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Editor-in-Chief
Alex Carnevale
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Features Editor
Mia Nguyen
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Reviews Editor
Ethan Peterson
(e-mail)

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 (233)

Wednesday
Sep112013

In Which We Crack Under The Pressure Of Kenneth Halliwell

The Younger Man

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Joe Orton's partner Kenneth Halliwell started to crack long before he read his boyfriend's diaries, before he began imitating Joe's voice on the telephone to find out what people would say about him to the man he lived with. In a tiny London apartment, Orton's secrets from Halliwell were few and far between. But as Kenneth found out, he did have them.

It was not much of a surprise to Halliwell that Orton, one of the supreme playwriting talents of his century, cheated on Kenneth Halliwell quite frequently. The younger man also wrote privately about his dalliances. Upon meeting a beautiful blonde boy that year Orton wrote, "He had a softness about his body that wasn't the softness of a woman. I hoped he would let me fuck him."

joe orton accepting the award for best play the year previous

Threesomes were routine. Orton recalls one particular scene in his diary:

After awhile I turned Dave over and shoved my cock up his arse. He gave a yelp and I took it down. A. Tills produced vaseline and I put it on my cock. A. Tills put some up blue-eyed Dave's bum and I began again. It went up like a treat. "Flat! Lie flat!" I said. He did so. Actually, it was quite exciting. After I'd come and withdrawn, I noticed A. Tills had come. Dave rolled on top of me and rubbed himself off on my belly. We lay in bed for awhile, half asleep. The ceiling was very clean. Moulding of leaves. An alarm clock besides the bed said 4:00. "I must go at five," I said, thinking that Kenneth would be back by then.

Orton was becoming the most notorious young playwright in Britain, his fame quickly spreading. His dialogue was unmatched in his industry, and the dark humor of the work found an enchanting balance between silliness and depravity. Other plays could not help but seem impossibly buttoned-up compared to the excitement plays like Entertaining Mr. Sloan, The Ruffian on the Stair and What the Butler Saw inculcated on stage.

from "Loot"

In contrast, Halliwell's writing never got off the ground at all, not matter how many manuscripts he send to his boyfriend's representation. This lack of any discernible success in the field left Kenneth Halliwell despondent. Orton's diaries find him complaining of Kenneth's foul moods and hypochondria almost constantly, contrasting his own libacious second life with a domestic arrangement that seems unhappy at best, mutually abusive at worst.

On the first of May in 1967, Orton writes:

Kenneth H. had a long talk about our relationship. He threatens, or keeps saying, he will commit suicide. He says, "You'll learn then, won't you?" and "What will you be like without me?" We talked and talked until I was exhausted. He said, "I am disgusted by all this immortality." He began to rail savagely at Tom and Clive and, after a particularly sharp outburst, alarmed me by saying, "Homosexuals disgust me!" I didn't attempt to fathom this one out.

left, Orton, center Kenneth Williams, right Kenneth Halliwell

He said he wasn't going to come away to Morocco. He was going to kill himself. "I've led a dreadful, unhappy life. I'm pathetic. I can't go on suffering like this."

After talking until about eight he suddenly shouted out and hammered on the wall, "They treated me like shit. I won't be treated like this." I agreed that they both had chosen to agree with me on all things whether sensible or not. "You had tea, they had tea, you had jam tarts, they had jam tarts. And those photographs of Mustapha - he was so unattractive, and because you had him they said, 'What a dish.'"

I'd noticed all this the previous evening. I'd also noticed that they'd been over-enthusiastic in praise of anything connected with me. "Surely you expected this?" I said.

Orton and Halliwell on vacation, 1965

Orton was a voracious reader, and Halliwell endeavored to be his guide. This caused substantial resentment between them the older man, by seven years, felt he was more educated, and that it was his duty to instruct the more talented Orton. Halliwell privately began to loathe the perceived crudity of his partner's work just because he was so fawned over.

