In Which Rebecca West Flees To America

Midnight Blue

Rebecca West had a child with H.G. Wells named Anthony, and for a brief second, everything was fine. Then this repulsive, married man showed his true colors. Eventually West fled to America, writing the whole time. The following letters show how difficult it was for her to obtain what was she and her son were owed, and how brave she was for breaking free of Wells. The process of extricating herself from this abusive and deceptive person took several twists and turns.

Dear H. G.,

During the next few days I shall either put a bullet through my head or commit something more shattering to myself than death. At any rate I shall be quite a different person. I refuse to be cheated out of my deathbed scene.

I don’t understand why you wanted me three months ago and don’t want me now. I wish I knew why that were so. It’s something I can’t understand, something I despise. And the worst of it is that if I despise you I rage because you stand between me and peace. Of course you’re quite right. I haven’t anything to give you. You have only a passion for excitement and for comfort. You don’t want any more excitement and I do not give people comfort. I never nurse them except when they’re very ill. I carry this to excess. On reflection I can imagine that the occasion on which my mother found me most helpful to live with was when I helped her out of a burning house.

I always knew that you would hurt me to death some day, but I hoped to choose the time and place. You’ve always been unconsciously hostile to me and I have tried to conciliate you by hacking away at my love for you, cutting it down to the little thing that was the most you wanted. I am always at a loss when I meet hostility, because I can love and I can do practically nothing else. I was the wrong sort of person for you to have to do with. You want a world of people falling over each other like puppies, people to quarrel and play with, people who rage and ache instead of people who burn. You can’t conceive a person resenting the humiliation of an emotional failure so much that they twice tried to kill themselves: that seems silly to you. I can’t conceive of a person who runs about lighting bonfires and yet nourishes a dislike of flame: that seems silly to me.

You’ve literally ruined me. I’m burned down to my foundations. I may build myself again or I may not. You say obsessions are curable. But people like me who swing themselves from one passion to another, and if they miss smash down somewhere where there aren’t any passions at all but only bare boards and sawdust. You have done for me utterly. You know it. That’s why you are trying to persuade yourself that I am a coarse, sprawling, boneless creature, and so it doesn’t matter. When you said, “You’ve been talking unwisely, Rebecca,” you said it with a certain brightness: you felt that you had really caught me at it. I don’t think you’re right about this. But I know you will derive immense satisfaction from thinking of me as an unbalanced young female who flopped about in your drawing-room in an unnecessary heart-attack.

That is a subtle flattery. But I hate you when you try to cheapen me to myself, the things I did honestly and cleanly. You did it once before when you wrote to me of “your—much more precious than you imagine it to be—self.” That suggests that I projected a weekend at the Brighton Metropole with Horatio Bottomley. Whereas I had written to say that I loved you. You did it again on Friday when you said that what I wanted was some decent fun and that my mind had been, not exactly corrupted, but excited, by people who talked in an ugly way about things that are really beautiful. That was a vile thing to say. You once found my willingness to love you a beautiful and courageous thing. I still think it was. Your spinsterishness makes you feel that a woman desperately and hopelessly in love with a man is an indecent.

Rebecca West

To H.G. Wells

Dearest Jaguar,

I hate being separated from my Jaguar. Do you realise you were away from me for a month and that I have only seen you twice since? I hate it. I am going up on Monday to see about that studio. There is no life for us separately. Just a few nice hours over our books and articles and then when we can’t write any longer an empty feeling.

Your loving Panther

To Ottoline Morrell

Dear Lady Ottoline,

Thank you so much for the diary. Its blue watered silk is a special joy to me as I hate leather anywhere except on my feet. I hope you had a pleasant Christmas. I am feeling rather uninterested in New Year’s, as I feel so doubtful of having one of my own, as I am going over to Paris by air tomorrow. If I arrive there whole I am going to leave flowers for Katherine Mansfield, who is out at Fontainebleau and (I hear) very very much worse. I shall be back about the 10th — do let me know if you’re in town. I lunched the other day with Mary Somerville who talked much of you. I think she’s so picturesque — like the youth of a Raeburn old lady. With best wishes for the New Year.

