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Alex Carnevale

Managing Editor
Kara VanderBijl

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen

Senior Editor
Durga Chew-Bose

Senior Editor
Brittany Julious

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)


In Which You're So Money And You're Overly Aware Of It

A Real Man Doesn't Like Quiche


Iron Man 2

dir. Jon Favreau

124 minutes

My least favorite part of Swingers has always been the ending. The perennially pathetic Mike (Jon Favreau) stumbles through a pseudo-documentary about Los Angeles that does the disservice of reminding us that Vince Vaughn was once under three hundred pounds, and he ends up with Heather Graham before she turned into Jessica from Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

At the time, it was thought unbelievable that the squash-shaped Favreau could nab such a creature. Now he's the director of a $200 million dollar motion picture event and Graham is doing theatrical reenactments of the best part of Boogie Nights and her scene from The Hangover at a bar in Missoula, Montana.

It was obvious from Swingers that Favreau prized a happy ending over all else; his numerous clichéd homages to his favorite films - Goodfellas, Reservoir Dogs - were desperate attempts to be loved, to satisfy the audience in the same way those films satisfied him. In Iron Man 2, Favreau delivers his ultimate crowd-pleasing movie, a collection of lively big-budget action sequences and meta-jokes that reminds me of so many things, it reminds me of nothing in particular.

It was also clear from Swingers that Favreau loves pastiche and collage even more than Francis Bacon. If he didn't, he wouldn't have had to fill Swingers with ad-libs, references, and catchphrases galore. The unloved are always seeking it, and Favreau's desperate "character" left so many messages on that young lady's answering machine, one had to get returned.

Iron Man 2 is an even more winsome plea for crowd-pleasing love; the movie winks at its audience so often it develops a twitch. There has never been a film with less of a story that was so incredibly captivating for no real reason outside of the expense spared to put it together. Yet the film wouldn't work at all without the only two talented actors cast in Iron Man 2: those being Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, and Mickey Rourke as the devilish Whiplash.

in a mix-up, he asked Favreau what it was like to have intercourse with Rachel WeiszIt's not really surprising that Rourke reportedly had no idea what the movie was about, because he probably wouldn't have tried half as hard if he did know. Like the vast majority of actors cast today, he is there mostly because of reasons other than that he was good for the role. Rourke makes the best of it by stealing every scene he's in, including a jaw-dropping sequence on a Monaco racetrack. His Russian accent is almost unintelligible, and he gets more laughs out of a toothpick and a cockatoo than Sam Rockwell does from the entire character of Stark's other rival, weapons manufacturer Justin Hammer.

hey sam, I hear the census is looking for pplSam Rockwell was almost cast by Favreau as Iron Man the first time around, and thank god Downey Jr. got sufficiently sober for the part. It is high time Sam Rockwell fell from grace, since his "acting" consists of two modes, neither of which is particularly entertaining after you've experienced it for more than thirty seconds. There is the Sam Rockwell who ruined Moon by overacting so badly that Nicolas Cage claimed a copyright violation. Then there is the Zaphod Beeblebrox-Sam Rockwell who is super-hyped up all the time and clearly internalized too much of Tom Cruise's performance in Magnolia.


This is an ideal transition, because the only person with less respect for women than Favreau is Justin Theroux, screenwriter of Iron Man 2. Gifted with the legendary Marvel character of the Black Widow, these two geniuses cast Scarlett Johansson, whose idea of acting is narrowing her eyes, pouting and delivering everything in a husky monotone. After every single thing she does in the film, Scarlett spins, poses and stares straight into the lens. Also, the only move she really has involves her simply wrapping her legs around her opponent's head and spinning them to the ground in a hurancanrana, which is only a valid offensive move in lucha libre. Considering every other act of violence in the film is an energy weapon, it's amazing she survives until the end.

