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Alex Carnevale
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Managing Editor
Kara VanderBijl
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Features Editor
Mia Nguyen
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Senior Editor
Durga Chew-Bose
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Senior Editor
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 (152)

Monday
Sep222014

In Which We All Seem To Need The Help Of Someone Else

mental illness what not

Man and Woman

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Camille Claudel was only 18 when she met the greatest sculptor who ever lived. Auguste Rodin was 24 years her elder, and it was the first time she had ever been to Paris.

As a means of attracting students, Rodin visited a group of young artists at the rue Notre Dame des Champs. At the time, he could barely make his rent, and often had to beg his contracted students to pay their bills. Under Rodin's instruction Camille excelled as both a model and an artist. He was especially attracted to her limbs; casts of hands and feet were often the first things he showed his apprentices. He began consulting his new muse about every aspect of his work. The two would go on to collaborate on a number of projects that would bear Rodin's name alone.

By 1885 Rodin was completely obsessed with his young assistant: her feminine form, her unfamiliar accent, the mere scent of her. Initially, their affair was kept quiet, as Rodin continued his 20-year relationship with a woman who he also sculpted, Rose Beuret. Several biographies of Rodin exclude Camille altogether; one calls her "la belle artiste." She still lived with her parents, and her lack of accessibility was a major part of her charm for the older man.

the only babrer irir

Rodin was a help and a hindrance in Camille's quest to finding herself as a young woman. In a questionnaire offered in a playful journal titled "An Album of Confessions to Record Thoughts, Feelings, Etc", she wrote the following:

Your favorite virtue I don't have any, they are all boring.

Your favorite qualities in a man To obey his wife

Your favorite qualities in a woman To make her husband fret

Your favorite occupation To do nothing

Your chief characteristic Caprice and inconstancy

Your idea of happiness To marry general Boulanger

Your idea of misery To be the mother of many children

Your favorite color and flower The most changing color and the flower which does not change

If not yourself, who would you be? A hackney horse in Paris

Your favorite poet One who does not write verses

Your favorite painters and composers Myself

Your favorite heroes in real life Pranzini or Truppman

Your favorite heroines in real life Louise Michel

Your favorite heroes in fiction Richard III

Your favorite heroines in fiction Lady Macbeth

Your favorite food and drink De la cuisine de Merlatti (love and fresh water)

Your favorite names Abdonide, Josephyr, Alphee, Boulang

Your pet aversion Maids, hackney drivers, and models

What characters in history do you most dislike? They are all disagreeable.

What is your present state of mind? It is too difficult to tell.

For what faults have you most tolerance? I tolerate all my faults but not at all other people's

Your favorite motto. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Camille Claudel

The first time Camille left their cozy arrangement in Paris was a vacation to the Isle of Wight with her best friend. Free of her life in Paris and her intrusive family, she was on her own for the first time. She told her friends, "I have never had so much fun in my entire life."

Left to his own devices, Rodin was lovesick and upset, and he did not find his girlfriend's letters at all reassuring. He told her, "Don't let me be hurt like this by waiting too long." Their principal disagreement was over other women - Rodin's obsession with the female gender was all consuming. His friend Octave Mirbeau once said of him that "he could do anything, even a crime, for a woman." Once at a dinner with Monet he stared so forcefully at his host's daughters that they all left the table.

as only she can

Unfortunately for Rodin, Camille decided to postpone her return to present one of her sculptures in Nottingham. She wrote him a savage letter that began, "You can believe I am not very happy here; it seems that I am so far away from you. There is always something missing tormenting me." This kind of behavior naturally only intensified Rodin's desire for her. In one of his typical lovesick letters, he wrote,

My poor head is very sick, and I can't get up any more this morning. Last night, I wandered (for hours) in our favorite places without finding you, how sweet death would be and how long is my agony. Why didn't you wait for me at the atelier? Where are you going? To what suffering have I been destined? During moments of amnesia, I suffer less, but today even the relentless pain remains. Camille my beloved in spite of everything, in spite of the madness which I feel impending and which will be your doing, if this continues. Why don't you believe me?

