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Alex Carnevale

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Ethan Peterson

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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 Emma Goldman Served Her Time In Missouri

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

Emma, Incarcerated


Time meant nothing. The world was immediate, without past or future. Every tree and bristly bush attained a sharp, stark clarity. Faces loomed, split by immense grins. Crisp light poured through them all, illuminating everything with an even, eternal glow. Each stored increment awaited only a release of control in order to speak its pain. - Gregory Benford

Being arrested was becoming de rigeur for Emma Goldman and her boyfriend Dr. Ben Reitman. As her interests turned to the rights of women, passing out birth control and information about it regulary led to both members of the anarchist couple being forced to spend time in jail or a workhouse. Later, Reitman served six months in prison for distributing illegal pamphlets in Cleveland.

Emma Goldman's penalties for the same crime were usually not quite so severe, and sometimes her convictions were overturned in New York courts. Given the choice between prison and a fine, she always selected the former out of principle.

But prison changed Emma Goldman no matter how long she was inside. "I don't know whether you will understand the feeling since you have never had the experience," she wrote, "but I felt more miserable yesterday and today than on the day I was sentenced and in fact the two weeks while I was in prison. However there is no time to contemplate one's feelings." Once Reitman had served his time, he begged Emma more forcefully than ever to marry him and settle in one place.

She declined the nuptials, but at the end of 1913, Emma Goldman purchased a Harlem brownstone on 119th Street. With four floors and a tremendous open feeling, this house was quite spacious. Ben suggested his mother move in with them, and Emma tentatively agreed. She may have intimated the disastrous effect having Ben's mother on the premises would have on her sex life and overall well-being.

Instead of being one happy home, the experience of living together was nothing short of a disaster. Emma's ex-boyfriends and fellow travelers used the house as their own, and Reitman grew resentful of being financially dependent on Goldman. "I am 35 years old, and I haven't a thing," he told her, "and I am only the jester, joker or clown. I don't amount to a damn in the movement and I know it." Reitman and his mother bailed and moved back to Chicago.

Ben suggested they live in a small apartment of their own, but Emma had grown tired of the domestic experiment. The house consumed most of Emma's income from lectures, and hangers-on ate any food on the premises. She moved into more spare quarters on E.125th. "I am so tired of lectures, meetings and the mad chase," she told Reitman. She asked him to go on the road with her again, and he hesitantly agreed. During that trip Reitman met Anna Martindale, an English expat who was crusading for a woman's right to vote. He began seeing Anna when Emma was at meetings or in other towns.

In 1917, Ben Reitman married Anna Martindale. Emma was distressed, but a part of her knew this was inevitable. She turned to her work, where she found that she missed her manager as much as her sexual and emotional partner. Protesting the first World War was her focus. Police arrested anyone at her lectures who could not produce a draft card. Eventually, they arrested Emma in her home. She prepared for trial at the age of 48. The charges were outlandish, but the political climate was completely against her. Goldman was accused of accepting German money, of inciting violence, and preventing draft registration. A jury aided by a deeply biased judge found her guilty and Emma was sentenced to the maximum: two years. The New York Times enthusiastically praised the verdict.

Emma avoided jail on appeal for the moment and helped her friends, many of whom were also pursued by the law. Ben Reitman served his time in a workhouse; others were deported. The post office refused to mail any of her newsletters, and she was forced to shut her magazine (Mother Earth). Emma finally thought of leaving her adopted country. She knew that it was unlikely she would be allowed back if she left for Russia, and this scared her.

Before she could flee of her own volition, the Supreme Court rejected her appeal and she was sent to federal prison in Jefferson City, Missouri. "In moments of depression I look to Russia," she wrote in a letter. "She acts like a ray of sunshine working its way through black clouds." It was a most half-hearted hope.

Missouri State Penitentiary was the biggest prison in the United States, with a population of 2300 inmates. The cells for the 100 women situated there were 7x8 with a working sink and toilet. Straw was both mattress and pillow. Prisoners spent their days manufacturing clothes in the shop; the smell throughout was pervasive. The dining hall was filled with cockroaches. Breakfast was sugar, bread and coffee. Potatoes were inedible. Twice a week, the women got oatmeal. Lunch featured beef, dinner incorporated a soup ridden with worms. Talking during meals was not permitted, and overall conditions were wretched.