I was never much of an actor, although I did once play the only Russian character in a vaguely anti-Semitic high school production of Fiddler on the Roof. Yet even I know that it's bad policy to stare at the camera like it's a piece of bacon in every scene, as Scarlett does here. We can only assume that Favreau was so entranced by the dailies that his note to Scarlett was "more pouty, more widow." Despite this, Scarlett mainly gets a pass because she is so overshadowed by the meta-disaster that is the presence of Gwyneth Paltrow as Tony's assistant Pepper Potts. Haven't you read my review of Two Lovers? Are you aware that it's tongue-in-cheek?

let's hope this image doesn't inspire a reboot of the fantastic four because I don't think I can handle that right meowNow that Gwyneth has survived Chris Martin cheating on her and writing songs for his ex with all the dignity you would expect given that she hasn't blogged about it, her weirdly boisterous romance with Tony Stark takes center stage here. She has two kids under the age of 6 (named Apple and Moses, just like in the Bible) and a husband who's completely unaware of how little talent he has, I feel nothing but compassion for Gwyneth. I feel even worse that the most likely Black Widow storyline for the next sequel involves her capping Pepper Potts in the face, albeit after wrapping her legs around Pepper's blonde head in what is sure to become a YouTube sensation.

pepper, that's incredibly unhygienic dear The film's two African-American characters are similarly caught up in the hex of their previous performances. I didn't realize Nick Fury was Vincent Vega's partner until the moment he started using the exact same vocal mannerisms as a gag. Then again, I never really got the point of Nick Fury; did Captain America really need an invalid ordering him around?

Don Cheadle replaces Terrence Howard as War Machine, and he's apparently the dumbest living member of the American military, a crack organization that gets regularly thrown under the bus here. In just under two hours it is victimized by weapons manufacturers, career criminals, and its own personnel, not to mention both Larry Sanders and Roger Sterling. Cheadle doesn't get a punchline in the whole movie, so he must have told Justin Theroux that he didn't understand a single second of Mulholland Drive.

before we bang tongue, what was the deal with the opera scene? It's distracting that we even have to think about all these things that really have nothing to do with Iron Man 2, but the whole movie is pretty much a joke on the comic (which let's face it was no great shakes to begin with) and on the people Favreau casts to play these not-particularly-deep characters. When I go back and look at Swingers now, it's home video of two people who went onto drastically different careers. The only common element is the size of their underwear. Watching the director of Iron Man 2 playing golf with the guy who dumped Carrie Bradshaw via post-it note ("I'm sorry, I can't, don't hate me") lends a whole new meaning to the original proceedings, one that was never really intended.

In Iron Man 2, the references are all intentional. There's even jabs at Scarlett and Gwyneth for fighting on set. It's all in there, each part of the process, in the film's sixty-seven subplots. Even now, Favreau's still the guy on the answering machine who includes every detail, anything that might be relevant. Like Swingers, Iron Man 2 is propelled by the steam of its star, who carries off Stark's sweet narcissism better than Vince Vaughn ever did. He's a chatterbox who can't control anything he says, and since he's a billionaire, he lets it all fly no matter the effect on the people around him. Favreau is out to prove that if you keep talking, or in this case, if you keep blowing something up, eventually something you say will have to be entertaining.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He tumbls here. He last wrote in these pages on the letters of Anne Sexton.

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"We Can't Be Stopped" - Ratatat (mp3)

"Neckbrace" - Ratatat (mp3)

"Drugs" - Ratatat (mp3)


In Which We Examine The Finest Magazine Runs In Human History

15 Best Print Magazine Runs of All Time


Sometimes people ask us where we get the inspiration for This Recording. This is a complicated question. As with all things, This Recording evolved over time, like Emily Blunt and Jim Halpert looking more like one another. These are the fifteen magazine runs that left the biggest imprints on our minds and fingertips.

15. The New Yorker

The New Yorker is an institution, but like fellow New York institution SNL it's hard to call it consistently good even though some sections are sporadically outstanding. The New Yorker is often a gateway drug for people growing up in media unsaturated areas. It's like The Catcher In The Rye or On The Road in that it's often the most loved bible for an aspiring intellectual person during periods they will later think of as formative but also semi-embarrassing. Unless you are Wes Anderson your tastes have probably evolved from what they were when you were 14 and starved for blurbs about opera. That said, there is nothing wrong with having a spot in your heart for The New Yorker, the way you would for any first love. Just don't go sending them any weird facebook messages late at night. 

14. Crawdaddy! (1966-1973)

Before it turned into a generic music magazine, the idea that you could write something, print something in a magazine you wrote with all the run-on sentences and ridiculous unprovable generalizations and slang words and anything else you wanted to, was not a brand new concept when Crawdaddy! perfected it, but it might as well have been.

