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Alex Carnevale

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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 We Vaguely Know You Come To Life

Above Corruption


I have a hard time with art galleries, whether they are very small rooms on the way to work or large museums packed with artifacts. I would like to enjoy my time in them but for the most part, I do not. I have never had a satisfying experience in an art gallery and I would not say that it is the gallery’s fault or even particularly my fault. Why speak of fault at all?  

Art is about embodiment, and the space between the walls where the paintings hang protected and my body is large. I cannot be what I am seeing or do anything about it. I must blindly consume, pronounce a judgment, feign a stronger emotion than I am feeling. This appreciation is dismembered; much like standing in a crowded room, when I do not have enough hands to touch every person around me in greeting, enough mouths to speak to them, I cannot give enough of myself to this experience. I am paralyzed, made unbodied.

The only gallery I enjoyed visiting is the Villa Borghese outside of Rome. Many of Bernini’s sculptures live in this manor, where only small groups of people are permitted to enter at a time. Apollo and Daphne, one of Bernini’s best-loved works, stands in the center of a room. You can walk up quite closely to it and look at the folds of stone cloth and the dimples where Apollo is pressing his fingers into Daphne’s flesh. Apollo wants to rape Daphne. He has been chasing her through the woods, and when she realizes that she will not be able to outrun him, she calls upon her father to transform her into a laurel tree. As Apollo wraps an arm around her waist, he discovers bark where there was once soft skin. Her fingers and arms turn into branches. Her hair sprouts into the very wreath of leaves that Apollo will later use to decorate the heads of victors, of men become gods...

Only what is incarnate can be violated.


Being a body narrows you. Genetics predetermine the star of your face, the hills and valleys nourished below. I cannot be all things, as a body. As a mind, I can bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things. But my body is a full stop, a contained space, an impermanent expression of creative energy.

Art objects, too, are narrow. “Writing is a little door,” said Susan Sontag, “Some fantasies, like big pieces of furniture, won’t come through.” An art object is a slice of the world, a representative, perhaps male or female, of one race or another, a tightly-packaged experience. I want this object to be all things but to ask it to contain more than it does is to deny its very being. As an embodiment, it is bound by its curves and contours.

When I ask, “Why doesn’t this art object embody an experience that is important to me?”, and become angry, it is a bit like shaking a child and screaming, “Why aren’t you a bird?” I may marvel at the fact that this object could have been any number of things, so long as I recognize it for what it is, give it credit for the beautiful disaster that is its embodiment.

Criticizing an art object, faulting it for its lacks and limitations, is a violation; a small one, yes, but a violation nonetheless.


“What about bad art?”

Irrelevant question.


Dance, then, is absolutely pure. And isn’t it ironic that it is this form of art, this form of expression, that causes the most panic and self-consciousness? We dance in small, dim spaces, mostly hidden from view. The act has been called frivolous, childish, dangerous, yet there is no form of embodiment more intense than dancing. Here, various incarnations touch, interact, share a moment in time. If anything this is the only place where art can be panoramic: bigger than itself, more than a single voice, experience or expression.



What do I mean when I say embodiment? I mean quite simply that the objects we create are incarnational. They are ideas become flesh, dwelling among us. They are real and not deceptive, although they are incredibly disruptive. To create an art object is to endow a beloved or feared thought with arms and legs and a will of its own and watch it build and destroy worlds. This has nothing to do with whether or not it is “good” by any standard. This has something to do with an old, bearded God reaching upside-down across the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and touching a human into life. “I know you, come to life,” he says, “now go do.”


Tastes and preferences change over time. If I am starving, I will eat what is put on the table in front of me, even if the meat is tainted or the fruit is rotten. Given the choice, though, I will eat what is satisfying, nutritious. Given a myriad of choices, I will eat what is popular, easily acquired.

Like so many people, I am secretly starving for companionship. I will listen to what voices I can get, at the press of a button, at the recommendation of a web site. I will not necessarily go looking for the relationships that truly fulfill me. Then, poorly satisfied, the words mal-absorbed into my system, I will complain that what I found was not what I was looking for.

When I learn that an object is poisonous, I know I should stay away from it. But it doesn’t take much pride for me to continue consuming it, believing as I do that my body is above corruption and violation.

