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Alex Carnevale

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen

Reviews Editor
Ethan Peterson

This Recording

is dedicated to the enjoyment of audio and visual stimuli. Please visit our archives where we have uncovered the true importance of nearly everything. Should you want to reach us, e-mail alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com, but don't tell the spam robots. Consider contacting us if you wish to use This Recording in your classroom or club setting. We have given several talks at local Rotarys that we feel went really well.

Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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In Which We Show You How To Use The Tumblr Website

So You Think You Can Tumbl?


There is sufficient scientific evidence to suggest that having a presence on Tumblr will one day count for as much as a primordial cave drawing or an ancient love letter found floating inside a champagne bottle. Admittedly, the platform’s popularity makes it intimidating to many people; if we could get a quarter for every time somebody asked us how to become Tumblr-famous, we would be neighbors with David Karp in Williamsburg. But we are nothing if not generous, so instead of hoarding all the soft-focus pictures of cats and beautiful women for our own reblogging purposes, here are a few tips on how to win followers and get your fifteen seconds of fame.

You will need:
- A Tumblr account
- Basic grammar and spelling skills
- A slight sense of desperation

- The ability to use/recognize irony
- A photogenic face

1. First, write what you know. It’s a cliche, we know, but it is easier to come across as genuine when you are writing what you really care about. Of course, what you care about should fall into a category that everybody else cares about, otherwise nobody will visit your tumblr. As you are thinking about what content you want to post, keep this acronym in mind: EWBP. The only things that really matter on Tumblr are what can be Eaten, Worn, Bought, Photographed. Truly viral posts generally combine one or more of them. Ideally, your blog should focus on these four foundational principles, so spend a lot of time thinking about what you consume. When in doubt, consider writing about one of these topics:

- How hungover you are
- Brunch
- Walking around the city
- Your cat
- How unappreciative your parents are of your lifestyle choices
- How unfair it all is
- A glossed-over account of your shitty job
- How the patriarchy has ruined the world forever
- Your take on a current event, especially if it involves a celebrity
- How you came out of the womb liking something that happens to be very trendy at the moment
- How you just want to get away from it all

2.  Find a clever byline. Your byline is what differentiates you from everyone else. Try to be perky and positive in a self-deprecating and ironic way. This is an easy way to promote yourself but also seem like you’d be really approachable and funny at a party which is important if you plan on attending Tumblr meetups. For example, instead of writing, “Rachel Jones is a writer living in Los Angeles”, you should probably say, “Rachel Jones is a tea-guzzling, Warby Parker-wearing, Tina Fey-admiring nerd” because that will make you sound cool and edgy but also like everyone else.

3. Write in the second person. On Tumblr, “you” is another word for “I”. Even though your therapist keeps telling you that you really ought to start owning your failures, narrating your life story in the second person is the surest way to elicit empathy from your readers. Not only does this allow you to distance yourself from the reality that you ate an entire pizza and watched Netflix for fifteen hours straight on a pile of dirty laundry, but you will be able to trap your readers into thinking that they have done the same. Now you’ll be able to enumerate the details of your interminable brunches without guilt, because obviously everybody has a weakness for reading about other people eating giant pancakes!

4. Have a cat or a mysterious love interest. It can be hard to discern how much you want to share about your love life on Tumblr. If you’re the sort of person who wants to bare all, we suggest you get a cat. You’ll be able to feel genuine affection for this animal, exploit it as necessary for photographs, and talk about it without worrying that it will feel upset about how much of your relationship has been publicly discussed. (See also: small children). If you must discuss your human companion, stick to talking about being in bed together or visiting popular, preferably urban destinations. Happy couples on Tumblr generally don’t own cats. If you are in a happy relationship, you should consider getting a dog, but if you do, you shouldn’t blog about it. People prefer to read about unhappy relationships.