Yours very sincerely,

Rebecca West

To Sally Melville

Dear Sally,

I am as miserable as Hell. I have gone back to H. G. I am going down to the country with him this evening. What else can I do? He says that if I go back to him he will leave Anthony as much money as his other boys—that will mean about £20,000. I daren’t gamble on making that myself because I feel dead beat—and though I might marry I could never get any man to give Anthony £20,000. So there it all is. I could cry when I think of how I’d planned to go to Italy alone —  I’ve never been alone in my life. I am sick of it all. I could have made H. G. get divorced and marry me — he wanted so much to get me back, but I thought it wiser not to. I don’t want Lettie to know of this. I’ll have to tell her later but not now.



To Sally Melville

Dear Sally,

Alas! I couldn’t see a soul. H. G. has been giving me an awful time lately, firstly by absolute dependence on me — Then a fortnight ago he began to realize I really was going — then he got horrid — tiresome and jealous and quarrelsome—and never left me alone an instant — Then this last week he got very affectionate — he really is very fond of me — but still was dreadfully jealous — and wouldn’t let me see a soul—man or woman. It’s rather trying — and I’ve had no time to do my lectures — no energy pray Heaven I’m not sick on the boat for I shall have to do them there—and I feel so dog tired.

I don’t know when I shall be back. My dear, I’ve often thought of giving you the enclosed — it’s what Violet Trefusis gave me and is fairly good (very old, I believe) I’ve often thought it would suit your style. Take it, dear S. M., as a token of my very great affection for you.

My best wishes to both you and J. B. It’s midnight and H. G. has just gone and I’ve still to go over my papers!

Yours wildly,


To Bertrand Russell

Dear Mr. Russell,

I cut off from England in a state of such despair that I couldn’t see anybody. Otherwise I had very much wanted to see you and tell you about a problem that has vexed me very much. Now other circumstances have turned up, and although I’m still too stupid to tell you about things I’m driven to write to you about it after all.

May I tell you the story of my life? I’m afraid it amounts almost to that.

I left H. G. in 1923 when Anthony was nine years old, for various good and sufficient reasons. He demanded from me rather more than a husband usually demands in the way of continual help and care, he would give me only the barest amount of money, he prevented me from doing much work and the money I earned, such as I could do, he insisted on my spending immediately on the household expenses, he was extremely bad-tempered and cruel in case of illness or any difficulty arising out of our illegal relationship, and, above all, he was jealous and hostile to my son. He grudged every penny he spent on him, and even objected to my spending my own earnings on him. He was furious if I devoted any time to the child, and he loved exposing the child to strangers by advertising that he was his illegitimate child. This is to give you only the bare outlines of the relationship. The details would persuade you that I was compelled to leave him out of consideration for Anthony.

I had several times tried to leave him before but I never succeeded till I went to America for six months. During my absence he caused ghastly trouble by going to Anthony’s school and parading his parenthood before the other children so that some of them tormented the child about it. But when I came back things went along fairly indifferently until last year.

Last year H. G. took a violent loathing to me. I don’t know why. He hadn’t seen me for several months. Just about this time Anthony fell dangerously ill with a novel form of pneumonia which was at first mistaken for TB. H. G. came to see him when he was most dangerously ill, but left for the Continent and sent no word of enquiry for five weeks. At the end of that time I wrote and told him that Anthony was better and got a curt letter of acknowledgment. During the six months Anthony was in the sanatorium he visited him once, for about an hour. He made no move to pay the expenses of the illness, which amounted to over £300, until I sent him a bill for £30 and told him that he had got to pay it because I had no more money. He paid that bill but offered no further assistance. (I had better explain that my sole private income derived from H. G. amounts to less that £300 a year.)

During the autumn I was more and more conscious of an insane antagonism, which came to a head at Christmas. Gyp and Marjorie Wells asked Anthony down to Easton, either for Christmas or a later weekend. As we had made our Christmas plans I accepted the alternative and received innumerable insane letters abusing me for keeping Anthony with me for Christmas. He also refused to pay Anthony’s school fees for Stowe unless he was described at school as H. G. Wells’ illegitimate son. I was pursued by letters so insulting and accusing me of such unheard of offences — such as having wasted enormous sums of money he had given me and having prevented him from seeing Anthony (he has never in his life seen Anthony except at my suggestion) that I went to Charles Russell and said that he must carry on all communications for me.

