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Alex Carnevale

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen

Senior Editor
Brittany Julious

This Recording

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

Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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In Which Her Face Is Disarmingly Alert

Hours Alone


I moved to New York City because there was nothing to do but move to New York City. A girl like me from Utah romanticizes about this sort of thing when she’s fifteen — sees herself smoking off a fire escape somewhere artistic, like the West Village, with nothing else but a punchbowl and a wad of cash in her back pocket. I hadn’t been to New York in six years — since I was seventeen and staying in Midtown with my mother, hailing cabs to Ellen’s Stardust, and venturing no further than 59th street. My mantra: If it isn’t going to work out in New York it isn’t going to work out anywhere.

I agree to sublet my childhood best friend’s apartment in Washington Heights. I pay for three months up front because she says it will be “just right” and I’m all for easy acclimation. She and her husband and their three-month baby are boarding the party plane to Brooklyn. Their apartment is filled to overflow with U-haul boxes that feel like Greco-Roman ruins of the cardboard variety. When I arrive, we go grocery shopping. I haven’t had anything to eat since the Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwich in Denver, when I wasn’t even hungry, just wanting to fill myself full after traveling with so much lightness. I’ve sold everything except the suitcase with me; a crate of journals back home underneath my parents' stairs.

My hosts weave me through the neighborhood, drawing my attention to the best cheap pizza, a cluster of aging Dominican men playing dominoes, a dead pigeon in the gutter. I’m surprised by the amount of trash on the street. “Don’t go east of Broadway,” my friend tells me, pointing. “I mean you can, but it’s probably not a good idea.” We pass a Bodega owner yelling at a schoolboy. I can’t understand his Spanish or the rest of the noise suddenly against me on the sidewalk, bottlenecking. I’ve noticed we’re the only Caucasians on the block and I feel guilty for noticing, but also disoriented — sticky with humidity and neighborhood eyes. I knew it would be like this but not like this. I feel certain everyone hates me on sight for spreading my flavor of white gentrification. I enclose my futon bed in a pillaring crescent wall of boxes that night. I don’t sleep, but keep my eyes shut tight.

My friends depart for Brooklyn and I sweep up the moving dust accumulating to the floor and blackening my feet. I am glad they are gone with their shared togetherness. I leave the neighborhood early — while sidewalk vendors lazily unload fruit crates from vans — and litter downtown cafes with crisp resumes I have kept pressed in a green folder from college.

I sit on benches along Central Park West in the afternoon, eating bagels and consuming paper cups full of sludgy convenience coffee — the burnt the better. I like to sit in Washington Square Park with my headphones on but no music playing; listening to student’s quarrels and the combined amplification of the living. I stay where things are easier until sunset, and then ride the A-train home past 168th. I try to not hate myself for my discomfort; for knowing, at any given moment, the dominating demographic of my fellow car passengers; for being raised in a whitewashed Anglo-dominant environment.

I get hired at a trendy coffee shop in SoHo. The manager tells me to dress cool. My co-workers are interesting and creative but far too familiar. I realize I am content sunbathing in the landscape of my solitude, feeding for days off random interactions with strangers: a shop owner telling me he likes my haircut; a homeless woman on the platform who stares into my eyes and smiles. I keep carrying around my navy blue trench coat, some adult security blanket, even though it’s nearly June.

My parents call often, worried. This is what this is all about I want to say. I came to the city to be alone, to dig! I recognize the hilarity — sandwiching yourself between eight million others for desolation — all the while anticipating a hand on your shoulder in the subway, steadying.

My one bedroom apartment is too large for the zero furniture I own and the vast, echoing tumor-like chamber of nullity I feel spreading on occasion from pole to pole in my body. In the evening, I turn off the lights and with a cup of wine in my hand, dance to Otis Redding’s "Lonely and Blue" — the outside street lamp bathing holy orange light through the white sheet drapes. Below my apartment is a pumping gym. Men stand outside in ripped t-shirts watching younger versions of themselves across the street, calling to teenaged women reclined in windowsills. I’m lucky if I average five hours of sleep a night — especially on the weekends, when the block DJ hooks up his stuff and blasts merengue at volumes I didn’t know possible; when the building’s little boys play soccer in the lobby, designating either end of each wall as goalposts.

Some mornings as I lay awake, everything lifts and I feel gloriously present, listening to the constant array of thumps as if each beat were my very own heartbeat, a reminder against the wall of my chest: You’re here; We’re here; You’re here; We’re here. Connected.

