In Which Ryan Murphy Corrupts This Poor Woman

The Four de Sades


American Horror Story
creator Ryan Murphy

It was sometime during the second orgy of the American Horror Story premiere, where Lady Gaga was humping an Asian woman she had met at an outdoor screening of a lesser Bela Lugosi movie. Despite being a spirited performer onstage, Ms. Germanotta is not much of an actress and you can see that she seems a bit confused about how exactly to play Ryan Murphy’s amusing bon mots. She got this look on her face like, even I have no idea what’s happening here.

Murphy hired Kathy Bates to be the proprieter of a sadistic hotel this season, and the show never really delves into suspense too much. It is mostly just gore and sex. You can’t say Murphy’s heart isn’t into it: the first thirty minutes of Amercan Horror Story features several rapes, cannabilism, necrophilia and a man with his penis superglued inside of a woman. Detective John Lowe (Wes Bentley) instructs his colleagues to cut the man loose.

Chloe Sevigny tries desperately to anchor this ludicrous situation as a mother of a missing child married to Bentley. Watching Gaga slit the throats of Swedish tourists or snort cocaine feels pretty familiar, but Chloe Sevigny as a modest housewife trying to do right by her family is far more transgressive than anal rape. Sevigny was made for camp.

It is possible that Murphy uses Wes Bentley in the lead role here simply for the number of humorous references to American Beauty he can make. Bentley is by nature a joke: a goofy, blue eyed manikin who talks in a whispered hush at all times. He is absolutely perfect for this role, and Murphy’s costumes for him are laugh-out-loud funny.

It does not seem Murphy is really having fun until he descends into amusing flashbacks of a mortified Kathy Bates searching for her drug addicted son. He is great at perching on the edge of something outlandish without going all the way there, which is why Lady Gaga talking about her days in New York and leading a little boy into a decadent room filled with unlimited candy and weird video game displays is kind of a drag.

Usually the problem with camp is that every once in awhile, usually by accident, it hits on something that is both sincere and original. Either one is fine on its own, but Murphy excels at never shying away from where his fantasies take him.

The best scene in American Horror Story is Wes Bentley and his daughter eating raw fish at a restaurant, a pastime every bit as disturbing as any sexual dysfunction, or the scene where Gaga slits the throat of a Swedish tourist with her fingernail.

Murphy is just as good as subtle repulsion as the bigger fish. In a film there is no time to explore the genuine expressions of emotion that exude naturally from the satire and parody inherent in camp, but Murphy can pretty much do whatever he wants in the loose format of American Horror Story. There is nothing else around with his whimsy, and that is why Nip/Tuck was much more amusing the more seriously it took itself.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

“Two From The Vault” – David Bazan (mp3)

In Which We Would Ask You Kindly To Not Explain

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 or by dropping us a note at our tumblr.


The newest Mac operating system is out, and my boyfriend Ed immediately upgraded his computer. Then he upgraded mine. Then he upgraded my phone and his phone and gave me advice about what to do to make it run faster. On some level this kind of advice and dedication to whatever is helpful, but on the other hand it is tremendously annoying that Ed thinks he knows better. His tone borders on condescending when he tells me about it, but never gets too bad. However I am sick of all this mansplaining. Am I wrong?

Janice R.

Dear Janice,

Men feel helpless in the modern era. Since Apple products are easy to use, they quickly become experts at their finer points: they have nothing better to do with their time. If your car breaks down your boyfriend will be like, “It’s probably something with the engine.” Good one, Ed. The words “It’s probably” prefacing any kind of declarative statement are most useless to people who require functional solutions.

It’s probably that Ed is the kind of man, or as I call them, wan, who was raised to be the authoritative source of all information. And if you happen to break up, he will know all your passwords and could possibly even lock you out of your own computer.

To prevent this from happening, explain to Ed that while you would love his help, it’s probably a security issue at work or school, and it’s something you are not prepared to talk about right now, but perhaps when things get more serious.