I ask, “What will this do to me? What will I do with this?”


Is it important that I identify with an art object? In my view, I am simultaneously the most beautiful and the most foul being imaginable. This double vision applies, too, to art; what enamors me can in its own time become frightening. What is delicious can be too rich, too much for me to handle. I am not always ready to encounter what I observe. Like my relationships, the traumas of which mold and shape my personality, my interactions with art have taken me out of myself, made me intensely uncomfortable. The ones that have not done so, the ones that have been too cloying, too reassuring, I have not been able to trust.

This is, after all, a personality flaw.

But in the same way that I would not want a friend who would not tell me true — even if it meant that I had to see myself in a garish new light, hang in a different, less-visited corner of a gallery — I do not want to surround myself with art that does not occasionally put me on edge, or break my heart.


It takes two to create: myself, and the strain of thought inside of me that won’t be still until it has been given a body. 

Kara Vanderbijl is the managing editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She last wrote in these pages about her trip to New York City. She tumbls here and twitters here.

"A Beautiful Night for a Party" - Scouting for Girls (mp3)

"Rockin' All Over The World (live on the BBC)" - Scouting for Girls (mp3)


In Which We Made A List Of Gift Ideas For You And Your Loved Ones

Christmas Reading


It's always nice to cuddle up in an armchair that encircles me completely like a lover, holding in my clunky hands an e-reader stained with the juices of avocados, imported grapes and that tetanus shot. In those moments time itself stands still, and I am brought back to a familiar yet unfamiliar moment that of being in the womb.

Real books made of paper hold little interest for me now, but I understand that for others they remain a novelty. Instead of looking at the binded paper as simply a conduit for information, I now purely view it as a material good, like a dinner bell, a caftan, or a PlayStation 4. I was not paid for any of the recommendations I make here, or even slightly encouraged. If you're going to accept amoral blings and blangs for your tactfulness, make sure it's from an oil company.

Sometimes when I'm in the only hipster coffee shop in Wyoming, trolling for people to hand out "flyers" for my "lost dog" as a means of getting their fingerprints, I see what people are actually reading. Everytime I see the name Jonathan Franzen on a spine I want to cry out, but instead I just bing Michael Chabon divorce and hope today will be different.

As a status symbol, a physical book is better than a crown I suppose. People still like to receive them, it would seem, so I have written down some options for your loved ones. But if you do find a woman or feminine-looking man that you really want to impress, don't give her a book, give her a Sea-Doo watercraft. She'll leap on you like your blouse is on fire.

Compared to Ugly Duckling Presse, every other independent press is gross and weird. Ugly Duckling's Brooklyn location publishes fine poetry and prose in the loveliest imaginable editions, and unlike the kickstarter you funded for a book featuring all of Chip Kidd's sketches of penises, the end product is sure to find your door. Moreover, your lady friend to be will be reminded of you all year, and not just of vague texts like, "Ur my orange peel," none of that, just exquisite poetry to shake the rafters. The only man who did not have to continually remind a woman of his greatness was David Ben-Gurion. A base membership is only $60.

Emily Books is well on its way to becoming the premiere book-of-the-month club for women in America. (I think once or twice they chose a book by a man, but it was not very well received.) The idea for the club, born in Emily Gould's kitchen or finished basement, consisted of the possibility that women could be taught to think less of their partners by specific movements in literature. Once you see Keith Gessen's chest hair up close though, it's very hard to think badly of men. But seriously, these young women have exquisite taste in books, and when I see Lynne curled up with the latest Scott Turow I kind of wince. Turning me onto the magnificent writing of Rebecca Brown was merely their opening act. If only Park Slope had been around when I was looking for a wife. Joining Emily Books is so cheap too you guys, I mean Emily was pretty nice to you, why can't you support her thing?

The club's December pick was its most inspired so far. Elena Ferrante's The Days of Abandonment mixes the two intellectual concepts I find most attractive in other people a contagious sadness and the possibility of humor in any moment.