It happened that Russell advised me to adopt Anthony legally to save death duties and save him various minor inconveniences. This I did. It should have cost me about £50. H. G. turned up and opposed it. And what alarms me is that he instructed his counsel to bring forward all these stories about me—which shows that he believes them. I was of course able to produce all his letters showing that he had never been denied access to Anthony, so it didn’t matter. Also he assured the court that I was an unsuitable person to bring up Anthony, and exposed him to the society of persons who were not respectable.

This did not impress the court — but what did was that the £8,000 he has settled on Anthony (which is mostly tied up till he is 21) are all the subject of revocable settlements. Therefore I had to buy him off. I had to promise to let Anthony spend part of his holidays with H. G. and to consult with H. G. about his education, and to make him one of Anthony’s guardians in my will.

Now this last is what strikes me as serious. His behaviour seems to me insane. I am aware from my knowledge of him that he has a violent anti-sex complex like Tolstoy’s—You punish the female who evokes your lust. But it seems to me to be reaching demented extremes. I hear from the lady with whom he lives at present (who is quite mad) that he frequently hits her and gives her black eyes, and so on, which is surely not done in our set. (This was not cited as evidence of cruelty, but as evidence that they were living a rich and satisfying life.) Also this month has shown him quite unbalanced. He went down to Stowe before the term ended and created more trouble, and has removed Anthony to Easton from this perfectly lovely villa for the last three weeks of his holidays. (The boy adores him—I’ve always brought him up to do so, which I rather regret now.) This has all been done with an extraordinary and insane air of a saint struggling with the personification of evil. He has shown in every way of late the most extraordinary unwillingness to let anybody have their own way. For example, he opposed his son Frank’s marriage most virulently on the ground that the selected female was common, and then summarily forbade them to have children.

You may perceive that I do not feel the smallest confidence in leaving H. G. as guardian of my only child. I think that if I died he would get bored with the boy, and would get his fun by frustrating him at any crisis.


I wonder if you would be Anthony’s testamentary guardian also? I haven’t a soul I can turn to in this difficulty. The man who would have attended to it out of affection for me died two years ago. My sisters are silly and inexperienced. I have few friends who are sufficiently interested and enlightened to understand children. I am sure you would always want an adolescent to have just the freedom that I would. Obviously you would be the best person in the world. It plainly wouldn’t be any adequate compensation but I would also provide in my will that so long as you were Anthony’s guardian you could have so much a year paid into the funds of your school. We could settle the amount later.

Would you do this? I know it’s a lot to ask—but I feel you are a really merciful human being — and Anthony ought not to be left in the care of this lunatic.

I’m here till the beginning of October.

Yours ever,

Rebecca West

I haven’t explained this well — but the point about having you as guardian is that H. G. is afraid of you and wouldn’t dare to oppose you or do anything in your sight that was manifestly reactionary.


In Which Howard Hughes Felt Overly Constipated


Desert Inn


Rules Don’t Apply
dir. Warren Beatty
127 minutes

51dbptd1uhl-_sy450_In the last year of his life, Howard Hughes focused his efforts on two of his favorite pastimes: taking drugs and watching movies. His two most important drugs were Valium and a laxative called Surfak, and he took them both in incredible quantities. In order to relieve constipation, you were supposed to take maybe one Surfak over the course of a day or two. Hughes would take ten or twenty over that period. His prostate gland swelled to over three times normal size. His kidneys shrank in fear.

There is something sad about going out this way, Warren Beatty displays in Rules Don’t Apply, his sensitive and entertaining depiction of Hughes’ final years on earth. But there is also something very hateful about Howard Hughes that Beatty generally avoids putting his finger on, maybe because he tasks himself with playing the role of the reclusive scion.

Hughes watched the same movies again and again. In particular he watched Bulldog Drummond pictures repeatedly, over the course of several days. He also liked mysteries, even when he knew how they ended.


Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich) becomes a member of Hughes’ management team. In Hughes’ inner circle, none of these “executives” had any authority over each other, and all were granted a great deal of leeway in how they interpreted the man’s instructions. Starting his work for Hughes as a driver, Frank meets Marla (Lily Collins), one of Hughes’ contract actresses and drives her and her mother (Annette Bening) around in Hollywood, where they have never been.

