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Alex Carnevale
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Features Editor
Mia Nguyen
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Reviews Editor
Ethan Peterson

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 (238)

Tuesday
Dec132016

In Which We Keep Up The Pretense Of Lying About Our Age

Status Quo

by ALEX CARNEVALE

For the female of the species, it's a fatal thing for an artist to marry, her consciousness is too much disturbed. She can no longer live sufficiently within her self to produce. But it's hard to accept this.

Josephine Nivison, at the tender age of 30, occupied a one-room studio in the attic of an old house between the Plaza Hotel and the New York Athletic Club. She was still a virgin, and would remain one until long after her fortieth birthday.

self-portrait 1903

She drew as often as she could, publishing her sketches in the Evening Post and the New York Tribune. She loved to sketch artists at their work, patterning her portraits after her mentor at the New York School of Art, the painter Robert Henri. Her favorite subject was the dancer Isadora Duncan. Henri was quite taken with Josephine's repose, making her the subject of a large canvas:

 

Jo dabbled as an actress here and there. Getting paid for her work difficult in these fields, and the Depression would sour things further. Her teaching sustained her as she labored for various causes. She hoped one day soon to support the war effort. In the interim, she pitched in at the Hebrew Orphan Asylum, of which she wrote, "Altho I have worked among them, I a not a Hebrew. The Hebrews are too clever a people to discriminate against Gentiles when their service can be of value to them."

With recommendations from orphanages and newspapers alike, she was accepted as an occupational therapist by Red Cross, and was sent overseas to Brittany. In a flash, Jo Nivision came down with bronchitis and was forced to return home after a month or two. Back in New York, she lost her job, her boyfriend made off with another woman, her mother died and she was homeless.

With the rest of her life stripped away, there was hardly any point in not being an artist. Such work could hardly sustain her entirely, so she returned to her former profession of teaching at a hospital for contagious diseases on the Lower East Side. She caught diptheria almost at once.

She began to lie about her age shortly after her illness, reducing it by seven years at her most brave. Because she was quite small and her beauty was unchanged, she found it not very difficult to pull off this deceit. She constructed her studio at 37 West 9th Street. No one showed up to her first open studio except her cat Arthur, and a single critic, Margaret Bruening.

with Edward Hopper

Arthur was her sole focus of attention; she could not really boast any other. She suggested to others that Arthur "knew traffic cops, the maitre d'hotel at the Brevoort, people at the Jefferson Market Court." Wasting away, continually ignored, quite sad in general, Josephine Nivison come across one unexpected stroke of good luck: because of the illness she contracted in a city school, she was granted a lifetime disability pension of $1750 per year.

The money was godly to her then. She could take time away from New York, absconding to Provincetown where the Gingerbread Inn was willing to allow her cat the run of the place. She was working mainly in watercolor now, and to her considerable delight, her efforts began to attract attention from art dealers and critics. One art colony she had not sampled was in Gloucester, MA.

It was there she met up with an old acquaintance, Edward Hopper. A towering rail of a painter, he dwarfed the tiny Nivison. Gail Levin, in her marvelous investigation of the painter, Edward Hopper: An Intimate Biography, records that the man seduced her in French, using Verlaine. They painted boats and houses together. At this point in his career, he was only slightly more of a success than Jo, but she helped get his work into a show at the Brooklyn Museum.

That winter they went to the movies a lot. He wrote her little notes, promising to take her to Paris. (They never went.) When summer thawed the city, the couple wanted out. They were married on July 9th, 1924, and on the certificate Josephine kept up the pretense of lying about her age. In reality, she was forty-one years old.

The marriage had not been taken up in an idealistic fashion, and it would not proceed in one. Bumps in the pavement emerged quickly. His mother and sister disliked Jo quite intensely; Arthur could not quite get used to this spindly man being in his space. She kept her studio and the cat stayed there.

Hopper expected a wife to cook and clean, but Jo wasn't much in the kitchen; too focused on her painting to do anything else. He loathed her friends. 

