter's mother abandon them both, which is just about the cheapest trick in the screenwriting book, right after killing your main character's trusty german shepherd (Michael J. Fox).

All the serious misogynists that I have had the good fortune to encounter are unabashed and unapologetic. Only a truly deluded person could create the so-rare-it-doesn't-exist-in-the-wild empathetic womanizer. In the real world, there's no such delicate balance between sensitivity and insensitivity in one male body. When Ryan Reynolds was politely let go by Scarlett Johansson, he whined to his friends about her lack of effort in their marriage. Hasn't Sofia Coppola read Men in Revolt? The most masculine person in the world is Mr. Rogers, and he passed some time ago. Every other man in the world is more reminiscent of Carrie Bradshaw if he dyed his hair brunette.

One morning Johnny wakes up for breakfast in Milan and both his daughter and his one-night stand are looking at him with the same expectant eyes. It's the kind of absurdly simple joke Coppola loves to play — every irony pretends to be new, as if she had recently discovered hypocrisy for the first time in recorded history and wanted to share it with everyone. Dorff's face, while far too inexpressive to ever make him anything more than a slightly classier Christian Slater, begs us to become sufficiently disgusted by how famous people are treated. On a scale of relevant or important lessons, this ranks somewhere between "don't put your hand in dog shit" and "being white is pretty hard."

In her most vacuous film, Lost in Translation, Coppola managed to make some people feel sorry for two of the least sympathetic people in the world. The fact that it is even worked at all is a credit to how effective she can be at convincing you the most uninteresting monsters are partly human. But we have a different attitude towards waste and excess than we did in 2003. Back then we could watch the husk that used to be the actor known as Bill Murray make vaguely racist comments about Japanese people for no reason and applaud afterwards. Maybe for the international audience this was like watching the National Geographic Channel. I really don't know, I am pretty sure even they think Twilight jokes and playing "I'll Try Anything Once" over a guy swimming with his daughter in a pool are overdone.

One of William Goldman's best ever essays was about why most plays were about putting on a play. He didn't have to account for the poverty of ideas that led to Broadway about Broadway, because it was obvious — people who spent their entire lives in theater naturally had no other life experience to draw on. Somerset Maugham's edict to write what you know is among the dumbest pieces of advice ever given about writing, and it has recently become more harmful than even he realized. The maxim of 'write what you know' is revolting self-help propaganda: you're good enough, you don't need to keep learning, your experience of the world is valid and complete in itself.

The number of possible life experiences is dwindling. Eventually we will all have one life experience, distinguishable only in small moments not accounted for by communal art. What draws divergent backgrounds into the Americam amalgam is the shared experience of life reflected in art, but the people who create this perception in the film medium are drastically limited by their own surroundings. The last thing you have to do is start making films about people markedly different from yourself, but the first thing you have to do is stop making films about people identical to yourself.

Here we have a life stretched generically over the same old surroundings. It is not simply the characters or the action or the sets or the dialogue that is so ubiquitous and familiar. It is the shots themselves — Stephen Dorff has looked in a mirror in every movie he has been in since 1995. The metaphor of a swimming pool is now a common sight in Tyler Perry sitcoms, let alone in films that purport to be taken seriously. The cliche of a man falling asleep while having sex was recently featured on an episode of Spongebob Squarepants. Wide angle views of cars driving down the Los Angeles freeway while subdued trance music plays in the background are about as entertaining as a colonoscopy.

The fact that Johnny Marco has a cast on his arm for most of Somewhere is so pedestrian a symbol I would expect it in some undergraduate's romance novel. The film's interminable 98 minutes roll on so uneventfully that outside of the occasional presence of Johnny Marco's cell phone and Guitar Hero, the entire plot might have taken place in 1970. The idea that this incredibly dull, prosaic movie won the Golden Lion (or as I call it, the Flying Aslan) in Venice is only slighter sadder than the possibility that Avatar made more money than the GNP of Michigan. (Thought: was the audience simply so relieved they didn't have to sit through Marie Antoinette that they gave her the award out of gratitude?)