Then make an observation of a public person — say Barack Obama — and accuse him of mansplaining something to America. Make Ed see that is not OK for a wan to ever fully reveal what he knows. People have to make their own mistakes. And tell him to take off that stupid hat.

just plain afraid to fail


This November will be my first holiday with my girlfriend Freda. We met in yoga class and things have been great. She has been talking about going to a lot of trouble preparing a Thanksgiving dinner for us, and I can’t help but feel that preparations have gone off the rails a bit. Is there a nice way of asking her to scale back?

Cynthia B.


The only way to get out of a six course meal is with a lie, or in this case inventing a memory. Due to the prevalence of psychoanalysis in our society, the one hangup that is universally understood among human being is a desire not to relive the site and feeling of past negative experiences. Simply inform Freda of an extensive bad memory where you were all forced to eat food that was past its expiration date, or simply a meal that wasn’t very tasty.

Isn’t the holiday about more than food? you will scream as you denigrate the foundation of American excess. You can even push this to its logical endpoint: you simply cannot allow yourself to celebrate Thanksgiving until the American Indian is restored what was taken from him. I think Ohio?

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

“Average Person (demo)” – Paul McCartney (mp3)


In Which We Have Heard Enough About Your Border War

Take Me Back to Phoenix


dir. Denis Villeneuve
121 minutes

In his previous film Prisoners, Denis Villeneuve proved capable of making an entire film without a single joke in it. Prisoners could make a convincing argument for being the most humorless movie ever made, and in Sicario the director nearly accomplishes this feat again. Sicario is a numb, boring mess, the kind of effort only interesting to people who never go to the movies or watch television, where the “thrills” of the U.S./Mexico border war have been uncovered in more empathic and gripping fashion by dramas that actually have something to say.

Benicio Del Toro plays Alejandro as a poor man’s Javier Bardem, attempting a portrayal of masterful subtlety that never comes together in the least. Alejandro is a corrupt government operative who plans to eliminate one cartel and put another in its place. His master plan is about as complicated as eggs on toast. Usually Del Toro is at least fun to watch, but here he seems like a parody of himself, too familiar to us from his previous roles and self-consciously hogging the camera at every opportunity. His performance is far short of a disaster, but it mainly sits there like a lump.

Most of Sicario is Emily Blunt whining to Josh Brolin about how she is upset about where he is taking her. He says they are going to El Paso to look for information about a mass grave in a booby-trapped house, but they are actually on the way to Juarez where they plan to shake down a guy for reasons. Blunt has improved her craft immensely in recent years, but she does not really have the charisma to carry the underwritten role of a flustered and naive cop. Brolin looks like her dumpy father rather than a peer.

In between extremely dull sequences of violence, Villeneuve places extensive aerial shots of crowded border crossing. It is a sight familiar to everyone familiar with this turgid topic. Blunt just wants to do the right thing, but it soon becomes apparent she has no actual idea what that is. “You’re doing nothing in Phoenix,” Brolin says. “Do you want to find the guys who did this?” She nods furiously.

When she is not complaining about the hidden motives of her superiors, Blunt meets a local officer (Jon Bernthal) in a bar and rides him at length. During their liasion, she spots a telltale band that the cartel uses to wrap drug money. She immediately goes for her gun. He renders her helpless, to be saved by the unlikely intervention of Del Toro. It was kind of difficult to hear what Del Toro said after that because he was muttering, but I doubt it was that important.