I abandon my Salon and sculpture. If I could go anywhere, to a country where I would forget, but there isn't any. Frankly, there are times when I believe I will forget you. But, in an instant, I feel your terrible power. Have pity, cruel girl. I can't go on, I can't spend another day without seeing you. Otherwise the atrocious madness. It is over, I don't work any more, malevolent goddess, and yet I love furiously.

My Camille be assured that I feel love for no other woman, and that my soul belongs to you.

I can't convince you and my arguments are powerless. You don't believe my suffering. I weep and you question it. I have not laughed in so long. I don't sing anymore everything is dull and indifferent to me. I am already a dead man and I don't understand the trouble I went through for things which are now indifferent to me. Let me see you every day; it will be a generous action and maybe I will get better, because you alone can save me through your kindness.

Today of course she would immediately post that on tumblr.

Mere expressions of love alone would not be enough to win Camille over. She was not involved enough to give herself over to a womanizer without some assurances. Eventually, Rodin was moved to draw up the following bizarre contract.

In the future and starting from today 12 October 1886, I will have for a student only Mademoiselle Camille Claudel and I will protect her alone through all the means I have at my disposal through my friends who will be hers especially through my influential friends.

I will accept no other students so that no other rival talent could be produced by chance, although I suppose that one rarely meets artists as naturally gifted.

At the exhibition, I will do everything I can for the placement and the newspapers.

Under no pretext will I go to Mme.... to whom I will not teach sculpture anymore. After the exhibition in May we will go to Italy and and will live there communally for at least six months of an indissouble liasion after which Mademoiselle Camille will be my wife. I will be very happy to offer a marble figurine if Mademoiselle Camille wishes to accept it within four or five months.

From now until May I will have no other woman otherwise the conditions of this contract are broken.

If my Chilean commission comes through, we will go to Chile instead of Italy.

I will take none of the models I have known.

We will have a photograph taken by Carjat in the outfit worn by Mademoiselle Camille at the Academie, day clothes and possibly evening clothes.

Mademoiselle Camille will stay in Paris until May.

Mademoiselle Camille promises to welcome me to her atelier four times a month until May.

Rodin

After the contract was signed, the momentum of the relationship shifted. Having agreed to her master's wishes, he possessed all the power. Camille deeply feared Rodin taking other women into his bed, especially the models that posed for him. Things were further complicated by the fact that Beuret, the mother of Rodin's son, found out about his concubine and began to loathe Camille. In response, he moved his mistress into an apartment near the Eiffel Tower.

The affair slowly fell apart after that. The last straw was Claudel's miscarriage; paranoid about the promises her lover had broken, the next decade found her destroying her own artwork and tearing down the presumably yellow wallpaper of her apartment. Although doctors would argue she did not belong there, at her brother's request she would spend the last thirty years of her life in an asylum five miles from Avignon.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

I JUST DDDD

"I'm A Mother" - Perfume Genius (mp3)

"Fool" - Perfume Genius (mp3)

dreams can come trrue

Friday
Aug292014

In Which Ralph Ellison Meets The Love Of His Life

This is the first in a two part series.

Nothing Has Changed

by ALEX CARNEVALE

In 1957, Ralph Ellison told his second wife Fanny McConnell that their marriage had been a disappointment to him.

Ralph and Fanny met thirteen years earlier. She was slightly older, still gorgeous, having changed the spelling of her name from Fannie to Fanny as a way of putting the sexual abuse by her stepfather behind her. She had studied theater at the University of Iowa after transferring from Fisk College in Nashville. Due to Jim Crow laws she was never allowed onstage.

Disillusionment came to Fanny quickly. When she enrolled at Fisk, she told her mother, "I think I am the best looking girl in the freshman class. I am going to make it my business be one of the smartest too." She transferred from Fisk to Iowa, where she was even unhappier at the larger, almost all-white school. Chicago treated her no better.