The specter of Heath Ledger looms over the proceedings, since the resulting cinematic apologia resembles something like what a simplistic mind thinks when a father takes his own life through a combination of otherworldly excess and outright stupidity. Coppola's film is like looking at a squirrel that got run over by a car and vainly trying to bring the creature back to life with a screenplay. After Johnny Marco drops his daughter off for summer camp in a helicopter, our hero becomes uncontrollably sad, complaining, "I'm nothing." He moves out of his residence in the Chateau Marmont Hotel and leaves all his rich person gear behind. You see, wealthy and famous people believe they aren't the real heroes, they are just very close to the real heroes. They admit that their lives are essentially meaningless, and that the true pleasures can't be purchased by money, but as long as they have it, they don't really need it. They are so out of touch with reality they think a silly movie like this is reality.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He is a writer living in Manhattan. He tumbls here and twitters here. He last wrote in these pages about the life of Mary McCarthy.

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"Babylon" - Angus & Julia Stone (mp3)

"Lonely Hands" - Angus & Julia Stone (mp3)

"Little Bird" - Angus & Julia Stone (mp3)

Tuesday
Dec212010

In Which It Seemed Eventual But Then It Also Happened All At Once

Youth And Discipline

by MOLLY LAMBERT

In elementary school I was often in trouble. I could never tell whether I was being singled out to scare the other girls into submission, or if I was just genuinely worse than they were. I wasn't violent. My badness came out as a lack of respect for authority. I asked questions. I rejected being treated like a child. The administration wasn't fond of this approach. I developed a reputation as a troublemaker. I felt I was being unfairly stereotyped due to being ginger. I refused to sing the national anthem. 

Homeroom teachers liked me every other year. The ones who liked me loved me but the ones who didn't like me really, really didn't like me. Why would they? I read books inside my desk when I was bored, and I was almost always bored, except for when I felt like being interested, and then I would insist on dominating the discussion.

I told my kindergarten teacher that I wanted to be an ichthyologist. She asked me how to spell it and I said "I don't know, I'm a fucking kid." I probably didn't say "fucking."

I left the classroom constantly without any real reason and went to the library down the hall, then showed no remorse whenever I got caught because I felt none. I was stubborn and arrogant and nine. I talked to the librarian more than probably any other person at school. She suggested young adult books to me and I bristled at reading anything that far below my advanced reading level. I can't remember her name or even the honorific, but I have a vague recollection of what she looked like (a librarian).

There was a contest to stump her with any question that could be solved with information from the library. I continually tried to win and failed. I found some remote scientific information and then hid the book way back behind some other books on the wrong shelf. She figured me out immediately. The shame I felt was mostly that I hadn't gotten away with it and beaten her. It was a good warmup for the internet.

As a child I was most afraid of men with beards and other people's dads. At some point my position on bearded men reversed, in a psychologically transparent turn towards fetishization. I am still pretty fucking scared of other people's dads. 

There was a mock election in 4th grade and we all gave speeches. I wrote something about helping the homeless that I thought would go over well. I read it out loud to the class and felt like a fraud, as all politicians must feel. I was chosen as the class candidate for the democratic party, to compete against room 8's republican, my friend Jessie. I had never felt any natural calling towards politics, but I didn't want to lose.

I picked the nerdiest kid in my class to be my VP, since he had written the only other speech I considered to be remotely in the same league as mine. Jessie picked a kid who was really dumb and mean and had a growth hormone deficiency but was somehow considered popular, possibly because he was rich. They won in a landslide. 

