In Which This Shapeshifting Exhausts Us Fully

Say You Believe Me

by SUMEJA TULIC

My lonesomeness in Belgrade is every weirdo’s dream.

Most nights I curl in my hotel bed and watch cable television reruns of Sex and the City and Twin Peaks. If I am in a room that ends with the number 3, I get a balcony that overlooks the park and the parliament. Instead of staging an honoring service for Ivo Andric who lived in the same premises during 1933, I take a cup of coffee and, at times, think of Special Agent Dale Cooper or someone else — random, fictional, inaccessible and according to some dogma forbidden or dangers — I would gladly share my room with. In the afternoon, couples, awkward threesomes, loners and who-not will stand in front of the cinema next door. They will pass the Humphrey Bogart life-sized statue on their way in, and I will completely forget them.

As it gets darker outside, the towers and the thin and tall endings of buildings meet up, there, in the rosy and purple mash up of fog and sunset. Beneath them, in unpredictable sequences, the city’s many lights will blaze and shortly disappear.

As in any other telling about loneliness, this one implies heartbreak too. Mine in Belgrade was like my nana’s stroke — it took time to notice its occurrence and took a lifetime to sort out its consequences.

He was the embodiment of the imperfections in reaction to which I metamorphose into one crazy but hopefully lovable deer. I guess he is that chemical agent that summons the combination of sweet and fuck in me. You see, when I’m not sure of things, I dilute the matter additionally by using terminology from domains I know nothing about. This is why chemistry, biology and deer have hijacked this paragraph.

In winter, I wear a boyish coat and pair of sinkers and stroll around. By the way, pretending to be a feminized boy is my No. 1 safety rule in walking alone at night. Obviously, No. 2 is looking like a poor person (not to be confused with hobo chic!). If I were to tell anyone what I see each time I go out at night, it would sound like a bunch of unconnected fixations on shops run by the Orthodox church scattered here and there; girls working in fast food places; shades of oily green lights that cut through trees and parked cars; the touching symmetry of the bridges crossing Sava.

The nervous exchanges of looks and polite smiles with strangers at night are like the sudden skype calls of unknown creeps drawn to your profile picture. There is something utterly wild and stupid that makes me pick their call. I guess it is the same thing that compels characters in horror films to walk alone into the woods. That is why when I am passing by the Terazije tunnel I let go of my hand, waiting for someone to take it in his own.

As the night progresses, the cars go wilder. And then, it all comes crashing into one silent hour, when I can only hear the old elevator taking tipsy guests to their rooms. On the other side of the city, around the times thieves break in houses, the animals at the Belgrade Good Hope Garden zoo become louder.

To portray the surreal nineties in Belgrade I recount the events in the Belgrade Good Hope Garden. The zoo’s first chimpanzee, Sammy, used to escape often and when he did it in 1990, the manager of the zoo made a televised appeal for his recovery and organized a rooftop expedition to lure Sammy back. With trade sanctions imposed, the manager made several appeals for carrots and cabbage and asked the city to provide hot water for a newborn hippo.

Then there was the incident with the elephant called Twiggy that was lent for breeding purposes by a Dutch zoo. Apparently the Dutch, compelled by the genocide in Srebrenica, asked for Twiggy back. As Twiggy failed to breed, the director of the Belgrade zoo resisted her return. I am not sure what happened to Twiggy after this. Also, I am not sure where are Nijas and Azra, the two camels that Muammar el-Qaddafi brought to Belgrade during a conference of nonaligned nations.

Mornings come fast in hotel rooms, even faster when you have to leave for work. There is that part of the morning appreciated only by those who got off from school or work to finish an assigned errand or to attend an out of office meeting. With the expected amount of exaggeration that goes into every metaphor — it feels like a free trip to a place you cannot afford to travel to. The joy I get from it in Belgrade is double the one I have in my hometown.

As I am map-illiterate, I will get lost on my way to point B for sure. Straying away from the usual streets bring unexpected sceneries and often a chance to feel home when you are really miles away from it. Once in Stockholm I took an early walk before breakfast and on my way I stumbled upon really tiny school children walking with their parents to school. The way they waved and shouted sweet hellos to each other from a considerable distance stayed with me to this day.