13. Spy (1992-1995)

Like any other satirical magazine, Spy had descended into a parody of itself by the time Bruno Maddox was appointed editor. Both of its founders (Graydon Carter and Kurt Anderson) have been a lot better at coming up with ideas than sustaining them, but in the case of Spy it was never intended to last for decades. I literally learned there was no Santa Claus from reading a (hard to obtain as a child) copy of Spy.

12. Might (1991-1995)

Dave Eggers's San Francisco magazine was known for rambling essays on provocative topics. Some have cited their "Are Black People Cooler Than White People?" as the first recorded LOL. They also did an issue that was entirely about cheese, and let David Foster Wallace make the argument that AIDS was going to make sexual pursuit better and more rewarding by making it more difficult. If you write about all the things you find interesting it is possible that somebody else will also be interested, or better yet become interested just because it's written well.

11. Life (1940-1965)

Life is just a magical blend of content that really should have been in Parade and photographs that should stay forever in the Smithsonian. Once it became a weekly, Ed K. Thompson used a trio of female editors and the pages improved under his reign. If they paid the right person for a feature, the writing could be incredible, but usually it wasn't. Life went through many subtly different approaches, like a true variety show. One issue could be a mind-blowing meld of ultimate design and approachable prose, another would be as vapid as People. Throughout, the photography was the real show, bringing the impact of full color and the wide breadth of the world to American homes.

10. Sassy (1991-1995)

Sassy was the best ever teen mag, the best ever women's mag, and the closest thing to a 'zine in the world of real magazines. It was pretty revolutionary in a pre-blog universe to find a magazine that told you straight up that other magazines aimed at girls were bullshit. Despite the sometimes annoying "cooler than thou" attitude Jane Pratt pushed, so much of Sassy holds up to a modern reader versed in blogs: the Kurt and Courtney interview, the fashion editorials making fun of fashion editorials, the Hunt for the Sassiest Boy In America.

9. Entertainment Weekly (1991-1996)

Before the first mass-market arts and culture magazine worth a damn lobotomized itself to compete with U.S. Weekly, Jeff Jarvis' Entertainment Weekly debuted in 1990 as the perfect combination of easy reading and incredible craftsmanship. Softening the teeth off clever graphic bits and listicles like Spy and Esquire's Dubious Achievements, EW brought to the print world what we think of today as commonplace internet sarcasm. They also may have invented the collectible review index of every episode of popular television shows (such as Seinfeld and The X-Files) long before DVDs made following along a probable task.

8. National Geographic (1981-2009)

From layout to design, National Geographic took the photographic best of Life and expanded its view. No magazine has changed so little and still been so relevant to the world to which it was originally borne. Richard Pryor called NG "the Black Man's Playboy" and the mag has taken some heat over the years for touching up photos of the third world. Under the leadership of Chris Johns, NG has exceeded Pryor's pejorative and reinvented the magazine as a series of subtle investigations. The nature photography/pornography is as compelling as ever.

7. Rolling Stone (1967-1971)

Even though it primarily sucks now, Rolling Stone will throw a curveball every now and then and run a totally awesome piece of investigative journalism about like some goth teenagers killing somebody, or a guy who has a huge cock and it's ruining his life. Not to mention, they recently ran the first of John Mayer's twofer crazy interview spree. Music writing has actually never been Rolling Stone's strongest suit, but all the counterculture trimmings are where they still knock it out of the park sometimes.

6. Creem (1971-1980)

Cooler than Rolling Stone, Creem featured articles from a dream roster of counterculture writers like Lester Bangs, Greil Marcus, Nick Tosches, Richard Meltzer, Patti Smith, and Cameron Crowe, all of whom made or embossed their names here (plus countless other staffers who did all the work). The original arrogant confrontational blog, indier than thou when it still meant something, Creem articles expose all other music criticism as falsity. Our favorite kind of snobs, Creem touted the MC5 and ABBA equally.  

5. National Lampoon (1971-1979)

Exploring one specific type of humor to the nth degree, the original National Lampoon had all kinds of great writers and a list of their credits would only remind us of the douchebag P.J. O'Rourke became within five minutes of attaining any notoriety whatsoever. Like its spiritual heir The Onion, there wasn't a whole lot of subtlety here, but a few decades ago, everything was generally subtle and Lampoon seemed like a wild alternative to the mean.

4. Mad (1958-1963)

Patti Smith once said, “After Mad, drugs were nothing.” During an extremely censorious time in American life, Mad put the lie to everything, savaging the culture and revealing its hypocrisies.