After I lost, I contemplated the pointlessness of the election, which was after all fake and yet had proven some things I already suspected to be true. I sat on the swingset alone with whatever big important novel I was reading that week, Steinbeck or Melville or something else that I didn't really have any life experience to relate to yet but deeply enjoyed the idea of relating to. I always hoped somebody would ask me about what I was reading but nobody ever did. Later as a teenager I was always hoping somebody would ask me what album I was listening to on my discman. They didn't. 

The PE coach, a youngish blonde lady that we referred to only as Coach, developed an intense enmity towards me when I refused to spend my valuable recess time playing house or sports with the other kids in my class. I was often caught inside the library and forced back outside, where I would read a book alone in silent dickish protest. 

In a meeting Coach told my parents that I made the other kids feel stupid by using such big words, and that sometimes I used words even she couldn't understand. My parents only told me about it much later, confirming all my suspicions that Coach had been kind of an idiot, and that people in positions of power over you usually were. 

A kid in my class told me I was sarcastic, and I told him that I didn't know what that meant. I am sure he thought I was just being sarcastic. I went and looked it up and felt satisfied that there was a term for the thing that I was. Whenever I was accused of cynicism, I would say "I'm not cynical, I'm just sarcastic. I'm an optimist." I am still not convinced that I am really an optimist. It would be optimistic to think that I am.

At the neighborhood playground I talked to all the kids, and when that became dull, I would talk to their parents. "Oh hey what's up? You here with your kids? That's tight, I'm a kid. So, what do you do?" When I got bored of that I would talk to the ice cream truck guy. "You sell ice cream? That's rad. In the future I'll write for the internet."

Sometimes I went to the park with a weird girl I was friends with whose family lived next to it. Once she brought a box of condoms she said she had found in her parents' closet and we walked around putting condoms on all the metal fenceposts. In high school I would write a hit one act play based off of my playground experiences that was seventy percent a ripoff of The Zoo Story and thirty percent a ripoff of True West.

My music teacher selected me to sing a solo of "Where Is Love" from Oliver. I was flattered and embarrassed to be singled out. As a kid the desire to be exceptional competes with the desire not to establish yourself as different, for fear it will be turned against you. I was accused of reading the dictionary for fun. It was not very far off.

When I got up to perform the song during the recital I suddenly felt horrified that I was about to sing something so earnest and corny. Afraid that people would somehow be able to see into me too deeply. Halfway through the first verse I blew in the microphone accidentally, and laughed. Then I sang less, and blew in the microphone some more. This cemented my bad reputation. I am still struggling with sincerity. 

I joined the Girl Scouts because all my friends joined. When I learned that the Boy Scouts would be getting pocket swiss army knives I became furious, then sad when I found out that nobody else cared but me. The most hated girl in our class's mom became the troop leader. Our meetings were held in the auditorium after school.

Once I excused myself to go to the water fountain and when I got into the hallway sprinted at the playground exit, towards night and freedom. When the kindergarten teacher's son opened a door the doorknob made direct contact with my face and I had to go get stitches. I can't remember whether the kindergarten teacher's son was attractive, or if all men in their twenties just seemed desirable to me at that age.

My interest in ichthyology turned to marine biology when I decided that I couldn't possibly exclude mammals. My budding ocean sciences career eventually wound down after the realization that I was way too claustrophobic for Alvin. I had an art teacher whose obsession with Ancient Egypt became mine. I was initially terrified of him because of his beard. I did a drawing of the sun and the real sun glinted off it so intensely, for a week I was secretly convinced I had magical powers related to art.  

I was cashiering at a grocery store and my old art teacher came in. I didn't recognize him since he was clean-shaven and I hadn't seen him in twenty years. He remembered me immediately, since I look basically the same and had a nametag on. He seemed surprised to find me working in retail. I took his wife's business card and promised to call them and have dinner but then never did. It's strange to see the adults from your childhood. What do you say to someone who changed the course of your life forever?

