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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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Tuesday
Jan132015

In Which Her Struggle With Knausgaard Rages On

What We Do For Our Friends

by PENINA EILBERG-SCHWARTZ

Two of my best friends hurt the people around them in ways that astound me. An acquaintance once said she was okay with Natasha, because she directs the worst of it against herself. I saw what she meant but came to a different conclusion. Natasha hurts herself brutally, volcanically, and then turns the same thing outwards, stomping around in pain and accidentally crushing things. We are hurt by her self-destructiveness.

Sam hurts just as much, as it seems to me, but turns very little of it against herself. This is where our worst hurt from her originates; knowing that there is a wall between her and herself that keeps the violence out. It bounces off that shield, like light on a lens it refracts and it blinds us and we spend whole years of our lives curled up, unable to catch our breath. To our acquaintance the hurt Sam causes is unforgivable, but the kind Natasha causes demands sympathy. To me, neither kinds of hurt are forgivable, or maybe both are, I’m not sure, but both demand sympathy. To me, one is not better than the other. Both fail at a certain kind of self-interrogation. The two kinds of hurts are the same and cannot be ranked one over the other.

I am hurt by and drawn to both of these friends equally. They are both able to convince me of things no one else could. This is why they are beautiful and this is why they are dangerous, like Knausgaard.

+

I arrived late to the cult of Knausgaard’s My Struggle. It has been raging for years now. A few months ago I gave in and started reading the six-volume thing. For the most part, I’m a convert. I agree with much of what’s been said about its brilliance, and have little else to add here that would be anything new. I am, however, struck by the sexism that shows up in it once in awhile, and by how this has seemed to slip away unnoticed in much (though not all) of the criticism I’ve read.

If we are going to choose something as our new bible, it will of course not be perfect, since it hopefully does not need to be said that nothing is. But if we’re going to choose a bible, we should ask  as we should of all sacred texts  which parts we have to leave out. What do we keep and what do we lose? Another way to ask this: what are we willing to forgive?

On multiple occasions, or arguably throughout the whole of the first and second books, Knausgaard blushes about his ruined masculinity. Women used to catch his eye on the street (and we know from multiple drunken anecdotes and from the cover of the book what a hard, handsome man he is) but when he’s pushing the stroller with his child in it, women don’t look at him anymore. When he looks down at his flabby belly, he is soft, he is feminine, he is less than.

He agonizes when he is unable to free his wife at a party by knocking down the door. Another man has to do it and Knausgaard is cowed. It seems sometimes that Knausgaard questions everything except for the reasons he feels humiliated by feeling feminized. For all the questions of himself he asks, why doesn’t he interrogate this? Why does he find femininity inferior to masculinity?

Pointing this out, we run the risk of turning ourselves into the butt of one of Knausgaard’s jokes about the ultra-parodically-liberal world he lives in in Sweden. Although I think that the people he makes fun of are more right than him politically, if there is such a thing, I liked his jokes at their expense. At their best, they expose the hypocrisy of a certain kind of sterilized liberalism that a lot of us are familiar with. As here:

Sweden hasn’t had a war on its soil since the seventeenth century and how often did it cross my mind that someone ought to invade Sweden, bomb its buildings, starve the country, shoot down its men, rape its women, and then have some faraway country, Chile or Bolivia, for example, embrace its refugees with kindness, tell them they love Scandinavia, and dump them in a ghetto outside one of the cities there. Just to see what they would say.

The kind of liberalism he’s critiquing turns itself into a kind of joke. It does this because, like the systems being critiqued, it fails to ask questions of itself. To me it seems worthwhile to poke fun at anything that does not ask the hardest questions of itself that can be found. This is the funniest, and most frightening, thing we can do.

But if these people are not asking certain questions of themselves, neither is Knausgaard. This is why, along with the deserved applause, Knausgaard deserves some pushback. This, I think, is what we should do for our friends.