3. The New York Review of Books (1976-1992)

Before the best writers were published everywhere you look, they were published in the NYRB. At times stilted and pedantic, the Review was best when it opened itself up to wackier explorations of artistic merit, and writers who could stretch out of the academic confines of what was expected from a 'book review.' Their choices in the last decade have reshaped the review into something more familiar, but at its best the NYRB had a lively letters section replete with non-academic exchanges that rivalled comment wars on blogs. It's fitting that something so ancient as a book review could prefigure something so modern.

2. Time (1939-1945)

Before Time became the absolute mess it is now, two men made this venerable institution the most well-written compendium of critical thought ever to enter the public sphere at the time. Whittaker Chambers joined Time in 1939; soon enough he and James Agee were the primary composers of the arts section of the magazine. Chambers ascended to the magazine's editorial board, and kept writing. It only got better from there.

1. Esquire (1961-1973)

Looking at issues from George Lois' ten year run at Esquire under editor Harold Hayes makes one nostalgic for the type of journalism that had style and substance. The current Esquire now spends its entire day trying to become a bizarre hybrid of Maxim and a "serious" magazine. Under these two titans Esquire knew just what it was.

Molly Lambert is the managing editor of This Recording. She tumbls here. Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He tumbls here.

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barbara epstein and bob silvers in 1963
Other Magazines We Couldn't Live Without Until Print Died

Ranger Rick 

3-2-1 contact magazine 

Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine

Car & Driver 



Electronic Gaming Monthly 

Nintendo Power 

the eXile


Cat Fancy


The Believer

Oxford American






Ben Is Dead


Sunset Magazine

LA Weekly/Village Voice

FOUND Magazine


Cahiers Du Cinema

Whole Earth 





Trouser Press 

WET magazine 

Weird Tales


Psychotronic Video 


Stop Smiling

Heavy Metal


Down Beat 

International Times 


The Arkham Sampler


No Depression 

Martha Stewart Living 


The American Mercury (ed. H.L. Mencken)

American Magazine of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge (ed. Nathaniel Hawthorne)

291 (ed. Alfred Stieglitz) 



The Little Review 

Fuck You 


Brill's Content

The Germ

Creativity can solve almost any problem. The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything.

- George Lois


In Which The Trouble With Therapy Is That It Makes Life Go Backwards

diane russo's reimagining of anne sexton 

Silly Anne


The great theme is not Romeo and Juliet. The great theme we all share is that of becoming ourselves, of overcoming our father and mother, of assuming our identities somehow.

from Anne Sexton's early introduction to The Double Image

Anne Gray Harvey didn't start writing poetry until she was 28. Before then she was a model with Boston's Hart Agency. In 1948, at the age of 20, Anne ran off and eloped with Kayo Sexton. After she'd married Kayo, they sent along the same telegram to each of their parents. The Sextons tosses theirs away in a fury at the union, although they would later grow closer to Anne than her own parents. Anne's parents preserved the telegram for posterity:

Living off Kayo's parents and then with her husband supporting her, Anne began to pursue her poetry, taking her first class with the mercurial poet John Holmes. Her complicated relationship with Holmes' aesthetic was later superceded by Robert Lowell. By the time she met Lowell, she had already made her first suicide attempt. She wrote this letter to get into Lowell's class at Boston University.

September 15th, 1958

Dear Mr. Lowell:

What a fine letter you wrote me. I am considering framing it to prove to all comers that poets are people. I am so pleased that you think my work shows promise, that I shall need no new proof for possibly a month.

Since receiving your letter I have been busy begging money from old fat relatives. Today, with 90 dollars in my fist, I called the registrar's office. However, it seems they are not bouncing with joy at the thought of "special students" with no particular degree. A Mr. Wilder said I would have to wait until after registration and see if there were too many students in the class. I forward this information to you because I gather he will present you with the problem.

I hasten to add, since he may forget my name, that I am one of the vagrant applications that awaits your decision. He asked me if I were connected with any publication. I am not. In fact, I am totally disconnected from everything. I did not mention my slim list of credits, thinking he might wonder WHAT I was talking about. I am supposed to call him on Friday morning at eleven.

If this doesn't pan out I can always try for the second semester. I am even tempted to sit watching your lovely letters of praise and forget all about the work and criticism and growth that I would enjoy working with you.