There was the question of sex, now that she was a married woman. She wrote in her diary:

About the first week or so I realized always with amazement, but I knew so little about this basic concern, except to be appalled at prize hog proportions that the whole thing was entirely for him, his benefit. Upon realizing this - & with the world so new & all & I emerged in such vast ignorance - I declared that since that was the status quo of that - let him have it all. I withdrew all my interest - There was my body, let him take it - but I'd not consent to be hurt too much - only a certain amount - I'd not be the object of sheer sadism. I was forbidden to consult with other women over the mysteries. If he had drawn a lemon, I needn't advertise his misfortune.

In other ways, they were able to help one another. Jo took up her husband's correspondence; the impact on his career was immediately obvious. (He sort of ignored her work.) His modest watercolors began to sell, and his biggest supporter was Frank Rehn, who sold Hoppers out of his gallery like they were going out of style, which they were.

Edward and his wife planned a trip west. Shortly before their departure, Arthur vanished, never to be seen again.

caricaturing his desire for his wife to feed him

As Edward's career took off, their relationship began to crack further. The two quarrelled over Henri, Hopper's reclusiveness and their lack of intimacy. Josephine still lacked a studio, and although she admired her husband's efforts, it was pretty obvious to her and general hindsight that she was the superior artist. By now, his drawings were often a satirical commentary on how much he resented his wife.

She returned this view. "He can do all the chores, look after the stove, feed it oil, drag water, wash sheets even & string beans & think nothing of it. Go right back to work." The question of his that she loathed more than any other was, "How about a little something to eat?"

They moved to an apartment overlooking Washington Square Park. As before, they still shared a bathroom with another couple. They attempted to build a summer house together, but instead of bringing them closer together it separated the couple. Josephine complained of being "a kitchen slave," Hopper could barely paint in his new environs. As herself, she had attracted attention as a painter; as Edward Hopper's wife, his friends sneered at her work. Neither, when asked, could even think of a reason why they kept painting, other than that it was a means of survival.

Some time into their marriage, physical abuse entered the picture. At first it was purely as an accompaniment to Hopper's sadistic reviews of his wife's performance in the kitchen and bedroom. Once Edward held her down with his knee and bruised her thigh; she had to scratch and claw at him to get away.

Hopper at work

They fought often about the car; he consistently refused to let her drive. Josephine records Edward Hopper throwing his 55 year old wife out of a moving vehicle. Yet the verbal abuse was just as pernicious: "To exist at all, one must do battle. He sais insulting things about my mind, the impenetrable stupidy, the impossibility of me learning anything.... It would have been a terrible thing for him to have had a child."

Edward did offer Josephine something she must have craved. It is difficult to find the joy in their marriage, but if any was present, it could be characterized by the fact of always being there. Edward Hopper may have painted his wife as a crude caricature at times, vacillating between worship and horror at the intimacy they shared, but he did paint her.

He was, Jo told a friend, "very beautiful in death, like an El Greco."

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

Hopper's painting of a nude Jo

Thursday
Dec082016

In Which Ida Lupino Wore A Lot Of Face Paint

This is the first in a two part series about the actor and director Ida Lupino.

She Lived By Night

by ALEX CARNEVALE

When Ida Lupino arrived in the U.S. for the first time at the age of fifteen, Paramount representatives greeted her at the dock in Hoboken, New Jersey. She and her mother stayed at the Waldorf Astoria. The next day the picture of the Englsih actress was on the cover of the Los Angeles Times. "By the time we landed," she wrote her father, who was staying behind in England, "we looked like a couple of dead seagulls."

Paramount told her they felt she could be the next Jean Harlow, who was a platinum blonde whereas Ida was a brunette. She was nonplussed, and it was not long before she was making her dissatisfaction known. "I cannot tolerate fools, won't have anything to do with them," she told the press. "I only want to associate with brilliant people."

Before she ever debuted in a starring role, Ida Lupino contracted polio. Her feet were so painful she could barely stand. She thought of killing herself. As she recovered, she returned to the set long before doctors thought she would. That year she made $23,400.

with howard hughes

By 1935, Lupino already had a reputation as a handful. Some directors were scared away by her outspoken nature. "'I'm mad,' they say. I am temperamental and dizzy and disagreeable.," she told the press. "I can take it. Only one person can hurt me. Her name is Ida Lupino."