It seems that in some of the literary critiques of My Struggle, with the notable exception of Katie Roiphe’s article on Slate, we have erred too much on one side or the other. In the most common type of response, Knausgaard is the new god. In another kind, he is an unforgivable chauvinist, racist, gay-basher. In either case, we fall into the same trap both Knausgaard and his Swedes do  we forget to ask questions of ourselves. 

None of what strikes me as sexist in Knausgaard’s beliefs, or his failure to name and question them, detracts from this work’s literary merit, nor do I think that it’s necessarily Knausgaard’s responsibility to call attention to or question this within the work itself. At least not his sole responsibility. He may write these scenes of humiliating emasculation with the same motivation that led him to choose the title, knowing that it would reek of Hitler and make people uncomfortable and also, inevitably interested. He’s more than smart enough to know these scenes, as the title, will be challenged. It all strikes me as a kind of fuck you, though if we give him the benefit of the doubt, it’s a sweet fuck you, a laughable one, an invitation even. If we give him the benefit of the doubt we can imagine him luring us into a conversation, as if to say it is not just his responsibility to call attention to these flaws, it is ours  his readers.

At Knausgaard’s best he pushes us to be truer. At our best, we push him to do the same. This is what criticism should be. An offering of anger as an offer love. A set of tools to help us see better. This is just as relevant in today’s political climate as it is in the backrooms of literary conversation. When lives are at stake, who will we blame, what  if any  questions will we ask of ourselves, and how will this determine our efficacy in making the world into a different thing? Which of our friends will we make into heroes and which will we turn away from? What will we keep and what will we lose and what won’t we forgive?

Penina Eilberg-Schwartz is a contributor to This Recording. This is her first appearance in these pages. She is a writer living in San Francisco and the founder of the lecture series Wundercabinet. She has written for The Rumpus, sparkle + blink, SEMIPERFECT, and Neutrons Protons. She tumbls here.

"Nobody Knows My Trouble" - Ryan Bingham (mp3)

"Snow Falls In June" - Ryan Bingham (mp3)


Monday
Jan122015

In Which The Timeliness Of This Nightmare Continues

Something's Missing

by DICK CHENEY

Hindsight
creator Emily Fox

Becca Brady (Laura Ramsey) is a deeply unhappy person. She is going to be married to a beautiful and considerate man with a good job. She lives in a magnificent apartment overlooking Central Park West and her nether regions have yet to require homeopathic rejuvenation of any kind. What exactly could be so bad about her life that she wants to return to 1995, sent there by the magical interference of a magical black person, the first one she has presumably ever met?

VH1's new deeply offensive series displays a plantation mentality at almost every turn. Every single other person in it is white, including Becca's entire bridal party and - gasp! - her mother! Hindsight not only takes Becca back to the days in which the size of Bill Clinton's penis was still an open question, it melts the entire diverse smorgasbord of New York City diversity down to the Aryan Brotherhood and one non-threatening black man (Don Cheadle).

This was trash fashion in any decade there Becca

I am just kidding about the Don Cheadle part. He could not take this role because he was previously committed to portraying a drag queen who sends Ryan Gosling back to the 1890s period in London.

Nostalgia goggles have taken over - people now think the 1970s was a fun time to live in. Trust me, it was not: things were every bit as racist as they are today, and you never knew how many calories were in any of your food. When Becca goes back to 1995 through the fantastic involvement of Gabourey Sidibe (still joking) very little is actually different about society.

if this looked any more like a set there would be a boom mic

Cell phones were slightly smaller back then, and played better games. Otherwise things appear to be roughly the same, if a bit more prosperous overall. The biggest thing Becca notices is that she is able to smoke in bars again. It seems like we're stretching if the major advantage of a time period is the greater ease with which we are able to give people cancer.

The past is always glamorized beyond all reasonable recognition. Some few, lucky people were able to be happy because they didn't know any better. A lot of people have been asking me lately what I was doing in 1995, and I told them the same thing I will tell you: I was preparing to go to war with Iraq.