But yes, actual books, not just pathetic jokes about people who are actually interested in them. The New York Review of Books began their own subscription club fairly recently, although none of their fall titles really rustled my jimmies. Spring 2014 looks a lot more promising, as the label brings out Hillel Halkin's exciting translation of Eli Amir's The Dove Flyer, which you can find elsewhere if you're impatient. Halkin is not only the best translator of Hebrew alive, he may be the finest in any language besides Lydia Davis. (Her Proust remains the iconic gift for a gay man in love.) The new season also promises On Being Blue by William Gass and an erotic collection of the poems of A.K. Ramanujan.

New Directions is still an exciting and eclectic publisher, even if they seem to be focused on the discursiveness of the past rather than the present. This year they offer two volumes completely suitable for the other person in your life. Imagine how happy her face will be when instead of displaying that engagement ring, you give her ND's marvelous release of the Emily Dickinson envelope poems, The Gorgeous Nothings, with an essay by the poet Susan Howe. I think it might be sold out, so go with God/Margaret Atwood and consider Takashi Hiraide's feline novel The Guest Cat and the long-awaited collected poems of Denise Levertov. They make magical gifts as well.

Have you ever felt that 90 percent of the people in the world were named Molly or Emily? You're not alone.

Ever since I wrote my now legendary teardown of Fox's fetid show Almost Human, publishing companies have been sending me the latest science fiction, although nothing by Peter Hamilton, since I don't have anything close to that amount of time on my hands. Major standouts include the beautifully crafted custom editions provided by the best niche press in publishing, William Schafer's Subterranean Press. If I had an unlimited amount of money I would buy all of the Michigan press' lettered and limited editions (you can usually request your LE number, I routinely pick 69 for giggles). Especially popular has been a lively and bright new version of The Shining. Gift editions are still available according to the publisher, who I badger on gchat constantly by reiterating how much The Dark Tower sucks.

A new anthology by George R.R. Martin and the equally rotund Gardner Dozois entitled Dangerous Women feels a bit hastily slapped together, as if the best writers in the field were busy trying to put more sex in their novels and this is what was left. Still, at $20 this makes a nice coffee table book for your new girlfriend, or if you're feeling generous, her earthy daughter. Try not to laugh when the top google search result for 'dangerous women' is now a book edited by two dangerously obese men.

A better choice would be Gene Wolfe's new Kafka paean The Land Across, which features feuding magicians, a mediocre dictatorship, treasure hunting and a fairly long prison stay squeezed in there as well. Wolfe's recent novels are almost all dialogue, making them perfect for any travel that doesn't have an ending destination in Eastern Europe. After reading about the land, you will not want to go there anytime soon.

The Land Across was almost the best book I read from this year (it came out over Thanksgiving) but it was not the best book I read from this year. (Well, Morrissey's autobiography was stellar too, did you perchance know he was sad?)

That honor goes to Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries, winner of the Man Booker Prize. One time I promised Lynne I would spend the entire day speaking in back cover plaudits. Lynne was "a masterpiece, a woman that any thinking person should read and enjoy," my mailman was "a key treatise...Genuinely thrilling," and my younger daughter was "Gripping; Got me in her clutches and would not let go." For some reason I feel the exact same way about anything that takes place in New Zealand or involves the name Eleanor.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in an undisclosed hipster coffee shop. You can find an archive of his writing in these pages here. He last wrote in these pages about evolving at an uncontrollable pace.

For further recommendations in this field, experience:

100 greatest novels

100 greatest sff novels

our novels, ourselves

"Beautiful Lie" - Sophie Madeleine (mp3)

"Let's Never Love" - Sophie Madeleine (mp3)

The new album from Sophie Madeleine is entitled Silent Cynic, and it was released on November 1st.


In Which He Kept A Closet Full Of Sweaters

Unknown Artist


I met Dan during my first November in New York City at a friend's housewarming party. I picked him out of the crowded basement immediately as being the only guy there who didn’t look like he had rolled straight out of a frat house. He was exactly my type: tall, slim, and slightly scruffy but in a way that looked thoroughly thought out  essentially just a shave and a corduroy blazer away from being Wes Anderson. I was wearing my best selection of H&M separates and attempting to look completely relaxed while I hijacked the host's computer in search of more party-worthy tunes. I had just started DJ-ing a much better playlist, when he came over to help me find some David Bowie and introduce himself. By the end of the night we were making out in the passenger seat of his friend’s parked car, steaming up the windows like a scene from some teenage movie.