Her first Hollywood boyfriend was a British stage performer named Louis Hayward. Unlike the Jewish performers who took on stage names to conceal their ethnicity, Hayward's real name was Seafield Grant. This lothario was nine years older than Ida, and had to compete with a variety of men who Ida found uninteresting, including Howard Hughes. Hayward hated when Ida wore makeup, calling it face paint.

with first husband Louis Hayward

At eighteen Lupino was loaned to RKO for a series of films which did nothing but stall her career. She rented a house above the Hollywood Bowl. Returning her hair to her natural color, she decided to leave Paramount. England had no interest in her return, so she fired her agent and married Louis Hayward in the Santa Barbara courthouse. The couple moved to Beverly Hills with their terrier. After a two picture stint with Columbia, Ida demanded from mercurial director William Wellman what would become her breakout role: the slut in an adaptation of Kipling's The Light That Failed.

She signed with Warner, where she starred opposite the tiny, not-yet-a-star Humphrey Bogart in They Drive by Night. In her biggest roles, Ida played crazy with a certain contained zeal. It was not something that was done well very often, and it distinguished her from an entire generation of actresses. Her next film with Bogart inspired the jealousy of Humphrey's wife Mayo Methot. She made more than Bogart on the film High Sierra: 12,000 a week.

ida ronald.jpg?__SQUARESPACE_CACHEVERSION=1481209476214

Ida was now a star, and this upset her husband Louis tremendously. He began complaints to her when they woke in the morning, and she pretended to go along with it, explaining to the media that "the man is the master of the house." Louis kept her away from parties; their usual entertainment was recording the conversations of friends during dinner and playing it back afterwards.

Her closest friends had always been men, with whom she felt she did not have to be competitive. Joan Fontaine and Ann Sheridan became her closest actress pals. "Ida Lupino," Fontaine wrote of her during this period, "is the nearest thing to a caged tiger I ever saw outside a zoo. I don't think she has ever been still a whole minute of her life." Absolutely never bored, Ida was most alive in the evenings, when her mind roamed endlessly.

with Humphrey in "High Sierra"

After her father died of cancer, Ida reevaluated her career. A disastrously boring film where she played Emily Bronte was shelved for years before being recut and released to little fanfare. She feared being typecast as a crazy woman, and an idea popped into her head as a way of avoiding the fate Warner had consigned her to: she would be a director.

During the war, Ida visited returning serviceman. Louis Hayward, now a captain in the Marines, was deployed in Japan, where a bullet cracked his helmet. He went into combat carrying a camera purchased for him by his wife. When he returned home, he was intensely traumatized. Hayward was treated at three different hospitals for depression, but none shook his basic conclusion: He was done with Ida Lupino.

Ida went from a nervous breakdown to a new, Casanova-esque boyfriend in just over a year. The Austrian Helmut Dantine was a violent, drunken sociopath who could be charming when he was slightly sober. (Louis Hayward remarried in May of 1946.)

Newly single, Lupino focused on her writing. William Threely was her pen name, and she sold a screenplay she wrote with her friend Barbara Reed to RKO for $3,000. Warner demanded Lupino sign an exclusive contract – her previous deal allowed outside work, an extremely unique arrangement in the industry. When Lupino refused the new terms, she was on her own completely at 29 years old.

Like her last husband, Collier Young was ten years older than Ida. Unlike Hayward and Dantine, he was not an actor but a frustrated Hollywood writer. He was not her first American man, but he was the first one she married, at the Presbyterian Church in La Jolla. "One of the exciting things about Ida," Collier explained to the press, "is her unpredictability."

Even as she continued writing, directing was foremost on Lupino's mind. Many women had been successful screenwriters before Lupino, and a few had even stepped behind the camera. None had ever done with Lupino's ability. In 1945 she met Roberto Rossellini, who told her that "In Hollywood movies the star is going crazy, or drinks too much, or wants to kill his wife. When are you going to make pictures about ordinary people in ordinary situations?"

