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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 dan carville (26)

Friday
May122017

In Which We Crave What Has All Gone Wrong

Living with Me

by DAN CARVILLE

Dear Daniele,

Tonight an exceedingly rash act was performed by a man who should know better. It may be that there is no completely moral act, only I hope there is.

The lights on Mott Street were fading to almost nothing on the way back. I walked from there to Astor Place, where I saw a kissing couple bang on the door of the McDonald's. But it's always open.

I used to take you to a bookstore near there. They kept all of the fiction in the back. Up front were the true things. It may be that there is no completely moral decision.

The rest of the way home I saw them pressing against each other, lights interchanging, flashing. It is a way to communicate, but not the last remaining method left to us.

Dear Daniele,

I understand why you felt all that was too impersonal, like I was addressing an effigy. Your analysis of me is nearly always dead on, a frightening fact that will scare our children when they read these old letters. I can pray they will not know even what a letter is by then.

Well, when I got home I did call you too many times, but that is just excitement. I remember when I slipped on the ice and hit my head (I was eight or nine that year) and all I wanted to do was tell the person who meant most to me. This was sort of like that.

If you had answered, I am sure I could have convinced you.

You were so composed, sitting on your own couch. Picking the place to fall apart is as important as selecting the time.

Dear Daniele,

I have been back and forth to the hospital too many times. The food is even beginning to taste good. I would be stupid to think this evokes any sympathy in you. That kind of caring is short term – what we feel for the suffering of others. You were more capable of the long term variety, which my mother calls devotion.

Changing someone's mind is very hard. I know that changing yours is impossible, an aspect of how it was constructed in the first place.

Then, of course, I met someone else. You couldn't pin down the reason for her beauty. The difficult god had returned. It was in the clear low span of her forehead, when her eyes found someone farther out than I could see. You don't want to know my problems.

Dear Daniele,

That night, I got off the subway a few stops too early. I wanted to see who was really awake, if I could be provoked into dismissing all of this. The following weekend I went to the country. The more decisive any act is, the more chance there is of it being absolutely moral.

The hibiscus, the crafted fern. Deep in the woods the smell of a hostage to the trees. I sat peacefully, I was at rest. Here you could forget about what brought me to this farm, what brings to me to this prolepsis.

You see, I am a different man! Completely! I wrought all the meaning out of what I went through! The plasmids, the certain, last goff! You could see me at the apex, and then prancing down like someone you barely recognize! That will be me, holding the bale!

There were bats in the barn. I don't know what they fed on exactly, flies or bugs, maybe?

Dear Daniele,

I am back in the city now, and I feel somehow you know these things, what I think to tell you before I say it in my own inimitable voice. We sold the lingua franca, we bought the flowers and a potted plant that it could be said might last for decades. Those last hours in the arbor, before forty-five minutes of stopped traffic on the FDR. Are things becoming worse or better? For you, I mean?

Candidly, I hope you dream of me. A promised life is real enough. I can't meet another woman in a sweatshirt, or find something derelict next to the castor oil. I am not that type of person, or even if I am, I am not the type of person to realize I am that type of person.

It is always kind to shut the door on the way out of your room.

Dan Carville is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in Manhattan. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.


Thursday
Apr132017

In Which We Were Not There To Take His Place

Composting Now

by DAN CARVILLE

Around late January, when Christmas was just the echo of an echo of crumpled wrapping paper, I ran out of ways to convince you to come back. 

Apologies in advance for the second-person. I know it is the dirt worst, even worse than consecutive semi-colons, but you can lay the blame on my total lack of composure. I was pricing a belt at T.J. Maxx on Wednesday and tears ruined the buckle, rusted it out. 

A lot of bad things have happened, if I'm being honest. I know in a relationship, a real relationship that is what you have to be, or it catches up to you. A phone call out of the blue announces the lie has evaporated. 

I don't lie anymore, not even to myself. 

One of these unfortunate occurrences put me inside of a hospital. (It was nothing you did, and it was not really happening to me, anyway. He only goes after those we love, especially when we love ourselves too much to risk it.)