5. Learn the language. Visiting a foreign country can be difficult when you can’t find anyone who speaks English. So imagine how challenging your followers will find it if you don’t incorporate Tumblr’s most basic language into your posts! All users eventually come to embrace the lingo, both as a way of feeling included and as a way of adding what they feel is their own personal spin on viral expressions or memes. What follows is a basic glossary of common Tumblr terms and how to use them:

- This. Placed carefully under a picture of an aesthetic apartment, outfit, celebrity, or well-worded rant, this term indicates your approval of what you are reblogging and communicates that if you had more time, motivation, money or intelligence, you would buy it, photograph it, or  you guessed it  eat it.

- GPOY. Floating somewhere above this phrase is a picture of a blogger, posted gratuitously, although he or she is generally not familiar with both meanings of the term “gratuitous”. Use this tag or phrase as a caption for selfies you take, generally on or around your bed, wearing headphones.

- #Feelings. Often posted as a tag, this term hints at the overall embarrassment, yet secret pleasure,  the blogger might feel for having written a long-winded, emotional post about very personal things. Try to reserve this tag for posts that deal with death, complicated relationships with parents, your love for your city, etc.

- “All the...” True to the spirit of the age, Tumblr-ites are rabid consumers. In posts where you reference how much of something you’d like or would not like, try to use the phrase “all the” to express the intensity of your desire. For example, instead of posting, “I would like donuts”, you should write, “I would like all the donuts”, implying that your need for all the donuts outweighs your consideration that all the other people might also want donuts, that if you were given the opportunity you would clean out all the donut houses in all the world for your hungry little tummy.

- #NYFW. Even if you are not or have never been interested in visiting New York City, you should consider posting something about New York Fashion Week. It is an intensely popular, discussed, and overrated event that takes place in NYC two times a year, so it is virtually impossible to escape blogger coverage of it. Consider tagging any fashion posts with this term so that you’ll get more hits, even if it’s only your outfit of the day that comes directly from H&M or Target.

- Le. Le sigh. Le pout. Le frozen pizza. French is truly a fetishized language on Tumblr, and nobody cares if you’re actually using the word correctly or not. Tack it in front of a noun and you’ll immediately sound more sophisticated or cutesy. Boys who look and act like Mr. Darcy will write you long-winded emails about your sharp mind and your incomparable looks and fall at your feet drooling in spasms of glee. At least, you can imagine that this is actually what’s happening behind the enigmatic “[username] liked your post”.

6. Date another Tumblr user. Although its inhabitants tend to keep this under wraps, Tumblrville is prime real estate for snagging a hottie. If you spark a blogger romance with someone, keep the details on the DL (see #4), but remember that having a long distance relationship, especially one that originated on the Internet, is perfect fodder for #feelings posts. Weave a virtual love story worthy of any tabloid! When you have kids, don’t forget to include pictures of them almost as soon as they emerge from the womb. It is crucial that their internet presence begin from day one; this will contribute to their popularity later on and they will be so thankful for your help.

7. Make the most of your ask-box. The questions and comments you receive in your ask box will be either your refuge or the bane of your existence, depending on how many vocal internet trolls follow your blog. Make sure to be as volatile as possible in your answers to both praise and criticism, since everybody on Tumblr loves drama. For example, instead of ignoring hate mail from an Anonymous asker, you could answer with inflammatory criticism of your own. Include plenty of references to Satan, the patriarchy, complaints about how you can never just be left alone, and veiled references to how much ice cream you will have to eat to make up for this in your answer. If you receive a genuine compliment, assume a humble stance and make a joke about how self-promoting your blog is becoming.

8. Invest in your persona. When you wake up in the morning, one of your first thoughts should be: how can my life contribute to my blog today? Spend a few minutes planning out your day in “bloggable” increments. Ask yourself whether or not the outings, people, or items you have on your calendar will look good on your blog. Sure, you may want a hamburger for lunch, but sushi is more photogenic. Do you really want to wear those sweatpants? Okay, but take care when applying your makeup so that your selfie will look good. The more you spend time cultivating your persona, the more content you will generate, and the more followers you will acquire. You should be posting 3-4 times an hour, if not more. For lulls, keep a few photos of cats, outfits, quotes, songs, or rants stashed in your queue. You can always schedule them to post regularly while you’re on vacay.

