Video of the Day


Alex Carnevale

Managing Editor
Kara VanderBijl

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

Live and Active Affiliates
This area does not yet contain any content.

In Which This Is A Miserable Fate For A Painter Who Adores Blondes

Conversation avec Picasso


The essential thing in the period of weak morale is to create enthusiasm. How many people have actually read Homer? All the same the whole world talks of him. In this way the Homeric legend is created. A legend in this sense provides a valuable stimulus. Enthusiasm is what we need most, we and the younger generation.

We might adapt for the artist the joke about there being nothing more dangerous than implements of war in the hands of generals. In the same way, there is nothing more dangerous than justice in the hands of judges, and a paintbrush in the hands of a painter.

Just think of the danger to society! But today we haven't the heart to expel the painters and poets from society because we refuse to admit to ourselves that there is any danger in keeping them in our midst. It is my misfortune — and probably my delight — to use things as my passions tell me. What a miserable fate for a painter who adores blondes to have to stop himself putting them into a picture because they don't go with the basket of fruit!

How awful for a painter who loathes apples to have to use them all the time because they go so well with the cloth. I put all the things I like into my pictures. The things — so much the worse for them; they just have to put up with it. In the old days pictures went forward toward completion by stages. Every day brought something new. A picture used to be a sum of additions. In my case a picture is the sum of destructions. I do a picture — then I destroy it. In the end, though, nothing is lost: the red I took away from one place turns up somewhere else.

It would be very interesting to preserve photographically, not the stages, but the metamorphoses of a picture. Possibly one might then discover the path followed by the brain in materializing a dream. But there is one very odd thing — to notice that basically a picture doesn't change, that the first "vision" remains almost intact, in spite of appearances.

I often ponder on a light and a dark when I have put them into a picture; I try hard to break them up interpolating a color that will create a different effect. When the work is photographed, I note that what I put in to correct my first vision has disappeared, and that, after all, the photographic image corresponds with my first vision before the transformation I insisted on.

A picture is not thought out and settled beforehand. While it is being done it changes as one's thoughts change. And when it is finished, it still goes on changing, according to the state of mind of whoever is looking at it. A picture lives a life like a living creature, undergoing the changes imposed on us by our life from day to day. This is natural enough, as the picture only lives through the man who is looking at it.

At the actual time that I am painting a picture I may think of white and put down white. But I can't go on working all the time thinking of white and painting it. Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions. You've seen the sketch I did for a picture with all the colors indicated on it. What is left of them? Certainly the white I thought of and the green I thought of are there in the picture, but not in the places I intended, nor in the same quantities. Of course, you can paint pictures by matching up different parts of them so that they go quite nicely together, but they'll lack any kind of drama.

I want to get to the stage where nobody can tell how a picture of mine is done. What's the point of that? Simply that I want nothing but emotion to be given off by it.

Work is a necessity for man.

A horse does not go between the shafts of its own accord.

Man invented the alarm clock.

When I begin a picture, there is somebody who works with me. Toward the end, I get the impression that I have been working alone - without a collaborator.

When you begin a picture, you often make some pretty discoveries. You must be on guard against these. Destroy the thing, do it over several times. In each destroying of a beautiful discovery, the artist does not really suppress it, but rather transforms it, condenses it, makes it more substantial. What comes out in the end is the result of discarded finds. Otherwise, you become your own connoisseur. I sell myself nothing.

Actually, you work with few colors. But they seem like a lot more when each one is in the right place.

Abstract art is only painting. What about drama?

There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality. There's no danger then, anyway, because the idea of the object will have left an indelible mark. It is what started the artist off, excited his ideas, and stirred up his emotions. Ideas and emotions will in the end be prisoners in his work. Whatever they do, they can't escape from the picture. They form an integral part of it, even when their presence is no longer discernible. Whether he likes it or not, man is the instrument of nature. It forces on him its character and appearance.