I wrote a poem and was chosen to read it during graduation. I felt completely confident that my poem had been the best but also vindicated that it had been chosen. The administration took credit for my love of reading, which they had tried to squash at every possible turn. I wore a mint green dress. I decided I was going to be a writer, even if I had to take credit for it occasionally. I didn't blow in the mic.

Molly Lambert is the managing editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Los Angeles. She authors the This Recording twitter here and tumbls here. She last wrote in these pages about incepting the internet. You can find an archive of her work here.

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Monday
Dec202010

In Which We're Up All Night

On Insomnia

by ELIZABETH GUMPORT

It is impossible to describe insomnia to people who are sound sleepers. These are the people who trust that getting in bed will be followed by falling asleep, as surely as night follows day; these are the fearless people. Sleepless people are a very different breed. They know what insomnia really is: not just the failure to fall asleep, but the fear of that failure. For an insomniac, there is no such thing as a good night. Every evening – even if it eventually, mercifully comes to an end – is shredded by anxiety. To reach sleep the insomniac must first pass through terror.

The fearless person also fails to understand how easy it is to become one of the sleepless people. All it takes is one bad night. That bad night begets others: once you know you might not be able to sleep, you can't. Recognizing that staying awake all night is a very real possibility, something that could actually happen, is no different than realizing that your boyfriend might no longer be interested in you, or that the friendship you thought was indestructible is, in fact, as vulnerable as anything else, or that you could very well not succeed at doing the work you so badly want to do. When you imagine such scenarios, you seem almost to will them into existence. To see the abyss is to take the first step towards it. What made F. Scott Fitzgerald “sleep-conscious,” as he called it, was a mosquito: the bug bothered him all night, and after that he had trouble sleeping for years.

photography by Yasmine ChatilaAnd while you can always find a new boyfriend, there is no substitute for sleep. Anyone who has ever had trouble sleeping knows that all treatments for insomnia are in some way inadequate. Melatonin stops working when you take it too regularly, and alcohol only postpones the problem. If you have a glass of wine, or two, or three, you will start awake in the middle of the night feeling feverish and fretful and maybe a little fat. Ambien works, but only if you can set aside eight or nine hours for sleep. Any fewer and you wake up thick-headed and heavy-eyed.

A cure that leaves you groggy or hungover is no cure at all. The point of sleep, after all, is that it is supposed to restore energy, and hope. It makes you alert enough to do things, and optimistic enough to believe they are worth doing. If you wake up feeling otherwise, what's the use?


The sleepless become superstitious. Once she has tried the standard solutions and found them wanting, the insomniac devises her own treatments, her own odd rituals. In order to exhaust themselves, Emily and Charlotte Brontë walked in circles around their dining room table. Teddy Roosevelt took a shot of cognac in a glass of milk, and W.C. Fields found he could only fall asleep if stretched out in a barber’s chair or on a pool table. If rest still remains elusive, you can at least force others to suffer with you: Tallulah Bankhead hired “caddies,” young gay men who would chat with her and hold her hand until she finally drifted off to sleep. Groucho Marx would pick up the phone, dial the first number that popped into his head, and insult whoever answered his call.

If pills and drinks and caddies don't work, all you can do is wait. When morning comes – when, as Philip Larkin put it in “Aubade,” the rest of the “the uncaring / intricate rented world begins to rouse” – some insomniacs are relieved. Now, at least, they can stop trying to get some sleep; now they have a reason for being awake. “Work,” Larkin wrote, “has to be done.” Others remain in bed. In one diary entry, William Wordsworth's sister noted that, as of ten o'clock in the morning, the poet was still in bed, hoping to fall asleep. Insomnia infects your whole life. It renders meaningless the distinction between day and night: if you cannot sleep, and you have nowhere to go, you will be as oppressed when the sun is up as when the sun is down.


Another option available to the insomniac is acceptance. This requires a slight rearrangement of attitudes, the editing of various terms: it's not that you “can't sleep.” You're simply “resting” or “cleaning” or  “working late.” Vladimir Nabokov called sleep “the most moronic fraternity in the world” and claimed that he often wrote better during periods of insomnia.