I am more than a little shy of the great factories of humanity, like B.U., and it will take considerable moral courage to get on with this complicated application, registration, and these new hurdles. Somewhere, I hope I will get to a classroom where Robert Lowell is talking about poetry. I don't want the three credits, I am not sweetened with a background of knowledge, am even defensive saying ("I don't know anything.") — but if you can squeeze me in, I will be there.

You do not need to answer this letter. I just wanted to let you know the meanwhiles and if so's. If I do not make it I will surely meet you sometime.

Yours sincerely,

Anne Sexton

bob lowellAnne had a complicated relationship with her parents, but they were as much raw material for her existing troubles as the source of them. Whatever happened with her and her father (he got rich selling various goods during World War II), Anne was predisposed to mental illness from the first, and spent most of her life on medication (specifically the antipsychotic thorazine) and under analysis. Her manic qualities are obvious from her letters, which represent an extraordinary output of energy. Anne's writing began as a way of coping with her illness, and her letter writing was the best kind of therapy. Her relationships with poets like Maxine Kumin and W.D. Snodgrass are preserved in this form.

November 28, 1958

To W.D. Snodgrass

Dear passionflower tender,

I was just looking out the window at the truck that was delivering two bottles of whiskey and it was, yes it was, snowing. I am young. I am younger each year at the first snow. When I see it, suddenly, in the air, all little and white and moving; then I am in love again and very young and I believe everything. Christ is in his manger and Santa in heaven.

I am a good girl and the man left two bottles of booze because my mother is rich and she ordered them. She is staying with us because my father is ill, in the hospital with a stroke. My mother keeps telling me that soon I will be rich because they will be dead (she is greedily wordy about this) and I listen to her and think about a poem by you about a mother...she is like a star...everything MUST center around her.

anne's self-portrait
And I write in a hurry because it is snowing and because this morning I received a letter from you and I because I would rather write to you this moment than sleep with Apollo or even go outside and measure the snow on the walk. I write to you because you understand my letters and do not take them TOO seriously or too casually. And because, after all, I love you and you are my best god anyhow.

Did I? Why do I forget everything! send you a complete copy of my "Double Image" poem the other day? I sent it someone that I cared about. But was it you? Who else could there be, that I care about - about reading it??? I think I did. If so — read it. If not — let me know.

I also received a nice letter from Jim McConk taking two poems for Epoch (it's about time) and saying such nice things about my work and when was my book coming out (I didn't believe that, but it looked nice on the page) and all. That sweet ladypoet from Rochester took two poems for Voices (don't know why I sent there — but did —) one of the ones was a new one, "Obsessional Combination of Ontological Inscape, Trickery and Love" ... why am I rambling on? Now I know why I am really writing you so promptly. I have a question —

How do I go about applying for Yaddo? Would John Holmes be enough of a recommendation? Who else could I find? Would Nolan Miller (he thinks he discovered me) help? Or Hollis Summers (he writes me letters) — I might be able to go. I think the first thing to do is see if I could get in — do you think, perhaps, it would be better to wait a year (in view of that fact that I'm such a "new" writer)...

John Holmes is having a small party for John C. Ransom next Wed. night and has asked me so maybe I will meet someone who will decide to discover me. I will be on the lookout for a possible famous soul who can recommend me.

skinny dipping in Newton 1962
But how do you go about it, dear night clerk; the future is my own. I am trying to steer. I paddle my own craft with toothpick oars. Thank you for quoting my letter. I will write you dozens more someday. I doubt if I can use it in a poem (but there is lots more where that came from). I am a romantic and am full of tiers of tries of all that.

let me know about Yaddo —

yours Anne

Success came quickly, and while the accompanying confidence kept her going through her constant bouts of anxiety and depression, it also exaggerated her considerable alienation. At times she could be deft about how she pushed herself on other people, but she was often extremely intrusive, even on the lives of her own husband and daughters. Her boundaries weren't too spectacular.

Anne's best book, her 1962 collection All My Pretty Ones, was roundly celebrated. It was even nominated for the National Book Award, the second time Anne would receive that accolade. The one exception was a negative review by James Dickey that appeared in The New York Times Book Review. Anne carried the clipping around in her wallet:

It would be hard to find a writer who dwells more insistently on the pathetic and disgusting aspects of bodily experience as though this made the writing more real, it would also be difficult to find a more hopelessly mechanical approach to reporting these matters than the one she employs... Her recourse to the studiedly off-hand diction favored by Randall Jarrell and Elizabeth Bishop and her habitual gravitation to the domestic and the "anti-poetic" seem to me as contrived as any poet's harking after galleons and sunsets and forbidden pleasures.