In what is perhaps the most direct tribute to his film’s subject, Beatty spent a great deal of money recreating the place in Rules Don’t Apply. In the course of funding the project, Beatty has taken on an improbably large coterie of producers. An astonishing sixteen people, including the current Secretary of the Treasury, are credited as producers on Beatty’s film, in what might be a warped commentary on the way Hughes did business. Hughes excelled in one-on-one conversations where he could convince people to do what he wanted. It cannot have simply been money or power which accounted for his influence on individuals.


Rules Don’t Apply depicts Hughes in the best possible light considering the facts: here he is merely a crazy nut with a heart of gold. The real Howard Hughes was contemptuous of black people and an incredibly unethical and mostly ineffective businessman with some strokes of genius. His personal relationships were few. A long scene in Rules Don’t Apply occurs when Hughes finds Marla drunk and waiting for him in a bungalow. He has been informed that to protect him from being declared an invalid as part of an airline deal, it would be better if he were married. So he proposes to the first woman he sees, and they have sex on the couch.


Ehrenreich’s character of Frank Forbes loses his admiring view of the boss rather quickly, and the preternaturally talented actor shows every disillusionment on his face. It takes Frank Forbes until the end of Rules Don’t Apply to realize that Marla had sex with Hughes and bore his child. Once he does understand that, he forgives her and spends the rest of his life with her. I mean, it was Howard Hughes, what else could she do? Ehrenreich’s chemistry with Lily Collins is so insanely exciting that I wish the entire movie had been them talking to each other with no Howard Hughes. Then again, Howard is supposed to be the villain.


After intercourse, the only thing Hughes really retains from the encounter is his promise to give all his contracted actresses their own automobiles. Marla cannot even start hers and, soon afterwards, moves back to Virginia. Frank moves to Las Vegas where Hughes unsuccessfully tried to enter the casino industry for some reason. Rules Don’t Apply rarely gives the full context for Hughes’ business dealings – it is not that kind of biopic.

Instead Beatty’s film focuses on a unique theme – the concept that we know as little about ourselves when we are old as when we are young. Rules Don’t Apply faithfully depicts Hughes’ notorious aversion to children. Hughes once wrote a several page memorandum to evict an annual Easter Egg Hunt from his casino in abject fear of the damage they might do to the premises. In the final scene of Rules Don’t Apply, the son Howard Hughes never actually had watches him sitting in his bed with a small television nearby. “I should really get out more,” Hughes announces, and the kid takes his advice.


Certain aspects of Rules Don’t Apply remind us of what made the casting and performances of an earlier age in Hollywood so artistically and commerically successful. Beatty is a master at finding the right person for each role, and the cinematography of these familiar environs renders Los Angeles a gorgeous and frightening place. Other particulars of the film’s production seem haphazard or rushed – the editing lacks transitions, and short shrift is given to any introspection or continuity.

Instead, we keep returning to this dreary magnate, who alienated almost everyone in his life. We sense that Beatty has met many men like Hughes, who were so wealthy that the only code they were able to live by was that of their own personal preference. Talking to such self-involved individuals, especially when you require their money to pursue your dreams, is a particularly noxious sort of defilement, and depicting it onscreen weirdly justifies it. I loved Rules Don’t Apply, but I can’t imagine anyone else feeling the same.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.


In Which We Intrude On Your Private Space

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


I think it is wonderful that my wife Sam has a really close friend. The two of them have been best buds for just over six years, which is longer than I have known my wife. However, the intensity of their relationship at times seems like overkill. I find I cannot tell my wife anything without her friend, who I will call Nikki, also finding out.

This would maybe not be quite as irritating if Nikki did not bring up these intimate details in front of me. Thankfully discretion compels her silence in mixed company, but I do not need my balls broken or advice, unsolicited, from this third party to my marriage. I don’t really have a problem with my wife’s behavior, but Nikki is single and her taste in men is far from quality. I don’t know think I could reasonably take her advice about anything more serious than what gasoline to put in my car.

Not to compare, but none of the other married people I know have had this similar problem of their relationship being challenged by another intimate relationship. If I raise any of my concerns about Nikki to Sam, she blows me off saying her friend is harmless and that she doesn’t believe in secrets. I don’t think this is harming our marriage, but it is becoming a serious annoyance I am ready to be done with. Can you help me please?

Theo A.

