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Alex Carnevale
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Kara VanderBijl
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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)

Saturday
Aug252012

In Which He Felt The Need To Defend Himself

You can find the archive of our Saturday fiction series here.

by Gideon Rubin

Nine and Zooey

by ALEX CARNEVALE

He said, "It connects thematically with the transient nature of things, and the permanent nature of institutions." He always preferred to start a sentence with a vowel. His tears, extended over time, were icicles, but just now they were anguished droplets, patterning the piece of paper.

It was awkward to see him crying in the middle of class, but after a moment, the rest of the group relaxed. A woman named Virginia pointed at the sky. A girl named Jamie reapplied lipstick. He said, "If you establish something, then remove it, you haven't taken it away completely. The absence remains."

He let that sink in, sipped his coffee, accidentally slurped it. He wondered if that undermined his point, but dismissed this insecurity. The only emotion that was worth analyzing was the last, since it contained all others.

Jamie picked up the papers in front of her and shuffled them as if that might rearrange the words into something different. She said, "I don't care for the narrator. He's simply not likeable. If I met him, these are the very last things I would want to know."

Tony nodded, brushing back his long hair. They waited for him to speak but he never did.

Ariana said, "Just because you don't like one facet of a person, doesn't mean you dislike him entirely."

He felt the need to defend himself, but could not imagine how. Instead he told the truth. "It's just a representation of me. You're saying you don't like me."

Virginia said, "Nine times out of ten, I would agree with you. But I just can't sympathize with a smoker. He's giving himself lung cancer after all, and on some level I feel he deserves it."

Ariana said, "If you receive something you ask for, it's a gift, not a disease."

by Gideon Rubin

Jamie said, "Cancer treatment can be very expensive. But I don't feel that kind of pain here. Perhaps he could ask someone for money. It's easy to sympathize with an individual who desperately requires what we all need to survive."

Tony said, "I was watching the Yankee game last night. A ball was hit into the crowd. A woman caught it, and gave it to a child. The boy shook his head and placed it back into her hands."

Miguel said, "I found the part about the nuclear reactor distracting."

He directed the conversation to the ending. Ariana said, "You should never end something with a gesture. I read that somewhere, but I knew it was true even before I read it."

Virginia said, "What is the religion of the protagonist?" He answered that he did not know. "I do sketches in longhand for all my characters," she explained to the group. "I need to know everything about them, so if another character asks them a question, I'll have the answer."

Tony said, "I like to find out things about my creations that I didn't know."

He said, "How could you discover a new fact about a figment that is entirely of your own imagining?"

They took a break. Even though he felt bad about it, he smoked a cigarette. Orion's belt shone like an indecent flag.

Virginia said, "Now that you have some time to think about it, what's his religion?"

Ariana said, "When you cried, I did feel for you. Perhaps your character could cry as well."

An older woman who normally did not talk during the class, and who he knew was named Yvonne, touched his hand. He started from it, surprised. She said, "Have you ever read anything by Knut Hamsun?"

Later, Ariana said, "Have you ever read anything by Howard Norman?" She knocked on wood.

Tony said, "Ethan Coen wrote some inconsistent short stories. Your work reminds me of that."

Virginia said, mere minutes after his hand had been so suddenly impacted, "You'd really like Rabbit at Rest. It is my favorite of those novels."

Their instructor was in her late fifties, her long blonde hair adorned with barrettes of the exact same color. Her golden retriever always sat next to her; the dog was named after one of the characters on Babylon 5. At the end of each class, she made her pronouncement on the story up for discussion. Often it contained some repudiation of his classmates, occasionally she confirmed one or more of their views. At first he thought she touched her chin absentmindedly during these lectures, but the more he saw of the behavior, the more convinced he became she was self-conscious about her neck.

At the bar afterwards, Ariana said, "I'm completely frightened by what she will say to me. You're so lucky."

Virginia gave him a cocktail and pressed an index finger to her temple. When he thanked her she nodded and said, "You know how sheets list their thread count on the package? Everything should do that." She headed right for the bathroom after that.

Ariana said, "Your eyelashes are so long. Have you ever read Mavis Gallant?" When he stared at a row of vodka bottles, they shined in his eyes like spanish dubloons. He had never seen such gold.

In class, Tony had said, "I don't personally find it believable when after I'm done reading something, no one has eaten or slept."