Most of Goldman's fellows were mentally ill. The library would not have been much use to them anyway, but women were not permitted to have books until the prisoners appealed. Bent over a sewing machine all day, Emma suffered intense pain in her neck and spine. Going outside was only permitted on Sunday, although this brief pleasure was denied Goldman because she would not attend church. The day was still a blessing, since she was allowed to spend all morning reading and writing letters.

Upon her release from prison in 1919, Emma Goldman took a train to Chicago. She had not seen Ben Reitman in years. Traveling with her niece, she met Ben, his wife, and their daughter in that city. After leaving prison, Reitman had opened up a private practice and was researching birth control in free hours. In Rochester Emma saw her mother for the final time. She would be deported to Russia on December 21st, 1919.

Whether she was angry to be forcefully removed from the United States is not evident in her letter to Ben Reitman. "Their mad rush in getting us out of the country is the greatest proof to me that I have served the cause of humanity," she wrote. She continued:

I was glad to have been in Chicago and to see you again, dearest Hobo. I never realized quite so well how far apart we have travelled. But it is alright, nothing you have done since you left me, or will yet do can take away the 10 wonderful years with you. If it is true that the power of endurance is the greatest test of love, Hobo mine, I have loved you much. But I have been rewarded not only in pain - but in real joy - in ecstasy - in all that makes life full & rich & sparkling.

Ellen Copperfield is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in San Francisco. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.


In Which We Protect The Long Road From Harm

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.


My daughter has been dating a guy for over six months. He is 24, and unable to hold a steady job of any kind. He never graduated from college, and comes from a troubled family. I have no idea whether he uses drugs or not, but he looks like the kind of person who has at least sampled a few.

My daughter is bright, highly educated and on a great career path in health care. I feel like this guy is a waste of her time and I have told her how I felt. She has informed me that I have misjudged her boyfriend and wants me to get to know the guy. I feel like drawing him any deeper into our family is saying the relationship is acceptable. It's not.

How can I end this thing before it gets more serious?

Kelly K.


Dear Kelly,

Level of education and outward physical appearance is probably not the best way to judge someone, unless that person is Kid Rock. There are plenty of monsters who look like apple pie, and plenty of wonderful people who look like Rob Kardashian. I don't know any, but basic faith in humanity suggests they probably exist.

With that disclaimer out of the way, people do not come to Hard to Say for vague pronouncements about having faith in humanity. I am not your priest.

Sometimes questionable goals require questionable means. Shit-talking your daughter's boyfriend isn't really going to do anything but push her away. If they eventually break up, perhaps she will forgive you in time and subtly incorporate your judgment into her further pursuit of romantic partners. Or the complete opposite could happen and she could begin hiding her relationships from you.

A simple expression of disapproval can work over time, but the problem is that this is not a very intricate dichotomy and you have lost control. If you keep restating your feelings, you become an awful person, which I presume you do not desire. You want to be a good person who is loved by your daughter, and still accomplish your goals.

You need to broaden the complexity of this situation. If you never get to know your daughter's boyfriend well, it is impossible to truly criticize him in the way this situation eventually requires. Your daughter can just suggest you don't have all the information, and she will be right.

The first thing to do is weave praise into criticism. This approach comes across as more realistic, because the world is not a chorus of black and white.

Next, you'll want to establish your own personal relationship with the boyfriend. All of a sudden, your daughter sees that he now has this relationship with another woman, you. Jealousy cannot help but come into play. When a woman sees a man seeking the approval of two women, she subconsciously wonders how many more he is willing to please.

The boyfriend can make so many more mistakes if you get to know him. If he is really not a great match for your daughter, you will be giving yourself ample ammunition, and him ample chance to hang himself.

Then there is also the outside possibility that you will grow to love your new son-in-law. It can happen. I mean it never has for me, but I'm sure it can, I saw it on Lifetime once.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.