In my Dinard pictures and in my Pourville pictures I expressed very much the same vision. However, you yourself have noticed how different the atmosphere of those painted in Brittany is from those painted in Normandy, because you recognized the light of the Dieppe cliffs. I didn't copy this light nor did I pay it any special attention. I was simply soaked in it. My eyes saw it and my subconscious registered what they saw: my hand fixed the impression. One cannot go against nature. It is stronger than the strongest man. It is pretty much to our interest to be on good terms with it! We may allow ourselves certain liberties, but only in details.

Nor is there any "figurative" and "non-figurative" art. Everything appears to us in the guise of a "figure." Even in metaphysics ideas are expression by means of symbolic "figures." See how ridiculous it is then to think of painting without "figuration." A person, an object, a circle are all "figures"; they react on us more or less intensely. Some are nearer our sensations and produce emotions that touch our affective faculties; others appeal more directly to the intellect. They all should be allowed a place because I find my spirit has quite as much need of emotion as my sense. Do you think it concerns me that a particular picture of mine represents two people? Though these two people once existed for me, they exist no longer. The "vision" of them gave me a preliminary emotion; then little by little their actual presences became blurred; they developed into a fiction and then disappeared altogether, or rather they were transformed into all kinds of problems. They are no longer two people, you see, but forms and colors: forms and colors that have taken on, meanwhile, the idea of two people and preserve the vibration of their life.

I deal with painting as I deal with things, I paint a window just as I look out of a window. If an open window looks wrong in a picture, I draw the curtain and shut it, just as I would in my own room. In painting, as in life, you must act directly. Certainly, painting has its conventions, and it is essential to reckon with them. Indeed, you can't do anything else. And so you always ought to keep an eye on real life.

The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place; from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider's web. That is why we must not discriminate between things. Where things are concerned there are no class distinctions. We must pick out what is good for us where we can find it - except from our own works. I have a horror of copying myself.

The painter goes through states of fullness and evaluation. That is the whole secret of art, I go for a walk in the forest of Fontainebleau. I get 'green' indigestion. I must get rid of this sensation into a picture. Green rules it. A painter paints to unload himself of feelings and visions. People seize on painting to cover up their nakedness. They get what they can wherever they can. In the end I can't believe they get anything at all. They've simply cut a coat to the measure of their own ignorance. They make everything, from God to a picture, in their own image. That is why the picture-hook is the ruination of a painting — a painting which has always a certain significance, at least as much as the man who did it. As soon as it is brought and hung on a wall, it takes on quite a different kind of significance, and the painting is done for.

Academic training in beauty is a sham. We have been deceived, but so well deceived that we can scarcely get back even a shadow of the truth. The beauties of the Parthenon, Venuses, Nymphs, Narcissuses are so many lies. Art is not the application of a canon of beauty but what the instinct and the brain can conceive beyond any canon. When we love a woman we don't start measuring her limbs. We love with our desires — although everything has been done to try and apply a canon even to love.

The Parthenon is really only a farmyard over which someone put a roof; colonnades and sculptures were added because there were people in Athens who happened to be working, and wanted to express themselves. It's not what the artist does that counts, but what he is. Cézanne would have never interested me one bit if he had lived and thought like Jacques Emile Blanche, even if the apple he painted had been ten times as beautiful. What forces our interest is Cézanne's anxiety — that's Cézanne's lesson; the torments of Van Gogh — that is the actual drama of the man. The rest is a sham.

Everyone wants to understand art. Why not try to understand the songs of a bird? Why does one love the night, flowers, everything around one, without trying to understand them? But in the case of a painting people have to understand. If only they would realize above all that an artist works of necessity, that he himself is only a trifling bit of the world, and that no more importance should be attached to him than to plenty of other things which please us in the world, though we can't explain them. People who try to explain pictures are usually barking up the wrong tree. Gertrude Stein joyfully announced to me the other day that she had at last understood what my picture of three musicians was meant to be. It was a still life!

How can you expect an onlooker to live a picture of mine as I lived it? A picture comes to me from miles away: who is to say from how far away I sensed it, saw it, painted it; and yet the next day I can't see what I've done myself. How can anyone enter into my dreams, my instincts, my desires, my thoughts, which have taken a long time to mature and to come out into the daylight, and above all grasp from them what I have been about - perhaps against my own will?