My favorite Belgrade intermediary connecting points so far are a flock of pigeons that flew, despite the cold rain, over the city’s fortress, and my own reflection in the display of the municipal library covered with Danilo Kis posters. For a moment it seemed we were having a conversation. As I was entertaining this idea, I was already at the Slavija Square, between a bus and a tram, inches away from a speeding car. If your flight ever gets delayed, and you are forced to stay over, the airport minibus will take you to Hotel Slavija. Wake up earlier and immerse your self among sleepy Belgradians crossing the Slavija intersections with a cigarette or a warm pastry in their hand.

The cab drives to the airport are usually composed of 20-minute Yugo-nostalgic rants that cathartically culminate in conspiracy theories that perfectly explain the violent crumbling of the old country. I hate nostalgia, but what I hate more is being an asshole to a middle aged man opening himself to a random person. So I lose myself in these conversations, nod my head and agree loudly with complete nonsense.

Obviously, I’m not that cool someone you bring to meet your bandmates. The essentials of cool imply withstanding silence around new acquaintances and suppressing the urge to impress. I fail at both. I spent a great deal of elementary school being the substitute teacher to my classmates. The power I drained from my classmates’ submissiveness still powers my confidence, so I am OK with not meeting the band. Your band sucks anyways!

Last time I saw him, my deer routine failed me. All that shape shifting is tiring. Pretending to be prey for sake of huntsmen’s affection is deadly.

Sumeja Tulic is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Sarajevo. You can find her website here and her flickr here.

Photographs by the author.

“Predictable Miracles” – Work Drugs (mp3)

“Lost Weekend” – Work Drugs (mp3)

In Which There Is Only One Cure For Seasickness

Waves Like A Small Puppy

by DAN CARVILLE

The idea that animals think like human beings, she said, is more insulting to animals than a credit to them.

I said, “I never stated a dog thought like a human, only that they sometimes act like one.”

She asked me to explain how a dog acted like a human without listing characteristics that are common to every living thing to provide my point.

I said that there was a dog who could identify a bunch of toys by what words its master said.

“What the hell, Dan. You watch 60 Minutes?” she said. She skipped rocks, but unlike anyone I had ever seen before, she went to get the ones she had thrown. I explained that dogs did the same thing.

She said that she did that because of erosion, and dogs did not know what erosion was, so she and Toby could not be thinking the same.


I said, “I think what goes on in his brain is a series of impulses, and his behavior comes from how those impulses bounce off the things he is told to do.” I was waving my hands around a lot as I said this.

“You’re describing yourself,” she said. She did a little dance and boarded the tug boat that takes you to some shopping. A man onboard got seasick and had to be let off at a dock where a dock said, “TAKE THE SEA. LEAVE THE OLD MAN.”


I put my arm around her but it felt odd, given the movement of the boat, so I put Toby in her lap and tried to remain calm.

“I don’t understand why every one thing,” she said, “has to be like something else. Why must a dog be like a man? I don’t want him to be.”

I said that comparing what we do know with what we don’t is a starting point. At this point nausea filled my stomach, like bubbles were pinging against the wall of my insides, trying to make a sound, any sound at all.

I managed, “It appears like you just don’t like people who anthropomorphize their pets. That’s a very strange pet peeve. By the way, I think I am going to be sick.”

She said that I should choose an object in the distance to focus my vision on, and try to keep my gaze level while I looked at it. I nodded. “I also cured the hiccups,” she said.

“No you didn’t,” I said. “How?”

“You only have to replace one involuntary behavior with another. Whenever I get them, I go right to the toilet.”

Back at the marina, I was feeling better. I bought Toby a rawhide bone shaped like a dolphin. He rolled on it.

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

Photographs by the author.

“Outside” – Calvin Harris ft. Ellie Goulding (mp3)

“Love Now” – Calvin Harris ft. All About She (mp3)

In Which We Understand This Is Difficult Guys

Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to justhardtosay@gmail.com or by dropping us a note at our tumblr.

Hi,

Bottom line, I’m with my girlfriend because she’s overweight. Or at least, that’s how we met. I’m attracted to women of her shape and size, and so was immediately drawn to her for that reason. But of course, in the time we’ve been dating, I’ve fallen in love with her for many other reasons. When people ask us how we met, or what attracted us to one another at first, it’s awkward. I don’t want to lie, but I also feel like the truth is unacceptable. Please help.

Alan B.