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

Tuesday
Nov152016

In Which Katia Mann Conceived On Her Honeymoon

The Courtship of Katia Mann

by ALEX CARNEVALE

To use the words of young Nietzsche, I love and affirm in "the atmosphere of ethics, the Faustian flavour, the cross, death and the grave." In art I believe in pain, experience, recognition, love, profundity, and confront all superficial beauty with either irony or impatience, as seems appropriate.

Four fantastic years of Thomas Mann's life were spent in the arms of a man. Sex with women had never really interested the German writer, although he was able to maintain an erection with women at times while picturing a more masculine partner. His lover during those four annums was Paul Ehrenberg, a German Jew far lovelier than Mann himself. Mann enjoyed the company of Paul, who was a talented violinist and his brother Carl. But the older man was already a visible novelist and critic with a promising future. Nor could Paul's affections entirely be relied upon; Mann wrote of his boyfriend, "How is so much torture possible?"

No, Ehrenberg was the wrong choice for so many reasons. Thomas Mann needed a wife.

Mann's requirements were not demanding. He wanted a woman who was not overly desirous of sex or demonstrative of her ardor. He needed a wife who would not feel thrummed down by the extensive time he devoted to literary craftsmanship, someone with her own life and family. When he first met Katia Pringsheim, that characteristic of a woman enmeshed in her tight knit family was also a curse. How to pry her away.

Katia Pringsheim 

Twenty-year old Katia was not lacking for suitors, and the leading candidate was a professor in his early fifties who, from all available evidence, could furnish her with more of the comfortable upper-middle class life to which she had become accustomed. In Germany before the war, there existed an entire echelon of upper-class, mainly secular Jews, none of whom could ever have imagined the gruesome fate that awaited so many of them.

Katia's father and twin brother Klaus both favored the well-mannered professor over Mann, and it was only Katia's mother, a former actress, who saw something in the awkward, regimented behavior of the writer. Showing up at Katia's door looking somewhat like A.J. Soprano in his military school uniform, Mann was never terribly good at controlling how he appeared to others. "Gently and tactfully," he had written of the brothers Ehrenberg, "they overcame my gravity, diffidence and irritability by accepting them frankly as concomitants of talents they respected."

The pursuit of this woman, unexpectedly, roused something in him. He struggled to work up the courage to have someone introduce him to Katia, even though a few of his friends knew the Pringsheims well. Watching her across an amphitheater, he described "her appearance of wanting to hide her awareness that many people were looking at her." He wrote about her in his journal, mostly to describe how ineffectual he felt his passion was, and sometimes to jot down ideas for stories which paralleled his own experience:

Detail for a love story. As passion wanes, there is an increase in one's ability to conquer, to make oneself loved. For days he had suffered frightfully over her, full of yearning, weak, disoriented broken down, ill. Then after seeing her again in a big hat which did not specially suit her, he suddenly felt healthier, fresher, more free, more forward, less full of yearning, stronger, more "egoistic," able to challenge, score points, pay court, make an impression.

As all this was going on, he was slowly, exhaustively, finishing his reading of Goethe.

his writing desk
Eventually, Mann felt the strong inclination to make himself known to Katia. On a daily basis she bicycled to her experimental physics classes, but when it rained she took the tram. He watched her have a fiery argument with a conductor who demanded a ticket she had thrown away, and something else took over. The next week he pretended to return a book to her house, and in ensuing days he invented other excuses to call on the Pringsheims.

Mann shocked himself by how much he admired her; she was "a miracle, something indescribably rare and precious, a creature who through her more existence has more cultural value than the output of fifteen writers or thirty painters." He also could not help but notice her essential boyishness, an androgynous charm that called to him.