Anne was fairly good with criticism; in fact it is rumored she was the last person to take criticism well in this country. After reading the review, she wrote Dickey a letter and befriended him. In short order he was eating out of her hand. She did this with most of her antagonists, the mark of every disturbed disposition.

one of anne's early effortsAnne's letters also show why she was renowned as a capable, albeit wildly erratic, teacher. She did feature, as all great instructors do, the exact right combination of total self-involvement and magnetic empathy that drew students to her in the classroom. She had an astonishing amount of attention to give, and as a poet she was as engaged with her critics (of which there were many) as her admirers. She was so manic in the way that she interacted with people that were if not for the relative stability of her husband, she might have gone completely off the rails.

The quintessential volume of Anne's letters is Anne Sexton: A Self Portrait in Letters, edited by two women who knew Sexton intimately, Lois Ames and Anne's daughter Linda. Anne's number one correspondent was her husband, especially when she was separated from him. In one letter, Anne quotes John Ciardi's phrase that "a woman marries what she needs." The following letter to her husband Kayo is perhaps proof of this. Anne was on a long European trip that had started when she and her travelling companion had all their possessions stolen. The flood of ensuing letters were wild beacons across the Atlantic.

Sept 7th, 1963

Dearest Kayo,

I want, though not often, to write you a letter of your own...i.e. a love letter. It can be a drag to have to speak publicy (to all, the girls and whoever, sometimes I feel to the whole neighborhood) ...when I often long for you and wish to speak only to you. Naturally the news goes on, the road moves, the travelerama continues and with it, with each time I type, are these almost unspoken words of love for you. Kayo, my darling, I miss you terribly. Each food I taste that I think worthy of your taste I miss you more. And more! Oh, Boots, there are times, despite the excitement of the buildings, of the food, of the people, when longing for you wells up in me... and I want to be home beside you in the bed looking at t.v. or at the kitchen table drinking a martini...(for God's sake now Sandy is talking and talking and all day she has been silent but when I start to write, well then she talks...) enough complaints. Actually we get along pretty well, except for a fight last night that didn't last long. I was typing out the list for Kazan and asking her how to spell and she sounded irritated and I barked back and told her to go to hell, etc. She went out of the room in huff and went to the john and smoked a cig. Good for me I sez...might as well speak up and clean the slate off once in awhile.

Kayo, the night before last I dreamt you were having an affair with someone and I woke up crying! Awful. Please keep loving me! I love you so much and feel you are here with me all the time...miss you more than I had thought possible. True, I am terribly busy what with losing everything! And all. The shock of losing it all just doesn't sink in. I lost all the books! Even nana's letter from Europe and grandfather's too.

with kayo in spring of 1968I did value and love those two books...but they are in the thief's wastebasket I guess...and life must go on not backward (just this fact makes me feel better, the trouble with therapy is that it makes life go backwards) and I am so tired of that old suffering. I want life to go forward even if I have to lose all my books and clothes to keep it going in that direction. And in a way, life is flowing toward us...you and me...and the life we have, for each day that goes by brings us nearer and each mile does it too.

in capri 1962I feel, sometimes, as if I were actually driving upon the map in our kitchen! I know I am here and you are there and yet, and yet, not quite. The sound of the ocean reminds me of the night in front of the house we rented on the Cape. (Do you remember that night on the beach?)

I keep missing baked beans. Do you think you might send me a care package of baked beans? It is the first meal I think of and long for. Tonight in Knokke at our hotel (meals with room...a nice summer out of season hotel ... typical dutch bourgeois resort, very nice) we had tiny, two or three inch, lobster as a start and then steak and marvelous sauce and french fries. The french fries all over Europe are wonderful. I have become a lover of french fries (not frozen, not HoJo)...

with maxine kuminBut you know, Kayo, I always did I have a "wanderlust" and it wasn't JUST A NEUROTIC wish to flee responsibility...but to see new things. And I do love that. I don't have the time or energy to get depressed or anxious. If I get anxious I seem to have four miles of walking in front of me and that takes care of THAT. Tonight we are supposed to be at the Poetry Festival Ball (for which I bought that damn expensive new dress in Brussels) but which I don't feel like going to. The sea has undone me. To hell with the ball. The dress I will wear on New Year's Eve and you will fall in love with me. That's what I want the dress for.