He had responded, "So you're saying every work of fiction has to contain eating or sleeping?"

Tony had answered, "There's a difference between hinting at an event occurring, and actually depicting it."

His instructor had said, her left hand stroking her chin, her right hand petting her dog, "Confusing a tiny part of the thing with the whole is a mistake reminiscent of a poor semiotician. We control each and every part of our lives; no one else shares this burden. Tony."

"Yes," Tony said, and looked at him.

Slowly, as if she were surveying a canvas wider than it was high, his instructor directed her attention to the same place, addressing him thoughtfully. "When you meet someone new, do you tell them everything about yourself?" He shook his head. "And why not?"

"Because I don't know everything." The females laughed, the men just shook their heads.

by Gideon Rubin

The instructor said, "If you met someone, and you wanted her to know you completely, and you wanted to know her completely... What would be the best way of telling her this?" No one answered. "That's right. There is no good way."

Jamie said, "A hurricane approaches from the southeast. All bow."

Tony said, "When I read the word 'speckled', I feel bile rising in my throat."

Ariana said, much later, "When you come it's like you're apologizing. But I like that."

Virginia said, "What does this have to do with what we've read?" His instructor levelled her gaze like a clothesline.

"Maybe you'd rather get to know her more slowly. That way you could adjust yourself to her, and she might do the same. But at the end of it, you would find the identical result, unless you willfully held something back. Actually doing that is harder than it is for me to say it. You want something of her, and to get it, you have to lie. That's what this art is, and nothing else."

He said, "I have never been a very good liar."

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He is a writer living in Manhattan. He tumbls here and twitters here.

"Alone's Just Fine" - Holly McNarland (mp3)

"You'll Forget About Me" - Holly McNarland (mp3)

by Gideon Rubin

Thursday
Aug022012

In Which The Captcha Tells Our Future

Physic

by ALEX CARNEVALE

To calculate exactly how much influence chance plays in auts is a tricky subject. A certain biomechanical tally could hold falsities. I ran this situation by my therapist, but she could offer no solution. There was nothing making up the mass.

(We were the mass.)

I began getting messages, on and on. You know the type. I'd like to see you again. A likely story.

The onset of randomness was chronicled by a happy man. Could bet that he was keen on seeing his own idea through.

Imagine Kant after completing a manuscript. Sheer elation, that's what an aut is. Someone could probably invent a word for it.

Miniatures were a passion of my therapist, and I understood the appeal. She construed them as docile. They were her followers. I possessed a friend in high school who collected those harsh, neon-haired trolls. He made fools of them.

In 1948 three different sets of twins perished in a global conflict. This kept occurring, until someone was able to make something out of it. In the reproduction, their faces glisten like tiny, far away stars.
     The troll-collector - the one who was my friend, I mean - he ended up joining the army. I asked him if he ever made up voices for the trolls and he laughed. I couldn't then admit that in my head, I had been.

The messages increased in frequency. It was someone who knew my mother, but any other information about the informant remained unclear.

My therapist has this theory of orbits. She hasn't patented it yet. The patent is presumably pending. The patent itself is not an aut, because it is only reproducing or categorizing something that exists already.

An orbit represents a casual link, but implied in the term is that the aut comes back on itself. It is a wrinkle that explains fate too easily, and thus opens the field to greater speculation. Galileo's drawings of the moon resemble captchas more closely than any other object in the universe.

One of the messages said to meet her at a particular time. I had a hard time understanding what anyone wanted.

To change within an aut is a worthy goal. I wouldn't say otherwise. To do something simply for its own sake is a bad way of putting it.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He is a writer living in Manhattan. He tumbls here and twitters here. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here. He last wrote in these pages about The Real L Word.

"Imitate Love" - Quigley (mp3)

You can download the latest EP from Quigley, Pleiades, here.

Friday
Jul202012

In Which You May Be A Lot Of Things But You're Not Alone

So Long To Wait 

by ALEX CARNEVALE

It all depends on whether or not the fragment of our life reveals the plan and material of the whole.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

One summer when I was very young my mother had a miscarriage and barely left her bed. My father had ordered a variety of magazines and products concerning her successful pregnancy and he told me to intercept them at the mailbox when I could. Every day she watched more than one soap opera, and since I had very little to do until Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came on television, I watched them with her, leaning up against the foot of the bed.

