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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 Can Feel You're About To Forget

Imperial Afflictions


“Yehpeudah,” I tell her. She thanks me in Korean, and our guide proudly says she’s marrying the richest man in the village. He was married before, and has a daughter the same age as her. There were lots of young boys vying for her hand, but wasn’t she good for making a smart match? The bride whispers to our guide. “She wants to know what color hanbok you had when you marry.”

“I’ve never been married.”

“Why fat boy and brown girl talk about your wedding? Not that fat boy,” Mrs. Yoon says, noticing me scan the tour group. “The one with glasses.”

“I was supposed to be married last year.” Supposedly the bride doesn’t speak English, but she stops hiding behind Mrs. Yoon and takes a step closer to me.

“Why didn’t you?”

“If I’d gotten married, I wouldn’t have been able to come here.”

“Then you right. This is the greatest and most beautiful country on earth. Was he Korean?”

“No, Italian. But he’s from Australia. My family wants me to marry a Korean doctor.”

Mrs. Yoon shakes her head. “No matter if Korean, Italian, Australian. You find the person you can eat with every day. If he doesn’t make you lose your dinner, then he the right one! You have to find person you love. But not an American.” I throw my head down and laugh because I think she’s joking. She is not.

“The last Americans I see, boy and girl, they marry. They say, ‘Tie the knot.’ But knot can be untied! Husband can never be untied! American movies, they untie and retie, no deal big! Wait some. Don’t worry about husband until older. When you get to be 21, 22, we worry.”

“I’m 23,” I tell her, and Mrs. Yoon looks horrified, as if I’ve just plucked her heart out with chopsticks. She throws her hands in the air. “Maybe I find you a husband here. You pretty sometimes. But you need a lot of fixing.” She walks off muttering about the heavy burden I’ve placed on her. The bride is standing so close to me now. Her eyes are wet, but she’s smiling. “You are courageous,” she whispers in perfect English. She squeezes my hand, lifts up her skirts, and runs towards the pebek, straight to the husband she can never untie.

the author in front of a temple in Kaesong

We are outside Kaesong now, and the highway cuts into a steep hill overlooking mountains. This must be the place my grandpa talked about. “What did he say?” General Shin asks. His voice is so sharp, so startling, that my face is red, my chest is heaving, and the hair on my arms stands straight up. My lips didn’t move. I didn’t say that out loud, I’m sure of it.

“He said King Kongmin is buried here. His father came before the Japanese raid — I have a sketch he made from memory — and saw the Mongol treasures, from Persia, Russia, Constantinople, Egypt. My grandfather went after everything was destroyed. The raiders used dynamite on the tomb’s entrance. He said there’s a great love story in these mountains.”

“Tell story.”

“I don’t know it.”

“Why don’t you know?”

“He said he’d tell me when I was older. He died before I was.” I try clenching my jaw to stop my chattering teeth, but they’re beyond control.

“Stop the bus,” General Shin orders the driver. He steps off to make a phone call. A few minutes later, he reappears. “Come now,” he tells me.

the author in chongjin

I obediently follow him around the bend, out of sight from the bus. I can’t pray, and I’m too panicked to run. Eventually stone muninseok and tigers surround me. Yangsok guard two moss-covered granite mounds. General Shin pets the sheep, as tenderly as if they were flesh and wool.

“Americans aren’t allowed here anymore,” General Shin says. “But you are not really American, are you? It’s where you were born, not what you are.” He cups my chin with his hand. “You never say, ‘I’m American’ or ‘I’m Korean.’ Not like the others. First night, they all say what they are. It’s where they’re from. I’m Belgian, Dutch, English! You say only, ‘I’m Ariana.’ Do you know what you are? You don’t, because you’ve never been told. Nobody tells you in America. That’s why Americans are lost.

“Gongmin was captured many years, forced to serve Empress Ki. When he a boy, he vow to marry Noguk. The Yuan laughed! She was princess, he was hostage! But he painted her, and she loved him. She called him kunmang, because his painting more perfect than nature. Gongmin grew strong, crossed the Yalu, freed the Goryeo. He married the princess. For thirteen years, one never left the other’s side. Noguk became pregnant and died with child. Gongmin’s tears were as blood. He could not bury her seven years. He could not rule.”

the tomb outside Kaesong

“Gongmin called all mathematics and stargazers in the land to find his love a resting place. As each failed to please, he killed each. One of the Jung Kam Lok promised good pung su. Gongmin would give him all he desired if succeed, but if fail, certain death. Gongmin climbed this hill alone. He told the muninseok that if he waved his scarf, they should kill Jung Kam Lok.”