Hospitals all look the same, halls too wide for human occupation. Signs point us in the wrong direction, away from the place we need to be. I remember one time I was in a hospital; I was just a little boy, I had seen The Rocketeer; it was supposed to keep me awake, only the thing was it put me to sleep instead. 

I should have known that basic irony would be the defining jest of February. The reason I give a gift is to show who I am, the kind of person I might be under better, more favorable circumstances. I guess what I started thinking is, what if I am that person now, and the gift just proves how much further I had to go. 

 

Why you left is nuncupatory. The fact is you are not down in the Metro when I go there, and believe me I questioned city personnel. I keep thinking to myself how I never did anything bad to you except not take the trip you wanted me to. You never suggested I go, but you should not have had to ask. It eats at me a lot that I did not do that for you, but it is not even the biggest bite. 

Day one of therapy was like a bunch of swarming minnows, taking plankton-size chunks. My metaphors run away from me. Writing is inadequate to this particular task. There is something missing from it that can only be conveyed by the actual passage of time, not the gasp between paragraphs. 

I did go back. I also returned to where we first met, hoping I would glimpse you through an aquarium. That first day we met I was not really looking forward to seeing you. I canceled the night before, wrapping myself in a thin black blanket and reading until all my bad thoughts went away, of how maybe I was not the person you thought I would be, and would I hate myself for the lack of authenticity?

My therapist gave me this idea. He asked me what kind of person I thought I was. The only way I could answer is this: I never do things for the sake of them. He told me that some people might view that as a character flaw. I wanted to scream. 

But I did not. There is no anger there, even that has faded with the time we are given to get over ourselves. The training for this in the life of a man is minimal. I am, like plenty of others, not unfamiliar with being dismissed, but the way you did it.

That has nothing to do with it. It is what I tell my class (I am teaching now, you never let me tell you, it is great fun and you always told me I should do it and I did, I'd talk to you about it in these warmer nights if you let me, my lips brushing against a pillow like a perpetual greeting). What I tell my class is, the way you say something doesn't matter at all. If you're saying the right thing, you could tell it backwards and we would still shake at the end. 

March comes on like a refrain. Everyone is telling me to be social. "Don't retreat into yourself," a friend says. "It takes too long to realize nothing's there." I have my books and movies. I finished Carrie: the ending was just awful. I tried another Theodore Dreiser, and I noticed a theme. A woman is humbled, and she takes a man with her into the gutter. She makes a choice to save herself or save him, and whatever decision she lands on, she regrets. 

You must have some regrets. I never met anybody that didn't second guess themselves, but I suppose that is why you are not here right now. I would have liked to watch that movie with you, and I wish we had never disagreed. It is another character flaw, to enjoy bouncing hard against something soft, and then doing the reverse. I'm working on pushing the soft parts together, says my therapist. 

It is the opposite of what you are supposed to do in writing, and maybe that is what I find difficult about relationships at times. It feels like pressing the cathodes of a battery against each other, nuzzling their charged tips. 

I pray a lot now, which is funny considering I told you how silly I thought it was. Well, now I know why people do it: it is for when you want something real bad and divine intervention is the only way they can think to get it. I pray for you to come back in my life, and sometimes for wonderful things to happen to you. I figure if you are happy maybe it doesn't improve my chances, but it couldn't hurt them. Plus, you'd be happy.

That's not where these pleas to God end, however. I don't imagine just having you around. That's peanuts. I imagine marrying you in front of everyone I know. It gets worse. Even though we're already wed, I propose again. We could renew our vows. I was looking for a ring, but it wasn't good enough. The only thing that would say what was in my heart right now is seaweed and grass. I go back to the earth — I'm even composting now. I miss you. When you walk through the door, you won't recognize me. I ran to lose weight, and I kept doing it because I know you would have wanted me to. I'm volunteering for Hillary. I've seen so many places on these travels — the end of the park, choruses of concrete, metal detectors exchanging compliments, lightning bugs kneeling and circling my big stupid head. That's not all. You're here and praying too. My clothes are better, my spirit is larger. I am king of all the animals, and I sprinted a block to return a dollar that had dropped out of a girl's pocket. You won't recognize me at all. 

Dan Carville is the senior contributor to This Recording. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.