Katia's mother had soundly cast her vote in favor of Mann, but the rest of the family, including Katia, was not as convinced. Mann mostly expressed his feelings to Katia in a mode of worship, a predilection that made the object of his affection uncomfortable. It did not help that they were always chaperoned, ensuring the two would continously encounter various black holes in conversation. Mann did better in his writing, expressing himself in a way that felt oppressive in person. He tried to logically reason things out:

I am quite aware of not being a man who arouses simple and instantaneously safe feelings. To prompt mixed feelings and 'perplexity' is after all forgive me! a sign of personality. Someone who never provokes doubts, never astonishes, never causes a slight feeling of dread, someone who is always simply lovable is a fool, a phantom, a figure of fun.

beach day

This did not even represent the full spectrum of his "awareness."

I am aware of causing a certain awkwardness through my 'lack of spontaneity,' of ingenousness, of unself-consciousness, all the nervousness, artificiality and difficulty of my nature, hinders everyone, even the most well-meaning people, from coming closer to me or even dealing with me in a bearable, comfortable way; and that troubles me all the more when I detect in people's behaviour towards me that warmer interest which is called sympathy, and in spite of all the obstacles, this happens with quite incredible frequency...

You know that personally, humanly, I could not develop like other young people, that a talent can function like a vampire bloodsucking, parasitic. You know what a cold, impoverished, merely representative, merely symbolical life I have been living for years, know that for many years, important years, I regarded myself as nothing, in human terms, and wanted to be considered only as an artist. Only one cure is possible for the attachment to the representative and artistic, this lack of instinctive trust in my personal and human side: through happiness; through you, my clever, sweet, good-hearted, beloved little queen. Be my affirmation, my justification, my fulfilment, my salvation, my wife. 

Katia felt she could not give him an answer yet. He despaired at her reticence and caution, and his friend Kurt Martens encouraged him to give her a deadline or pull away for a time altogether to see what she would do. Mann resisted putting this pressure on Katia, correctly thinking that making his feelings seem so changeable was more likely to unnerve her than draw her closer. Instead, he continued along the same lines, making the legal case for himself:

Silly little Katia. Still carrying on about "overrating,' and insisting you will be unable to "be" for me what I expect you to be. But I love you. Good God! Do you not understand what that means? What else is there to expect and to be? My wife is what I want you to "be," and in that way to make me absurdly proud and happy. After all, what I "make of you," the meaning I give you which you have and will have for my life is my concern, and it gives you no bother or responsibility.

Katia and her brother Klaus
Mann's letters were unlike any others she received, and slowly she began to warm to him. Whenever the idea of marriage came up, a deeply fearful look overtook her (Mann described it as that of a "hunted doe"), but other than that, the couple enjoyed spending time together. Finally, one afternoon before she was to leave Munich for the summer, Katia and Thomas were permitted an afternoon alone. Afterwards he wrote "there was a indescribably sweet and painful parting which is still present in all my nerves and senses."

He doubted her until the very moment of her assent. "Her naivety is extraordinary supreme and dumbfounding," he wrote. "This strange, kind-hearted and yet egotistical little Jew-girl, polite and without a will of her own! I can still hardly believe she will ever bring the word Yes to her lips."

the Mann family many years later

Mann tried to appeal to Katia's more rational faculties after all, she was a student of mathematics. She insisted that in comparison to him, she was stupid and not worthy of his adulation. It was his letters that finally got to her. Mann's desire for her to be his wife was so evident and honestly broadcasted, that she could not truly feel she was getting any part of the man that was not the real thing. In one particular missive, he even confessed to weeping at the sight of her handwriting.

At first she had been overwhelmed. Now she was simply whelmed, and Mann knew it was his moment. "I believe you feel as strongly as I do that it is high time to put an end to this in between state! Do you not think that once we belong together in the eyes of the world, the relationship will be much more clean-cut and comfortable?" Mann biographer Ronald Hayman described the moment: "When he took her in his arms, he was half-surprised she neither pushed him away or called for help." The wedding took place on February 11th, 1905. Katia conceived on her honeymoon, and the two had sex very infrequently, mainly indulging themselves only to get Katia Mann with child.

After the engagement, Mann lost all touch with the Ehrenbergs, and Paul himself was married by the next year.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

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