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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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Monday
Jun132016

In Which Some Of It Still Really Bothers Us

Pet Peeves

by DICK CHENEY

Lena Headey's eyebrows get darker by the day. As my wife Lynne well knows – we have had more than one messy row about the subject – my pet peeve is eyebrows that don't match the color of someone's hair. It's the reason, I believe, the Zac Efron has become Seth Rogen's sidekick when he might have been the next Fred Astaire. Or I guess Ginger Rogers was a possibility, too.

I have a lot of other pet peeves. Most of them are Game of Thrones-related, like:

I don't like that Jaime Lannister has basically ignored his missing hand for four seasons;

I don't like that the only character who manages to eat on this show is Sandor Clegane;

I don't like that Samwell Tarly's wife is extremely sparing with her affections;

I don't like that Bran looks like he should be married with children of his own by now;

I don't like that Tyrion Lannister hasn't had a meaningful plot development since he killed his dada;

I don't like that ppl are always referring to their spies as birds because they think it's cute, it sucks;

I don't like how Jaime Lannister's masterful generalship all occurred off-screen and made no sense at all;

I don't like how Jaime Lannister and Brienne did not share a soft hug upon parting;

I don't like how the actress playing Cersei Lannister in the stage adaptation of season 3 was a better actress than Lena Headey. Actually maybe I do.

I don't like how Cersei's massive bodyguard is about the dumbest plot device short of castration;

I don't like how all I see are ads for Sonic Burger and yet I have never seen an actual one of these restaurants IRL;

I don't like how it seems that not one character on this show has been the least bit altered from their introduction;

I don't like how Stephen Colbert believes he is the messiah sent from God to explain the right way to do everything and yet his show tanks every night in the ratings.

I love humility. It may not seem like it, but I do. It is also a fantastic character trait. It is why Brienne is so much fun to watch, and there is a lot to admire, but all the writers can obsess about is who is going to climb her pale carapace for a mounting.

Brienne puts herself down a lot, but you can see that she is mostly confident. Every other character on Game of Thrones without exception is always explaining how great and famous they are. Yet they haven't actually accomplished anything.

I mean, if you really look at Jaime Lannister's record, it isn't very impressive, and Tyrion pretty much connived his way right into exile. The Starks are only good at dying, and Ramsey Bolton hasn't shown up in like eight episodes, reportedly because he got in a fight with David Benioff over catering.

There is a startling dearth of accomplishment on this show. Even Arya's maniacal plotting has led to five years of training until she gave up and just went home. Her abysmal chase sequence with her cute friend was about as exciting as watching Wile E. Coyote saunter after his prey. One of these people has to be good at something.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

Friday
Jun102016

In Which There Were Too Many Homecomings For Daphne Du Maurier

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Little Points

by ELLEN COPPERFIELD

Daphne du Maurier's father was convinced his line would end with him, given that he fathered three daughters, and his only brother was killed in the world war. Gerald du Maurier hated being an actor, and occupied himself by plowing young actresses between scenes.

Daphne spent a lot of time with her father; things were cold and contentious with her mother for a long time. At first Gerald concealed his indiscretions, before openly introducing his conquests to his daughters. Perhaps Daphne had sensed them.

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Daphne wished she had been born a boy, explains Margaret Forster in her sterling biography of the writer, Daphne Du Maurier: The Secret Life of the Renowned Storyteller. I It would have made her father happy, and ensured she could do whatever she liked. She called her male self "Eric Avon." Eric was a lot more like her father than she would probably care to admit.

She was a restless and unhappy teenager, quickly disgusted by the London environment she inhabited, all blue eyes and boyish shirts. When she first received her menstrual cycle, she named the flow 'Robert.' "The future is such a complete blank," she told her governess. "There is nothing ahead that lures me terribly. If only I was a man."

She judged her parents' marriage quite harshly, given that her mother knew of her father's cheating and accepted him despite it. Her father was a successful actor, and the du Mauriers were quite wealthy.