“It’s perfect,” I say breathlessly. Mongnan and mokran bloom in these hills. The first apricot trees sprouted here. “The geomancer must have been so relieved.”

“No interrupt,” General Shin scolds, wresting a magnolia blossom from my hand. He tries to put it back in the tree, and, failing that, flings it at me. “Climbing the mountain made Gongmin weary. He wiped his head with the scarf and looked over the land. It was delight. Gongmin descended the mountain to congratulate Jung Kam Lok. He dead. The muninseok saw the scarf and killed without hesitation. That how the mountain get name.”

One mound for Noguk, one for Kongmin. They fought the Turbans together. Rain soaked their garments, which froze to their bodies in the cold; they burned the queen’s carriage to warm themselves and traveled on skeletal horses instead of steeds. Koryo writers say the sound of wailing moved heaven and earth as Yi’s forces advanced towards the capital. All around them, children and mothers abandoned one another, but nothing separated these two, not flood or fire or one million warriors camping around Kaegyong. Scrawled on Noguk’s tomb is calligraphy, the most delicate and feminine script I’ve ever seen. Later I’ll learn that this was probably the work of Kongmin, along with various rock paintings and murals scattered throughout the countryside. It says:

“Throughout the land, wind-blown dusts exceed years past. What quarter was not in tumult? If our dynasty stands firm like a rock, protecting our livelihoods, heaven will allow these people, to sleep in peace. Death has come upon everyone unaware, haggard from laboring, a touch of frustration. They change with times, the affairs of men. Could they worry that there is nowhere they can sleep in peace?”

I tuck the blossom behind my ear. Over a hundred years ago, Japanese soldiers blasted open the tomb chamber. It is believed they carried everything off to Japan — relics Temujin himself held — but nothing like it has surfaced anywhere since. “Why aren’t Americans allowed here anymore?” General Shin has been fiddling with a shrub, but now he swings around with such suddenness that I’m mentally slapping myself on the forehead for asking. “I don’t mean to be disrespectful. It’s just so beautiful. Don’t you want the world to know how wonderful this all is?”

General Shin smiles for the first time all week. “Ariana,” he says, pronouncing the ‘r’ as ‘l,’ “Americans not allowed because Americans don’t understand love.”

Ariana Roberts is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Cleveland. This is her first appearance in these pages.

Photographs by the author.

"The Commander Thinks Aloud" - The Long Winters (mp3)

"Ultimatum (live)" - The Long Winters (mp3)


In Which We Dance To The Music Of Your Mother

My Only Advice

In every relationship, romantic or otherwise, one of the two people feels slightly closer to the other, if only by a matter of degrees. So it was with Gustave Flaubert and his hypochrondriac, flaky friend Ivan Turgenev. These two barnacles met when Flaubert was 40 and Turgenev was three years older. From the tenor of their conversations, which Flaubert seemed to treasure above all else, we can deduce that their spirits remained substantially youthful. Flaubert's self-professed love of literature was so all-encompassing it almost crowded out other parts of himself; Turgenev shared his friend's basic interest but saw the underlying reality for what it was. (Turgenev called his friend, "the only man in existence really devoted to literature.")

Turgenev would visit Flaubert at his retreat in Croisset in the summer, or in Paris during the winter season. Many of the hours they passed together consisted of Flaubert reading his novels or plays aloud, a difficult task even for one of his most central admirers. The written correspondence between the two in the 1860s leaves the mortal plane behind; it can be classified as the first bubbles of modernity to enter the universe.

March 1863

My dear Turgenev,

Your letter was most kind and you are too modest. For I have just read your latest book. I found your essential qualities in it, and more intense, more rarified than ever.

What I admire above all is the distinguished quality of your art — a wonderful thing. You manage to ring true yet avoid banality, to be sentimental without morbidity, and comic without being at all low. Without looking for high drama, you achieve it none the less by the sheer professionalism of your tragic effects. You seem very casual, but you have great skill, 'the skin of the fox combined with that of the lion', as Montaigne said.

Elena's is a fine story. I like this character, as well as Shubin and all the others. While reading you one says to oneself 'I've experienced that'. Thus I believe that page 51 will be felt with greater intensity by no one than by me. What a psychologist! But I'd need many lines to express all my thoughts on that.

As for your First Love, I understand it all the better for its being the story of one of my closest friends. All old romantics (and I who slept with a dagger under my pillow am one) should be grateful to you for this little story that has so much to say about their youth! What a real live girl Zinochka is.

The creation of women is one of your strong points. They are both ideal and real. They have the attraction of saintliness. But what dominates this work, indeed the whole collection, is the two lines: "I had no bad feelings towards my father. On the contrary he had, so to speak, increased in stature in my eyes." That strikes me as being startlingly profound. Will people pick it up? I don't know. But for me, it is sublime.