Orton with a friend, 1965

Their sex life was furtive and occasionally disturbed. After Kenneth had parted with a few of his valium to loosen them both up, Joe

had a hard on. And we had a furious sex session. He stuck his finger up my arse and wanked me. And he said I could fuck him if I wanted to. "I can't overcome that particular psychological inhibition with you," I said. He sucked my cock. And then I tossed him off after a very long love-making session. I came, but I don't know how much, because he wiped it up before switching on the light.

Later that week, they tried again.

When I got back home, Kenneth H. was in such a rage. He'd written in large letters on the wall, JOE ORTON IS A SPINELESS TWAT. He sulked for awhile and then came round. He'd been to the doctor's and got 400 valium tablets. Later we took two each and had an amazing sexual session. I'd decided that I'd fuck him. But it didn't work out. "I'm not sure what the block is," I said. "I can fuck other people perfectly well. But up to now, I can't fuck you." This is something strange. I had a big hard on. Yet, when I turned to put it up him, it just went off. Anyway we made love and came. He sucked my cock. I've got a mark on it where he did it too hard.

To get away from things they vacationed in Tangiers, where both men slept with such young servants as their hotel could provide. Orton called ninety-five percent of the boys Mohammed, subsisting on a steady diet of hash cakes, valium and vaseline. When Joe got back to London he made a habit of checking out men's bathrooms looking for sex. He was relieved to be able to talk in English again during his fucks, noticing how much sex missed a common verbal language. Kenneth was less on his mind than ever.

Kenneth Halliwell

The reverse was true for the increasingly jealous Halliwell. In Tangiers he attacked Orton for the first time when the younger man nastily criticized him for his predilection for being masturbated to orgasm. Halliwell punched Orton in the back of the head.

Getting Kenneth to snap only increased the vigor of Orton's nastiness, and he clearly thought nothing of the danger he was putting himself in by acting this way. The blow to the head, in retrospect, was the first enactment of Orton's murder.

When they returned from "paradise" for good, Orton's play Loot, his finest work, was beginning its long run on the London stage. Meanwhile What the Butler Saw was being reshaped and polished with Halliwell's help. Orton reunited with those he'd missed while he was away.

I went to the negro's room again today. He told me his mother died of cancer. "Of the womb," he said, "and that's a terrible thing, you know." He said, "It's it's the breast than they can cut them off. Only it doesn't always work. I know a woman who had her breast off and now she's dead. Oh, man, that cancer is a terrible thing. Most people don't live, you know that." He said his father died when he was seventeen. He had several sisters and brothers in England and in America. Mostly their marriages are failures," he said, "they don't seem to get on. And they separate. I don't know what you feel about this. I feel pretty bad." He said, "I've a West Indian paper here. I just bought it. I'm looking for a job." We took off our clothes and I let him fuck me.

Then, after he'd listened to the one o'clock news on a portable wireless - "the news is bad all over the world. My God! I don't know a single spot where the news is good" I fucked him. I took a lot longer in fucking him. "I come off too quick, man," he said morosely as I got up off him. "If I could pick up a gay doctor I'd ask him about that."

The night Joe Orton was murdered by Kenneth Halliwell, he had been groping a woman in front of him, Sheila Ballantine. He was doing so completely playfully, to show how one of the actresses in Loot had overdone her own sexual promiscuity. Halliwell could barely see in front of his eyes he tried to tell Orton that he'd gotten a bunch of pills from the doctor, that he was considering suicide. His lover dismissed it as typical Kenneth; Orton was more concerned about a meeting he had with the Beatles the following day.

halliwell in tangiers

On August 9th, 1967, Kenneth Halliwell bashed Orton's head in with a hammer after taking 22 nembutals. (Halliwell's father had ended himself by putting his head in a gas oven.) The pills killed him before Orton died of blood loss in his bed. On Halliwell's desk the police found a note:

If you read his diary all will be explained.

K.H.

P.S. Especially the latter part.

Yet the very last pages of the diary, those covering the week before Orton's murder, had been torn out.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He is a writer living in Manhattan. He last wrote in these pages about Paul Bowles and the romance between Peggy Guggenheim and Samuel Beckett. He tumbls here and twitters here. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.