Dear Alan,

Acceptable or not, the truth will always be set free. You, my friend, need own up to your personal tastes with finesse. Not the type of finesse where you find yourself resembling Matthew McConaughey pounding his chest in front of Leonard DiCaprio, hair perfectly coiffed. 

Your significant other might suspect something is up if she finds out you’ve been hiding. Women are intuitive and know when things are awry. A myriad of problems will arise if you continue to clench your secret, which will ultimately ruin your chances of her ever putting out in addition to other things. For example, she’ll stop crooning Natalie Imbruglia in your ear in her underwear. Your chances of her suggesting bottomless Sunday brunches are pretty much over.

You can’t mask your insecurities with more lies. The relationship you two have built over time is something to be proud of. Accept your love for larger women with grace and eloquence. If not, then it’s probably best to weep in the corner of a Barnes and Noble with a copy of The Surrendered by Chang-rae Lee.

Hi,

I started using Tinder last week and it was my first time using the app. All my buddies rave about it as being the best app to meet girls, so I went for it. I went on a few dates with this one girl, and she seemed distant and uninterested, but would end up being an exuberant person via text. I have no interest in seeing her for the next date that we planned. I’m being honest with myself and don’t see our relationship going anywhere. I want to express it to her in the most gentle way possible without being offensive. How should I approach this? Should I call her? The thing is, I don’t want to hear the sound of her voice.

Kenny C.

Dear Kenny,

You didn’t have a great time, yet you planned another date. What happened there? Did she insist upon it? Were you swayed by her superior texting skills? Did you just not want to let her down? If so, it might be worth exploring why you’re so intent on saving face.

It’s Tinder, for god’s sake. It’s not like you bumped into each other on the street and discovered you’d both been listening to the same Celine Dion hit, wondering if this could be the day you meet The One. No. You both used an app that allows people to hook up with one another based on their proximity and selfie skills. Don’t make this into more than it was.

At this point, you don’t owe her more than, “Thanks for meeting up with me last week, but I really don’t see this going anywhere. BFFs?” Chances are she’ll be like, “God I’m so glad I don’t have to waste my superior texting skills on you for another minute, peasant.” Poof. You’re free.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

 

In Which Birdman Makes An Ingenious Move

Birdman, Black Swan and Gender Performance Anxiety

by SARI EDELSTEIN

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu
119 minutes

Alejandro Iñárritu’s new film Birdman opens with a sustained view of the back of Michael Keaton’s body, clothed only in white jockey shorts, asking us to scrutinize the physical tolls of aging – the sagging, the balding, the spots.  Yet we can’t help but notice that he is levitating feet above the ground, the first indication that he retains the afterglow of great powers. Keaton plays Riggan Thomson, a middle-aged Hollywood movie star, who writes, acts, and directs in an adaptation of Raymond Carver’s work on the Broadway stage.

The film derives an extra punch from Keaton’s star-text: his status as the Batman of the 1980s and his subsequent disappearance from the Hollywood scene. In Birdman, Riggan is literally haunted by the character, Birdman, that made him famous; this superhero-cum-alter ego dwells in his dressing room and unconscious, reminding him of his glory days and scoffing at his turn to the theater. Riggan yearns to make good art in a world that only seems to reward cheap exhibitionism.

With his enormous feathery black wings, Birdman offers an unexpected visual echo of Natalie Portman’s nightmarish black swan in the 2010 film of that name.

Like her avian vision, Riggan’s Birdman is ominous and omnipresent, pecking at him with insults and reminders of how he has fallen from big box office stardom. Both films reveal the porous boundary between self and role that characterizes immersive performance. And like Black Swan, Birdman examines the emotional and physical costs of performance, especially the relentless self-scrutiny it inspires.

Whereas the self-destructive consequences of the female beauty standard are coming to be widely acknowledged, Birdman’s study of aging male celebrity reveals that no one is immune from the ravages of our culture of images. The film constantly dwells on male anatomy, making an equation between cultural relevance and masculine potency.

Edward Norton stars in Riggan’s play and serves as a reminder of Riggan’s own aging body. He proudly displays an erection on stage, a feat that he can apparently only accomplish in that venue. The alter-ego Birdman equates Riggan’s move away from the big screen with irrelevance and failure. Urging him to return to his superhero franchise, he tells Riggan, “Sixty is the new thirty.” We might read this as Hollywood’s injunction to the stars it creates: sixty must be the new thirty; there is no room for older people. Renee Zellweger’s surgically altered face is a case in point, but Birdman reminds us that this is true for male bodies as well.