That hairstyle remains as relevant as Steve Harvey

We are always at war with Eastasia, and Becca is always let down majorly by some white brah with a haircut that look perilously anachronous given that it is supposed to be the 1990s and Matthew Perry's head looked like a mop for the duration. I honestly could not tell the difference between some recent episodes of Seinfeld I watched and the Curb Your Enthusiasm where Larry David went to heaven. (Neither had a person of color present in any serious role.)

We don't know why Becca runs away at the altar from her disappointing Australian husband Sean (Craig Horner), but she is off to make some slightly different decisions, like asking for a promotion at her job and never getting sucked into the admittedly original premise of Lost. Her friend Lolly (Sarah Goldberg) is available for hangsies or whatever in 1995, but the pair doesn't even speak in the present.

a college sweatshirt?!? this must be the past, although a penn state reference would be more timely

Everyone in Becca's life is pretty much intolerable. There is her overly controlling Mom, her weak sauce brother, her cousin whom she resents because the woman made the decision to have children in her twenties - instead of waiting for a supermodel boyfriend to come along so she can have someone new to go meh about.

1995: before they eliminated the menstrual cycle

There is a certain kind of woman there is no pleasing. January Jones, Golda Meir, the younger daughter on Modern Family. They will always find fault with something in you and mitigate the critique by pretending it is something awful in themselves as well. Maybe if Becca had more diverse friends and acquaintances, she wouldn't be so completely overwhelmed and shocked by meeting a black person to the point where her only way to abjure the difference was metaphysical travel through time-space dilation.

I always turned my head to the side and closed my eyes to stifle tears during this period.

Ryan Gosling goes back in time and discovers that he himself was actually Jack the Ripper, and the prosts he killed were all serial killers themselves. He spends the majority of the movie being like, "Maybe you kids shouldn't be so trusting of Father Michael, he's looking kind of pervy lol" and screaming, "There's no telephone here? WHAT? How do we order pizza? What."

Then he realizes he can pretty much make a fortune by predicting the outcome of the 1899 cricket championship. Gosling retires to 2008, so he can cuddle with Eva Mendes without being annoyed and relive the enthusiastic optimism of electing our first black president. After that, he can travel to 2015 to help us find him.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

"Cat Food (instrumental)" - Aesop Rock (mp3)

Friday
Jan092015

In Which Only A Few Of Them Were Lingering

Užásno!

by SUMEJA TULIC

Užásno! she said as she passed. Her crisp blue eyes pacified the fullness of her blonde hair and the wind that swept through the darkness of the street, like being tickled by someone you are going to punch in the nose.

The train mended the space between two buildings as if to say that nothing can be broken or perhaps nothing can be mended forever. Brighton Beach after dusk is the closest I am to home in New York. I am there because of the sea and for the long train ride back. I’m there for the restaurants that stretch along the shore and their female Slavic names - Tatiana, Alina, Vera. Probably named after owner’s and everybody’s first love, mother, daughter. Probably, but all I could think of while pressing my nose against their windows is how there must have been a Tatiana, Alina and Vera, teenage soldiers who many decades ago were freezing in the woods. I’m there for the old people in proper coats, sitting on benches, in streetlight-interrupted darkness.

These old people may have been vampires. They were still, but impossible to photograph. They didn’t attack anyone or at least it was not reported by the Post the day after.

Back on the Brooklyn Bridge I am merely one of a hundred total strangers standing there and thinking of love and suicide. In their extreme intensities, love and suicide may be the same, the egg and chicken paradox of self-destruction; a circular reference to a minimalistic obituary reprinted every time I wish for the one that pains me most.