With the exception of a few painters who are opening new horizons to painting, young painters today don't know which way to go. Instead of taking up our researches in order to react clearly against us, they are absorbed with bringing the past back to life — when truly the whole world is open before us, everyone waiting to be done, not just redone. Why cling desperately to everything that has already fulfilled its promise? There are miles of painting "in the manner of"; but it is rare to find a young man working in his own way.

Does he wish to believe that man can't repeat itself? To repeat is to run counter to spiritual laws, essentially escapism.

I'm no pessimist, I don't loathe art, because I couldn't live without devoting all my time to it. I love it as the only end of my life. Everything I do connected with it gives me intense pleasure. But still, I don't see why the whole world should be taken up with art, demand its credentials, and on that subject give free rein to his own stupidity. Museums are just a lot of lies, and the people who make art their business are mostly imposters. I can't understand why revolutionary countries should have more prejudices about art than out-of-date countries!

We have infected the pictures in museums with all our stupidities, all our mistakes, all our poverty of spirit. We have turned them into petty and ridiculous things. We have been tied up to a fiction, instead of trying to sense what inner life there was in the men who painted them. There ought to be an absolute dictatorship...a dictatorship of painters...a dictatorship of one painter... to suppress all those who have betrayed us, to suppress the cheaters, to suppress the tricks, to suppress the mannerisms, to suppress charms, to suppress history, to suppress a heap of other things. But common sense always gets away with it. Above all, let's have a revolution against that! The true dictator will always be conquered by the dictatorship of common sense...and maybe not!


The literary ideas of a painter are not at all the same ideas as the literary ideas of a writer. The egotism of a painter is entirely a different egotism than the egotism of a writer. The painter does not conceive of himself as existing in himself, he conceives himself as a reflection of the objects he has put into his pictures and he lives in the reflections of his pictures, a writer, a serious writer, conceives himself as existing by and in himself, he does not at all live in the reflection of his books, to write he must first of all exist in himself, but for a painter to be able to paint, the painting must first of all be done, therefore the egotism of a painter is not at all the egotism of a writer, and this is why Picasso who was a man who only expressed himself in painting had only writers as friends.

- Gertrude Stein


In Which A Miley Cyrus Concert Changes Everything

The Shrew Who Couldn't Be Tamed


Remember the Miley Cyrus of yesteryear? With her Wild West aesthetic and her pronounced faith in God, Miley Cyrus maintained a Disney Channel demeanor of purity and poise. Her act might have seemed contrived, but at least she was consistent. That Miley Cyrus has gone up in flames.

Allow me to introduce you to the new, mature, slutty, pleather wearing Miley Cyrus. On June 21st, The House of Blues on Sunset Boulevard welcomed the nearly legal pop sensation. It was apparent the crowd included the original Miley fans. Unable to walk in stilettos and pleated miniskirts, their young adult bodies still seem suited for bedazzled Capri jeans and rolly back backs they sported when Miley Cyrus first became a household name 5 years ago.

Having gone to the event with my mother and two friends over the age of 22, we were subject to pre-teen stares of confusion that burned deep into the soul. Thank god we could drink. Everyone else was just drunk on Miley.

If a Los Angeles event is judged by the importance of the celebrities that attend, then this concert was surely a Z-list event. Besides the MTV VJ Kudus who introduced the performance, Lance Bass was hiding in the sound booth and Miley’s sister Noah was escorted through the crowd.

At 7:15 the festivities began. First Kudus attempted to energize the audience both at the HOB and those watching from home. Then they repeatedly projected the same lackluster interview Miley did for MTV a couple days before. Finally, the curtains drew and there stood Miley, wearing a studded belt over skintight black pants and a leotard leaving her hips exposed, and a silver necklace of an arrow pointing straight to her vagina.

She began her set with “Can’t Be Tamed.” I hate to admit it, but I was somewhat impressed. Though the staging was a disaster, her vocal range far surpassed most pop icons (with the exception of Xtina). It was apparent from her posture and the choreography that Billy Ray forced her to emulate Kristen Stewart’s portrayal of Joan Jett from The Runaways.