9. Post when you can’t sleep. Forget counting sheep. If you’re having trouble catching the Sandman, log in to Tumblr and share your deep late night thoughts. “I couldn’t sleep,” you should begin, “so I was just thinking...” Talk about your deepest fears. Practice letting it all go. Post it privately if you don’t feel comfortable sharing it with others. Better yet, forget editing it at all and put it up for all to see in the morning. Everyone will admire your emotional courage; they’ll know that the grammatical faux pas and the spelling errors are evidence of your turmoil. If you are a perfect speller even when you’re tired, throw in a few “it’s” when they should be “its”. Tumblr users love that.

10. Reblog. Reblog. Reblog. You should be reblogging people a lot, especially if the content falls into one of the EWBP categories. It is always best to reblog a post that somebody spent a lot of time writing and give your opinion on what they said, especially if it is a negative opinion. We would highly advise against calling somebody a name but you should logically, grammatically, and aesthetically pwn the other person. This is a great way to fire up some healthy rivalry and gain new followers. Plus, fights on the Internet always turn out better because they never resort to actual blows and you can keep all of your resentment inside of your soul or in anonymous ask box comments.

11. Become a “hate read”. If all else fails, strive to become an object of unaffected scorn.

Kara VanderBijl is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She last wrote in these pages about Les Misérables. She tumbls here and twitters here.


In Which Nobody Sees Us Glowing

Living Alone



“Your absence has gone through me/Like thread through a needle,” reads W.S. Merwin’s classic, tiny poem “Separation.” “Everything I do is stitched with its color.”

Some poems go through me like thread through a needle, including that one. I carry them with me, my mind snags on their lines, so that the words color the patterns of my thoughts. They form and they reflect my relationship with myself, my fantasy of myself.


“I am too pure for you or anyone,” I sometimes find my mind iterating on a loop. This is from Sylvia Plath’s “Fever 103˚,” a famous poem, and a characteristically Plath-ian one. It combines many of Plath’s preoccupations — heat, sickness and hospitals, purity, flowers, religion, war and atrocity — with her penchant for a keen and forceful melodrama.

The poem cycles through a violent rush of images, presumably mimicking the assault of visions in a fever dream. But the lines I love best reflect a vision that Plath has of herself. “I am too pure for you or anyone,” she writes.

Your body
Hurts me as the world hurts God. I am a lantern 

My head a moon
of Japanese paper, my gold beaten skin
Infinitely delicate and expensive.

Does not my heat astound you. And my light.
All by myself I am a huge camellia
Glowing and coming and going, flush on flush.


In Plath’s work we see a fixation on personal purity. Esther, the protagonist of her novel The Bell Jar, takes painfully hot baths essentially to re-baptize herself. But Plath’s purity is a hard thing: it is not about innocence, or religious goodness, or sexual abstinence. It is more about wholeness, being a complete and original self, unadulterated by any other personality.

The purity in “Fever 103˚” is coupled with a ravishing delicacy, the image of a body like a flower or a paper lantern. These all work to establish the speaker of “Fever 103˚” as separate from other people — both blessedly and painfully so. To think of oneself as set apart by purity, by beauty, and by delicacy is also to think of oneself as constantly being sullied, tarnished and damaged by other people. 


When I was in eighth grade we read Plath’s poem “Mushrooms” out loud over and over. I can hear my English teacher, Mrs. Hodgin, saying in her Louisiana accent, “Nobody sees us,/Stops us, betrays us;/The small grains make room,” pounding her fist on the accented syllables. “So many of us!/So many of us!” we shouted, and at that point in the poem I sometimes felt slightly nauseous. It was not until I reread the poem as an adult that I realized that it was actually and concretely about mushrooms.

The ritual repetition of this poem whose only meaning for me was the synesthetic evocation of an olive-brown color along with a slow, uneasy feeling has caused its lines to stick with me, as mysterious and grave as enchantments. “Our toes, our noses/Take hold on the loam” are the lines that will come creeping terribly through my mind, settling in, permeating everything.

