Video of the Day


Alex Carnevale

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen

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

Live and Active Affiliates
This area does not yet contain any content.

Entries in faulkner (2)


In Which With Any Other Man I Would Not Have Been Afraid to Ask Questions

Meta & Faulkner


I think women are wonderful. They're stronger than men.

- William Faulkner

William Faulkner's relationship with Meta Carpenter, begun during his work on Road to Glory, had steadily grown more intense when he returned for Banjo on My Knee and Gunga Din. He was the ardent lover, reciting poems and writing out verses for her, sometimes his own, once a variation on part of Keats' 'Ode to a Grecian Urn,' another time, eight lines imperfectly remembered from Ulysses, "The Rogue's Delight in Praise of His Strolling Mort." (As Joyce did not acknowledge his seventeenth century source, so Faulkner did not acknowledge Joyce as his.) Some of the verses were intensely sexual and completely explicit in their four-letter Anglo-Saxon words.

As D.H. Lawrence's gamekeeper had done in Lady Chatterly's Lover, he devised proper names for the sexual organs of his beloved and himself. When Meta told him they needed other people in their life, he reluctantly agreed to go to the beach with her friend Sally Richards, a pianist, and Sally's twenty-two year old lover, pianist John Crown. The two couples spent weekends in cottages of the Miramar Hotel, in Santa Monica. There were mementos for Meta of those weekends, twenty-six fine-line pen-and-ink drawings of the two of them: before, during, and after love-making.

To the one who would see them many years later, "The basic concept of Faulkner's drawings was witty: Working at a film studio, Faulkner on a slack day, thinking of Meta while being paid to be there to make films, made drawings which suggest they are animation stills and would give the illusion of movement if seen in a rapid sequence. As he was supposed to do in that office, he made a movie." If this aspect of their relationship provided humor and ribaldry, their affair was also, for him, a riot of the senses that curiously ranged from the explicit sexual wordplay and graphically erotic drawings to gifts of hair ribbons and to pillows strewn in anticipation with petals of jasmine and gardenias.

It was not easy for her. "With any other man," she wrote, "I would not have been afraid to ask questions....but not with Bill. From the beginnings, I knew somehow that I had to be incurious. The insularity that he drew over himself like a second, tougher skin put him beyond common query." This gently nurtured daughter of the Delta could share the throes of physical passion with him, but she had to come to terms with the fact that the inner core of the man would remain beyond her ken.

bill's typewriterShe felt it sometimes when he was with her and more keenly when he was away. During those lonely times she tried to "connect the warm, outgoing man of the letters with the man who was largely a cipher to me." And she was caught in yet another dilemma. When he spoke of other writers, of contemporaries, she was "painfully aware of my intellectual limitations," and so she held herself to "dazzling smiles when they were appropriate." She wanted to be able to take with him on this level, yet she also knew how he valued that quality of youth and inexperience that elicited the gifts of hair ribbons.

They had now passed the gardenia-and-jasmine phase of their relationship. She had seen him in the throes of delirium tremens, when he shuddered and screamed that the Jerries were going to shoot him down, and she had helped him get to the private hospital where he could ride out the ragged end of another debilitating drinking bout. Yet she told herself, "I could live with this man for the rest of my life... the dark moods, the lack of attention to me when his characters possessed his mind, his aversion to self-revelation that would be with him all his life, his coldness to others when they pressed in upon him - none of it would be more than I could rationalize."

There were things that could not but trouble her deeply. He complained bitterly about his wife, but he said he feared to sue for divorce because he would lose his daughter in the process. Meta tried to anticipate his wishes and wants. When he gave her a dog, a cocker named Chloe, she was sure that meant she was to move from the Studio Club into an apartment where they could live together, but he told her it would be better if they had their own places.

She wanted to be his wife, she wanted to mother Jill, but there were so many areas that were off limits. He did not discuss his work with her. And though he told her what she had meant to him, "He had never been one for spoken sentiment out of bed, distrusting the flatness of the spoken word, resorting to French endearments when the playback of his own voice offended his ears. I knew he loved me by looks, by touch, by the poems and letters, only seldom by what he said to me."

Somehow, he could say clearly to Ben Wasson what he could not say to Meta herself. "That's the girl I'm in love with," he told Ben after he introduced him. "Can't get her out of my mind or system. And don't want to. ... She's brought me peace of mind. I haven't said anything yet to Estelle, who's already suspicious, I think. I want to marry Meta."

Faulkner could also talk about his work to Ben. After typing out pages of Absalom, Absalom! in an upstairs room of Ben's tiny rented Alpine chateau, Faulkner descended to the living room one day and told Ben, "It's a tortured story, and torture to write it." But he had no trouble in expressing his feelings about Hollywood to both his lover and his friend. One afternoon when he descended after finishing his stint, he looked to see what Ben was reading. "Oh, Proust. Swann's Way," he said. "Swann! That poor misguided son of a bitch, and they call him a snob. I think he was just opposite. Godamighty, what Odette did to him. To have crucified him would have brought him less hell, less anguish. In some ways Proust was lucky. He didn't ever have to contend with Hollywood for his bread and butter. I'd rather have spent my time in that corklined bedroom of his, asthma and all. Anytime."

Some of the things Faulkner was able to say to Meta echoed the age-old cry of the man away from home, the man who was lonely and desperately in need of the solace of physical love. There was scant comfort in his promise to do what he could to seek his freedom. "I can't say what will happen or whether anything will happen," he told her. "If you had a grain of sense, you'd get shut of me right here and now, tell me to stay out of your life." But she did not, as he surely hoped and perhaps expected. But she did wonder what was going to come of it, what would happen to her.