This belief was confirmed when she did a cover of “Cherry Bomb” halfway through her set. During which time I was forced to trace the borders of the room attempting to calm my cultural panic attack.

A list of adult movements Miley exhibited? She faux kissed a girl, she repeatedly gyrated and groped her lower regions, and she belted “shit” twice! I was loving it. I don’t think the parents shared in my enthusiasm. As expected, her set only lasted 40 minutes, but the real treasure trove of surprises waited outside.

As the valet line began to backup around the block, a girl with a church appropriate outfit of a pale pink skirt and bleached blonde hair was held in a cop car demanding, “I just want Miley!” Suddenly, the car door flung open as she threw up onto the sidewalk. In a moment of fury, she fell out of the car and began to crab walk down the road until her boyfriend insisted they lay down on the sloped concrete. Thank god for videophones. Thank god for videophones. Though Billy Ray and his posse were now directly behind us, it was definitely this obsessive fan that stole the show.

In conclusion? I wasn’t drunk enough. I don’t think I could have ever been drunk enough. My only hope is that one day, those Miley fans will wonder, “Who originally wrote that Cherry Bomb song?” and subsequently be exposed to an entire musical genre consisting of teenage rebellion. Only one thing is certain: that image of arrow-to-vagina will forever haunt my dreams.

Courtney Nichols is a contributor to This Recording. This is her first appearance in these pages. You can find her website here.

"Midnight Music" - The Runaways (mp3)

"Born to Be Bad" - The Runaways (mp3)

"Take It Or Leave It" - The Runaways (mp3)


In Which We Receive Heartwarming Reports of Nabokov's Kindness

The Good Times Are Killing Me

I have always had a number of parts lined up in case the muse failed. A lepidopterist exploring fabulous jungles came first. Then there was the chess grand master, then the tennis ace with an unreturnable service, then the goalie saving a historical shot, and finally, finally, the author of a pile of unknown writings - Pale Fire, Lolita, Ada - that my heirs discover and publish.

- Vladimir Nabokov in a 1977 BBC interview

...turning to the title-page butterfly, its head is that of a small tortoise, and its pattern that of a common Cabbage White butterfly (whereas the insect in my poem is clearly described as belonging to a group of small blue butterflies with dotted undersides), which is as meaningless...as would be a picture of a tuna fish on the jacket of Moby Dick. I want to be quite clear and frank: I have nothing against stylization, but I do object to stylized ignorance.

- Nabokov, 1959 to publisher

I do have a story for you - but it is still in my head; quite complete, however; ready to emerge; the pattern showing through the wingcases of the pupa.

- Nabokov, 1946 letter to Katharine A. White

June 12, 1951

Dear Irofessor Finley,

Many t anks for your delig tful letter. Yes, I think would be able to arrange a course of t e general tyoe you suggest, orovided you allow me some individual latitude. In my lectures I emo asize t e artistic side of literature. I visualize a course t at would not clas wit your conceot of t e connections between narrative genres. It would deal wit questions of structure, develooment of tec nique, t emes (in t e sense of 't ematic lines"), and imagery and magic and style. I certainly could link uo to my study of nineteent century fiction wit t ematic lines running t rough such initial masteroices as t e Iliad or te Slovo; but my main ouroose would be to analyze suc artistic structures as Mansfield Iark (and its fairy-tale oattern), Bleak ouse (and its c ild-and-bird t eme), Anna Karenin (and its dream-and-deat symbols), ten t e "transformatino" t eme, as old as t e oldest myt s, in one lumo consisting of t ree stories (Gogol's Overcoat, Stevenson's Jekyll and yde and Kafka's Metamoro sis), and finally the jardins suoerooses of Iroust's style in is first volume Swann's Way. If t is is too muc, eit er Bleak or Mansfield may be sacrificed. It seems to me t at t is orogram does not really deviate from yours since in the long run it deals with t e istorical evolution of symbols, of images, of ways of seeing t ings and conveying one's vision. After all, Homer, and Flaubert, and Gogol, and Dickens, and Iroust are all members of my family. I only hooe t at t e "added stiooend" will be adequate - if, of course, my course outline meets with your aooroval.