Dear Terry,

It is always not very hard to break up one of your wife’s friendships, but this comes with a million extra caveats when two people are as close as Sam and “Nikki.” She’ll obviously miss someone she can confide in, and we do not want her to resent the role you play in the events that dishonorably discharge Nikki from the service she performs for your wife.

At times our close ones become more friendly with villains that they ought to be. It does not really say much for your wife that she is fine with this, although even the most wonderful people have flaws. The first thing you must understand is that your disgust/hesitance towards Nikki is actually making her more sympathetic in your wife’s eyes.

What you need to do is organically get Sam to view Nikki in the light with which she appears to you. There was this great scene in Stepmom where Susan Sarandon subtly makes her son run away from the stepmother (Julia Roberts) and she never even gets called out on it. You can put Nikki in very difficult situations without ever being called out for it.

For example, you might say, why would I want to go on a weird vacation with Sam and Nikki and another guy? You wouldn’t, but couples vacations are a great place to have experiences that you will never want to discuss with anyone again, even your therapist, Dr. Harding.


Is it a bad sign that I fantasize about other women in order to bring myself to orgasm during sex? I usually enjoy sex with my girlfriend, but sometimes I guess it gets repetitive since we know each other so well. I have no problem getting hard, but at times it will be difficult for me to achieve climax since it feels like we are going through the motions.

I’m worried this means we aren’t especially compatible.


Jean S.

Dear Jean,

This is not a great sign, although certain funks can be imploded through sheer force of effort/stellar communication with your partner. Some people’s bodies can become so addictive and tantalizing that any kind of touching never really gets old. You obviously have nothing like that with your girlfriend, and you will never have it.

Maybe you have never felt that attracted to a human being, though, in which case your current situation could be the best you can reasonably hope for. Do not tell your girlfriend that you have ever fantasized about anyone. Ask her what turns her on – if she cannot think of anything specific, try roughhousing and afterwards lecturing her at length regarding what turns you on. Don’t say “other women”, although at this point we would all have to admit it is the plain truth.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

In Which Katherine Heigl Falls In Love With A Murderer


Knocked Down


creators Joan Rater & Tony Phelan

231466“He’s the first guy I feel like I could really talk to,” Katherine Heigl explains to her mother, who is serving a life sentence since Katherine Heigl was two years old. Her mother is very proud of Katherine Heigl, who has become a noted defense attorney. Why isn’t anyone else proud of Katherine Heigl?

Actually, her boyfriend is. “You fight like most people breathe,” Billy (Steven Pasquale) explains to her over dinner. He has just been released from prison on bail, but Katherine Heigl still finds something attractive about this pediatric surgeon, who is going to be convicted of a murder he committed twenty-four years earlier in Gramercy Park. He is really proud of Katherine Heigl: her education, after all, is considerable. She made it through four years of NYU without killing herself, and then headed uptown to Columbia for her law degree. It taught her, somewhere along the line, that it was OK to make love to her client. “We are the lucky ones,” she muses in a private moment.

Katherine Heigl has everything she could ever want, yet people still don’t want to watch her. At times she looks like a skeleton riding a bike through New York City in Doubt, the new show from the married Grey’s Anatomy producers Joan Rater and Tony Phelan; she resembles a muppet when she is in the courtroom and her lips come together just so. Dulé Hill just looks at her like, “Why am I on this show?”


I guess it all comes back to when Katherine Heigl started saying bad things about Judd Apatow and how much Knocked Up sucked. It did suck, but maybe it was supposed to? 2007 was a very confusing year for a lot of people. Perhaps it was not the best idea to cast Ms. Heigl in a show that is exactly like Grey’s Anatomy. “Travel’s not my thing,” she explains to her boyfriend at dinner, in an attempt to become even more unlikable to her target audience.

Men gave up on Katherine Heigl when she savagely turned on Seth Rogen, causing him to retreat into his office where he smoked so much pot that he drove other people out of the building. Women could still have a chance of liking Katherine Heigl, but Doubt gives them so many reasons not to do so. Personally, I love Katherine Heigl. Did you know that Katherine Heigl has two adopted children in real life, and is dating a murderer in not real life? “It’s not going to be easy to explain the coincidence of the cat scratch to the jury!” someone bleats in the background.