This is not quite true when one is on Brooklyn Bridge or, for that matter, on any given bridge. The water is simply darker and colder than betrayal or cruelty can ever amount to. You can jump into its coldness. Darkness after you have jumped quickly blends into fear and regret. Later, once you are soaking wet: that feeling turns into life after death. That is eternal and in most optimistic accounts, a boring blank space. No love and pain are ever boring, blank. So don’t jump.

It starts to rain and everybody with and without an umbrella is disappointed. The arches of the bridge become too crowded and the romance of taking photographs against the glowing lights of uninterrupted greatness of the Financial District doesn’t do it anymore. To see a city while it rains is to see it in its pajamas. The sincerest moments of one's life happen before a shower and coffee, in your underwear. Only a handful of people appreciate it.

One morning when I was ten or eleven I woke up and ran out of the house to a tree completely covered by butterflies. It wasn’t a tree in our garden, but the one across from it, some yards away. The butterflies kept flying to it and flying from it. I stood in front of my house, not sure what to do. I wasn’t afraid but also I couldn’t go closer to the tree. Nobody really took notice of what was going on, as if butterflies attack tall trees planted on the brink of the desert every day. I didn’t know back then that this is something to be photographed. Also, my family didn’t own a camera.

Instead, twenty years later I remember it still. I remember it and measure my wonder and affection according to it. I don’t believe in love at first sight but sure do believe in not being able to move and divert you eyes from someone or something because they are the kind of loveliness that doesn’t elapse, like a kind tree on the brink of a desert. They are so wonderful that you want to tell them every little thing that happened to you up till the moment you met them. Instead of that, you release all your many, silent butterflies at them, at once.

I want to release all myself on him, like a rain that came as blessing and ended up as a natural disaster. But we never even shook hands, not even when we said goodbye. Once, we took an elevator together so that I could practice not looking at him in confined spaces. If I had looked his way he could tell I made my peace with some crazy, uncalled for waiting.

I’ll wait until I’m 44 and he is 45, when we are away from New York, comfortably seated on the porch of our house, broke and tired. I’ll drift away, probably into the nothingness of a flowerless garden, and he’ll start calling my name. At first, he’ll say it the right way, and then, suspicious or annoyed, he’ll start saying it the wrong way, which sounds like something God would shout at his people from the top of a mountain. If I could only forget to think and think and think. I’ve taken up smoking so that I have something else to do while alone. But that is only worsening the problem. Every day, there are fewer places to smoke in. As I type this, one bus station has just been designated as a non-smoking area. So I take my not thinking to my room.

Some folks may lose the blues in their heart, but that is not me. I never will lose the account of all the sadness that is bestowed after one reaches a self-assigned point of maturity.

Life becomes clear for what it is – blocks of houses, cafés and pastries, shops and cinemas and Luna Parks. All that is equally predictable and mind numbing after a while, unless if you can remind yourself what this life would have looked like without it – an honest-to-God wife, which you wouldn’t want to fuck. From Midtown and up there are a few boutiques which sell suits, purses and scarfs for somebody really old but alive. These boutiques are never open when I’m around. They are filled with yellow and purple or pudding-like pink light that drips onto the street if the doors of the shop are open. Bastard shops adopted by the avenues. Growing among them, learning to eat with cutlery, debutantes that will never be married.

Aaron told me that it’s a lie what they say in the movies. New York sleeps. It’s only people with jetlag that roam the city. Yes, everything goes to sleep. Even the fish in cheesy aquariums in the bars between Little Italy and Chinatown sleep. Only angels, trains and delis are lingering. It’s not a good idea to have coffee that late while your shoes are soaking wet and no filter can make your selfie look better. Not to mention the cigarette in your hand and the cheap bouquet you bought because (1) you are never so broke you don't have money for flowers, and (2) no flower should be left behind. Simply, Užásno!

Sumeja Tulic is the senior contributor to This Recording. You can find her website here.

Photographs by the author.

"Human Contact" - Catey Shaw (mp3)

"Brooklyn Girls" - Catey Shaw (mp3)