Birdman juxtaposes multiple media forms, including high and low literature, the theater, and the superhero franchise, in order to reflect on the fate of American entertainment. But even as Birdman laments the decline of serious art, it is an experimental, new kind of film that doesn’t resort to older techniques. Indeed, the entire film appears as one long continuous shot without a cut.

This ingenious formal move emphasizes the extent to which the characters are always on stage, always performing, and the distinction between representation and reality erodes. Birdman transforms the well-trodden narrative of the old, white man in decline into a truly original statement on the state of celebrity and age in contemporary culture.

Sari Edelstein is the senior contributor to This Recording. She teaches American literature at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. She doesn’t tumbl or tweet.

“Surrender” – Bush (mp3)

“The Only Way Out” – Bush (mp3)

In Which Most People Enjoy A Convincing Eskimo Kiss

Spoilers for Gone Girl follow in this review.

Fresh Melons

by DICK CHENEY

Gone Girl
dir. David Fincher

Neil Patrick Harris’ inclusion as the titular Gone Girl in this movie was entirely a tactic to encourage reviewers to begin their essais with those familiar words, “Susan Sontag, in her essay ‘Notes on Camp’…

The series of shirts that Ben Affleck wears in this movie to cover the actual shape of his body was impressive; he looked like Mr. Fantastic. Affleck’s character, Nick Dunne, is a creative writing professor who slept with his hottest student. There was no mention of the quality of her writing, but there was a high likelihood she penned the sentence, “His eyes were the window to his soul.”

just another reason that sarah silverman’s song about protecting your neck is more relevant than ever

I have rewatched the scene in which Amy (Rosamund Pike) slits Neil Patrick Harris’ throat with a box cutter a number of times. It looks like the end of a College Humor sketch, and I would like the name of Ms. Pike’s ass double.

You know what society really needed right now? A movie about a woman who lies, more than once, about being raped.

A strange time for a St .Louis movie about wp, but Tyler was there to liven things up. Hi Tyler.

Nick Dunne’s mistress had it all. She didn’t have to wash his clothes or his dishes or care for his tawny cat. He didn’t even cheat on her. He taught her things, like the intricacies of the work of Andre Dubus III and how T.S. Eliot had a borderline inappropriate relationship with his mother. She lived in a nice dorm on a beautiful college campus; in contrast Nick Dunne’s sister lived in pig shit, serving slop to basics at The Bar.

You know it’s the past because books sold enough to have stores back then.

Death during sex is a timeless way to go; it is how I assume George Stephanopoulus will perish. He suddenly, in the throes of something or other, wilts like a leaf. If these people had gone to church I kind of get the feeling this never would have happened.

I always sob after my brother has sex with one of his students. Always.

Pike’s character should have been on The Bold and the Beautiful. She wasn’t much fun except when she was winning at miniature golf. Whether or not a man likes a woman with her own mind is really the point here.

Ben Affleck’s recent meltdown aside, he is used to Jennifer Garner screaming, “These melons aren’t fresh Beeeen.” Shit like that gets a bit maddening when all you want to do is settle down with a glass of cabarnet and Marguerite Yourcenar novel.

Is he wearing a girdle?



The music here is the absolute worst. I mean they should have scrapped the entire soundtrack that’s how bad it was. When Tyler Perry finally made his appearance and they took all of twenty seconds to set up the character, you knew there were problems.

This book would have been a lot better as a TV series, I don’t know why they couldn’t have milked it like a fresh canteloupe. Affleck and his incestuous sister could have exchanged eskimo kisses and adopted a dog together.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

miss u casey

“Keep On Lying” – Jessie Ware (mp3)

“Champagne Kisses” – Jessie Ware (mp3)


In Which We Hope The Contessa Does Not Hear

photo by Nicholas Pippins

Scenes From A New Marriage

by NATALIE ELLIOTT

Two months after your wedding, you move to Bergamo. It was part of the plan all along — your husband is becoming a Montessori teacher, and over the next ten months, will be taking what is largely considered the most demanding course for certification. At the orientation reception, at the behest of the directress, the spouses in attendance stand up and introduce themselves. A bulky Finnish man in a blazer pledges his intention to take care of his two daughters while his wife studies, and everyone coos in warm appreciation. The last in line, you demure, unnoticed. A moment later, the directress, who is a ferocious, dazzling British lady, wants to know why you didn’t, asking in front of everyone. Flushing, you gasp for a word. “Because I chickened out,” is all you can manage, eyes downcast.