In any case I am looking forward to seeing a lot of you and Harry Levin next soring.

Sincerely yours,

Vladimir Nabokov

I.S. T is tyoewriter is falling aoart but a new one is on its way.

Dear James Laughlin,

Would you be interested in publishing a timebomb that I have finished putting together? It is a novel of 459 typewritten pages.

If you would like to see it, the following precautions would have to be observed:

First of all, I would have to have your word that you alone would read it. Everything else could be settled later. You would further have to give me an address where the MS could reach you personally and directly. This is a very serious matter for me, as you will understand after reading the work.


Vladimir Nabokov

Laughlin was out of the country and unable to read the typescript of Lolita.

March 12, 1955

Dear Mr. Epstein,

Here is a short list of works which ought to be retranslated and which might be presented in the following form:

I. A volume which might be titled "Three Duels", and which would contain:




2. "Three Fantasies"  - a trio of fantastic tales -


Gogol's THE NOSE

Doestoevski's THE DOUBLE (by far the best thing Dostoevski ever wrote)

My favorite project, however, is Lermontov's THE HERO OF OUR TIME, a novel consisting of five stories (of which PRINCESS MARY is one).

If you are interested in any of these works, I shall explain in more detail what is wrong with the old translations (for instance, with Yarmonlinski's "The Pistol Shot" or Guerney's "The Queen of Spades"). My protege is none other than my son who will be graduated from Harvard this spring. He is a young Russian scholar and a budding American author in his own right. He has done some very creditable translations for me, and I would undertake to control and revise and work on the lines suggested here.

Sincerely yours,

Vladimir Nabokov

1955 corrections to the manuscript of LolitaNovember 28th, 1964

Dear Mr. Hitchcock,

Many thanks for your letter. I find both your ideas very interesting. The first would present many difficulties for me because I do not know enough about American security matters or methods, or how the several intelligence bureaus work, separately and together.

Your second idea is quite acceptable to me. Given a complete freedom (as I assume you intend to give me) I think I could turn it into a screenplay. But there would be a matter of time. What delays did you have in mind? I am at the present very busy winding up several things at once. I could devote some thought to the screenplay this summer but could hardly settle down to work on it yet. Please let me know what are your ideas about this.

In the meantime, I, too, would like to give you a short resume of two ideas of my own. You will find them, very badly jotted down, on the separate sheet attached to this letter. Please let me know what you think of them. If you like them, we might discuss their development.

It was good talking to you on the telephone.

With best wishes,

Sincerely yours,

Vladimir Nabokov


A girl, a rising star of not quite the first magnitude, is courted by a budding astronaut. She is slightly condescending to him; has an affair with him but may have other lovers, or lover, at the same time. one day he is sent on the first expedition to a distant star; goes there and makes a successful return. Their positions have not changed. He is the most famous man in the country while her starrise has come to a stop at a moderate level. She is only too glad to have him now, but soon she realizes that he is not the same as he was before his flight. She cannot make out what the change is. Time goes, and she becomes concerned, then frightened, then panicky. I have more than one interesting denouement for this plot.

Hitchcock replied that this idea was not in his genre.


While ignorant of the workings of American intelligence, I have gathered considerable information regarding those of the Soviets.

For some time now I have been thinking of writing the story of a defector from behind the Iron Curtain to the United States. The constant danger he is in, the constant necessity to hide and be on the lookout for agents from his native land bent on kidnapping or killing him.

I would have this man meet a benevolent American couple who would offer him the security of their Western ranch. But these would turn out to belong to certain pro-Soviet organizations and would betray him to his pursuers. I have in mind some marvellous scenes at the ranch and a very tragic ending.

Hitchcock responded that this idea had been used for The Iron Curtain (1948).

Download the unabridged audiobook of Lolita here.