Yes, dear colleague, I hope that our relationship will not stand still, and that our mutual sympathy will tum into friendship.

In the meantime, one thousand handshakes from your

Gustave Flaubert

April 1863

My dear colleague,

I don't need, I hope, to tell you how much pleasure your second letter gave me — and more than pleasure! If I didn't reply straightaway, it was because I had to extricate myself from a host of disagreeable little matters that made me ill-humoured and lazy at the same time. These miseries continue, but my conscience will not permit me to delay any longer. I have been counting, and still do, on your indulgence — and above all I want to thank you and shake you by the hand.

I am very glad to have your approval and you should be convinced of it: I well know that an artist and man of goodwill such as yourself reads a host of things between the lines of a book, for which he generously appreciates the author's effort: but it doesn't make any difference. Praise coming from you is worth gold — and I pocket it with pride and gratitude.

Shall we not see each other during the summer? An hour of good, frank conversation is worth a hundred letters. I'm leaving Paris in a week's time to go and settle in Baden. Will you not come there? There are trees there such as I've seen nowhere else — and right on the tops of the mountains. The atmosphere is young and vigorous and it's poetic and gracious at the same time. It does a power of good to your eyes and to your soul. When you sit at the foot of one of these giants, it seems as if you take in some of its sap - and it's good and beneficial. Really, come to Baden, even if it were only for a few days. You will take away with you some wonderful colours for your palette.

Before I leave, you will receive a book by me which has just been published. I am cramming you full — but you are partly to blame.

A thousand friendly greetings, keep well, work well, and come to Baden.


I. Turgenev


Cram me full then, dear colleague! I await your book impatiently and I shall read it with delight, I am sure.

I also have had a number of little aggravations just lately. The affinity between us is complete, you see.

I don't think I shall be able to go to Baden, because I shall have several obligations that will disturb my routine this summer. When will you be back? And send me your address.

I shall spend the whole of June or the whole of August in Paris. In any case, we shall see each other next winter.

A thousand very long and very vigorous handshakes from your

Gustave Flaubert

May 1868

My dear friend,

I'm very grateful to you for thinking of writing to me. Your letter gave me much pleasure — for it re-established relations between us and because it showed that you liked my book.

These days every single artist has something of the critic in him.

The artist is very great in you — and you know how much I love and admire it; but I also have a high opinion of the critic and I am very happy to have his approval. I well know that your friendship for me counts for something in all this: but I have the feeling that a master has stood in front of my picture, has looked at it and has nodded his head with an air of satisfaction. Well, I'll say again that this has given me great pleasure.

I was very sorry not to have seen you in Paris — I only stayed there three days, and I regret even more that you are not coming to Baden this year. Your novel has you in harness — that's good — I await it with the greatest impatience — but could you not take a few days rest, to the profit of your friends here? Since the first time I saw you (you know, in a sort of inn on the other bank of the Seine) I have felt a great liking for you — there are few men, particularly French men, with whom I feel so relaxed and at ease and yet at the same time so stimulated. It seems to me that I could talk to you for weeks on end, but then we are a pair of moles burrowing away in the same direction.

All this means that I should be very glad to see you. I'm leaving for Russia in a fortnight's time, but I shan't stay there long, and I shall be back by the end of July — and I shall go to Paris to see my daughter who will probably have made me a grandfather by then. I shall be game enough to come and chase after you even at home — if you are there. Or will you come to Paris? But I must see you.

In the meantime I wish you good fortune. The living, human truth that you pursue indefatigably can only be captured on good days. You have had some - you will have more — and many of them.

Keep well; I also embrace you — and with true friendship.

I. Turgenev

July 1868

My dear Turgenev,

This is simply to remind you of your promise. You were supposed to be in Paris at the end of July or the beginning of August. As for me, I am here, and I await you.

So as to avoid your making unnecessary arrangements, here is my programme: from 30 July (next Thursday) until August I shall be at Saint-Gratien at the Princess Mathilde's. Then I shall return to Paris for two days. I shall then spend another two days at Dieppe at one of my nieces. Then I shall return to Croisset, to get on with my book.

We must spend a few good hours together.

I embrace you wishing you cooler weather than we're having in Paris, and I remain yours

G. Flaubert

August 1868

My dear friend,

I have waited until now to reply to your kind little note, because Iwas still hoping to be able to announce my arrival; but my devilish gout is obstinately refusing to leave me, and I cannot yet contemplate any kind of long journey. It's annoying — but what can I do about it? I shall come as soon as I can; and in the meantime I embrace you and beg you to present my respects to your mother, whom I shall be very happy to meet.