In order to discover the reasons why Katherine Heigl’s unpopularity has led to such low ratings, it behooved me to research the cause of Katherine Heigl’s unpopularity with her key audience. This resulted in a somewhat combative conversation with my wife Lynne, which I have reproduced below to the best of my memory.

ME (DC): Do you think Katherine Heigl uses a loofah?

LYNNE: I don’t believe she can actually ride a bike. That’s probably a stunt double.

DC: Did you feel betrayed when she left Grey’s Anatomy?

LYNNE: Not really, I mean, she was an actress on a TV show.

DC: Do you think Katherine Heigl smells like gasoline and Head & Shoulders?

LYNNE: They were still rolling out the credits on this show fifteen minutes in. Is that Omar Epps?

DC: No. Do you think people who travel don’t like people who don’t travel?

LYNNE: I don’t understand the question.


To be fair, Doubt‘s questionable command of civil procedure renders the show essentially an extended fantasy sequence. In one of the show’s key subplots, another attorney (Laverne Cox) wins the trial of a deranged man who pushed a woman in front of a subway. Afterwards, she commiserates with her associate (Dreama Walker), who exclaims, “Our client is on his way to a mental institution and we’re supposed to be celebrating?” Where did she want a murderer to go, vacation?

Are you maybe starting to get the same sense that I am, that at one point Shonda Rimes killed a dude and the point of all these hour-long shows is to slowly legitimize murder in the eyes of the public until she confesses to Oprah and everyone is like, well, Viola Davis killed several people and continued a fruitful teaching career in a top tier law school, so you’re fine Shonda?


But back to Katherine Heigl, the only subject really worth writing about. I have devised some suggestions for Katherine Heigl, so that she can resume her rightful career as a serious television and film star. My first thought was that she should do a role with an accent. Katherine Heigl with a southern accent would be just darling. If she can’t do an accent, than she should stop dieting down to fit preconceived stereotypes about how leading ladies should look and play the role of a woman who is almost permanently pregnant. Gentile pregnant women are very sympathetic.

Anyway, it is kind of sad that Doubt is such a mess. I think part of the problem is that the show is photographed and scored like every other Shonda Rimes show. It just comes across feeling so generic at this point. Plus Katherine Heigl’s outfits are not so exciting in this. She wears a lot of sweaters and the ensuing sexual milieu is extremely dated. I understand she is a powerful attorney in this diegesis, but she’s already making love to her client, so keeping up appearances otherwise is maybe a misguided use of resources.


Dulé Hill and Katherine Heigl have a lot of chemistry. It would have been great fun to see them taking off their clothes, and I think that is where Doubt was eventually going down the road, but we’ll never know now because the show is doing such garbage ratings. That’s a shame, because I would have really enjoyed seeing their bodies press together. It would have sounded like a car wash.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.


In Which Marriage Remains Not Quite As Sweet As You Think

Just Another Apple User


creators Paul Adelstein & Adam Brooks

Despite having been bilked out of his life savings by a disingenuous American woman named Saffron (Inbar Lavi), things are still pretty great for Ezra (Rob Heaps). For one, he does not appear to have much in the way of life savings, as much of his wealth is the wealth of his parents who run some kind of business. Ezra’s bullshit detector should have been ringing loud and clear when a purported waitress from Belgium agreed to convert to Judaism, but for some reason he felt this was par for the course. He’d had a wonderful life.

After Saffron leaves, Ezra meets Richard (Parker Young), who looks almost exactly like him. This is partly because neither actor is in, fact, Jewish, which is a very hurtful casting choice. You will spend a lot of time trying to tell Ezra and Richard apart, although the key can be found in Ezra’s questionable American accent, which slips into British inflection from time-to-time. In the pilot episode of Imposters, Ezra attempts to kill himself with an extension cord after trying to put his head in an oven. He succeeds at neither enterprise, which weirdly makes us loathe him even more. What kind of man sees his marriage fall apart and becomes even less sympathetic? The man with the cringey name of Ezra Bloom.

This is cannily done by creators Paul Adelstein and Adam Brooks, since if Saffron really was a monster, then they couldn’t spend all her scenes putting this attractive Israeli-American actress in a series of less likely outfits. “She’s just doing her job,” Imposters convinces us to think, since the show is not really interested in the victims of crime, who all share a similar (boring) psychological profile exposing their own weakness and vanity. The imposters themselves are the focus here, led by a woman named Lenny Cohen (Uma Thurman).