When he called the next day to ask me out on a real date, I was overjoyed. Between complications of my own shyness and then a car accident that had kept me out of commission for awhile, I hadn’t had any male contact beyond a high five or an awkward hug in over two years. The fact that I had finally found someone I wanted to kiss and that person wanted to kiss me back was almost overwhelming. I had come barreling into the city practically declaring how independent I was going to be, working for a nonprofit theatre company and getting a gym membership and taking improv classes. But now here was Dan, so mature with his beard and his History degree that my brain started to forget about its need for schedules and computers and adult achievements. I wanted that other thing that grown-up city-dwellers had  a relationship.

We were essentially strangers to each other and so had very formal dates at the start — like sushi dinners and serious movies at BAM — as if we had to make up for steaming up a car before we had even talked about where we went to college and how many siblings we had. Dan was only a few months older than me, but I looked up to him as if that gap was ten years. He had attended NYU so his six-or-so years of city-dwelling made him a pro in comparison to me, constantly carrying a laminated map of Manhattan. He introduced me to McSorley’s, Korean restaurants in Woodside, downtown diners, Chinatown karaoke, and his friends’ creaky apartments in the South Slope. Though his apartment was modest, he lived just a short stroll away from Prospect Park and we spent our weekend mornings walking down Park Slope’s 5th Ave in search of good strong coffee and baked goods. He had a room full of books and a closet full of sweaters and kept a small, separate, unheated room in his apartment that he used strictly for writing. I was smitten with his seriousness.

I was totally falling for him. Not just him, but the whole relationship fantasy. I made us breakfast on the weekends. I bought him funny ties from the Salvation Army. At work, I would gchat him as often as possible, always waiting for that little window to blink at the bottom of my screen. One time I came straight from the gym to his place so we could make a “fancy” (meaning: served with wine) spaghetti dinner together — a move that felt very daring to me. I figured if Dan still wanted to see me with slightly sweaty hair and a sports-bra-induced uni-boob, then everything was going to be OK. We went to some holiday parties, friends of his from school, and if I’d start drinking and dancing, he’d get fake-embarrased and say “Oh no, Molly’s getting wild with the dance moves again!” It made me feel like we were an old married couple and this was our usual party-going schtick.

At Christmas time, we exchanged the ultimate early-relationship gifts: mix CDs. I put so much time into mine, packing it with hip, '70s rock, touches of ironic dance music, and a sly progression into serious topics. It started with Calvin Harris’ “I Created Disco” and ended with The Zombies’ “The Way I Feel Inside," which I figured was a pretty good emotional journey. I even got a blank jewel case and collaged an album cover, with weird animal pictures cut out of magazines. By contrast, Dan’s mix had been burned onto a blank disc and came without any attached description — not even a track listing. Plain and mysterious, but at the same time, charming. He also knew how to carefully scatter ironic pop, with the Tommy Jones and the Shondells hit "Crystal Blue Persuasion" and "She's Gone" by Hall & Oates placed in between more serious Pavement and Lou Reed tracks. I imported it into my iTunes and labeled the album "Xmas Dan,” leaving the ten or so songs I didn't know stuck with the standard double-digit track number and "Unknown Artist" listing. I listened to it over and over as if his mix, too, might have a buried message of true love and adoration that I could dig out after so many listens.

Towards the end of January, I figured we had made it through the awkwardness of the holidays and things could only get better. We had been dating nearly three whole months, which was pretty epic for me. I was starting to try out the words "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" — although still not quite ready to try them out in front of Dan. One freezing Saturday night I met him at his apartment so we could go to my friend James’ house party in Bushwick together. Dan usually met me at the stoop outside, but this time he called me and asked me to come upstairs first. I didn’t suspect anything could be wrong until he invited me in, asked me to sit down and offered me some water. I went stone-faced and slowly sat on his bed.