Your wedding was a triumph but your marriage is not. A hasty, family-only ceremony that was planned and perfectly executed within two weeks. You both trembled before the other, languid sweat-droplets mingling with tears in the Texas heat, reading vows penned in the most humiliating privacy. Your parents, who had never met, got along graciously. Over champagne and tequila shots, everyone in attendance said it was the most moving ceremony they had ever witnessed.

Part of the understanding is that you would play housewife. “This course is so challenging,” all of your husband’s mentors say, “you really just need to be there for support.”  You nod, grinning blandly, groping for a misplaced wineglass. “Well, he did that for me, when I was at the magazine,” you assure them. They raise an eyebrow, “But this will be different.”

Neither of you speak Italian. You feel primed for the adventure, but when you arrive, everything is much harder than imagined. Internet service is bafflingly elusive. It’s a small town, so there are no Anglophones. The school arranges for you to look at some apartments. You want the first one, but your husband takes the second one. Your landlord, who lives across the hall, shares the last name of the building. His aunt, a contessa, shares one wall of your flat. It’s the kitchen wall that has a door in it with a taped-over peephole. This is where you do all of your fighting.

You’re a writer, so you’re prepared for the solitude. A friend suggests you make a reading list, maybe of classics that you’ve never gotten to — like someone might do for grad-school comps. You scrawl in your planner a new “assignment” on the Monday of each week. You sketch ideas for essays. Your favorite editor has left the magazine where you worked, so you write to him in brief, plaintive e-mails containing several exclamation points. He writes back amicably with advice, even though he doesn’t have to anymore.

Every day you wake up too late. Your anxious sleeping issues return. Your husband buys you melatonin, lets you get out of bed at four a.m. to check your -email in the pitch-black kitchen. Your eyeballs stick in their sockets. Your husband leaves the house at quarter to eight, and you sleep until nine-thirty, ten-thirty, sometimes eleven. The bells from the church across the street gong you awake. They are echoed by another church around the corner.

At first, you would wake up and read, but now you rise so late you immediately have to make the bed. If it’s close to eleven, you have to start lunch, because your husband will be home anywhere between twelve-fifteen and twelve-thirty to eat. Usually he has to go back to school by one or one-thirty. You shuffle around in pajamas, slurping the rest of his cold coffee. Sometimes you can connect to the internet and check your e-mail. You begin cooking.

You get a job nannying for your husband’s classmate, a single mother from New Zealand. Her daughter is five, named for a Raymond Chandler character, and dresses like a typical cool Montessori child — wearing no less than nine articles of clothing at once, polka dots and plaid dresses and garlands of flowers in her hair. Work is always good for you, since you were raised culturally Protestant — the kind that wants money and to live a life of suffering that can only be alleviated by passionate toil.

The job forces you to get dressed and leave the house. The chief difference between Italian women and American women is that Italian women dress flatteringly before they go out in public. Even their sweatpants are astonishingly tailored and sported with a kind of casual aplomb. You like this, but even in Bergamo you lose the desire to dress before running to the supermarket. At your lowest point, you wear leggings and a sack dress with a blazer thrown over. You hide your sleep-damp hair under a knitted cap. Your socks don’t match. You feel feverish, pouring with sweat on a chilly morning.

The child likes to stop in churches and examine their iconography. Though areligious, she learned about Catholicism here in school. She points out Jesus and Jesus’s mother, even though she’s almost always wrong. Usually you’re looking at Saint John or Saint Peter. She asks for a coin to light a candle. You have to explain to her how a candle is like a prayer for someone you love or who needs help. She assures you that Mary isn’t real and can’t help people. “Yes,” you whisper, “but it’s a comforting thing, and that’s why people do it, to feel better and express love.” She looks at you slyly.

Of course, you buy a rosary on holiday in Bellagio. It’s wooden, so your husband can take turns wearing it. There’s a small picture of the deformed Saint Leopold in the middle. At the end, there’s a wooden cross adorned with one of those violently gaunt silver bodies of Christ. Sometimes when you bend over it slips out of your blouse and the child points and cries, “It’s Lowd Jeesas!” Next time you go into San Bernardino, you light a candle for your mind. Your thin zealotry is so obvious; you don’t even understand what you’re doing. You wonder if you’re channeling Emma Bovary recovering from Rodolphe.