We talked a lot about Plath’s suicide then. Plath maybe had not really meant to kill herself, Mrs. Hodgin told us. She frequently put her head in the oven on days when she knew her mother was visiting, as a cry for help.

Who knows if that story’s true. I’ve never bothered to confirm it.


This was around the same time that I felt my own separation from other people revealed to me. The summer after eighth grade, I was convinced I was going to die before my thirteenth birthday in August. I stopped sleeping. I turned on my overhead light one day and then it wouldn’t turn off. After a week, I cut its wires with kitchen shears. Even after I didn’t die, something monstrous followed me, I felt my heart and my brain rush, I was tense all the time. I sometimes have a perverse sense looking back that this suffering was the raw truth of my identity. “Today, recognizing it as the sadness I’ve always had,” Marguerite Duras writes in her novel The Lover, the story of a teenage girl discovering herself stricken by separateness, “I could almost call it by my own name, it’s so like me.” Eventually I was put on antidepressants and I read The Bell Jar, of course. I knew the feeling of being set apart by sadness, Sylvia and I, alone together.


I talk to myself often in lines from Anne Carson’s “On Defloration,” from her prose poem series “Short Talks.” “The actions of life are not so many,” Carson writes.

To go in, to go in secret, to cross the Bridge of Sighs. And when you dishonored me, I saw that dishonor is an action. It happened in Venice; it causes the vocal cords to swell. I went booming through Venice, under and over the bridges, but you were gone. Later that day I telephoned your brother. What’s wrong with your voice? he said.

I think of the scene of Esther losing her virginity in The Bell Jar, and the traumatic, torrential bleeding that follows. It makes sense that someone with such fiercely guarded purity would take this invasion of her body harder than most.


To be dishonored is not an action. It is a state of being, a state of insult continually renewed as a camellia’s delicate petals are bruised and bruised.

“If he’s attracted to you,” my friend Matt said this winter, in a booth near the door of a freezing dive bar, “it’s probably because you have a way of identifying things about people. You can sort of say… what the situation is.” Any man who would be attracted to me, if I understand what Matt was saying, is the kind of man who enjoys the negative attention of being told what his problem is.


Many of the poems I have stuck in my head are badly misremembered. “One day I will say to you how all mixed up I am because of you” is my brain’s mangled version of a line from John Ashbery’s “Worsening Situation”: “One day I’ll claim to you/How all used up I am because of you.” But the song remains the same — the tone is injured, self-pitying, accusatory, the complaint of the dishonored.

Richard Hugo’s poem “Living Alone” tells the story of an eccentric and possibly sinister “animal man” who lives a solitary life in a cabin in the woods. My deep association with this poem is sort of inexplicable; although when the animal man describes how he has named the deer near his cabin, there is the wonderful line, “Alice, I liked best.” It is the poem’s simple title that reverberates for me. “The city burning is Los Angeles’s deepest image of itself,” Joan Didion writes. My deepest image of myself is of a person living alone.


In my romantic disappointments it is always the problem of being drawn to people who are “unavailable,” meaning in a relationship, newly out of a relationship, or living in a different state. The coarsest armchair psychology can explain that when a person is attracted to unavailable people, it is because they themselves are unavailable — because they fear intimacy, because they feel must avoid threats to their individuality, because the self is a secret they do not want to disclose, or because they have fetishized their loneliness.

In Woody Allen’s film Manhattan, Mary, played by Diane Keaton, has just been dumped by her married boyfriend, so she goes to visit Allen’s character, Isaac. “You pick a married guy, and when it doesn’t work out, it confirms your worst feelings,” Isaac tells her. “What worst feelings?” Mary asks. “You know,” Isaac says, “your feelings about men and marriage and that nothing works.”

If you are convinced that nothing works out, you can choose a romantic situation that’s already broken. You can confirm your existential separateness by choosing situations where alienation is assured. You can seek to be dishonored because it reinforces your purity.