Fanny's first husband was the drizzling shits; her second husband ran off to join the 366th infantry and decided he liked it a lot better than his wife. She lost her job at the Chicago Defender for no reason and found Washington D.C. to be the most racist city she had been to yet.

In New York, she took a position at the National Urban League. It was here that she met Ralph Ellison, who, she wrote, was "the lonely young man I found one sunny afternoon in June." In reality, the two were introduced by mutual friend Langston Hughes. Their first date occurred at Frank's Restaurant in Harlem.

Ralph encouraged his new girlfriend to read Malraux. He was planning a novel about a black man dropped into a Nazi prison camp, who would rally the group together before perishing as a martyr. It was meant to be "an ironic comment upon the ideal and realistic images of democracy."

Three months after they kissed, Fanny moved into Ralph's apartment at 306 W. 141st Street. She could not tell anyone she lived there, since she would have been fired from her job if they knew. Soon after, she left for Chicago to finalize her divorce papers. Ellison panicked that she would not come back. She had barely hit city limits when he telegrammed, YOUR SILENCE PREVENTING WORK. WIRE ME EVEN IF MIND CHANGED. Fanny replied, NOTHING HAS CHANGED. I AM THE SAME AND LOVE YOU.

When she returned to New York, Fanny was so happy she chanced an enema and threw out her old clothes. They adopted a puppy, a Scottish terrier named Bobbins.

The two were rarely apart in the years that followed. World War II ended, but Ralph's own battles continued. They spent part of that summer after their marriage in Vermont, where among the detritus of backwards New England, Fanny's husband developed the basic concept of Invisible Man.

Ralph found it difficult to write in Harlem, so he rented a shack in scenic Long Island that served as his office. The rent took up most of his savings, and Fanny's job at a housing authority provided the rest of what they had. The two were married quietly in August 1946.

At the same time as Ellison was putting down roots, his friend Richard Wright was leaving America for Paris, exhausted by the insults an invective marriage to a white woman had brought into his life. In Paris Wright would have powerful friends in the expatriate community; Ellison had already found these resources in America.

With Fanny by his side, Ralph hoped for the kind of acclaim and financial security of which he had long dreamed. In order to really get down to completing Invisible Man, he plotted a sabbatical from his wife in Vermont where he could finally wrap up the novel. He took Bobbins and their new dog, Red, with him. He missed his wife intensely: "To paraphrase myself, I love you, write me, I'm lonely, and envious of your old lovers who for whatever pretext, have simply to walk up the street to see you."

Fanny wrote back, "My dear, all my former lovers are dead. I don't even remember who they were."

with a friend's bb

Ralph encouraged Fanny to spend the time writing, which she had done for the stage in Chicago at the Negro Theater. In New York she was expected to keep up relationships with Ralph's wealthy white friends, who enjoyed parading her around a bit too much.

By the time Ralph made it back from Vermont where he was basically the only black man in a small college town, Invisible Man was yet to be completed. Fanny felt major pressure to produce a child. At 38 this would have been difficult, and Ralph was resolutely against adoption. Still, she could not conceive despite fertility treatments at the Sanger Bureau. Frustrated with his wife, Ralph pretended to seek other intimacy without ever consummating it.

He took out on Fanny his anger at not being able to complete the book, at what he felt was a token role in a white-dominated literary world. All this he also channeled into his writing. When a friend offered the use of an office in Manhattan's diamond district, Ralph gladly accepted. Perched in a window that looked out on Radio City Music Hall, passerby were often scandalized to see a black man smoking at a typewriter.

By 1949 Ralph had to abandon his temporary office, but Invisible Man, after so long, seemed close to being finished. An excerpt published in the magazine Horizon heightened anticipation for the book and elevated Ralph's star, pushing him to complete the final manuscript. Fanny did much of the typing as he revised, focusing the text by eliminating an Othello-like subplot.

