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Alex Carnevale
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Kara VanderBijl
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Mia Nguyen
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Durga Chew-Bose
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Brittany Julious
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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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Friday
Nov072014

In Which We Are Arranged On A Gray Rag Of Rotted Calico

Near the Inlet

by REBECCA HUVAL

My family heard news of capsized boats in Florida’s Jupiter Inlet, but kept motoring through that aquamarine keyhole to the Atlantic. Its insidious current swallowed revelers from the adjacent park and overturned nautical professionals. Indifferent to irony, the water lapped up wading tourists—and their rescuers. Several years ago near the inlet, my mother’s friend with decades of scuba diving experience drowned.

There’s something sinister in that tropical wind. Elizabeth Bishop recognized the mercilessness of Florida’s seascape, despite its grace—the dead oysters that “strew white swamps with skeletons” and the seashells “arranged as on a gray rag of rotted calico.” Like a siren, the state with the prettiest name draws admirers only to ensnare them in its maw. As a child growing up in South Florida, I flung myself at the crushing waves barbed with jellyfish, shielded by a sense of youthful immortality. At dawn my mother and I plowed our kayaks through the surf to arrive at the placid horizon, shadowed by spinner sharks that I suppressed from my thoughts. We coasted through the swamp waters of the Loxahatchee, eye-level with alligators. Once, my 12-year-old brother forgot about gravity and tried to kayak up a small manmade waterfall in the Loxahatchee River, capsized, and forced my mother to rescue him as water pounded the boat down on his head. 

We didn’t always walk away unscathed. When I was kneeboarding, water pooled over my board, and as the boat sped up, the tip pounced on my forehead. Blood masked my face. My father drove me to the ER and, as a doctor, he stitched a slanted Frankenstein line on the left side of my forehead. Hardly chastened, I started 5th grade proud to wear bobbed hair and a battle scar. But later, my brother suffered more acutely. While he was wakeboarding (the equivalent of snowboarding behind a boat), he lost control of the board and simultaneously sliced his knee and popped out a front tooth by the root. The brackish intracoastal waters infected his knee badly, and my physician parents swabbed out the wound daily. I remember his screams. He was too ashamed to smile and reveal his fake front tooth for years, and still errs on the side of concealment though his teeth are immaculate.

Karen Russell has joined the pantheon of Florida writers who chronicle its treachery and machismo. Her 13-year-old protagonist of Swamplandia!, Ava, wrestles alligators. Like me, she was a fearless girl who courted Florida’s deadliest features and was proud to overcome them. Like me, she often went too far, like when she nearly had her feet snatched by an alligator. There’s a beauty in this danger that Russell and Bishop both acknowledge. In her poem named after the state, Bishop ends with that same iconic creature: “The alligator, who has five distinct calls: friendliness, love, mating, war, and a warning—/ whimpers and speaks in the throat/ of the Indian Princess.” For Bishop, the spirit of oppressed Native Americans lives on in the alligator, sublimating Florida’s shameful past into something lovely, dangerous, and unknowable.

Floridians don’t always heed the alligator’s warning. In 2007, Justo Padron was breaking into a car at the Miccosukee casino west of Miami when he heard police sirens. He tried to escape by jumping into a nearby lake with a sign warning potential swimmers: “Danger Live Alligators.” His dead body was found the next day perforated with teeth marks. Death awaits the criminal and the innocent, the forewarned and the oblivious alike. The year before, 28-year-old Yovy Suarez Jiménez stopped along her nightly jog to dangle her feet by a canal. Construction workers later found her floating body, and her arms were discovered in the belly of a 9’ 6” alligator.

My mother’s friend, Eva Schwartz, drowned surrounded by her friend and her fiancé. She was snapping underwater photos of fish, their “shapes like full-blown roses/ stained and lost through age.” Eva was a nurse in the pediatric ER where my mother worked. She spent most of her free moments diving and told my mother what would later seem ominous: “I would rather be underwater than above water.” She signaled to her diving partners that she was going to the surface, but they never saw her alive again. The autopsy results didn’t reveal why such an experienced diver would drown.

Last December, my brother once again glided on his wakeboard through the mangrove-lined intracoastal near our childhood home. He lifted the board in the air and sailed across the boat’s bumpy wake with ease.