In Which The Lady Sprawls On A Loveseat Of Her Choosing

Lady Luck


creator Noah Hawley

The Lady rides a chariot towed by two cats. She is lovely, lovelier than any mortal thing, and when Ray Stussy (Ewan McGregor) finds her, he is bowled over completely. Her name, on this mortal plane, is Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and she meets Ray because he is her parole officer. Ray cannot believe his luck. The purest sort of divinity can be found in the unlikeliest of possible places, which in the case of this season of FX's finest show, Fargo, is a Minnesota that looks curiously like Alberta, Canada.

Winstead is an actress of rare force and beauty. Nothing, not even a hacking of her iCloud account, dampens her considerable appeal. Her clothing is extremely basic, and her fondness for bridge resembles a passion shared by my late grandmother, but this is no matter. She is the Lady, a beacon of equanimity. You would do absolutely anything to be invited into a bathtub with this creature, even if she makes you face forward. Her voice is the wind.

Hot on her trail is Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon), a police officer in Eden Valley, MN. Coon has made a career of playing women so comfortable in their own skin you almost want to touch them to make sure they are alive. Watching her slip out of this chasm of self-reliance is the pleasure of watching Ms. Coon, whose name is very racist. Burgle despises computers and is so polarized against technology that she is not even recognized by electronic doors. Her only relation besides an ineffectual son is the father of her ex-husband. (He is murdered at the end of the first episode, and Gloria wants to find out why.)

Let's get back to the Lady, however. She has this magical apartment (it is not her real name on the lease) that covers almost an entire floor. Housing is dirt fucking cheap in the Midwest. Her boyfriend Ray comes to her with a problem one night. He has blackmailed another one of his parolees into robbing his twin brother Emmet (a clean shaven Ewan McGregor) of an extremely valuable stamp. Instead of accomplishing this theft, the parolee (Scoot McNairy) murdered a similarly named senior citizen living at another address. He returns and demands money from Ray for his trouble.

The Lady tells Ray not to worry too much about this murder, since it is natural that police do not spend as much time investigating the murder of seniors, given how close to death they already are. He knows that it probably will not work this way, but he wants to believe. The remaining loose end is the actual perpetrator of said murder, who can figure the Lady's boyfriend in this conspiracy. The Lady ties it up nicely by pushing her air conditioning unit, several stories, onto his tiny drunk head.

Ray has been an accessory to a few crimes, but he cannot be said to have had foreknowledge of any of them. As such, he is an innocent, and the Lady recognizes this. There is one famous story about the Lady, who is sometimes called Freyja. It was the custom of all the men who came to Valhalla to fall on their knees before her, so amazed were they by her primordial beauty. She could have any of them; none would refuse her. "Rise," she would tell them, and any who could not, she would take to her bed.

Ray's twin brother Emmet Stussy (still Ewan McGregor) has a wife Stella (Linda Kash) and a couple of kids, so by all indications of his massive mansion, his parking lot business is helping him to live a much happier life than his brother. In reality, Emmet has borrowed money from V.M. Varga (David Thewlis), an intensely disturbed crook. Should any of this sound the slightest bit confusing, don't worry. All you need to remember is that by the end, if the most disturbing thing you have seen is the tampon of the Lady, found as her calling card in a drawer located in Emmet Stussy's house, you can count yourself lucky.

Even though it seems like this season of Fargo has a lot of characters, last season topped it for sheer numbers and was also possibly the best thing ever made on broadcast television. Exceeding it with this 2010 edition is no easy feat, and Noah Hawley does not seem to be attempting something of the exact same scope. Instead, he embraces a common trick of adapters: he returns to an original source for inspiration, for this version of Fargo is more like the original movie than any other.

What made the cinematic original of Fargo so different from other noirs was the way it made a human desperation so completely palpable, and thus a believable, sympathetic driver of events. Older films in the same milieu had characters who went essentially mad for a woman, or for some money. In this world, a woman is a gift bestoyed upon a man by a merciful God, and money is the luck of the Irish. It is being deprived of what the Lady has already seen fit to give us which disturbs our ch'i considerably more than wanting it in the first place.

Ethan Peterson is the reviews editor of This Recording.