“Only connect…” reads the epigraph to E.M. Forster’s masterpiece Howards End, his sprawling examination of turn-of-the century London and the effects of industrialization on the national soul. This is the motto of the novel’s innocent and strident and soulful heroine, Margaret Schlegel. She insists that it is a mistake to favor either the abstract or the concrete, the romantic or the practical, the rural or the urban, tradition or progress — it is the marriage of opposites that gives life its meaning and provides true insight. “Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon,” Forster writes. “Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no more.”

It is a rejection of purity — no one is set apart, and no one’s identity is completely their own. She seeks to connect life’s diverse aspects and to connect with other people. Margaret’s mission is always to be more trusting and less suspicious, even if it means she gets hurt, even if it means she is dishonored.

And I saw that trust is an action.


In Carson’s short talk “On Sylvia Plath,” she writes, “She said plain, burned things. She said I thought it an excellent poem but it hurt me.” This is a helpful frame for Plath, because it is an image not of a woman but of work — work that is marked by its terrible purity.


I am devoted to Plath, but I still cannot cultivate much interest in her biography, meaning mostly her marriage and death. This is because the portrait that her biography paints — of a fragile, overly emotional, unstable desperate housewife — does not line up with the portrait that I have developed of her through her work. I see Plath as a skillful and deliberate craftsperson, dominant over her words and her subjects. The extreme sentiments displayed in her work were a calculated performance. Lines as exquisite as “All by myself I am a huge camellia/Glowing and coming and going, flush on flush” simply could not have been written by a person who was completely out of control.

That Plath wrote fiercely about difficult emotions should not be ignored, but an idea of her as a figure of tragic separateness is really beside the point. I have learned to let go of thinking of her as pure and damaged and set apart, and I’m trying to stop thinking of myself that way. Now I love Plath not for her sadness, but for her strength.


It is complicated — there is the persona of Plath herself, the mature and technically gifted writer, and the persona Plath creates in her work, who I still sometimes cling to as a totem of resentment and bad-girl energy. Her diaries are so bitchy and self-pitying and dramatic that they are often very funny. The line from her diaries that I say to myself most is “I don’t care about anyone, and the feeling is quite obviously mutual.”

There is freedom in self-parody: the freedom to see that an extreme and romanticized vision of yourself does not account for all the complexities of who you are or could be. At one point I wrote in my eighth grade diary, “I am exceedingly sensitive, but I never let it show when someone hurts my feelings.” This is hilarious because it could not have been less true. It is complicated — the interaction of who you are and the lies you tell yourself about who you are.


If, like Matt said, I have a way of identifying what’s going on in other people’s heads, then that insight could lead me to be more open, to connect more, rather than making me more wary, more unavailable. I am a person who, when giving advice, has been known to repeat Bruce Springsteen lyrics like they are ancient and profound koans: “Don’t make no difference what nobody says,/Ain’t nobody like to be alone.”

The importance of Margaret’s ethos in Howards End is that in connecting, she is not flattening or simplifying the shades of human experience — she is more aware of the varying and contradictory elements that make up our lives and ourselves. “It is part of the battle against sameness,” she says. “Differences — eternal differences, planted by God in a single family, so that there may always be colour; sorrow perhaps, but colour in the daily grey.”

Alice Bolin is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Missoula.. She last wrote in these pages about Taylor Swift. She tumbls here and twitters here. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

"What's Your Name?" - Carillo (mp3)


In Which We Fall At An Inopportune Time

At Iliam


There is a room in the Philadelphia Museum of Art that houses ten Cy Twombly drawings in a series called “Fifty Days At Iliam.” Cy Twombly is dead now, which is a shame because he is irrefutably one of the most precious creators to ever have existed.

The room is set off to the corner like a restroom, so you must access it with determination or by accident, perhaps while looking for the restroom. But once you are in, it is just the one room, and in order to exit, you must go back the way you came. This is all weird because it feels like you’re in someone’s bedroom or studio apartment but without all the furniture. Just some art.