Joseph Blotner is the author of Faulkner: A Biography from which this excerpt is taken. He was born in Scotch Plains, New Jersey in 1923. You can buy the book here.

blotner and his subject

"Quiet" - Rachael Yamagata (mp3)

"The Reason Why" - Rachael Yamagata (mp3)

"Under My Skin" - Rachael Yamagata (mp3)


In Which It's Getting Awful Long and Hot Out Here

Swinging Dicks & Easy Tricks


The Long, Hot Summer

dir. Martin Ritt

115 minutes

Hollywood has ruined all sorts of things: babies talking through voiceover, Nicolas Cage's hair, The Great Gatsby, Martin Lawrence, Molly McAleer, Nicolas Cage's grip on reality, the Care Bears. Our idea of the studio system is a merciless corporate urge towards profit at the expense of something else; on its face this is remarkably similar to the way our president views the financial industry. Sometimes, and this is certainly rare, the studio system creates something from this inclination that is unexpectedly wonderful out of the morass. In 1958, that film was The Long, Hot Summer.

At the tail end of his constantly disappointing Hollywood experience, William Faulkner let Martin Ritt adapt a small part of his Snopes trilogy (mostly "Barn Burning" and parts of The Hamlet) into a feature the studio titled William Faulkner's The Long, Hot Summer. The result is a Southern family drama, of course, but while the milieu is recognizable, the faces are even more so.

Ritt was a New York Jew who became fascinated with the South after attending Elon College in North Carolina. Although Faulkner would monitor the progress of The Long, Hot Summer, he had little interest in retaining any creative control over the project. Ritt would go on to make an ill-fated, roundly horrible adaptation of The Sound and the Fury the next year, before moving on to projects more on his level like Hud and Norma Rae.

Paul Newman plays Faulkner's cipher Ben Quick, substituting for Faulkner's more complex Flem Snopes. He's excommunicated from home because of his criminal ways ("run out of town on a rail") and he rides a barge to a small town almost entirely owned by Will Varner. Whoever got the bright idea of casting Paul Newman as a bad boy and Orson Welles as his antagonist deserves all the acclaim some morons are according Up in the Air.

Most of A Long, Hot Summer is the usual Hollywood romance horseshit. Joanne Woodward plays an uptight schoolteacher who is basically given ideas by the image of Newman's heaving body serenading her with slightly dirty talk outside her window. (The two married after the film was completed.) Woodward was never much of a beauty, but her unique look adds to the Faulknerian edge that makes the film so different from what it appears.

For his part, Welles basically takes the outline of a villain as written in the script and flips it, becoming so sympathetic he's practically the hero. Despite being 20 years younger than the character he played, Welles used makeup and prosthetics to bridge the difference and paint a portrait of a wealthy land baron who has complex relationships with almost everyone. A very healthy romance with Minnie Littlejohn (a youngish Angela Lansbury) didn't hurt matters.

On the set, Welles was a sweaty, mumbling dick in the heat:

"There's nothing worse than having someone start a scene," recalled Newman, "and then the make up guy comes over and starts picking and gluing your nose back on." Newman and Joanne Woodward (who starred as Varner's daughter) sympathized with the classically trained actor who had fallen out of fashion. "It must have been a terrible, terrible feeling for him to have to be confronted by all these young hot shots... trained at the Actors Studio," said Woodward. With the help of the disguise, or in spite of it, he gives a great performance. "There was something you couldn't resist about Orson," said Lansbury. "Even though he was a son of a b--- at times."

On the set Welles was a dickhead at all times. Everyone else in the cast was more beautiful, had more money, and was trained at the Actors Studio. Since the character of Will Varner used a similarly hostile approach towards every single person he met, this concordance of character and actor was not only amusing, but effective. Welles was well into his Marlon Brando-mumbling phase by this point, where after every messed up line reading he likely screamed, "Are you all aware I made fucking Citizen Kane?!?"

The conflict wasn't limited to Welles and the other actors, as a biography of Ritt points out:

While one star fall, another ascended. Newman's charm is so explosive it's all Ritt can do from preventing every other character in the cast from jumping his bones at any given moment. From the first Paul was the perfect repository of all sexuality - men rarely felt threatened by him, and women not only loved him, they felt they understood him. This makes it all the more baffling that he chose to shack us with his first ambulatory female costar, marry her, and spend the rest of his life with her.

The center of A Long, Hot Summer is the romance between Quick and Clara Varner, and it's a strange one. For his part, Quick is perenially coming onto her, ignoring her flighty, conventionally attractive sister, and somehow deriving a certain amusement from her intractability. Welles/Will Varner tells Quick that he wants him to marry Clara; after all, his goal is to populate the world with Varners. (The other candidate is a repressed homosexual who has been "courting" Clara for five years without making a move. At one point he tells her that he "wants to help her.")

Quick's conversations with Clara usually end in her storming off, but occasionally she does express herself truly in the pauses between Newman's primordial Game. She tells him that she feels like she's saving her originality for one person, and that the rest of their life together she'll be sharing herself with that man in equal partnership. "I'm a human being," she tells her father, and he even looks surprised.

Amazingly, some of Faulkner's genius still survives amidst the schlock. Varner's ungrateful son stuffs him a barn and sets it on a fire, then he allows his father out and they weirdly reconcile. Only from a truly disturbed mind could violence and hate be so intertwined with transcendance. The Long, Hot Summer is far from a classic; it's more a bizarre medley of a fearsome artist and a fearful Hollywood director. Because it says more about what doesn't happen on screen than what does, it is one hell of a weird movie to watch today.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording. She tumbls here. She last wrote in these pages about Yasujiro Ozu.

"Longing" - Ry Cooder & V.M. Bhatt (mp3)

"A Meeting by the River" - Ry Cooder & V.M. Bhatt (mp3)

"Isa Lei" - Ry Cooder & V.M. Bhatt (mp3)