On the first terrifically suffocating evening of the summer, I open my screenless window and am visited by a German cockroach two inches long, plodding across my hardwood. I’m unable to squash it, send it down the toilet, or throw it out the window (where it might land on an innocent neck) so I trap it in a Tupperware container and punch holes in the plastic for ventilation. I resolve to buy a glass aquarium at a bric-a-brac store the next morning, pave the bottom with leaves and my leftover dinner scraps. I can make it work for the both of us.

When I wake up the poor creature is curled on its back: shrunken, dead. I can only think to leave the apartment.

At the front door, I intersect paths with an elderly Dominican woman who I’ve gathered, in passing, is my neighbor. She wears a long burgundy skirt and holds a sack of laundry and a bushel of roses. Stacks of golden bracelets circumnavigate her wrists. Her face is disarmingly alert and for the first time in two months she turns, looks at me, and speaks. I have no idea what she’s saying. She laughs, places a finger to her lips, hands me a rose only partially wilted, then leaves. I re-enter my apartment, put the flower in water, flush the cockroach, and stare in the mirror. Only time can arrange my expression.

Holli Carrell is a contributor to This Recording. This is her first appearance in these pages. She is a writer living in Manhattan. You can find her website here.

Photographs by the author.

"Collapsing Into Night"- The Underground Youth (mp3)




In Which Margaret Atwood Deserves Equal Recognition

Known For Being A Person


The Heart Goes Last
by Margaret Atwood
Nan A. Talese, 320 pp.

"Sometimes you miss the newspaper," mumbles one character in The Heart Goes Last, the new novel from Margaret Atwood. Life in the twin towns of Consilience and Positron consists of one month as a civilian, and one month as a prisoner in a penitentiary. Atwood heard in her own newspaper about the vagaries of for-profit prisons, and decided they were some kind of hostile omen for the future of mankind.

Atwood has looked at the United States in the past with a viewpoint that alternates between condescending paternalism and utter forgiveness. The United States is a mess, she explains, full of different impersonations and desires that cannot help but fall into irretrievably broken pieces. Her protagonist Charmaine is a housewife turned bartender with no parents. After economic collapse forces her to reside in a car, she enrolls in the Positron Project.

Nothing really sounds all that bad about this dystopia. Charmaine and her husband Stan quickly grow apart, with him informing her that the shampoo on offer makes her smell like paint remover. There are evil workings behind the scenes, however, and Charmaine has just the right levels of cruelty and empathy to carry out Positron's executions with a smile on her face.

The entire story of Charmaine's struggle in dystopia is more window dressing than anything else. Atwood's real skill is on offer when she describes how human beings make decisions in the face of all the aspects of their lives. No other writer can as entertainingly explain how complicated and multilayered human motivations are. Even though Charmaine and her scooter mechanic husband Stan are flimsy archetypes when The Heart Goes Last begins, Atwood can't help but humanize them from their stale beginnings as she goes along.

Stan discovers that the scientists at Positron have discovered a way for human beings to imprint on each other "like ducklings." Stan meets a woman he knew outside of Positron who has accidentally imprinted on a blue teddy bear. Observing her love for the inanimate object becomes a turn-on for him as well. It is the most stirring emotion he has in the entire manuscript of The Heart Goes Last. "A person is a person no matter how creepy they are," observes Atwood.

We get the sense that Ms. Atwood may not really believe that statement. Charmaine's attentions wander from her husband to the man, Max, who lives in her house while she is doing her mandatory month of hard time. Atwood details their adultery in a relatively safe way, but the fashion in which she gets inside Charmaine's head, deciding how completely she gives herself over to the man who is not her husband, is chilling. In a broad satirical piece she has effortlessly unraveled a deeper psychological profile.

Stan finds out about the affair from the wife of the fellow Charmaine is boinking. (The sex of the married pair consists mostly of abbreviated intercouse with Stan occasionally begging Charmaine to "let go!"). Max's wife begins to force him to have sex with her on a regular basis. It is the darkest part of The Heart Goes Last, and the subtext is that there can be no compulsion between a man and a woman in this area. Men are helpless and inadequate when they cannot fill their roles as gainful providers, Atwood explains, but they are still men.