Although Vladimir Nabokov was the precise master of the letter and one of the great letter writers in all of literature, he was often at his most humorous in short replies, even to people he didn't know very well. Here are some of the best of those messages and telegrams.

with Vera in Switzerland in 1966December 31th, 1956


Dear Mr. Greene,

From various friends I keep receiving heart-warming reports on your kindness to my books. This is New Year's Eve, and I feel I would like to talk to you.

My poor Lolita is having a rough time. The pity is that if I had made her a boy, or a cow, or a bicycle, Philistines might never have flinched. On the other hand, Olympia Press informs me that amateurs (amateurs!) are disappointed with the turn my story takes in the second volume, and do not buy it. I have been sent copies of the article, in which, about a year ago, a Mr. Gordon with your witty assistance made such a fool of himself. It would seem, however, that a clean vulgar mind makes Gordon's wonderfully strong, for my French agent tells me that the book (the English original) is now banned by governmental decree in France. She says: "La réponse de James Gordon à l'article de M. Graham Greene à indigne certains puritains et...c'est le Gouvernement anglais qui à demande au Ministre de l'Intérieur (of France) de prendre cette décision."

This is an extraordinary situation. I could patter on like this till next year. Wishing you a very happy New one, I remain

Vladimir Nabokov

Greene had named Lolita one of the best books of 1955.

March 24th, 1957


Dear Schorer,

I shall be glad to make my contribution to the D.H. Lawrence Fellowship Fund, although, between you and me, I dislike Lawrence as a writer and detest Taos, where, in 1954, I had the misfortune of establishing my headquarters when collecting butterflies in the N. Mexico mountains.

I would like you to know how much I appreciated your eyespot on Pnin's underwing.

Véra and I remember with pleasure our meetings with you and your wife in Cambridge.

Sincerely yours,

Vladimir Nabokov

January 16th, 1961 


I have interrupted my literary labors to compose this instructive little jingle:

In Italy, for his own good,

A wolf must wear a Riding Hood

Please bear this in mind.



The Nabokovs were concerned with their son's romantic misadventures in Italy.

October 9th, 1965



The president had undergone surgery.

this illustration by nabokov appeared in the letters section of playboyJanuary 14th, 1967


Dear Mr. Hefner and Mr. Spectorsky,

I want to thank you warmly for the many kindnesses - the good wishes, the beautiful cigarette box, the album in which I was pleased to find myself represented, and the 500 doll. bonus. I apologize for being so late with my thanks and my own New Year wishes of happiness and prosperity for yourselves and for Playboy. I was submerged in work some of which had to be finished by Christmas but was not.

I always enjoy reading Playboy, and the latest issue was especially entertaining and informative.

Cordially yours,

Vladimir Nabokov

February 1967

to: Encounter

I welcome Freud's "Woodrow Wilson" not only because of its comic appeal, which is great, but because that surely must be the last rusty nail in the Viennese Quack's coffin.

Vladimir Nabokov

November 11th, 1967


Dear Paper,

For obvious reasons I refuse to tell you, in answer to your questionnaire, what brand of cigarettes my cousin smokes, nor can I divulge my "choice of shipping methods", or the price of my wristwatch. However: I like you very much, and here are four suggested improvements that would increase my affection.

1. Splash U.S. successes with a little more enthusiasm.

2. Reestablish the Monday stock exchange tables for the past week.

3. Consign, at once and for keeps, Mrs. Sawyer to a mental asylum (this will give everybody more elbow room)

4. Cut out the pop art (Chag et al) and replace it by a Book Review page once a week.

Faithfully yours,

Old Reader

Vladimir Nabokov

March 17th, 1965



The above was a holograph sent to his wife Véra on their fiftieth anniversary. It was inscribed on a 2" x 4" section cut from a checked index card, perhaps attached to a present, and illustrated with a beautiful iridescent butterfly. It reads, "Here we are at last, my darling."

digg delicious reddit stumble facebook twitter subscribe

"Even Judas Gave Jesus A Kiss" - !!! (mp3)

"The Most Certain Sure" - !!! (mp3)

"Jamie, My Intentions Are Bass" - !!! (mp3)