He said he liked me. I was a great person. But he didn’t see where this relationship was going. (I didn’t either, I suppose, but I had never realized that could be a problem.) His job was getting busier, he was trying to figure out some life goals, and this all meant that it was a bad time for him to be in a relationship. He thought it would be best if we stopped seeing each other. These were all stupid excuses that most ladies my age had surely heard many times and could just roll their eyes about and move on, but for me it was the first time. And it hit hard. It was like a switch flipped inside my chest — I went from sweet and composed to a crying and crumpled mess in about ten seconds. I begged him for a better explanation than “bad timing,” but he didn’t have one. He looked at the floor with his hands in his pockets, silent in contrast to my sobs. I finally pulled myself together, got up, and said I was leaving. He asked “Are you sure?” and for a moment I thought he was having second thoughts, but I realized he was just being polite, like I was a dinner guest who had lingered a little too long after dessert. He said goodbye, closed his door, and that was it. I walked out of his apartment in slow motion and stopped in the freezing air on his stoop. It felt like the me who had entered his apartment fifteen minutes ago was now curled up inside this harder, frozen shell of the new me. I had no idea what to do but I knew that I couldn’t go home and be alone. So I decided to go to the party anyway.

I showed up at James’ place in Bushwick about 45 minutes later, too early for the party but already exhausted. The long subway ride had given me time to replay the entire 2 and ¾ months with Dan in my head, searching for answers. Was it because of the sports bra uni-boob? Or was it the crazy dance moves? Was he secretly seeing someone else? James was shocked to see me at his place so early and red-faced from crying. Only he and his roommate were there, wearing their nice plaid shirts and quietly playing music from their rooms. I told James I was so sorry I was a mess and explained what had just happened, saying that I didn’t know where else to go. Like any good host, James immediately sat me down at the kitchen table and brought out a glass and some vodka. He didn’t have anything to mix it with except grape soda, which was gross but also so dismally perfect. In the absence of any lady friends, James assumed the role, saying “what a dickhead” and “you’re better off without him.” He promised me that I had made the right decision to come party with him rather than being alone and sad and said that I could drink as much vodka as a I wanted. So with him and his roommate, I drank my purple drink. And drank and drank. My blur of sadness mixed into my blur of drunkenness as more people began to arrive and the apartment filled with the smells of weed and sweat and the beats of old hip hop.

I kept going through the full cycle of emotions like a bipolar patient on speed. I would feel so drunk that I would nearly forget what happened and start dancing and yelling, like any old party, but then it would wash over me again. Dan wasn’t here to get fake-embarrassed about it and then take me home afterward. I’d slink into the corner and get silent, then go into the bathroom and curl up on the bathmat. Then after I’d cried all I could cry, I’d stumble out of the bathroom and James would hand me another grape soda cocktail and I’d start dancing again. Eventually I gave up and made the long journey home, numb from tears and vodka.

I kept listening to the “Xmas Dan” mix for weeks after the impact. But this time I was hoping to discover some kind of justification for why he would have dumped me. There wasn’t one. Eventually, the days got warmer and my insides stopped feeling like ice too. I met different boys — and even some men — and I pushed Dan into the back of my mind. I went back to my job, my blog, and improv classes, finding my own new city hangouts. That winter became just a little stumbling block in my memory, a misfire at the beginning of a race for coupledom and companionship. Eventually, he was out of my head and heart altogether — except for those brief memories that stirred whenever a mystery song from the mix showed up in the shuffle of my iPod, jolting me back to into that other time.

Track 07 is an Animal Collective song called "Winter's Love" and when I learned the title I had to smile a little at the perfection of it all. Dan was my winter's love. We didn’t have a love that was meant to blossom into spring or sweat into a dirty New York summer — even though that’s what I so wanted at the time. It was an experience that was just long enough to give me little moments that I could experience and then put away — just like the CD itself. I'll never know Dan's intention with that song — if there even was one beyond it being "cool" — but the sentimental part of me likes to think he put it there for the name too. It was my first New York winter and I needed someone — someone to go to the movies with, make fancy spaghetti dinners with, keep me warm and make me feel like I really belonged. But eventually I needed a soft push into the cold to figure it all out on my own.

Molly Cameron is a contributor to This Recording. This is her first appearance in these pages. She is a writer living in New York. You can find her website here.