Most satires burn out of steam by the third act, but Atwood is supernatural at teasing out mysteries where there really aren't any. Near the end Stan takes up work in a sex robot factory, where he has some harsh words for people who desire such imitations of life. This joke seems relatively old, given that lifelike sex toys have been on the market for over a century. Atwood uses this discussion as an argument against relativism, as a way of explaining that not every human sexual desire deserves equal recognition.

Atwood's most recent novels in the Oryx and Crake universe were not for everyone. They were highly realized science fiction containing the interplay of genius level characters on a massive, world-breaking canvas. Despite their scope, Atwood is absolutely expert at never losing a grasp of the personal even within a large story. There is a conscious effort in The Heart Goes Last to slow things down. She has written a book that can have its impact on anyone, that addresses its lessons to a broader audience, with a firmer hand. It would be a bit overbearing if we didn't feel like this inspirational pamphlet was actually good for us.

Though much sought after, control is impossible in The Heart Goes Last. Even the ownership of time is brokered over — are the moments Charmaine spends fucking her boyfriend in an abandoned house those to do with as she pleases, or do they essentially belong to her husband? The fight against being taken over by events outside ourselves does nothing to change the fact that there is something intrinsic inside us that wants to be told what to do. In The Heart Goes Last, Margaret Atwood wonders, at length, what exactly that thing is.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Wedding Ring" - Glen Hansard (mp3)


In Which We Chat For Hours On The Phone

Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to justhardtosay@gmail.com or by dropping us a note at our tumblr.


How much time is normal to spend on the phone with your significant other? I ask because I have been dating a girl I will call Angela for about eight months. Things are going well. In the early days of the relationship, I would call her a lot and we would sometimes have "erotic discussions" over the phone. (She was away for the semester in Brazil.)

Now we see each other a lot and there doesn't seem to be as much of a need for long conversations on the phone since the "getting to know you, getting to know all about you" period is over. Despite this, Angela expects a phone conversation of over an hour most days. I'd rather use this time on other things so that I don't have to be doing other things when I'm spending actual, in person time with her. Am I wrong to feel this way?

Allen C.

Dear Allen,

Most people have their phones all the time now. The answering machine was a magnificent invention rendered obsolete by the shortsightedness of the human race. What you need is an ironclad reason why you would not be using your phone at a given time that enables you to ignore a certain percentage of Angela's calls. Physical pain from holding the phone should waylay Angela for a bit while we find what she really needs: another phone partner.

In fact, maybe you should find her a new boyfriend, since you seem unwilling to do what's required of you.

But seriously, if you just pretend that you have tinnitus, lie about a trip to the doctor you took, explain that he recommended short phone calls for the safety of your ears and long hand jobs for the safety of your penis region, this problem should fall by the side rather quickly.


My boyfriend Aaron and I have been seeing each other for six months after meeting on Tinder. He is something of a nervous guy at times, never more so than when we are being intimate. He is extremely well-endowed so has nothing to worry about on that front. Still, he gets a little anxious and as we start, begins narrating every aspect of ahat is happening. The amount of apologies on offer is amazing, but quickly gets old. If my head is accidentally bumped he will stop completely and ask me if I am OK. Once, completely unprompted, he left to get me ice.

I have tried to talk to Aaron about this, but even after I explained, he looks verbally constipated during sex and I can tell he's not himself. Is it possible to get him over this hump?

Lucianne R.

Dear Lucianne,

I despise puns.

Some men are brought up to think women are very delicate. At the same time, they ignore pretty clear evidence that Angelina Jolie keeps the souls of the men she couples with. Do you think she was like, "Hey Brad, I'm heading for your anus" on that fateful first date? Some things are better when you don't know about them beforehand, like Ellie Goulding and the Batmobile.

I suggest physical intervention in this case. Aaron won't shut up, but he probably wants to, so put your finger on his lips and shush him as you take over. Failing that, cover his mouth and nostrils tightly. When he begs for his life, remind him, "I thought I told you to close your trap."

If you are keen on a more psychological approach, tell him a story about a friend named Marcia Hamsbottom who had an ex-husband who would not stop quoting The Big Lebowski, no matter how many times she told him she hated it. If he says that the name Hamsbottom sounds made-up, wonder aloud how he has not heard of RCA recording artist Duracell Hamsbottom. I think he was in Outkast?

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

"Open Wide" - Say Yes Dog (mp3)

"You Want My Love" - Say Yes Dog (mp3)