Victims, according to Imposters, do not really lose much that is not already missing. This is completely fucked up, but what else would you expect from Bravo? After Ezra finds his wife gone, he plans to call the police so he can rescue her from her captors before he views the message she has left for him. It is super-apologetic and very nice overall, thanking him for their time together and asking that he not try to find her. It was a great deal more kind than any break-up I have ever had.

Instead of taking his wife’s well-meant advice, Ezra completely self-destructs. He gets increasingly drunk and tries to convince his friend Gaby (Megan Park) to adopt a Belgian accent during intercourse, since it is the only way he can really get turned on now. Shortly thereafter he finds out that Saffron had engaged a third victim, a woman named Jules (Marianne Rendon), to whom she was also married. The badinage between these three people is enough to make even Lorelai Gilmore take a nap.

Jules lives in the most magical apartment I have ever personally witnessed. Eventually, Imposters means us to conclude that Saffron and her group of con artists only target people with such astronomical sources of revenue that it would be hard to feel any concern for them at all. How would they even miss the loss of income? Even the emotional damage, we are led to believe, is considerably less. Wasn’t Saffron sort of well-meaning in how she broke these people’s hearts?

First the Bravo Network ruined the entire concept of divorce, which I had so much faith in up until now. Now they purport to implode the entire premise of human emotions and trust in general. These are deeply cynical, awful television executives, and it somehow makes it so much worse than they have cast these extremely beautiful and kind actresses in the roles of villains. The only time I ever really hated Uma Thurman was when she was intimate with Quentin Tarantino.

Watching Ms. Lavi perform Saffron’s various roles, including the cuckold of an asshole banker (Aaron Douglas) and the boyfriend of a tech mogul (Stephen Bishop), is quite frankly delightful. She is extremely talented at using her body language to convincingly influence other actors — she gives them so much to engage with as a performer. Ms. Lavi’s different accents begin to slip at times, but who can blame her? Each of the people whose lives she enters would probably give her everything if she simply asked.

Ethan Peterson is the reviews editor of This Recording.

In Which We Calmed Down After The Screaming In The Sky


Second Person


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.


In Which Georges Braque Survives Multiple Wars

A Break From All That


As he had for André Derain, Pablo Picasso chose Georges Braque’s wife. Marcelle Vorvanne had modeled for other painters, including Modigliani, and had many cheerful anecdotes about doing so. She loved to drop nicknames on unsuspecting artists, terming Max Jacob “the magus.” Her mother was an upholsterer, her father was absolutely missing. Madame Vorvanne was a tiny, stout woman with a low center of gravity; her frequent donning of a large hat made her look something like a striped or patterned turtle depending on her mode of dress.

Marcelle’s birth name was Octavie, but she discarded it with much else. Reinventing yourself in Europe at this time was not terribly difficult, and she did it more than once. While Braque was a domineering type, he did not mind having a wife with her own mind. Marcelle was expert at giving people exactly what they wanted or needed. Her major tool of benign manipulation was food and drink; after a conversation with Marcelle, participants frequently felt undone.

In the first year of their dating, Braque was still keeping time with a courtesan he had known since boyhood, Paulette Philippi. Madame Philippi ran an opium den in Paris, and the drug would eventually ruin her good looks and sour Braque’s view of her. Braque took Paulette to dinner and sometimes lectures, but he felt his heart moving towards Marcelle. When he returned from an uneventful bout of required military service in 1922, he and Marcelle moved into a double apartment in Paris. She continued calling him by his last name for the rest of their lives.

Marcelle usually went to church alone, which is not to say Braque had no faith in the almighty. He did avoid the chapel in Marseilles when they were summering. “It’s probably because I know it too well,” he said, “but it bothers me that when I go to the House of God it’s Matisse that lets me in.” Despite their cohabitation, the two would not be officially married until fifteen years later.

By 1914 the war was on. Braque and Derain were both immediately transferred to the front. Picasso took them to the station, writing fallaciously, “On 2 August 1914 I took Braque and Derain to the station at Avignon. I never saw them again.” In the thick of the fight, Braque was awarded the Croix de Guerre and appointed Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.