Why did Sicario receive such glowing reviews when it is basically the equivalent of dumping a cliched bag of shit onto a movie screen? I’m not really sure. Ridley Scott and Cormac McCarthy made a hilarious, insightful trainwreck of a film on the same subject in 2013 called The Counselor and everyone hated it. I would say it comes down to Blunt herself, whose angular, ghostly face is expert in taking on an identity nothing like her own.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

In Which We Are Done With Being Left Behind


Waking Up


The Leftovers
creators Tom Perrotta & Damon Lindelof

Damon Lindelof could not well make another season of The Leftovers like the last one. As he sobbed and cried in the office of HBO executive Michael Lombardo, he begged for a second chance. “I need a miracle,” he whined while wearing his highest end Lost t-shirt and gently stroking his pet yorkipoo Desmondpenny. “I promise it will be different. Using Justin Theroux so prominently was a mistake. It just made it more obvious he was cheating on Jennifer Aniston. Also, he’s like 5’2″.”

Subsequently, The Leftovers begins with a primitive woman giving birth standing up in the middle of the night. She posts her new baby on insta and then dies of a snakebite. The baby is saved by divine intervention. In discussing this tour-de-force bravado open that would entice a new generation of fans to watch their horrendous program, Lindelof explained, “I love A Serious Man because the beginning didn’t make sense.”

“We’ll show a woman giving birth! Most people have never seen or experienced anything like it!”

Smartly, The Leftovers discards most of the mediocre cast of season one, although it seems intent on bringing Amy Brenneman back for no reason I can discern. The new stars are an African-American family living in Texas. What a novel premise you will likely crow to yourself as you make the traditional Sunday evening pre-Ballers nachos! A show finally tackles the throny struggles people of color experience in our southern lands!

What family doesn’t have test tubes on their dinner table?

No. John Murphy (Kevin Carroll) is actually the captain of the fire department. He and his white employees set the home of a local black man telling fortunes on fire. No suggestion is made of the racial implications of such a crime. Damon Lindelof has never actually been to Texas, but he has flown over it. The graduate of Teaneck High School makes sure he mentions his black and Asian friends in nearly every interview he does, as if that entitles him to some part of their experience.

Regina King is like, “I passed on the role of Cookie’s younger sister on Empire for this? Save me Lee Daniels!”

Then again, Lost wasn’t exactly a bastion of progressive thinking either. A new series from the Sundance Channel starring James Purefoy and Michael K. Williams titled Hap and Leonard will attempt to actually explain how racist some parts of America still are. It is based on Joe R. Lansdale’s series of novels about the emotionally resonant friendship between a straight white man and a homosexual black man; Christina Hendricks plays the white man’s ex.

The original novels are dense with the experience of races mixing together: how racism operates out in the open, and behind the scenes. The idea that we can simply move past this without even giving it the barest acknowlegement is the province of the man who cast Harold Perrineau as a deadbeat father in Lost.

With names like “Michael” and “John” you know they are just regular guys.

On The Leftovers, we do see this African-American family going to church, having a barbecue. “We have no friends,” John jokes to his new neighbor Kevin (Theroux-Aniston), who has come from Mapletown, NY to find a new home for his family in the blessed town of Miracle, where no one disappeared during the sudden departure that took 2 percent of the world’s population to heaven or something.

Why this situation should be intriguing is beyond me. Perrotta and Lindelof have already made it clear that they have no intention of explaining anything that happens in the show. (The new, light opening theme song of The Leftovers is “Let The Mystery Be,” for Rumsfeld’s sake.) At the end of last night’s premiere, John’s daughter Evie (Jasmine Savoy Brown) is sucked down into a local watering hole with her friends. Minutes earlier, Lindelof shows the teenagers running through a glade in the nude, with a fearsome expression on their faces.

When even Christopher Eccleston looks like a bloated tube of toothpaste, you know you’re missing some serious sex appeal on this show.

Such moments tease the expectation of horror without ever delivering outright. At times, vaguely tension provoking music is cast over the dull veneer. Watched individually, episodes of The Leftovers tend to carry you forth on their own momentum. Added up, they are never anything more than the sum of their parts.

