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Editor-in-Chief
Alex Carnevale
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Managing Editor
Kara VanderBijl
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Features Editor
Mia Nguyen
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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 (158)

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)

Thursday
Oct162014

In Which Aldous Huxley Takes A Trip With His First Wife

Around the World

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Just tired and busy and amazed and amused and charmed and horrified. - Maria Huxley, in a letter

In 1913 Aldous Huxley began to lose his sight. His eyes clouded over, his vision was "steadily and quite rapidly failing. I was wondering quite apprehensively what on earth I should do." After seeing an oculist, it was decided that a milder climate might help him, so Aldous Huxley and his wife Maria Nys went to Italy. Their son Matthew spent the first four years of his life in Florence and Rome.

Matthew was an extremely large and difficult child. Aldous and Maria were a bit taken aback by who they had created; Matthew Huxley would later become a prominent epidemologist. The child was a picky eater and stuck to a vegetarian diet, causing Aldous to remark, "he realizes that meat is dead animals."

Matthew had no desire to read, which made him the polar opposite of his father. The entire family was practically grief stricken at the young boy's non-literary habits; only Aldous was able to be patient with him. "Too early a passion for reading distracts from the powers of observation," he told everyone.


The whole family liked Italy, but Aldous was the only one who admired it, more in theory than in practice. Florence never suited him; it was more a place where culture had been rather than a city where it was. He chose Rome as the young family's landing spot. "After a third rate provincial town," he concluded, "colonized by English sodomites and middle-aged lesbians, a genuine metropolis will be lively." They could not stay in Italy, however, as fascism was in the air. They left Matthew in Belgium with his grandmother and took a boat to Bombay.

Aldous despised the architecture of Lahore, and loathed Kashmir worse. They kept incredibly active, fortified by a gnawing fear and the weight they burned off from their time in Florence. At Srinagar they visited the lunatic asylum.

Every place that they visited, Aldous asked question after question, ostensibly as research for a series of articles that helped pay for the journey. He also did it when he felt he did not have something himself to say.

An attempt to travel second class did not go well - a holy man spit his mucus all over their car - so they paid the extra rupees for first class, money they knew they should not be spending. Maria could barely eat the food. "India is depressing as no other country I have ever known," Aldous wrote. "One breathes in it, not air, but dust and hopelessness."

Aldous was most put off by the beliefs of the people he met. "A little less spirituality," he wrote, "and the Indians would now be free - free from foreign dominion and from the tyranny of their own prejudices and traditions. There would be less dirt and more food. There would be fewer Maharajas with Rolls Royces and more schools."


He was not impressed at all by the Taj Mahal, and told everyone so. "These four thin tapering towers," he wrote in Jesting Pilate, "are among the ugliest structures ever erected by human hands." Whatever one thinks of the Taj Mahal, it seems a greater dissatisfaction with the world and his place in it may have been the cause of this observation.

Things got better as soon as they left Calcutta for Burma. Dutch ships took them to the Philippines. From there they landed in Japan, taking the train to Kyoto and departing via Yokohama. Aldous watched Maria's eating closely, preventing her from having too much caviar, the only food she felt comfortable consuming at sea.

Japan was almost as nauseating to Aldous as India, but for different reasons. Kyoto was "such a collection of the cheap and shoddy, of the quasi-genuine and the imitation solid, of the vulgar and the tawdry." The industrial city did not suit Aldous' taste at all:

Little wooden shacks succeeds little wooden shack interminably, mile after mile; and the recession of the straight untidy roads is emphasised by the long lines of posts, the sagging electric wires that flank each street, like the trees of an avenue. All the cowboys in the world could live in Kyoto, all the Forty-Niners. Street leads into identical street, district merges indistinguishably into district. In this dreary ocean of log-cabins almost the only White Houses are the hotels.

with D.H. Lawrence

San Francisco was next, and from there Maria and Aldous took the Daylight Limited train to Los Angeles. They did not stay long in any one American city; Hollywood was "altogether too Antipodean to be lived in." (Aldous would spend the majority of the rest of his life in Southern California.)

When they returned to England from New York, Maria went to see Matthew while Aldous stayed in England. It had been only the two of them for so long.