As we nervously looked on, my mother confessed that his leg had been so badly infected by the brackish water, “he nearly had to have it amputated.” When everyone pressured me to get back in the water, I refused. My childish bravery has left me. I recognize Florida for what it is—a place where, as Bishop writes, “Thirty or more buzzards are drifting down, down, down,/ over something they have spotted in the swamp.” A paradise riddled with peril. When we reached the Jupiter Inlet, we turned the boat around.

Rebecca Huval is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in San Francisco. You can find her twitter here, and her tumblr here. She last wrote in these pages about her life in Mexico.

Thursday
Nov062014

In Which Laura Riding Can Move Like A Bolt From A Bow

This is the second in a series. You can find the first part here.

Coming Back

by ALEX CARNEVALE

I am glad women are going mad. It's about time they did.

- Robert Graves in June of 1929

Laura Riding had taken Nancy Graves' husband from her and had tried to arrange a three-way marriage. It wasn't working out: Nancy had taken up with Geoffrey Phibbs, the intern who Laura had been fucking with Graves' permission. Riding wrote:

There is a woman in this city who loathes me... What is to her irritation is to me myself. She has therefore a very direct sense of me, as I have a very direct sense of her, from being a kind of focus of her nervous system. There is no sentiment, no irony between us, nothing but feeling: it is an utterly serious relationship.

I think of her often. She is a painter - not a very good painter. I understand this too: it is difficult to explain, but quite clear to myself that one of the reasons I am attached to her is that she is not a good painter.

Also her clothes which do not fit her well: this again makes me even more attached to her. If she knew this she would be exasperated against me all the more, and I should like it, not because I want to annoy her but because this would make our relationship still more intense. It would be terrible to me if we ever became friends, like a divorce.

When she found about the destruction of her carefully arranged Trinity, Laura Riding drank Lysol. In front of Robert Graves, his wife, and the intern Geoff Phibbs with whom she had been sleeping with until his rejection of her, Laura hurled herself from a fourth floor window. She broke her her pelvis and suffered a compound fracture of her spine. "She is a great natural fact," Graves would later say of Laura Riding, "like fire or trees. Either one appreciates her or one doesn’t but it is quite useless trying to argue that she should be other than she is.” The police called her a vampire.

The initial diagnosis was total paralysis. The attending surgeon, a certain Dr. Lake, commented: "It is rarely that one sees the spinal cord exposed to view - especially at right angles to itself." The police hoped to charge Robert Graves with attempted murder, but he also had to obscure the suicidal purpose of his girlfriend's jump, lest she be deported as an American citizen. Laid up in the hospital, pumped full of too much morphine to speak, Laura Riding asked for Gertrude Stein.

Gertrude wrote to Graves:

Laura is so poignant and so upright and she gets into your tenderness as well as your interest and I am altogether heartbroken about her, I cannot come now. But tell her and keep telling her that we want her with us. I had an unhappy feeling that Laura would have sooner or later a great disillusionment and it would have to come through a certain vulgarity in another and it will make Laura a very wonderful person, in a strange way, a destruction and recreation of her purification but all this does not help pain and I am very closely fond of you all. Tell her all and everything from me and tell her above all that she will come to us and reasonably soon and all my love.

Riding, Graves and friends socializing in Majorca
The poems she wrote in the wake of her attempt to end her life took on a Steinian tinge.

What to say when the spider
Say when the spider what
The spider does what
Does does dies does it not
Not live and then not
Legs legs then none

When Laura was well enough to receive her letters, Stein sent this missive.

I have been thinking of you a lot lately back home, and I hope going on, and not too bad and not too anything but alright. I do hope to hear that everything is coming back, and that it would be good for you to take treatment at Aix or or somewhere near us, a something that would be a pleasure to us all. Do let me hear how everything is going.

When Laura was finally ready to travel, she met Stein, whom she had praised in a long essay, and found her a tremendous disappointment. Gertrude's sermons on the day's weather, she felt, bordered on madness. She described the older woman as "nervous with a continually aborted generosity." Most things she idealized ended up disappointing Laura, and Stein was no different. Riding would write about her again decades later, saying, "She was by her own created image of herself, as a compendium of human versatility compressing the range of diversity within it to so abbreviated a representation that she was the God of herself."

"Perhaps," Riding added, "everyone up to the time of her self-deification was to blame, for the great emptiness that accumulated in human self-knowledge which Gertrude Stein tried to fill with herself for everyone's edification."

graves

She was equally incensed in the days of her recovery by evidence of the burgeoning relationship of her now-former lover Geoffrey Phibbs and Graves' wife Nancy. Their coming together had not merely been revenge; they would live together for the next five years. When Nancy and Geoff arrived in the hospital to visit her with a small plastic statue of Nefertiti, Riding had them thrown out of the room. 