Gerald du Maurier was friends with J.M. Barrie, whose acquaintance gave Daphne the idea to start writing. She had virtually no friends her age, and was completely within herself. "I only think of myself and pity anyone who likes me," she wrote. Her parents sent her to finishing school in France, hoping she might figure things out there. The school was quite austere in comparison to what she was used to, but Paris caught her attention right away.

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A teacher named Yvon took an erotic interest in Daphne, who became her pet. She could not think of herself as a homosexual, since her father hated gays. Identifying herself as male is the only way she could make sense of her feelings. She more than liked the attention from Yvon, who was rather handsy with her.

Daphne was 18 when she went on holiday with Yvon, who had just turned 30. Things never got overly physical, but time relaxing with a hardcover copy of Katherine Mansfield's latest and a woman who loved her reassured Daphne that things were not all bad. She only loathed the idea of going back to England and living with her family again.

Daphne, right, with her sisters

She knew that in addition to being attracted to women, she also found something compelling in men. Her father did not accept this proclivity, displaying extreme jealousy when she emerged for or returned from a date. Gerald told her that he wished he were her brother, not her father, and that if he died he would enjoy returning as her son. Her father's possessive attitude pushed her further into literature. She had completed three stories; all of them concerned bullying, disreputable men.

Distancing herself from her father, Daphne learned to sail. She put aside writing and supervised the construction of her boat, which was to be called the Marie-Louise. It was then that she met her first boyfriend, Carol Reed. Together they smoked in cafes and observed other people. Reed reflected her moodiness, and was just as capable of doing something rash out of nowhere. She was 22 when she and Carol fucked for the first time.

with her first child, Tessa

Carol immediately began to take the relationship with the utmost seriousness, a development that frightened Daphne. Carol ensured he would stay around by praising Daphne's writing; her former teacher Yvon told her that her stories proved Daphne would never achieve anything. To get her away from Carol Reed, Daphne's parents secured her a quiet cabin for the summer, where she was to focus on her writing.

In was in this setting, consistently decimating the marital hopes of Carol Reed, that she wrote her first novel, The Loving Spirit. This melodrama is clearly an early effort, and it is mostly in du Maurier's prose style itself - effortless and clear — that we recognize her distinctive way of saying something was so. 

Reading The Loving Spirit today is quite a struggle, but for the time it was an advanced work from a writer with no advanced training. Her second novel, I'll Never Be Young Again, was a clear measure ahead of her first effort, using a strong first person voice to create her first ghostly effect. Rebecca West called it "a whopper of a romantic novel in the vein of Emily Brontë," which was almost, but not quite, a backhanded compliment. But hey, Daphne du Maurier was just 23.

Daphne's ideas about everything changed when she met Frederick Browning, known to his friends as Tommy. Browning's service in the war had traumatized him plenty — it took him a good six months to work up the courage to even enter battle. Once he became a career man, he never left. Even stricken as he was with PTSD, Browning was a quite attractive 34 year old man.

At first Daphne was reluctant to commit. "It will take at least five brandy-and-sodas, sloe gin and a handkerchief of ether to push me to the altar rail," she claimed, before proposing to Browning herself. The wedding took place in the middle of July, and her parents gave them a cottage as a present.

Six months later, Daphne was pregnant with her first child, a girl named Tessa. She stopped breastfeeding as soon as she could: "The child hiccups most of the time and kicks me in the stomach. But then I never was sentimental." Daphne suffered from postpartum depression, and struggled to bond with her daughter. The strains of her marriage wore on her, too. Browning was in Surrey when she was at home, and she felt adrift.

Then her father died. Daphne did not go to the funeral, and fantasized she saw her father as a ghost. She channeled her grief into a monograph about her father entitled, Gerald: A Portrait, which managed her best reviews yet. Her new publisher was Victor Gollancz, and under his encouraging influence she began the novel which would become her first solid hit: Jamaica Inn.

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Just as she was achieving her largest public response to date, her husband's service took them both to Egypt. She loathed the city of Alexandria, feeling confined to a scrubby house since there was simply no place where she could realistically walk. After giving birth to a second daughter, Flavia, she decided not to return to the country. Yet it was in this inharmonious setting where she would conceive the idea for her next novel, "a rather sinister tale about a woman who marries a widower."