Work hard in the meantime.

I. Turgenev

November 1868

My dear friend,

The cheese has just arrived; I shall take it to Baden with me, and with every mouthful we shall think of Croisset and of the delightful day I spent there. Decidedly I feel that there is a real affinity between the two of us.

If all of your novel is as good as the extracts you read to me, you will have written a masterpiece, I'm telling you.

I don't know if you've read the book I'm sending you; in any case, put it on one of the shelves of your library. 

Present my respects to your mother — and let me embrace you.


I. Turgenev

P. S. My address is: Carlsruhe, poste restante. It would be very kind if you were to send me a photograph of yourself. Here is one of me that looks very forbidding.

P.P.S. Find another title. Sentimental Education is wrong.

January 1869

But I must have news of you, my dear friend. Let's see now — in two words: where are you — and how is the novel going? I am writing to you at Croisset, and perhaps you are in Paris, sniffing out what's new.

In any case, I don't think you'll stay there long.

I have not yet thanked you for the photograph, which makes you look very military and well groomed — but it's you all right — and it's always good to look at it. Why don't you have some good ones taken?

I have often thought of Croisset, and I think to myself that it's a nest to fledge songbirds in. As for me, I have done almost nothing. I have embarked on a task that I find repugnant and I am floundering about sadly in it. There's no going back, but when it's finished, I shall give a great sigh of relief! It's a sort of anthology of literary reminiscences that I promised my publisher; I have never worked in that field and it's not at all amusing. Oh! Two hours of being Sainte-Beuve! I'd like to know if he enjoys it very much.

My best greetings to your honourable mother, who seems to me the best possible of mamas one could imagine, and a good vigorous handshake to you.


I. Turgenev

P. S. I am here for the whole winter because my friends the Viardotl are here. It's not very gay, Carlsruhe, but it's better than its reputation. I shall come to Paris towards the end of March.

My dear friend,

Yes, people have certainly been unfair to you, but this is the time to brace yourself and hurl a masterpiece at the reading public. Your Anthony could be such a projectile. Don't tarry too long over it, that's my refrain. Don't forget that people judge you according to the standards that you yourself have established, and you're bearing the weight of your past. You have energy; el hombre debe ser feroz as the Spanish proverb says — and artists especially. Even if your book has only gripped a dozen people of any worth — then that is enough. You understand I'm saying all this not to console you, but to spur you on.

I have been here for about ten days — and my sole preoccupation is keeping warm. The houses are badly built here, and the iron stoves are useless. You'll see a very little thing by me in the March edition of the Revue des 2 Mondes. It's nothing very much. I'm working on something more 'solid', that is, I'm getting ready to work.

I shall go to Paris before returning to Russia; that will be towards the end of April. I shall stay a good ten days — we shall see each other often.

If you see Mme Sand, give her my regards. Greetings to Du Camp and the Husson family.

I embrace you and wish you courage! You are Flaubert after all.

Your I.T.

April 1870

I was very sorry to hear in your last letter that we shan't see each other this summer, my dear friend. I had counted on a good chance to let myself go with you, before your departure for Russia. But how difficult everything in this life is!

The great sadness I've had this winter has been the death of my closest friend after Bouilhet, a good lad called Jules Duplan who was devoted to me. These two deaths, coming one on top of the other, have overwhelmed me. Add to that the pitiful state of two other friends (not such close friends, it's true, but none the less they were part of my immediate circle). I'm referring to Feydeau's paralysis and the madness of Jules de Goncourt. The loss of Sainte-Beuve, money worries, my novel's lack of success etc., etc. even down to my manservant's rheumatism (the one who looks like Lassouche), everything, as you can see, has conspired to aggravate me. And to do so to no mean extent.

I can easily say that the only good thing to happen to me for a long time was your last visit, which was too short. Why do we live so far away from one another? You are (I think) the only man I enjoy talking to. I can't see that anybody else bothers about art and poetry! The plebiscite, socialism, the International and other such garbage are cluttering up everybody's brains.

I fear I shan't be able to accept your invitation this summer. Here's why. In four or five days' time I shall return to Croisset, where I'm going to write the preface to the volume of Bouilhet's verse straightaway. It will take me two or three months — after which, I shall tackle St Anthony which will be interrupted in October by the rehearsals for Aisse. They will rob me of a good two months. So between now and next New Year I shall have barely six weeks to devote to the good hermit. I would like to spend not more than two years on that fellow. So you see how pressed for time I am. I must get on with that work, as quickly as possible, as I'm already starting to feel I've had enough of it. I have consumed too many books, one on top of the other — but it was in order to make myself numb to my personal sorrows.