If you can't write, or clean, or even rest,  you can always do something else: “an ideal insomnia,” Joyce Carol Oates once said, “allows for a lot of reading.” The best books to read late at night are ones full of facts. Facts act as a kind of anesthetic: they numb you to yourself, the subject to which your thoughts would otherwise turn. The gratitude you will feel for these books, and their authors, will surpass your usual appreciation for a good book. It will be deeper, more personal, and more possessive. I have had more than a few long, bad nights, and more than a few good companions. Two of the best were Joan Didion's Miami and Eula Biss's Notes From No Man's Land, and I recommend both to anyone in need of a shot of novocaine.


Once accommodated, insomnia can provide certain pleasures. You are privy to the other, secret world, the one that begins when everyone else goes to bed. Being awake during these long, hidden hours is like taking the subway during the middle of the day or walking around Manhattan after a blizzard. All is private, silent, and still; for once the world is polite, and for once it belongs to you. Light, and its absence, command your attention: in Central Park, the shadows of the branches look like black bones in the snow. In your room, the movement of the moon shows itself on your wall, a patch of light that creeps from corner to corner as the hours pass. All night a streetlight shines into your window.

If you live in a city, other people's apartments are a matter of much concern. The lights in the building across the street go out, one after another, but in one window a television flickers, its invisible owner keeping you company late into the night. He is your first mate, your loyal fellow officer: together you sail into the vast night. Then, without warning, he jumps ship. The television turns off. You cruise on alone. The night is as deep and endless as the ocean.


This is when the bad feelings find you; this is when reading is something you do not just to keep busy but to blunt the pain. After a certain hour, even the best natures start to go bad. Once, while visiting a friend, Mark Twain threw his pillow at the window in a fit of frustration. The pane shattered, letting in the “fresh air” Twain needed for his rest, and he fell asleep. In the morning, he discovered what he had broken was not a window but a glass-enclosed bookcase. (Everyone knows time passes oddly in the insomniac’s bedroom, but space can shift, too.)

Acceptance might work occasionally, but a series of sleepless nights – and the hot sheets and aching hips that accompany them – will exhaust anyone's patience. In many poems, the ever-joyful Wordsworth manages to remain humble and hopeful, trying to coax the “blessed barrier” between days into existence. But eventually even he got angry: "Shall I alone, / surely not a man ungently made, / Call thee worst Tyrant by which Flesh is crost?" In another poem, sleep is personified as withholding lover whom Wordsworth must beseech: “Do not use me so but once and deeply let me be beguiled.”


Wordsworth was not alone in imagining sleep as someone who would not join him in bed. It's a common image, perhaps because when you can't sleep your thoughts often turn to those people who have refused your company, or forsaken it after many shared nights. One of Elizabeth Bishop's most famous poems concludes with the following lines: “So wrap up care in a cobweb / and drop it down the well / into that world inverted / where left is always right, / where the shadows are really the body, / where we stay awake all night, / where the heavens are shallow as the sea / is now deep, and you love me.” The title of the poem is “Insomnia.”

Bishop is describing second-stage insomnia, which takes over after the first thrill of inhabiting a secret, hidden city wears off. In the second stage, you mourn for the people who left you behind, the people who no longer love you, the people who did you wrong. If you are sharing a bed with someone else, this is the time to leave the room. Staying will only make you resent him: the silence of sleep will begin to sound like indifference.

What comes next is worse. What comes next is a catalogue of everyone you did wrong, everyone you betrayed, everyone you loved less, or worse, than you should have. This is third-stage insomnia, and if at this point you don't take another Ambien what follows is even more brutal. Why stop at listing everyone you've ever hurt? Why not see if you can think of every single thing you've ever done wrong in your whole entire life?