Including an African-American family is a nice change from the nearly all-white cast that populated season one. In most ways, it would not matter what exactly the race of the protagonists was here, but since John has an extremely sinister aspect and the religious ministrations of his son Michael (Jovan Adepo) seem to have a robust sexuality beneath them, so many real possibilities for drama are ignored. The Leftovers tells the story of black Christians, whose lives Lindelof and Perrotta know nothing about.

Throw on something a little sharper than a vest. It’s like he’s not even trying.

But then, The Leftovers will probably just end with Justin Theroux murdering a black man for some reason or other, so that Damon Lindelof can give a gushing interview where he whines about what a tough choice this was. Then he will think about what Matthew Fox-based t-shirt he can wear when he asks, at length, for a season three.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

“Various Storms & Saints” – Florence and the Machine (mp3)

“How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful (demo)” – Florence and the Machine (mp3)

In Which We Say All That Could Reasonably Be Said

A Taste For Gin and Tonic


She admired Joan of Arc most of all. The French heroine was, in her imagination, the tall, slightly awkward, slightly shy version of herself. “She became the character I liked to play most. She, too, was a timid child, but with great dignity and courage.” All the boys teased and mocked Ingrid Bergman, to her face and behind her back. To entertain her friends, she re-enacted Joan’s death.

In the wake of Ingrid’s mother’s death, her father found comfort with the family’s eighteen year old housekeeper/governess, Greta. She treated Ingrid like a younger sister, and the girl returned the favor. Between her aunt (she called the woman ‘Aunt Mommy’), her deceased mother, and her father’s young mistress, it had been a confusing set of mentors. None of these women could cook, so neither could Ingrid. She was a lot better at German; her father had always spoken the language very well.

“I believed that my life with my father was perfect,” Ingrid wrote of her art dealer papa. “He was everything to me, and I was everything to him. People would say, ‘She must miss her mother terribly.’ But I didn’t, because for me she was very abstract. She was a photograph…always frozen in a picture frame.”

Her father had made a short film of Ingrid’s mother for her to remember the woman by. It is a terrifying sequence that ends with the three year old girl putting flowers on her mother’s grave. When Ingrid made it to America for the first time, David O. Selznick had it restored for her. Even without her mother, the tiny family got along well, singing at the piano each night after dinner.

When she was 13, her father died. She moved in with her aunt and uncle, who were overjoyed to take her for the simple reason that the girl’s trust fund raised their standard of living immediately. Her first audition was for the Royal Dramatic Theater.

One of the admissions committee said of Ingrid that, “while she has too much the appearance of a country girl, she is very natural and is the type that does not need makeup on her face or on her mind.” Her star began there, and soon “Sweden seemed too small and I felt I had to get to a bigger country… but I was scared to death Hollywood would not like me.”

Chosen to be a star from early on in her country, Ingrid came to America for the first time on the Queen Mary. She wanted desperately to become an American as quickly as possible, since she knew she would have to survive and thrive in this country in any case. She ate the most American meals she could find, taking refuge in familiar ice cream when it proved unsatisfying.

At first she never drank to excess, and even her passion for food as a refuge had its limits. Gin, whiskey and good wine were afforded her now. Temptation could be indulged until just before it became damaging. After her relationship with Rossellini, her drinking became more and more frequent. “I always look at myself in a detached way,” she said at the time, “as though I was watching a stranger for whom I am responsible.”

In order to speak English well enough to perform on stage or camera, she went to the theater as often as she could. There she saw pablum like The Little Foxes and The Philadelphia Story, trying in vain to comprehend the idioms. Selznick hired a dialogue coach for her and she took the train from New York to California.

Selznick’s wife Irene showed Ingrid to her room in their vast Beverly Hills mansion. The makeover began immediately, and Ingrid chafed on how they wanted to change her. She convinced Selznick not to alter her eyebrows and limited the application of makeup, selling him on the idea of her as a “natural girl”, with her own teeth and hair.