"A Good Sadness" - MGMT (mp3)

"Plenty of Girls in the Sea" - MGMT (mp3)

Monday
Sep092013

In Which We Decide To Give Up Everything Even Sex

Curtains

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Marcel Duchamp introduced Peggy Guggenheim to all the artists he knew in Paris. By various looks and expressions it was obvious to Duchamp that the heiress knew little of modern art, so he endeavored to teach her. He did not ask for money in exchange for his services, since the instruction of women was not considered a financially profitable task. Moreover Peggy was planning to open a gallery in London, and he saw it as something of a duty to ensure the place was filled to his liking.

When she was not with Duchamp, Peggy socialized in Paris with frenetic abandon. At a party thrown by James Joyce she observed across the table a slender, quiet, bespectacled amalgam of Irish masculinity. She stared at Samuel Beckett the entire night.

They walked the entire way back to her apartment on the Rue de Lille. Beckett's novel Murphy had begun to slowly appear across Europe. Although she had not read it, she knew it was accomplished, and she had already pleasantly digested his views on Proust. As a friend of Sam's later wrote, "She wanted to be a part of whatever good things were going to happen to him."

Peggy Guggenheim at “peep show, manipulated by turning a huge ship’s wheel, shows a rotating exhibit of reproductions of all the works, including a miniature toilet for MEN, by screwball Surrealist Marcel Duchamp.”

In her own book, Peggy wrote that Beckett was a "a tall lanky Irishman of about thirty with enormous green eyes that never looked at you. He wore spectacles and always seemed to be far away solving some intellectual problem; he spoke very seldom and never said anything stupid." They spent the next 24 hours in bed together. The only interruption came when Beckett leapt out of the sheets to purchase a few bottles of champagne and return. After Peggy finally left the embrace, Beckett murmured, "Thank you. It was nice while it lasted."

She found his long expositions on Irish painting a bit tiring, but pretended as well as she could to listen the entire time. Besides Joyce he told her he felt Journey to the End of Night was the greatest novel written in French or English. He gave her all of his books; intellectually she felt they were really clicking.

Joyce called for Beckett the next day. Both he and Guggenheim made a point of telling everyone they knew about Beckett's Parisian night and morning.

Peggy Guggenheim and Samuel Beckett did not see each other for more than a month, before Peggy made a show of running into him. Peggy was housesitting for her friend Mary Reynolds nearby; did he want to come back for a drink?

They spent the next fortnight there, Beckett drunk throughout. The sex was far from exciting - Beckett struggled to maintain his erection when he consumed alcohol. When that happened, the two would just keep drinking as they strolled through Paris until they came out the other side. The affair ended for the first time when Beckett fucked an Irish girl visiting from Dublin. To explain this behavior to Peggy, he told her "making love without being in love is like taking coffee without brandy." She did not buy this bullshit whatsoever.

SB in the 60s

They reconciled shortly after Beckett was knifed by a pimp. Peggy visited his hospital bed then, insisting as seductively as possible that she loved him. Joyce paid the cost of a private room for his protege, and passed the time waiting for Beckett's recovery by roaming, blind, through the hospital's wards. Seeing him reduced to a patient, she eagerly forgave him.

Peggy's London gallery opening was a tremendous success. One attendee called her the female W.C. Fields. She did not stay in London long enough to enjoy this adulation, because her Beckett was in Paris.

Beckett was no longer interested in being with Peggy. He had moved on to a pianist named Suzanne Dechevaux-Dumesnil, six years his elder. Suzanne nursed the wounded writer back to health, and eventually she would become his wife in 1961. Peggy reacted to the rejection by sleeping with one of Sam's friends, briefly reigniting Beckett's interest.

Meanwhile, she prepared an exhibition of Kandinsky's work for her new gallery. She became somewhat obsessed with getting her Irishman back, writing to her friend Emily Coleman that "I love being with him. It is more and more my real life. I have decided now to give up everything else, even sex if necessary, and concentrate on him." She was aware of Suzanne's presence in Beckett's life, but struggled to view the older musician as proper competition, remarking that "she made curtains while I made scenes." Beckett refused to sleep with Peggy despite her entreaties.