I barely watch my actual television now, at least not in the way I did then. Because I knew so little of what made up the world, absorbing the details of how adult relationships worked became an endlessly fascinating activity. I was astonished by the way adults seemed to hold onto their relationships, since long term planning and the endless series of codas inherent in any soap storyline was anathema to my own experience. Indeed, in the children's television of the time, everything existed purely within the realm of an event, a happening, and afterwards the behavior of that moment was rendered incidental.

Watching The Real L Word still gives me the feeling I had upon seeing those soaps for the first time. The Showtime reality show has entered its third season of focusing on the lives of variously successful lesbians in the Los Angeles area, expanding its purview to consider Brooklyn lesbians as well. The Real L Word is the best reality show ever created, and I don't know that it's particularly close.

from left: Romi, Cori, Kacy, Lauren, Sara, Whitney, Kiyomi, Amanda, Somer

Some cultures, perhaps even most, revolve around men. The lives of the women on The Real L Word do not concern men in the slightest. This comes as something of a relief to me, because the novelty of the male form wore off around the fifteenth time I viewed my penis. Growing up almost all of my teachers were women, and the male teachers I encountered seemed impossibly different from men like my father, and that was difficult to reconcile. Although I had little knowledge of it at the time, many of the most significant teachers I had were lesbians.

The distinctive feature of 21st century life, especially in urban areas, is the degree to which it revolves around the lives of the female gender. This is taken to the complete extreme on The Real L Word. Some of the lesbians know and are friendly with men, but the vast majority of these men are gay, and even the ones that aren't dress like Robin and wear exaggerated eyeglasses.

It was easy to think of The Real L Word's milieu as a kind of other world until this season. I have never lived in Los Angeles; I went there once for a wedding but the ceremony was on a boat. I'd last about five minutes lingering in traffic. Even though John Cage says that waiting in lines is an opportunity to practice patience, this is a fucking lie. 

Lauren

This third season of the show focuses on a bicoastal look at lesbian life; you'd be forgiven if you thought there was any other place in the universe. The existence of the New York lesbian is of course different from that of the Los Angeles lesbian. It is hard to quantify this exactly, but color scheme, facial expressions and hoodies all play a major role. In addition, a Los Angeles lesbian is over three times as likely to be a jewelry designer.

Lauren (pictured above) is one such individual. She is tall and a bit slack-jawed; her features are so completely distinctive that it's impossible to mistake the sight of her at any distance. Her jewelry resembles leeches or black prawns. Even though she does not really know Romi, the recovering alcoholic lesbian who was the star of The Real L Word's last season, she feels a budding rivalry with the show's narrow-faced antagonist. This is because she's been fucking Romi's also alcoholic ex-girlfriend Kelsey.

Lauren was living in a house with two women, but she evicted them because her best friend Amanda is moving from New York to live with her. "We're young and we can afford it," Amanda opines as she hoovers a cigarette. "It's something we've always wanted to do." She is very similar looking to Lauren except that she is shorter and wears less makeup when she goes out. There has always been a nascent sexual tension between Amanda and Lauren, but when they lived in the same city before, both were in relationships. Their significant others struggled to deal with the intimacy between the two best friends, and Lauren expects a romance to manifest, or at the very least sex when neither finds a partner.

KiyomiSex is where The Real L Word transcends the boundaries other television shows needlessly impose on their nonfictions. We see sex when it happens, as it happens. Not all of it, but enough to where we struggle to discern the difference between the tree and a drawing of a tree. A fight takes place, a woman comes home to see her girlfriend. Two people wake up, always surprised to see they share the same bed, and the mere novelty of their proximity leads to languorous sex. This is the simplest of human acts, and yet it never takes place in any of our fiction, except offscreen or in a completely unerotic montage.

It's not that the sex in The Real L Word is particularly titillating. Watching it, I rarely find myself the least bit turned on so much as empathically happy for the individuals involved in it, because for the most part they seem to genuinely care for each other. Watching Kiyomi perform cunnilingus in the shower becomes a moment as intimate for the audience as her girlfriend Ali, who moments before had been completely enraged. Sex in this fashion does not draw our attention to something else, it exists simply for its own sake. This is a lesson young men are never taught.