Meanwhile, I'll wear the few rags I have left. We have a copy of what we sent to Kazan as a list and will send it later, perhaps from Amsterdam (right now using mailers) for you to check. I wrote it out quite correctly, be sure to check with him and see what's up and tell him clothes all new from trip and not to devalue them as "used" ... some never worn. Kayo, my boots, keep loving me. It is hard to go so long without letters from you. Every night before sleep I read the ones I got in Paris but then you had never heard from me...the time lapse is painful (that's why the cable). You hear from us more regularly, but it is hard to wait this long, I become fearful and afraid, afraid I'll lose you. I know that IS silly, but there it is, and in all its little ugly unsureness and with its open love. Europe is fascinating. I am truly interested and excited but I miss you very much and love you with all my heart. Usually I must write the large common letter. But tonight I must say my special say which goes for always but must be said once more. I love you.


Later in the month, she sent the following telegram:


To me, Anne seems the living embodiment of something that is in all of us; in Anne it was the entire thing. She could not live, was not able to survive, without chronicling her life, without remedying the errors she had met and explaining them, often to large audiences, in order to set them right. She is a reminder that while we can change, a part of us never does.

anne's report card
As she got older and struggled more with her illness, alcoholism too began to take hold. Her breakdowns had led to several hospitalizations, but her writing continued. She distanced herself from many of her oldest friends, and her letters become evidence of a closer relationship with fans who randomly connected to her poems than those who knew her best. Her clipped bursts of enthusiasms toward her admirers are both sweet and chilling at the same time. Anne received a letter from Dorianne Goetz, who wrote her from a mental hospital, and sent back this postcard in June of 1965:

in her study, spring 1966Dear Doris

Thank you so much for your note. I'm so pleased you like my work. I hope you can get a chance to see the new poem out in Harper's this month (June) called "For the Year of the Insane." It is only for a few people.

I would like it if you could be one of them.

I wish I were nineteen. Not that it's better or worse to be me at 36 but it gives you so much more time to grow. Inside I'm only thirteen and outside I have wrinkles and a family and many who depend on me. How silly all this is when you are actually 13. That's what I mean "I wish." Time to grow — it's so needed. Hope you still find Hillside "a wonderful place." I've been in so many that aren't. But that's another story...Please send poems. I'd like to see them —


Anne Sexton

Before filing for divorce from Kayo, she accompanied him on a safari to Africa, one of his long-terms goals. She was really grossed out by the bloodshed as a lifelong vegetarian but suffered through it for him.

Anne killed herself on October 4, 1974 after a day of lunch with Maxine Kumin and time spent proofing her new book. In 1969 a letter to her daughter Linda, who would become her literary executor, anticipated her death:

Dear Linda,

I am in the middle of a flight to St. Louis to give a reading. I was reading a New Yorker story that made me think of my mother all alone in the seat I whispered to her "I know, Mother, I know." (Found a pen!) And I thought of you — someday flying somewhere all alone and me dead perhaps and you wishing to speak to me.

in front of their weston home with linda, 1966And I want to speak back. (Linda, maybe it won't be flying, maybe it will be at your own kitchen table drinking tea some afternoon when you are 40. Anytime.) - I want to say back.

1st I love you

2. You never let me down

3. I know. I was there once. I too, was 40 with a dead mother who I needed still.

This is my message to the 40-year-old Linda. No matter what happens you were always my bobolink, my special Linda Gray. Life is not easy. It is awfully lonely. I know that. Now you too know it — wherever you are, Linda, talking to me. But I've had a good life — I wrote unhappy — but I lived to the hilt. You too, Linda, Live to the HILT! To the top. I love you, 40-year old Linda, and I love what you do, what you find, what you are! Be your own woman. Belong to those you love. Talk to my poems, and talk to your heart — I'm in both: if you need me. I lied, Linda. I did love my mother and she loved me. She never held me but I miss her, so that I have to deny I ever loved her - or she me! Silly Anne! So there.



Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He tumbls here and twitters here.

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I am, each day,
typing out the God
my typewriter believes in.
Very quick. Very intense,
like a wolf at a live heart.

from anne's modeling portfolio