Out of loyalty to Laura, Graves refused to pay any child support while his wife and Phibbs were together. Even though he had basically left his wife for Riding, Nancy's betrayal of him loomed larger.

His wife tried to convince him otherwise, writing, "I know what you feel about us and what you know about us and I know just how much you can't afford to feel about or acknowledge to yourself or anyone the truth about the whole thing. I know you have to, being you - but curse the you that does it." For his part, Phibbs was a fantastic stepfather for five years before Nancy dumped him.

with his wife Nancy 

Hart Crane wrote to Laura to ask what had occurred. She explained, "We had all been sleeping with the Devil." Riding's main enemy Louise Bogan spread all kinds of stories about her, resulting in William Carlos Williams' famous appraisal of Riding as a "prize bitch." Graves' family called Laura a she-devil, and Graves' friend Siegfried Sassoon complained that he was tired of hearing from Robert "through a bonnet." It was necessary to leave this environment to preserve what remained of the love between them.

Through Graves' intervention, charges of attempted suicide were dropped, but Laura Riding still had to leave England. Finally free of all his responsiblities and entanglements, Graves took the recovering twenty-nine year old to Majorca. "Majorca," Stein had told them both, "is paradise, if you can stand it."

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. The next part of the Laura Riding journey will appear a week from today.

"Spend Christmas With You" - Anthony Hamilton (mp3)

"Santa Claus, Go Straight to the Ghetto" - Anthony Hamilton (mp3)

 

 

Wednesday
Nov052014

In Which We Try Not To Make This More Than It Was

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.

Hi,

My friend Sheila is getting married in January to a guy she met on an online dating website. I haven't spent much time with them as a couple, but from what I have seen they get along really well and he's a genuinely nice person who cares a lot about Sheila. With that said, I have only socialized with both of them a handful of times.

Sheila recently approached me and confessed a number of hesitations about the wedding. She is worried that she and her fiancee don't have enough in common, and wonders if she is moving a bit too fast. I told her it was just cold feet, but she wants to talk to me about it again soon and I feel like I need a better answer for her. Do I blindly push her towards the altar or give credence to her concerns?

Teresa T.

Dear Teresa,

I remember when I used to date online; like half my dates informed me with a straight face that they were taking improv classes.

Marriage is a serious commitment, but moreso for a man than a woman, because Halle Berry is one of only twenty-five women in the entire country to pay child support. But seriously, Sheila can always get an annulment, unless she actually believes the death do us part bullshit.

If she doesn't marry him, the relationship is pretty much over. There js no coming back from that, even if you explain to the groom that "you just need more time." Eminem was married once, and he seemed happier single. Some people are just afraid to be alone I guess.

I would lie to your friend and tell her everything will be fine. If it does work out, you will be the heroine who encouraged Sheila at her darkest moment. And if it doesn't work out, you can be damn sure she will blame him and not you.

Hi,

My daughter recently became pregnant by her longtime boyfriend, Anthony. They decided that they should get married and had a bridal shower, bachelor party and a lovely wedding. The expense to our family was considerable, and even more so because my husband recently had to take a lower-paying job.

Last month I found out from my daughter that her and Anthony had not actually gotten legally married in this ceremony. When I confronted her about this lie, she blew me off and told me that "marriage means different things to different people." Am I right to be upset?

Louisa F.

Dear Louisa,

No. The American Wedding Industry exists to take money from vulnerable, naive individuals such as yourself. Did you know that in some cultures, such as those of the Incans, a married couple was required to administer blow jobs to everyone who showed up at their nuptials? A gift bag was also provided.

You gave a gift of your own free will. If it was conditional on something, you should not have given it. If it bothers you that much, ask for your money back. You won't get it, but everyone will know you're an insanely gullible person whose devotion to cultural norms will only be eradicated through shock therapy or divorce.

Lately, people have been asking me a lot, "How do I know when it is the right time to marry my partner?" The answer is twofold:

1) when you can't imagine life without them

2) you ask them if they want to watch Scorpion, and they say, "What's that?" or "No"

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen. Access This Recording's mobile site at thisrecording.wordpress.com.

 

"Whispers" - Tina Dico (mp3)

"You Don't Step Into Now" - Tina Dico (mp3)