Rebecca was slow in emerging from Daphne's brain. Initially, Daphne trashed the first 15,000 words of the manuscript and began again. In a new house in Hampshire, she finally found the routine she needed. Servants handled her children while she focused on her new book. "It's a bit on the gloomy side and the psychological side may not be understood," she worried to Gollancz. Rebecca became instantly popular in England, but it was a smash in the United States.

in her writing room

Daphne felt a bit confused. She had a full family to fear for whenever her husband started repeating his predictions of a Europe hurtling towards war. She expected her kids to lead quiet lives where they expressed their inner imagination. Instead, Tessa and Flavia could be loud and disobedient like any children, and Daphne disapproved of this behavior. "Instead of thinking my children are marvelous, I am super-critical," she told her mother.

Disgusted by the film version of Jamaica Inn, Daphne attempted to construct a version of Rebecca that might play well on the stage. As war came to London, she refused to send her children to America, fearing she would never see them again. Instead, she had a third child, a son they named Christian.

her friend Ellen Doubleday

Depression was a feature of her everyday life, though she loved her son in a way she had never felt close to her daughters. She felt distant from Browning and resented their many weeks apart. She was, however, finding herself as a a mother. "I am very grateful for being given the power to deal with all these little domestic worries," she wrote, "and I am sure it has been a discipline. I've always shirked responsibility before. Now I find I can bear it. I seem to know the children more through looking after them. God is testing me out on those little points."

With her husband away, Daphne flirted with a family friend so much their relationship became a bit of a scandal. There was no sex, only a connection that evaporated both of their marriages. She wrote a book about the man's family called Hungry Hill. It was her husband's glider accident that wrecked his shoulder and returned him to her. Nursing him back to health effectively ended Daphne's infidelity.

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After the war, when Browning came back to the family for good, he did not want Daphne anymore. The pain of the rejection stung, and abandoned them to separate beds, where each barely slept. "If Tommy just looks upon me as a dull old thing he is fond of, the outlook is dreary," she confessed to a friend. Browning's drinking made it impossible for him to get an erection in any case.

In America for the first time: Daphne was there unwillingly, forced to defend herself against charges of plagiarism that were focused on Rebecca, a story so old it could properly be called a fable. She won the case and left as quickly as she could, but not before developing a crush on the wife of publisher Nelson Doubleday. It could never be consummated, but she wrote the woman as many letters as she could.

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Too much had gone on since she had married Tommy. She saw an older man who barely knew his children, grew frustrated at the first moment his oldest daughter was not what he expected. His strangeness with his own blood only made it less likely he could ever be close to Daphne, and she resented that he did not even make the effort, that there had been no homecoming whatsoever. He had brought a young girl with him, in fact, his war secretary, in her twenties. Daphne found her beautiful.

She was not happy, and every person in her life could tell.

Ellen Copperfield is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in New York. You can find an archive of her writing in these pages here.

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Thursday
Jun092016

In Which We Pretend We Do Not Know The Man

Burn Mark

by RENA LATIMER-CROSS

 after Fanny Howe

George, a biographer of W.H. Auden, was the first one to introduce me to him. He gave me Ted's book Climbing the Mythic and after I had finished it, he gave me Ted's phone number so I could call him and tell him what I thought of it. I had never done anything like that. It was 2003, and I was twenty-two.

Ted answered the phone right away and for the next couple of years I would receive phone calls from him that were understanding and encouraging, if somewhat patriarchal. These phone calls changed the direction of my life.

Ted, who was said to be the originator of the idea that sequential logic was only one of many possible systems of literary thought, was not much of a writer unless you call relentless musings about a sex life that took place entirely in the past, memoir. I call Climbing the Mythic a novel only because I know how much of it was utter bullshit. Then again, the word novel is a term of respect in that context.

Ted left a burn mark on whomever he met; he branded his disciples and partners and then dropped them like his father, who had given him away to nuns until reclaiming him at the age of fifteen. His father informed Ted that they had both improved during their time apart, which Ted knew to be a lie.