In a battle at Neuville-Saint-Vaust, Braque was struck in the head. He became temporarily blind, a condition that was relieved by trepanning two holes in his skull to relieve the pressure. “I was afraid of finding him so badly wounded,” Marcelle wrote, “that I would not be able to hide my despair.” Braque would spend month after month under the care of doctors, during which time he could not even think of returning to his studio.

Picasso and Braque reunited, but as close as they had been before the war, they never got back to where they were. Picasso was deeply troubled by his own avoidance of battle, and remarked to Gertrude Stein, “Will it not be awful when Braque and Derain and all the rest of them put their wooden legs up on a chair and tell about their fighting?” Pablo was an all-around disgusting man.

Return to painting was slow for Georges. It took him until he received his full discharge, after two solid years of convalescence, to think of proceeding past still-lifes. “Survival does not erase the memory,” he wrote.

He looked differently at those who had avoided combat: Gleizes and Picibia, Delaney and Duchamp. Even his closest friend. While Braque was fighting for his country, Picasso had become famous and rich. Still serving in the war, Derain looked down on them both.

A short essay of aphrorisms published by Braque in Nord-Sud helped him regain his creative compass and was variously praised and ridiculed by observers. Picasso and Derain in particular thought that “Thoughts and Reflections on Paintings” was nonsense, but it holds up somewhat better today:

In art, progress does not consist in extension, but in the knowledge of limits.

Limitation of means determines style, engenders new form, and gives impulse to creation.

Limited means often constitute the charm and force of primitive painting. Extension, on the contrary, leads the arts to decadence.

New means, new subjects.

The subject is not the object, it is a new unity, a lyricism which grows completely from the means.

The painter thinks in terms of form and color.

The goal is not to be concerned with reconstituting an anecdotal fact, but with constituting a pictorial fact.

Painting is a method of representation.

One must not imitate what one wants to create.

One does not imitate appearances; the appearance is the result.

To be pure imitation, painting must forget appearance.

To work from nature is to improvise.

One must beware of an all-purpose formula that will serve to interpret the other arts as well as reality, and that instead of creating will only produce a style, or rather a stylization…

The senses deform, the mind forms. Work to perfect the mind.

There is no certitude but in what the mind conceives.

The painter who wished to make a circle would only draw a curve. Its appearance might satisfy him, but he would doubt it. The compass would give him certitude. The papiers collés in my drawings also gave me a certitude.

Trompe l’oeil, is due to an anecdotal chance which succeeds because of the simplicity of the facts.

The pasted papers, the faux bois— and other elements of a similar kind— which I used in some of my drawings, also succeed through the simplicity of the facts; this has caused them to be confused with trompe l’oeil, of which they are the exact opposite. They are also simple facts, but are created by the mind, and are one of the justifications for a new form in space.

Nobility grows out of contained emotion.

Emotion should not be rendered by an excited trembling; it can neither be added on nor be imitated. It is the seed, the work is the blossom.

I like the rule that corrects the emotion.

Derain in particular was contemptuous of the publication. “I’m staggered by the aphorisms of Lieutenant Braque,” he wrote to his wife. “I even feel sorry for him, I have to say. What a filthy journal! He doesn’t see that the others are using him. I’d like to know what the General of Cubism thinks of it. As a reflection, he doesn’t exactly strain himself… I can’t help thinking about Braque’s nonsense. It’s so appallingly dry and insensitive. It manages to combine fanaticism with some initial omissions. One needs centuries of painting, good and bad, for or against, in order to have an idea about art. It regulates the imagination.”

Along with the essay, a new spate of paintings followed and sold for obscene amounts. This allowed Braque and his wife to move to Montparnesse, where they commissioned the building of a house. Braque’s studio took up the entire top floor of this magnificent, modern domicile. Servants filled the new home: a cook, a chaffeur. Marcelle ensured the walls were mostly yellow, the color which did not disturb her husband’s restored and fragile vision.

The second World War smashed this reverie. The Braques fled Paris, meeting the Derains south of Toulose. Eventually, however, they would be able to return to their home, finding it had been used as a German officers’ quarters. (Only Georges’ accordion was missing.) Derain visited Germany as a honored guest of the Nazis, accepting commissions from the party.

Braque refused all entreaties from Berlin. He did leave his home in order to show his face at the funeral for Max Jacob, who had died on the way to the extermination camp at Treblinka.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.