Her first house was in a slightly less glamorous part of Beverly Hills, no pool. Her contract limited her to two films a year, and she despised the idleness it created, complaining to Selznick, who made thousands hiring his new star out to other studios. Anxious as hell, she gained fifteen pounds on ice cream sundaes. “You’re going to love America,” her friend opined.

Ellen Copperfield is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in San Francisco. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here. She last wrote in these pages about the childhood of Walter Benjamin.

Dear Mrs Bergman,

I send you as promised a short synopsis of my story: I can’t call it a real full length story, because it is not a story. I am used to following a few basic ideas and building them up little by little during the process of the work as the scenes very often spring out of direct inspiration from reality. I don’t know whether my words will have the same power of the images: anyhow, I assure you that, during this work of mine, my own emotions have been strong and intense as never before. I wish I could speak to you about Her and He, the Island, the men and women of the Island, the humility so primitive though so antique, made wise by experience of centuries. One could think that they live so simply and poorly just because of that knowledge of the vanity of everything we consider civilized and necessary.

I am sure that you will find many parts of the story quite rugged, and that your personality will be hurt and offended by some reactions of the personage. You mustn’t think that I approve of the behaviour of Him. I deplore the wild and brutal jealousy of the Islander, I consider it a remainder of an elementary and old fashioned mentality. I describe it because it is part of the ambience, like the prickly pears, the pines and the goats. But I can’t deny in the deepness of my soul there us a secret envy for those that can love so passionately, so wildly, as to forget any tenderness, any pity for their beloved ones. They are guided only by a deep desire of possession of the body and sold of the woman they love. Civilization has smoothed the strength of feelings; undoubtedly it’s more comfortable to reach the top of a mountain by funicular, but perhaps the joy was greater when men climbed dangerously to the top.

I beg your pardon for the many diversions, I am filled with so many thoughts and I fear that you cannot understand me completely only by a letter. I am anxious to know your impression after you have read this story. I beg you to consider that the translation was made in a great hurry by people who have not the complete mastery of the language.

I want you to know how deeply I wish to translate those ideas into images, just to quiet down the turmoil of my brain.

Waiting to know your judgement, I am,
Yours very truly and devoted

R. Rossellini

In Which We Walked Into An Erratic Storm


19 to Present


1. During my college years, I cultivated a brand of sadness that was lithe, trivial and mixed with boredom, which I found shameful. Most of my internal life centered upon the relentless process of apologizing to myself for myself. In some instances, I recognized this tendency in strangers, and to them I either opened up excessively or not at all.

2. I was once told by a man I loved desperately that he loved me, too, just not in the way that he needed to see me all of the time.

3. I once kissed a boy with green eyes and a sort of whimpering, pouting quality of mouth to which I tended to be impossibly drawn. He was drawn to me, too, but he couldn’t take me seriously. We spoke about Europe and Jung in the darkness of his sweat-ridden apartment, and though the blackest of blacknesses, he sought to puncture our intimacy. Our tense touching harbored the impression of anonymity; our unseen forms made contact and then released. For days after, I reflected upon the way his mouth formed the soft phrase, “I’m not going anywhere.” I wondered if he’d meant it, or if he’d already grown tired of me.

4. As a young person with literary ambitions and an irrevocable, cerebral bent, I immersed myself in the solipsistic examination of infinite dynamics of self to self. To this end, I drank profusely, read Infinite Jest, and generally felt kind of sorry for myself.

5. I attended lectures taught by professors of a certain renown who, in the early morning, to a sea of soft faces, whispered. I attended a class where I was the only one who wanted to discuss the queer slant to Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. I was taught by a professor who drank seltzer with ice in a tumbler at nine in the morning and wore a fedora around the literary department of New York University. No matter what I wrote, he marked my papers with B+’s. I once scheduled a meeting with him to tell him that this wasn’t normal for me.