Send me your news when you're at home in Russia — and think of me often, because I often think of you, and I embrace you, ex imo

G. Flaubert

My mother was, as they say, very touched by your kind regards.

"Tic Tac Tic" - Elli et Jacno (mp3)

"Bien Plus Fort" - Elli et Jacno (mp3)


In Which Nothing Protects Us From Moving On

This Is


I asked three different friends to join me on a trip to Marfa, TX and none of them found the matter as urgent as I did. They said they would look into it but then decided to wait until something was going on out there. I could see that they would go to Marfa only when nothing was keeping them from it. I wrote about my first experience in Marfa in a hurry. I was full of ideas the moment I got there. Later on, I heard those same ideas come out of the mouths of my friends who eventually did go to Marfa. The words had disappeared from where I originally wrote them, but left a space for me to return. I went to Marfa alone for nothing.

I drove to Marfa in seven hours, going 85 the whole way. I felt rushed by the empty road, surprised by how quickly I could become a cliché. It is true that thousands of tourists have traveled the same route I took, but they had all disappeared before I got there. Eventually, we would come upon each other, staring into the distance beyond us rather than make eye contact. Out there, we could pretend we were following our own lead.

photo by the author

I want to crawl inside Paul Valery’s quote, “God made everything out of nothing, but the nothingness shows through,” and see if I can still write about it. He wrote that line a quarter of a century after he spent twenty years learning how to write invisibly. Periods of silence and space are associated with crisis but sometimes language has simply taken another form.

I arrived in Marfa presciently inspired; it’s a town with an aura only seen by cattle ranchers and artists. It has the same provincial train tracks, sunlight and rusted gates that hold back the West Texas desert as any town in its vicinity, but Marfa is tastefully flaking away. Rust has become the design element for the hotels and gallery owners who have set up there since the town became a destination in the 1970s. A quick look around is like a close reading of hipster ipsum:

Farm-to-table leggings, fanny pack mustache
Tattooed dreamcatcher readymade gluten-
free skateboard art party Austin jean shorts
keytarscenester, bicycle rights vegan.

I take a drive west out of Marfa and see a sign that warns of no services for the next 74 miles. It recalls where I grew up; in the Midwest surrounded by inescapable farmland framed by signage with the same dismal promise of the future. Without those words, I would not have known how to get outside of them. As I drive, Prada Marfa appears like a shapely leg poised on the side of Highway 90, one that reveals itself to be just a prosthetic.

photo by the author

Outside that installation, I take a picture of my reflection on the glass window with my phone. It feels like I am helping in the destruction of the piece, contributing to its purpose of weathering into the desert with pastiche. Marfa is home to some of the most inspired Minimalist art and seduces tourists into becoming artists in its space. The results are like images from a flipbook, all part of the same story where the slightest shift in perspective keeps it moving towards the end.

photo by Elaine Litzau

On my final night alone in Marfa, I went to the Chinati Foundation at sunset. Open that evening was Donald Judd’s works in concrete and mill steel. The air was brisk as we waited by another rusted gate to be let into the area which had been a military compound used through World War II. In the distance, what looked like a construction site in flux awaited our arrival. The fifteen concrete block installations that make up Judd’s outdoor piece appeared as burial vaults. The same concrete structures which could hold our precious remains were now uprooted and tipped over, empty of the sludge that will become of us.

As I walked past, the desert sunset cast my shadows through them. I thought about my grandfather’s vault, emblazoned with his military symbol from the war. I thought about his body, fast disappearing inside that box.

photo by the author

Many of Judd’s structures have only one end open, forcing you to focus on their corners and shadows. If you turn halfway around, you are met with open space. After a full revolution, the box is open and empty and space. In Marfa, Judd can say “The public has no idea of art other than something portable that can be bought.” Outside it, burial vaults are sold as protection from the elements, eventually becoming all that is left of the person it once held. In Marfa, there is no funeral home. The desert town’s residents are close to their deterioration. Nothing is protecting them from time moving on.

The day I left Marfa, I got up before sunrise to look for the Marfa Lights. I sat alone on the viewing platform and watched three glowing orbs float above the horizon. They moved across the desert toward me and I could see how people viewed them as only the headlights of cars passing along some distant road. Beyond that, I couldn’t see anything at all.

Sarah Wambold is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Austin. You can find her twitter here. She last wrote in these pages about synchronized swimming.

"Ocean Eyes" - The Medics (mp3)

"Griffin" - The Medics (mp3)

The new album from The Medics is called Foundations, and it was released on May 18th.