While they were apart, Aldous wrote Maria long letters. They prefigure a latent unhappiness that would lead him to adultery, but also the connection that would allow the marriage to survive his mistakes until Maria died of breast cancer in 1955.

I think myself it's rather nice to be busy and practical on the outside - and daydreams, as you call it, inside. The things one cares about are all inside, like seeds on the ground in winter. But one has to attend to the things one only half cares about. And so life passes away.

Luckily, the inside thing corresponds with the inside thing in just a few people. I think it is so with us. We don't fit in very well outside - but the inside corresponds, which is most important.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Bowls (Gavin Russo's Rework)" - Caribou (mp3)

"Odessa (Junior Boys mix)" - Caribou (mp3)

Thursday
Oct022014

In Which We Translate John Ashbery From The Original

Positively the Last

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Collected French Translations
by John Ashbery
editors Rosanne Wasserman & Eugene Richie

Once or twice a year I get an e-mail asking me what I admire about John Ashbery.

Max Jacob was a prose poet who died in a concentration camp. He abdicated his Judaism, which meant that no Jew would claim him. He resented his homosexuality, which meant that no gay would. And he was a gay Jew, which meant the Catholicism he chose after being visited on a rainy night in 1909 by Jesus Christ would never bring up his name. He is the sort of figure who disappears from history because he has no people.

In his other French translations, collected for the first time in a volume edited by Rosanne Wasserman and Eugene Richie, John Ashbery fields a dutiful fidelity to the text. With Max Jacob something seems different, off  the surrealist poet and his scribe are equally reflective. There is a sympathy here. When two lenses mirror each other, you get something like this:


Surrealism as a whole was filled with junksters and cretins. Jacob was just another unhappy young man in a place and time that attracted poets like "the cushions of the night commode." Ashbery stood out among his trendy friends with his studiousness and capacity for self-awareness. He could see his friends for what they were as well as what they weren't; a rare gift in any collective.

As a pre-teen, Ashbery kept his private writings in French so that his parents could not read them. For his sixteenth birthday, they gave him a French dictionary, so it seems Mom and Dad were out to lunch.

Any translator takes on work for money alone, and Ashbery's versions of prose poems by André Breton and Paul Éluard are intensely restrained, and even resonate as semi-critical at times: translation as light parody. There is a similar lack of an expansive quality in his replications of Rimbaud, who seems childish and simple in Ashbery's grasp. Illuminations was a lot worse than I remember it.

Reading this stuff always pushes me back to Ashbery's poetry in English. Prose iterations were never his forte, and his novel with James Schuyler, A Nest of Ninnies, is a complete mess. The form of the line that he mastered in long and short form was always his calling.

There is an occasional feeling when reading the translated verse of Ashbery's friend Pierre Martory that one gets in Ashbery all the time: that of existence beyond the poem. In Ashbery, the world is always present as a functioning, breathing abstraction that drives all his transparent creativity. Coming back to other poets after that is such a dreadful disappointment.


Ashbery has never not chosen the right verb, and because action is somewhat rare here, the mere sounding of a bell or echo of the same is enough to rattle the cages.

In his brilliant book of poetics, Advice to a Young Poet, Max Jacob writes that "in poetry the precise value of the word only has value when the precision is exaggerated." Jacob is making a surrealist joke, but it is lost on us now. The thrill of chaos for its own sake died during the first World War. "Art is a game," Jacob continues. "Too bad for anyone who makes it a duty."

Reading Ashbery's work for hire, you do wish he had maybe taken his job a bit less diligently. Same for Lydia Davis with Proust. They both felt they owed something to the masters they translated, but think of what new masterpieces we would have if they had reworked things to their own satisfaction. Something like this, perhaps:

In a way this kind of writing brushes away all other efforts. Sentiment absorbs cynicism. The man's songs exude arrogance in everything except the way they announce themselves. I wonder what they thought, when they first read Hamlet, pretty much that everything else was shit? Who would bother writing after that?

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. Experience our mobile site at thisrecording.wordpress.com.

"Spotless Mind" - Jhene Aiko (mp3)

"To Love & Die" - Jhene Aiko ft. Cocaine 80s (mp3)