Manhattan seemed a more hospitable place than ever. In these last months of putting together the book, Ralph would do anything to distract himself from saying it was done; he even constructed an entire amplifier from parts to avoid working on it. Fanny gave him the space he needed: husband and wife were on more solid ground. Finally, with a new agent and new publisher, Invisible Man appeared on store shelves on April 14, 1952.

"We feel these days," Fanny wrote to Langston Hughes, "as if we are about to be catapulted into something unknown  of which we are both hopeful and afraid."

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

with Lyndon Johnson

"Sugar High" - Larkin Poe (mp3)

"Jesse" - Larkin Poe (mp3)

Friday
Aug152014

In Which Cate Blanchett Vamps Like A Mere Servant

Ungrateful

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Some things are too good for critics.

In the Lincoln Center Festival production of Jean Genet's The Maids, Cate Blanchett prances around the stage in her undergarments until that special moment when Isabelle Huppert begins humping her red dress and choking her as anyone with a brain would want to be throttled. If you can't enjoy watching Cate playact sadomasochism with one of the finest French actresses of her generation, something is probably wrong with you.

There is something completely non-American about The Maids that is impossible to translate, even when the words themselves are done better than they ever have in a rewrite by Benedict Andrews and Andrew Upton. Any production of this oft-staged comedy is on some level shameful and difficult to watch, since there is no amount of crossdressing or wackiness or satirical commentary that makes people feel OK about servants betraying their employers.

Why do so many theatrical reviews read like histories? It really doesn't matter how anything was performed in the past. The past no longer exists, I think this was a major theme of Mr. Holland's Opus or perhaps The Nutty Professor.

Now, today, you can see Cate Blanchett writhe and spread her legs as Claire, the youngest of the two maids in the employ of Madame (Elizabeth Debicki).  When older sister Solange (Huppert) puts her hand in her sister's mouth as she is straddling her, there is not a lot of thinking that has to go on to realize that this is the kind of fun we never end up seeing anywhere except pirate romance novels. The overall cumulative effect is something like if the girl of your dreams suddenly began slobbering all over you, jamming her fingers in your mouth.


The fact that a play from the late forties could still have any shock value in it at all shows how prudish American culture is, but that is the not-so-interesting part of watching Blanchett smear her makeup and monologue the inner desire she has to poison her fickle employer. Murder is less shocking than transcendent sex play; it is also a lot more understandable.

Cate's ministrations eventually make you realize that, is it really so bad when Bradley Cooper's girlfriend slobbers and jams her fingers down his throat?


Under the bright lights of NY City Center, Blanchett's face oscillates like a sun dial. She is always the center of any action on the stage, just subtle enough to not be overwhelming. Director Benedict Andrews dresses her older sister up more modestly, like the young girl she is not. Huppert's strong accent and sonorously low voice make her sound even more alien than her statuesque blonde sister, and the fact that she makes Blanchett's Claire seem normal is the basic premise of this production.


At some point an actress like Blanchett is just playing herself, or off herself. The latter is a lot more fun. The best part of The Maids occurs when Elizabeth Debicki finally enters the proceedings as Madame halfway through the play, and the natural order of things returns to the household.

We always find it easier to laugh when the existing social order is intact. Disturbingly, the most regular arrangement of individuals comforts us. It was either William F. Buckley or Genet who taught the West that there was a reason things were the way they were. I suppose in some twisted way those two men were peers and co-conspirators.

Hilton Als called this version of The Maids "a rip-off", I guess because there was a video screen, I am unclear on the actual reason. Watching a screen display what is already in front of you is a complete waste of time, but you have to remember that almost half the audience at the performance of The Maids I attended waited in line to get headphones that would assist with their ability to hear the show. If they squinted they might be able to tell Cate Blanchett apart from Elizabeth Debicki, but that would be the sole way they could do it. The only people who go to the theater are actresses, tourists and senior citizens, and it has always been this way.

And critics.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Miles Away" - Philip Selway (mp3)

"Waiting for a Sign" - Philip Selway (mp3)