The series is a visual representation of the Illiad, which I told my father, is an epic poem by Homer.

“Have you heard of it?” I asked, while I drove, not looking at him.

“Yes,” he said. “I’ve heard of it.”

“Have you read it? You know, maybe in high school or whenever?” I asked, this time shifting my eyes slightly to the right. He had his hands in his lap, one cupping the other as if he were holding a dying gull or a pool of water that he didn’t want to spill. His knees were together, slightly turned inwards.

“I don’t think so,” he said, looking ahead at the road. “Maybe a really long time ago.”

“Oh, it’s not that great anyway. You’ll like the drawings more than the poem, I’m sure of it.” This time I turned to look at him briefly, smiling an unsympathetic smile, and then back on the road. The rain was picking up. I turned on my wipers.

“Are you at least excited to go to the museum?” I asked.

“Sure am,” he said. “But maybe we could stop and get me a handful of crackers first. I feel a little carsick.”

I didn’t know of anywhere to pick up only a handful of crackers. I kept driving down the turnpike hoping for a reprieve, a shallow anchor.


Off the highway and into the city, I felt a clicking beneath my canvas shoe, the one that rested off the brakes. It felt like something was stuck below the car’s anatomy, dragging along into the city like a noisy and irresponsible stowaway. I pressed my foot into the sound and it stopped. When I lifted my foot to listen again, nothing happened and the sound was gone.

“How did you ever get your driver’s license?” he grunted. “You don’t even use your turning signal!”

We parked in the lot that lays right out in front of the museum like a wet tarmac red carpet. It was $10, I paid the attendant, and when the car was turned off, I looked over at my father and felt something so close to pity, but that really registered as distaste. His face hadn’t changed the entire drive to the city—a full hour of unrestrained frowning, chiseled so deeply and with such genuine conviction that, as I thought about it, I couldn’t remember his face without the downturned lines. He reached down to adjust a shoelace, and then said, “Well?”

“Mm,” I said. “Let’s go.”


The very first time that my father was given his court-ordered permission to take my brother and I for the customary weekend visit, a very bad thing happened and I ended up in the hospital. I was four and blonde, still oppressively innocent and cherubic, but smarter than I am even now. I refused to speak until I turned five, a consequence of what my mother tells me was my rigid need to “observe.” Talking got in the way of commitment to perception. I was observing what a mistake everything was.

A cousin, several years older, had flung me through a glass table in a game that I couldn’t win. I cut my elbow badly. In the car to the hospital, I didn’t cry because my dad told me not to.

“It’s all right, sweetheart,” he looked back at me, blonde head now speckled with crusts of my own blood that had dried. “You’ll be fine, angel.” My brother, a year older, rode in the front seat. He stared straight forward and never said a word to me, too afraid that whatever he said would make me talk.

When I was in the hospital room, they drugged me with baby drugs and stitched me up with four stitches to stop the blood. It was a rich, unforgiving, mottled red.

My mother wanted to kill him.


Cy Twombly met Robert Rauschenberg when he moved to New York City and the two of them became rather chummy. It is rumored that they were lovers, and when they were given a grant by the Richmond Museum of Fine Arts, the pair traveled the world together collecting artifacts and romantically imagining cultures outside their own. The thought of that companionship nearly takes my breath away. If death were a measurement of skill and ingenuity, it let the wrong artist get buried first.

There aren’t any biographies on Cy Twombly, but there are at least a dozen coffee table books because his art looks spectacular when it’s strewn across sheets of glass that lay low to the floor and that make everyone under a certain tax bracket feel incredibly nervous when you’re over for espresso and wheat berry scones. Sadly, those people don’t really even get Cy Twombly. Not the way I do.


The rain was really pelting, so I changed into rainboots before I got out of the car, twisting and turning and throwing things overhead and behind me. Without explanation, my dad had gotten out, put on a khaki bucket hat with fishing wire tied around the rim, and stood there, waiting for me. He was soaking.