If you stay awake late enough, eventually you remember everything. All your usual defenses dissolve. Your mind is weary, and there is nothing in your white, silent room to distract it. Your exhausted brain can no longer apply the pressure needed to repress your memories, and they all come back, all of them, every one, and especially the ones that prove you are the worst version of yourself: the lies, the evasions, the unreturned emails, the shoplifted packs of gum. And, of course, every single ungenerous thing you have ever thought, no matter how fleetingly or how long ago, about the people you love most. Anxiety cascades: just when you’ve drained one disaster from your mind, another breaks the dam. The panic and shame that overcome you when you find a really old to-do list and realize you haven’t done a single item on it? Multiply that feeling by the number of minutes left until sunrise. You can tell yourself to be reasonable, to count your blessings, to get it together, but such reassurances will ring hollow. As Fitzgerald put it, at three o'clock in the morning a forgotten package feels as tragic as a death sentence.


There is a point after which it is no longer possible to be productive, a point after which you are too harassed by regret or simply too tired and brainless to work. Not being able to work compounds the agony of not being able to sleep: you feel useless, ashamed, fraudulent. Fitzgerald described his own sleepless nights as encounters with “horror and waste,” with “waste and horror – what I might have been and done that is lost, spent, gone, dissipated, unrecapturable.” Perhaps, he wrote, the restless night prefigures “the night after death. . . No choice, no road, no hope – only the endless repetition of the sordid and the semi-tragic. Or to stand forever, perhaps, on the threshold of life unable to pass it and return to it. I am a ghost now as the clock strikes four.”


Like Fitzgerald, Larkin heard death approach in the empty, abandoned hours of early morning. “Aubade” is one of the best descriptions of the final stage of insomnia, which, once you've experienced it, renders the other, earlier stages even more painful, because you know what's coming: “Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare. / In time the curtain-edges will grow light. / Till then I see what's really always there: / Unresting death, a whole day nearer now, / Making all thought impossible but how / and where and when I shall myself die.” In the middle of the night, the insomniac weighs her remembered mistakes and finds what makes shouldering their burden so painful is the knowledge that some day she will have it, that burden, taken from her. How much better would it be to regret everything forever! “This,” Larkin observed, “is a special way of being afraid / No trick dispels.”

Sleep can't always undo insomnia's ill-effects: Fitzgerald's struggle with insomnia heralded his breakdown. “In a real dark night of the soul,” he wrote, “it is always three o'clock in the morning.” The bad things you think alone in your room sometimes turn out to be true. And, as with insomnia itself, sometimes it seems like they turned out to be true precisely because you thought of them: if you had been asleep you wouldn’t have felt like a failure, and if you hadn’t felt like a failure you wouldn't be a failure. Despair is a stowaway, hopping into our soul in the middle of the night and smuggling itself into our days.

Sleep is not like death. It is insomnia that is the first taste of death: dead, you will never sleep again. There will be no more soft beds, no more clean sheets; never again will you pile pillows around yourself, never again will you find contentment beneath a warm blanket on a cold night. In “Sad Steps” – which, like “Aubade,” unfolds at four o'clock in the morning – Larkin described the longing that overcomes the insomniac when she looks out her window, the desire she feels that is deeper than other desires, because it absorbs them all. In the middle of the night, the moon's “white stare / is a reminder of the strength and pain / of being young; that it can't come again, / But is for others undiminished somewhere.” You will never again be the person who made all those mistakes; you will never again be the person you once were, as foolish as she was, or even the wretched, sleepless person you are now. The only thing left to do is get older. And to sleep, if you can.

Elizabeth Gumport is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Manhattan. You can read more of her work here and here. She last wrote in these pages about the life of J.D. Salinger. The photographs of Yasmine Chatila can be seen here and here.

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“Topanga Canyon” - John Phillips (mp3)

“I Will Never Marry” - Linda Ronstadt (mp3)

“Blue Bayou” - Linda Ronstadt (mp3)