Each night over dinner, you discuss with your husband plans for the next day’s meals. You try to have some kind of meat for him at least once a day. You lose the desire to visit the supermarket with such frequency and start making lentil soups and things he didn’t ask for, but will eat obligingly anyway. Unlike other women, cooking for your beloved doesn’t comfort you, it just gives you a mindless task to keep you from feeling sorry for yourself, a thing to organize your time.

\

photo by Nicholas Pippins

Sometimes he calls you “Wyf,” like in Chaucerian Middle English. He means it innocently, of course. In fact, you probably gave him the idea for the nickname. Still, the more he says it, the more you feel pushed into the glib and careless form, an archetype on mottled paper, squirming between two lines of text. Less and less a thing of flesh that he admires.

Your street is at least medieval, though the landlord claims it was built by Romans. It lurches upward toward the wall of the old city, a vast partition that was erected by the Venetians in anticipation of an attack from the Milan Grand Duchy that never happened. In these parts, the roads are dangerously narrow, and paved with broken bricks laid out like chevrons. Except for the call-boxes and stray sprinklings of neon, your neighborhood looks relatively unchanged since 1910. When you step out at night, the undulating paths and hidden corners make it feel oppressively cold, Dickensian. You almost immediately get sleepy and disoriented. The opposite of Stendhal syndrome, there should be a name for this condition.

You delight in your husband’s exuberance about his studies. You’ve never known him in a moment when he loved the thing he was doing so much. He leads the reading discussion groups. He excels; he stays late to chat with the directress. A classmate jokes that they’re plotting to run away together. You’re not jealous of his experience; you’re proud. The animal of your jealousy burrows much deeper than that.

Attempts to lick your wounds often land you at the late-night bar (as opposed to day-time, coffee-serving bar) one street over. You pass by a lit storefront where college-age activists sit in meetings planning a zine. The bar is called the Caffé degli Artisti, with signage in Papyrus font, and the clientele all seem to take the name too seriously. You have variously encountered a Kosovar photographer who used the word “nigger” affectionately and a leather-jacketed Romanian with a topknot who philosophized about the artificial manufacture of the human soul in the context of Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. You loudly upbraid the Kosovar in accent-less, musical English, a strange dialect you developed years ago, solely to communicate poetically with non-native speakers.

photo by Nicolas Pippins

Old patterns resurface. You come home from this bar after drinking too much cheap scotch, and hotly, like a smarted child, accuse your husband of wanting a divorce. He grabs you by your shoulders to calm you, but you end up writhing in a sobbing and wretched ball on the kitchen floor. You turn on the fan in the hood over the stove in hopes that the contessa can’t hear your spluttering. The next morning, you sit in the gray silence while your husband sleeps it off, drinking coffee alone and paralyzed at the sound of any overheard conversation in Italian. You realize you need a hobby besides reading D.H. Lawrence and making lunch.

Your vocabulary expands to about fifty words, maybe five sentences. You don’t really like Italian. It’s all of the hard parts of Latin without the familiar cadence of Spanish. And you’re too willfully Protestant to appreciate Italian culture. You give yourself pedicures in the bidet. You despise the tawdry, oversweet pastries and tire of gelato. You save all of your vegetable scraps, onion skins, pancetta fat, and cheese rinds and boil them down for greasy broth. This makes you feel equal parts the noble pauper and the resourceful wife. You’d give anything to eat food made spicy with something other than black pepper, to drink dark beer, to return to your diet, not mainly comprised of wheat and sugar and dairy.

It’s frustrating, as a writer, to have no language. It’s tremendous, as a wife, to have a distracted husband. You oscillate between quietly resenting him and wanting him too much. You weep at missing him; your plodding attempts at inspiring affection are often met with his swift recoil. Nobody wants anyone that desperate, and you know better. You can’t seem to escape the torments you’ve established for yourself. The next movie you watch is The Earrings of Madame de…, you notice she leaves those precious baubles in the church at the end. Sometimes you stare too hard at certain men, examining them, wondering if you should also have an affair. But it’s impossible, even out of boredom. Loving someone to bits is basically terrifying for that person, and that’s what you always do.

