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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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Entries in alex carnevale (157)

Tuesday
Nov182014

In Which We Wake Up Each Day Knowing We Are Tom Cruise

Sleepyhead

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Before I Go To Sleep
dir. Rowan Joffe
89 minutes

"I don't think I'm the kind of person who would cheat," Christine (Nicole Kidman)  says in Before I Go To Sleep. "Do you?" Her therapist, Dr. Michael Nasch (Mark Strong) eyes her suspiciously, sort of like the way a reindeer eyes a sleigh.

Things are already out of sorts. Before I Go To Sleep is set near Greenwich, England, but Nicole Kidman does a weird approximation of a half-American accent for some reason. Christine wakes up every day remembering very little. "You think you're in your twenties," her husband (Colin Firth) tells her. "But you're forty. You're forty." He tells her this like eight more times as he mansplains who she is, and again when she's sitting on the toilet.

Christine's daily amnesia is supplemented by a video camera she keeps in her drawer, where an earlier version of herself does not want her to trust the husband man sleeping next to her - if he indeed is who he says.


In this new film from director Rowan Joffe, Kidman looks pretty good all things considered. (Marriage to Tom Cruise is the only thing I considered.) They shoot a lot of the movie in a car so as not to emphasize how much taller she is than the men around her. She has always seemed like the kind of person who needed be given lines to say anything.

When Christine starts having feelings for her therapist, she becomes worried that he may be the man who attacked her and caused the memory loss in the first place. He explains that transference is natural, but counter-transference means that he must recuse himself from her case. He does not mouth the words 'I love you' but it is implied that for some men, a woman who can easily forget their flaws is something of a virtue.


Strong is a fun performer to watch: no one seems as natural vacillating between various facial expressions. He doesn't fit a more reserved role of a psychologist falling in love with his patient because his Achilles heel is showing two things, vulnerability and erudition. On the plus side he is as subtle as a mace, which perfectly suits the events of Before I Go To Sleep.

Meanwhile, Christine's husband Ben (Firth) is perpetually rotating his head so we don't see the bad side of his face. He plays his part a bit upside down, since when he turns on Christine because she can't enjoy their relationship, it's way overdue. No one could stand being forgotten on a daily basis except Adam Sandler, and Christine is far from nice about the difficulties Firth faces in caring for an invalid. She has driven everyone in her life away, to the point where we wonder why she can't just pretend to remember for a little while.

It turns out that Christine is the kind of person who would cheat. The fact that she in any way caused her own amnesia is basically a gussied-up version of blaming the victim. Whatever life she idealizes instead of the one she has probably seems better because she lost it. (Tom Cruise wakes up each day not knowing who he is, get it?)


The concept that you should never allow yourself to be betrayed twice by the same person is an important principle of self-respect. The repeated shattering of her trust that Christine suffers almost renders her inert, but it is great fun to watch her survive by feeding off her own frenzy. Kidman's constant glancing everywhere is meant to portray her shaky emotional state, but at times she resembles a spectator at a ping-pong tourney. Her too-short hair, suggesting a recent cut, is always the first betrayal in her life. She does not look the way she feels.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"You and Me" - The Veronicas (mp3)

"Mad Love" - The Veronicas (mp3)

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)

 

 

Tuesday
Nov042014

In Which Laura Riding Was As Unbelievable In Day As Early Dawn

This is the first in a series.


An Indicated Other

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Some people do not read poems because it embarrasses them to try to be as serious as the reading of poems demands.

After an affair with the poet Allen Tate, Laura Riding had made all the enemies in New York that she could stomach. Tate himself called her both "frighteningly intense" and "all right from the neck down." She moved to England at the age of twenty-five to avoid all these people.

"At the close of 1925," she wrote later, "after a period of uncertainty, I went abroad to live. I had found my American fellow-poets more concerned with making individualistic play upon the composition-habitudes of poetic tradition than with what concerned me: how to strike a personal accent in poetry that would be at once an authentic truth-compulsion, of universal force."

Born Laura Reichenthal, the only writing she carried with her would become her first manuscript, The Close Chaplet.

Robert Graves had been appointed, thanks to T.E. Lawrence, Professor of English Literature at the Royal Egyptian University in Cairo. He took Riding with his wife Nancy and their children to this new campus, housed in an unattractive area of the city and built industrially by a Belgian company.

Graves' marriage was already in trouble before Laura Riding ever set sail. She was thought of by Graves' family and friends as a nanny, and at first, Graves noted more than once, "things were wonderful." The man of the family benefitted from Riding's presence in all ways sexual and intellectual; the woman of the house found Laura a wonderful confidant who told her that men were idiots, none moreso than her husband. The children finally had the attention they required from three semi-doting adults.

Riding got along better with Nancy Graves than with her children. Nancy even loved the following lines, penned by her "intelligent nanny":

Mothering innocents to monsters
Not of fertility but fascination
In women.

They left because Graves was broke, a hospital had mistreated his son and caused the boy to lose hearing in one ear, and everyone hated Cairo. In order to solve the most easily fixable of these problems, T.E. Lawrence sent his friend a copy of his latest unpublished book, instructing him to sell it after reading.

In Riding he had met someone important, and having no other feasible role for her to enter in his life, he started to worship her. The two started writing together once the family moved to Islip. In Notting Hill Nancy agreed to an arrangement that would give her an Islip home all to herself and the children, and leave Graves and Riding to work peacefully in Notting Hill. Nancy was no innocent wallflower. She considered this development evidence of her "dis-marriage," and she could think of no person more likely to reform her husband than Laura Riding.

Graves' family eventually received news of the real situation, and were incensed when they learned that he would be spending Christmas with Riding alone in Vienna. They called the Jewish-American woman their son/brother was in love with "a German poet" and went to Austria to chaperone the affair. In order to ameliorate the situation, Robert Graves wrote to his father, who was to write in his own diary that he received "a really wonderful letter from Robert about the strange Trinity of friendship and love between him, Nancy and Laura"!

If his romantic life was in good order, Graves still had major money problems. He installed his wife more cheaply on a houseboat called the Ringrose, where she was acutely uncomfortable. Riding was the key in making everything all right. Her enthusiasm for work pushed them all forward, and if anyone was now the man of the house, it was Laura.

It was T.E. Lawrence, however, who saved the Trinity again. This time, he encouraged a London publisher to come out with a hagiography of him, entitled Lawrence and the Arabs, suitable for young boys. For the job Graves received £500, no small sum.

Things could not go on like this forever, and Laura sometimes chafed at gossip about her controlling nature and impact on Graves. The two started a press in order to expedite the publication of their own writing, and whenever her role in things was diminished by Graves' misogynist buddies, she lashed out. Later she would write

I am an indicated other.
Witness this common presence
Intelligible to the common mind.

One of Graves' friends would call Riding "a disagreeably self-centered person with a hard discontented face." Others were even less charitable. If his associates outwardly expressed any of this disatisfaction with his mistress, he would quickly excommunicate them. Robert Graves loved Laura passionately, but something was not quite right. He wrote, "I knew something absolutely frightful was going to happen, even though everything was fine at the time. I just knew."

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. Tune in for the second part of the Laura Riding story on Thursday.

Grace

This posture and this manner suit
Not that I have an ease in them
But that I have horror
And so stand well upright -
Lest, should I sit and, flesh-conversing, eat,
I choke upon a piece of my tongue-meat.

"Save Me" - Royksopp (mp3)

"I Had This Thing" - Royksopp (mp3)