She did not sell a single Kandinsky.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He is a writer living in Manhattan. He last wrote in these pages about Paul Bowles and the Fullbright Company's Gone Home. He tumbls here and twitters here. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.

"By the Throat" - Chvrches (mp3)

"Lies" - Chvrches (mp3)

The new album from Chvrches is entitled The Bones Of What You Believe and it will be released on September 23rd.

standing unhappily next to her husband's self-portrait

Friday
Sep062013

In Which It Is More Or Less To Save Mankind

Under the Building

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Me and You
dir. Bernardo Bertolucci
103 minutes

Me and You shrinks Bernardo Bertolucci's entire career down to the slimmest possible margins, abandoning any extraneous decoration for its essential elements. The performers are relative amateurs; the sets a basement and an apartment building alongside indistinct streets that could live in almost any time, in almost any place.

Lorenzo (Jacopo Olmo Antinori) is meant to go on a school trip to a ski lodge with his classmates. His mother Arianne (Sonia Bergamasco) takes him to the bus that morning, and as they near the fateful moment, Lorenzo screams at her. He tells her that being dropped off in front of his peers would be shameful and humiliating. She does not let herself get agitated; she is used to being understanding of her son. Instead she tells him, as he rages against his seatbelt, that she does not think he wants her to get angry. This tells us everything we need to know about what kind of mother she is.

In another scene Lorenzo asks his mother a hypothetical question. What if they were the only two people left on earth and had to procreate? (He follows up by wondering what they would name their child.)

Incest has always been up Bertolucci's alley because it is a taboo that he can explore without dipping into the too-familiar milieu of violence and drugs. The dinner between Lorenzo and his mother is funny for how his mother does not react to her son's question. She is disgusted, clearly, but there is nothing of surprise in her response. This tells us everything we need to know about what kind of son Lorenzo is.

Dropped off at the bus, Lorenzo has no intention of being whisked off to a hotel in the mountains, although he pretends to know a great deal about skiing, among other things. Instead, he purchases provisions to last the week and relocates himself to the basement of his parents' apartment building, where he runs into his half-sister Olivia (Tea Falco). She explains that she is merely looking for some of her things stored there, but in a moment she is asking Lorenzo for drug money. He demurs, but it's obvious how delighted he is to be asked by her for anything.

It is still fun to watch how much Bertolucci can get out of young actors. There is nothing much to Lorenzo's story, and the reconstruction of a dank basement into a livable space is the major sign of his intelligence. The gloomy place does not constitute a fascinating setting - it's hardly enough to pin an entire movie on. Still, Bertolucci relishes the details, whether it be a ceramic dog, a mess of army ants, or a slender ankle. The point is not to distract from the human beings themselves and the minute changes that guide them.

Lorenzo and Olivia do resemble each other, with Falco's heroin addict possessing a mannish sexuality that is at once frightening and opaque. Her detox from heroin occupies all of our attention along with all of Lorenzo's, and the indeterminacy in her sexuality normalizes her little brother. Lorenzo at first views his sister's suffering in the same fashion he observes animals in a pet store, except now he is a part of the drama, not a gawker with his face to the transparent partitions. As he sees her suffer in the presence of others and her disease, he must shatter the glass.

A distinctly American soundtrack plays in the background, Bertolucci's nod to the world outside the basement. The songs themselves are all overused cliche, but that's kind of the point. Every part of Me and You is completely familiar to us except for the idiosyncratic basement, rearranged by Lorenzo as an artistic effort to compete with Olivia's still photography:

Lorenzo's talent is obvious:

Olivia shows Lorenzo that the adults in his life have no power over him. He is the only one with agency - she instructs him that whenever someone looms over you, superior, you possess the upper hand, because whatever static perception they have can swiftly be proven wrong. Olivia uses an older man for cash, a younger one for drugs. She is sincere with her brother because unless she can be honest with someone, it's impossible to go on living.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He is a writer living in Manhattan. He last wrote in these pages about Paul Bowles and the Fullbright Company's Gone Home. He tumbls here and twitters here. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.

"I Done You So Wrong" - The Paper Kites (mp3)

"Malleable Beings" - The Paper Kites (mp3)