“Dad, get back in the car,” I yelled through the closed window, feeling selfish enough to want to stay dry while he got consistently wetter. “Dad! In the car!”

He didn’t even look in my direction. He zipped up his windbreaker and continued to get wet.

The sky in Philadelphia was turning a dim black and as we walked up the several flights of iconic steps that lead to the entrance of the museum, a very bad thing happened, and I tried to look away.

“Ma’am, are you all right?” my dad rumbled loudly toward the woman who had slipped, reaching his hand down in a gallant gesture that I’d never before seen him do. She lay, moaning, on her back, every raindrop pounding down on her face, body, hands, and her neck, which fell slackly back like Jesus of the Pietà. She didn’t respond, only gaped her mouth as wide open as it would go, drinking in the water like a pup. Water to wine. Water to wine.

“Let me help you up,” he yelled; the wind was picking up around him, and the first thing to fly off was the bucket hat with the fishing wire. He didn’t even grab after it, his focus so singular as to not have noticed. My position, several steps above both of them, was regal, political. I kept a severe distance. No hand in the fray, as much a Queen Elizabeth as a Pontius Pilate.

A crowd was beginning to form near the woman, closing in as well around my father, his long arm still reaching down, stretching, dripping, intense and tight. His position barely shifted as the others endeavored to help her. The weight of the crush rendered him to stone from my perch above. My father, one form of the Three Shades.


There are less than four reputable biographies on Auguste Rodin on the website Amazon.com. It seems this is due to people’s belief that artists’ work should speak for itself in the form of ninety-pound hardback books with inordinate and impractical trim sizes. But all I want to know is what Rodin was feeling when he sculpted the Gates of Hell. I’ve felt curious about Dante’s feelings while writing The Inferno. Both men must have struggled with such dark, unmoored obsessions.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art recently decided to exhibit several of Cy Twombly’s finished sculptures, of which none look like they are inspired by Rodin. They are rough, spackled, plain, and every bit as white as his most chaotic drawings aren’t. I find these sculptures heartbreaking because every sculptor should be inspired by Rodin at least a little bit.

When Twombly visited France for the first time in the mid-50s, he wore pressed gray slacks, a blue linen button-down with the sleeves rolled up, and navy suspenders. His clothes were never speckled with paint like other artists’ were because he took very meticulous care of his workspace, always wearing an apron over his clothes, and occasionally he’d tie shorn scraps of muslin around his brown loafers with rudimentary twine or elastics. In France, he beamed in photographs, but the draw to Italy was magnificently strong, where the sculptures were whiter than bleached farina and smooth like warmed milk.


My father had given up on the woman once authorities arrived. Within a terrifying, short instant, he was upright again, walking toward me, and my face, as grim as ever, watched him through two gray stones. Somehow there was light behind his green eyes, which I had never cared to notice were green. He blinked and they were black again.

“I’m soaked through,” he said to me from one step below.

“Yes. You looked awfully heroic, though.”

“I still feel carsick. That woman’s probably going to be in a bad way for a good while.”

The rain hadn’t stopped and I really hated getting wet and I found it impossible that my dad didn’t mind the weather.

“Can we go inside now?” he asked, and I was sure he meant it, though only because it was inside, and not necessarily because of what that inside was. We walked next to each other taking the steps slowly, aware more than ever of the danger a little water and concrete can befall upon you.

The museum felt wet and echoey, like the inside of a near-empty white vinegar bottle. I inhaled and walked forward, not certain that today was the day to step into the white room with the ten drawings that felt like a studio apartment without the coffee table and the coffee table books.

“What do you want to see first?” I asked my dad as he stripped off his cobalt windbreaker, shaking it without discretion all over the cerise hall rug, stained here and there with tourists’ accidents and curators’ coffee slips.

“The café. I’d like to grab a handful of crackers. I feel rather carsick.” Water to wine and back again.

Dayna Evans is the senior contributor to This Recording. She last wrote in these pages about not lust. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here. She tumbls here.

"Milk and Black Spiders" - Foals (mp3)

"Late Night" - Foals (mp3)