Your husband finally decides you can’t hide in your reading and movie-watching anymore. After all, he was around for the week last spring you plowed through three volumes of Richard Yates. You were so despondent — thank god you weren’t married then; you probably wouldn’t have survived. On weekends, your husband sits on the foot of the bed while you read, like a house cat. You stubbornly ignore him, even though he thinks he’s withering inside. You two are constantly battling for the other’s attention. It’s never delivered at the right time.

This new marriage is somehow the greatest challenge to yourself you’ve ever accepted. It’s the arduous chemical breakdown of two blazing, demonstrative people who must dissolve, piece by piece, into the bigger entity that they have asked to become. You were never ready to be a housewife, even though the act of completely absorbing yourself with someone you love feels, in the abstract, like an attractive idea. The reality is as lonely as it has been in novels for two hundred years. But the thing itself, the institution, is a true and assenting agony you never expected, and you begin to understand that no authority you looked to as a guide has perhaps ever portrayed it accurately.

Natalie Elliott is the senior contributor to This Recording. You can find her twitter here.

“Why Do You Feel?” – Flight Facilities (mp3)

“Two Bodies” – Flight Facilities (mp3)

In Which We Remain Engaged For Six Years

About the Last Few Nights

by ELEANOR MORROW

Marry Me
creator David Caspe

Odd couple romances drive society to exceed its norms and boundaries, bringing the joy of love to unexpected, dark places. In the background of David Caspe’s new NBC comedy Marry Me is one such arrangement, a love story that recalls Belle and the beast, Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon, or Minnie Driver and anyone.

Gil (John Gemberling) is a divorced hair-plug salesman who looks like a sheep with only its head unshorn. Dennah (Sarah Wright Olsen) is a leggy blonde fresh off portraying the nuanced role of Jerry’s daughter on Parks & Recreation. She is always clad in a romper; he is nearly always wearing a two-tone sweatshirt. One appears to have nothing to do with each other: yet because each has flaws, they must accept each other.

In contrast, the central relationship at the core of Marry Me, embodied by Ken Marino and comedian Casey Wilson, already feels completely neutered. Six years into things, there are not a lot of surprises for us to uncover, except that Annie is a “drama queen” and Jake has a penis. It is hard to believe that a connection this mediocre is supposedly based on the true life coming together of Wilson and writer David Caspe, except the penis part!

Caspe sets Marry Me in Chicago, the city where all romance goes to die. About Last Night, the Chicago romance between Demi Moore and Rob Lowe, did not end well as I recall, The Break-Up was gross and depressing, and no one was actually happy in Happy Endings, especially not Elisha Cuthbert, who was forced into a two way with a guy who owned a food truck.

The men of Chicago are the drizzling shits. Reduced to such a meager collection of candidates, even a leggy blonde like Dennah has to learn how to settle, which is basically the message of Marry Me: if you don’t lower your expectations and fall in love with basically whoever is around, you will end up alone.

Wilson’s impressively rehearsed histrionics have carried over from Happy Endings, and at times she seems to be playing an abridged version of the character. None of her friends on the show seem like the actual people such a charismatic individual would attract. Wilson is essentially too good for everyone in the entire city of Chicago, and it would have been amazing to start Marry Me with the tension filled Mexican vacation the couple finds themselves returning from in the series’ opening scene.

Kay (Tymberlee Hill) has the unforgiving role of the token black and the token gay; in order to set up her character, she admits to Annie that she peed in her friend’s clothes hamper. There is also no world where Ken Marino’s mother (JoBeth Williams) is blonde.

When Jake moves in with Annie after six long years of separate apartments, she starts to feel crowded and moves her liquor cabinet, drapes and collectibles into her car, giving her the space she needs. It seems like a bad sign that she finds Jake in a set of boxer briefs revolting, but this is glossed over. How can you lead the story to the conclusion that its central characters aren’t right for each other when the show is called Marry Me?

Marry Me really should have been about a leggy blonde fresh off fake-dating Rob Lowe who meets a schlumpy guy and decides that love is destined to take an unexpected, more rotund form. A concept episode surrounding their intensely unlikely intercourse is sure to outdo M’Lady in youtube views. When he reaches out a grizzled, foodstained paw to stroke her manicured hand, she will not shudder.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Manhattan.