He broke off with C.D. Wright over the importance of Marianne Moore, who Ted described as a "the old woman who lived in the shoe." Moore was perhaps too close an influence.

Ted grew up in western Massachusetts, largely on his own. In order to get an idea of the man you must read lines like these, describing his first orphanage:

A god approaches his subjects with a maudlin gaze, sighing with disappointment like a deer rejected by the hunt. Everyone watches a boy-god until they can no linger see with any other eyes but those they have been given. I yearn to find those little ones.

Ted talked and wrote like this. Unlike C.D. Wright, who he had a crush on for the better part of a decade, Ted identified with the proletarian underground since the early 1990s. After writing Climbing the Mythic, he went into eight years of withdrawal in order to study such texts as he could procure. After he emerged from this dark period, much like his father, he renounced the man he was, along with everyone he knew.

In an e-mail written to me in December, 2006, he wrote,

Now you can't admire Tolstoy along with Joyce, Jane Austen and Henry James. That's the usual academic pother of the day. Should you have understood Tolstoy you won't be able to read the famous rubbish of James, Joyce and Austen. You must learn how to expurge what is foolish, bad garbage; otherwise you'll never find these values you long for and should possess.

We met at a particular bookstore in Providence where the proprietor, for some reason, let Ted borrow whatever he wanted. Sometimes we met at a restaurant. It was never the same place twice, and he always disliked whatever he ordered. I was proud to be with him, my secret teacher, and only George shared my interest, my desire to please him.

He sent me a list of writers I was instructed to read by July, 2009. This is that list, verbatim:

Osiris by Wallis Budge
Egypt by Maspero
The Book of Job by Morris Jastrow
The Song of Songs
The Gentle Cynic
The Voyage of the Beagle by Darwin
L'Amour by Stendhal
Physiology of Marriage by Balzac
Enquires Into Plants by Theophrastes
The History of Greece
Greek Poets by John Addington Symonss
Lives of the Greek Philosophers by Diogenes Laertius
Last Essays by Eric Gill
Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion by Jane Harrison
Amiel's Journal
The Goncourt Journals
Imaginary Conversations by Landor

And later he handed me a further list:

Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy
Sir Thomas Browne
Twelve Caesars by Suetonius
Animals and Birds by Buffon
Les Characteres by Lydell
Love of the Nymphs by Porphyry
Gil Blas by Le Sage

At that time Ted had no interest in religious thinking as we might conceive of it today. He was not an atheist whatsoever; he simply put god in the head of the men he most respected. These were scientists and also sociologists, who were to his mind as much inventors and adventurers as any. I managed most of the list, but concealed from him my other readings (Acker, Thalia Field, Cole Swensen, Armantrout, Fanny Howe). He would have been disgusted by my secret books. I loved misogynists. I debated them, even married them, but I never begged or let it go on too long.

My friendship with Ted ended sadly. He hated my then-husband, Rafi, and kicked out the man's leg. He chased Rafi down the street screaming that he had no idea to what do with something as wonderful as myself. I felt, on one level, flattered. On another, deeply disturbed. My last e-mail from him was a critique of how much he hated Moby Dick and a confession of his true feelings for me. I couldn't bear to write back.

What I got from Ted before his implosion was the sense of the writer always investigating the parameters of whatever world she had entered. You had to protect yourself from the politics of ideologues, and read what he called "ethical" writing. Ted told me to take a vow of poverty if I was serious about my work. This is his politics, he who is a proud supporter of Bernie Sanders, and to this day I wonder if he is right.

Going back to read Ted's writing is no longer any fun for me, or anyone. We have surgically repaired everything he did to us. There is no use pretending the pain did not happen, or that the man understood his country or the people in it. It was not the time for Ted, but maybe in some other epoch.

I received an e-mail from George the other day. I was surprised the man even knew how to use a computer. He told me he didn't get along with Ted much anymore either. "I suppose there is no use pretending we didn't know him the best," George wrote. Yeah.

Rena Latimer-Cross is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Illinois. This is her first appearance in these pages.