 


Friday
Feb172017

In Which We Calmed Down After The Screaming In The Sky

Second Person

by DAN CARVILLE

I like a girl with personality. I have a lot of personality myself, and when I see someone else that has it, my heart goes out to them. – Ross Macdonald

The thing about the second person that is a mistake is that writers like you think it is the only form of address. Maybe your ex will feel it is him or her you are really saying this all to, and when they realize that, they will come to their senses. Only if you had ever become important enough to be addressed in the medium of literature, most likely you never even took the time to read about all the people whose hearts you tore up, stomped on, and drowned off the dock at Pacific Point.

There are other modes of address, and I will tell you about them after I get through this. There is a way of writing that is therapeutic, sure. Afterwards, this bracing feeling floods me, like my body is filled with nature, if I am in nature. Coleridge said that you see the beauty if it's inside you, otherwise the viper thoughts are all that's left in the remarkable scene. Then again the man was addicted to opium. After he wrote, he did some more, so each feeling was artificial and he could no longer discern what was therapy, and what was trauma. I don't do drugs anymore: you made sure of that.

Well, the first month we were dating, I was not so sure it was going to last. I told you I was going to Oregon for the weekend and the phone service might not be the best. You said, "You'll get a lot of writing done." You said, "Isn't it beautiful up there?" I had taken a lot of pictures on my phone from another time I was in Oregon. If you really look at a picture you can tell the time it was taken, but I knew you weren't going to go to all that trouble, and that you believed me. I was in Oregon.

I guess it's not really cheating, only I wasn't going to tell you or anyone else about it, and I never have until now, because it is so far past making a difference to anyone. Her name was Patricia, I mean was it really? No, but what do I get out of saying her true name. We already established that I lie. She had this vitality that was something apart from her, feeding off who she was. For that reason Patricia could never get whole. I gave her some Valium I had – I don't remember where I got it, and we went to the museum down here.

It was the exhibition that they have every two years, and she told her friend to come. The friend was a local who was very frumpy and obviously in love with Patricia. She also dated some guy who had been in prison and I think this made her interesting to Patricia, because Patricia's boyfriend was also something of a bad guy for other reasons, not like he went to jail but he had very specific sexual requirements and yelled at her when he drank. In contrast, I realized after listening to their discussion, I must be the most milquetoast fucking person in the world.

I never let myself love Patricia, because I knew nothing would ever come from it. She was a tourist in my life, and that only gives you a sad feeling if you let it. If you (and I don't mean the editorial you) shut down your emotions at the first moment they occur, then they have only happened once, and are unlikely to repeat themselves. That kind of emotional control is priceless, only I do not have it anymore.

I may end up going east for school. That's one of the things I wanted to tell you. I decided it would be better not to have to walk around this place getting reminded of where we got ice cream, or I took you to some dinner on your birthday. Those are sad details now, and the park across from your apartment (that you never went to) is not so bad either. It is quite painful to think of all the misapprehensions I have had about the world, because they make me realize that I see people in that mistaken way as well. For God's sake I trusted you.

When I write 'you', I feel like there is another you, waking up somewhere. That's all I need to get by. But there are other forms of address — more indirect ones.

I visited one school the other day. The students are noticeably younger than I am, but not so much that they will know I have had a hard time up until now. I plan to pretend I am like them: full of this contained grace. It is an asset, as we enter middle age, not to be soured by what we have experienced, but I do think I needed to be touched by the world in order to claim it. Standing at a distance will not help in your writing, or any profession you select. It only means you will not get to pick the moment you are drawn into things.

After the museum, when her friend had gone to sit shiva for her grandmother, Patricia and I fooled around on the beach. It felt like I was alone because you were not there, so I sent you a picture of Oregon. Later I called to hear your voice. I did not like to talk on the phone much before then, but I remember the first time I called you. Outside, a plane was streaking across the sky and I took a picture, since nothing ever seems that close to the moon. We told each other what we knew about ourselves. I know you liked what you heard. I barely even knew you to say hello at that point, but I hoped you did. And those marvelous months together. How did I screw up that up? Oh well.

Dan Carville is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in Manhattan. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.