Whitney (left) and Sara

Most often nude on The Real L Word is the show's white, dreadlocked constant, Whitney. She has been the show's central character since it began, both because she knows every single lesbian in the greater Southern California area, and because she's dumped most of them. Whitney derives a certain energy from her interactions, and people seem to feed off this. Despite being a relatively usual looking person, lesbians are drawn to Whitney's brusque sexuality and introvert/extrovert personality, and whatever darkness underlies her unique social abilities. Yet they expect her to conform to a certain type, and when she shows them she is not entirely what they thought, instead of feeling deceived they experience a malingering pity towards her that is very easily confused with sexual attraction and even love.

There exists an entire house full of Whitney's ex-girlfriends: Jaq, Alyssa and Rachel. They console each other, endleslly discussing Whitney and her burgeoning long-term relationship with Sara. (Sara's name is pronounced Sada, for reasons I cannot impossibly imagine.) This woman has achieved what many could not — she has inspired Whitney to pursue a monogamous arrangement with her. This first coda for Whitney's life is shocking considering the nature of her past sex life, but it is the sort of surprise that happens very often on The Real L Word. It is akin to the feelings I experienced watching soaps with my mother: a complete alarm at the unfamiliar situations my favorite characters found themselves in. I never thought Zack Morris would get married, no more than I thought Donatello or Raphael had working reproductive organs.

Whitney and Amanda

I have always been fascinated by what happens to people when you are not there to witness what will become of them. As a child I read too many books and assumed the impression I had of the endings scheduled for literary characters was nothing like actual life. I have found over time that the only real difference between the endings of the fictional characters and their living counterparts is in the number of endings, not in the strangeness. The lesbians of The Real L Word astound me with their capacity for change, in the way they adapt so seamlessly to the changing contours of their lives. I never liked change, whether it was a new school, a new place or a new group of people, not because I did not enjoy the novelty of new friends or situations, but because it meant saying goodbye to the old.

Romi at the house of Whitney's ex-girlfriends

Romi spent most of last season trying to stop drinking. The purpose of alcohol in her life was twofold: to lubricate her social interactions so she could enjoy going out in a large group, and to allow her to enjoy sex with her partner Kelsey. Each time she imbibed she was so inebriated that blacking out and not remembering her actions became a regular fixture of her evenings.

After Romi quit alcohol, she morphed into an irritable and quick-tempered woman. At the same time her sober self was more driven and focused on her relationships and career as a clothing designer. She constantly expressed her disgust with her girlfriend Kelsey's inability to hold a job, and if she came home and found Kelsey drinking a glass of wine, she exploded in a miasma of indignant rage. Television is absolutely the best way to fathom this kind of sea change.

It is revealed in the third season premiere that Romi has spent the past six months of her life in a relationship with a man, her ex-boyfriend Jay. When Romi finally works up the courage to tell a few of her lesbian friends about this development in her life (she's somewhat ashamed and also afraid of how they'll react to the news), she also brings up that she has been putting his penis in her mouth on a frequent basis. Her friends visibly shudder. Some of those who know Romi believe this is the ending to which her life has proceeded apace all along; others are convinced that this simply represents another avenue for Romi to get a disproportionate amount of attention for her behavior. The indeterminacy between these possibilities in her narrative contains all my own hopes and desires about what life might hold.

from left: Splinter, Raphael, Leonardo, April, Donatello, Michaelangelo

When I was a kid, I actually spent time wondering what happened to the Ninja Turtles when their television show went off the air. I even wrote short stories about their lives after Shredder and Krang were buried at the bottom of the ocean together in a gold-plated casket with all the foot soldiers. The turtles could not possibly exist in a state of continual adolescence — although I have to admit I found that an attractive ideal.

The ascent into maturity at first seemed to limit the capacity for change, since all the adults I knew when I was young seemed so completely static in comparison. Of course this was naive. I wondered chiefly what would happen to the intrepid reporter April O'Neil, friend to reptiles and their rodent master. In her old age she would speak movingly about the various intimacies she shared with these otherworldly creatures. The sewer was her Paris. It might have been confusing, if you knew her in both periods of her life, to decide which was the real April or when exactly her ending occurred. The question of what happens to the people you know after you stop knowing them never goes away.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He is a writer living in Manhattan. He tumbls here and twitters here. He last wrote in these pages about Iris Murdoch. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.