6. At the crux of my freshman year, I walked in an unfamiliar daze suffering what felt like tiny heart palpitations and the onset of insanity. I listened to “Karen” by The National on repeat, which seemed to capture the strange disconnect between heart, head and hands that my body had suddenly inflicted upon itself. I texted my mother to ask her if it was possible for me to be dying from an amphetamine overdose. Twenty minutes later she responded, “Not really.”

7. The complexities of my relationship with Casey confounded the two of us but bored or distressed all my friends. Harbingers of doom presented themselves with brazenness and profound frequency. We were on the floor of his shower discussing things when he told me, “I don’t know how to interact with you outside of this realm.” The evening withered and beckoned us into its dissolution. When we finally fully broke from one another, I told him, “Ending is hard, but it’s easier than loving you.” “Okay, that sucks,” he said.

8. We met for lunch in the sterile light of a basement cafeteria at a campus dormitory. He told me that my shoes made me look like a Dutch prostitute and that he’d started dating someone who was “sexually illiterate.” His interest in her was cultivated, it seemed, by her interest in him and a set of preternatural good looks. I hoped. I fingered haphazardly and anxiously the insane display of off-colored, lukewarm food that I had, in my nervousness, assembled. We suffered through requisite, bloated lapses in conversation and held deliberate eye contact. As we parted ways, he gave me a long hug and whispered, “let’s not do this again.”

9. Thinking got me intro trouble. Doing got me into trouble. Feeling got me into trouble more than anything else.

10. I have lived, thus far, for five years in New York City, which, as necessitated by the nature of its mythology, rarely exemplifies the nature of its mythology. In order for any of its potential ecstasies to find themselves felt, one must suffer, in equal or greater portion, shades of despair and desolation. And as extremes rarely manifest, the day-to-day sense of triviality and frustration was pronounced, diffuse. I tried to mediate this quality of ordinary life by getting drunk and texting ex-boyfriends. I wanted desperately to be affected by people. As I get older, to most of my urges and inclinations, I mutter, “No. Take a walk around the block. Put yourself to bed.”

11. Incapable of discerning good influences from bad, I regarded people indiscriminately for what new sentiments they could stimulate in me. All the dudes I dated shared a slightly cruel bent and the ability to debilitate, in some manner, my already shaking sense of self. None of these men struck me as particularly happy, but I am fairly certain that at least two will become famous.

12. My sense of guilt established itself paramount and manifested in diverse ways. I kept track of the damage I had done to myself. I wrote relentlessly, and, perhaps exclusively, poorly. Kafka’s The Metamorphosis exposed to me the possibility of perfect writing and simultaneous redemption, and as I was capable of neither, my profound swell of inadequacy arose. Guilt lingered about my flesh and inched the fat from my bones. My body seemed to me to harbor the imprints of some slight, unnatural disaster, which made it all the more surprising to me when I realized that people found me pretty.

13. Petty boundaries presented themselves ripe for the breaking. Kerrie and I once flirted shamelessly with the opening act at a Yoni Wolf concert and then retold the story fondly, as though we hadn’t basically humiliated ourselves. We did things, I think, simply because we didn’t know what else to do. For awhile, I was waking up regularly in a famous filmmaker’s house in Brooklyn and suffering tiny spasms of confusion and nausea. A sense of inconsequentiality permeated as experiments in intimacy and camaraderie mounted, diffused, and pittered into absence. The world was loud and transient, and we did confused things within it.

14. I developed insufferable habits. I alternated ordering cappucinos and bellinis at cafes while trying and failing to write things. I got drunk and wrote lines from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” on the bathroom walls of the exclusively gross bars I frequented. I became familiar with insomnia and hangovers. I settled into a mode of existing that straddled awkwardly some barrier between neuroticism and nihilism, which proved unsustainable.

15. My interest in moralizing subsided when it seemed to become impossible to justify any of my impulses to myself at any time by any logic whatsoever. My institution of self knowledge sort of came to rest on the Myers Briggs test and episodes of Mad Men, which have both been vastly valuable resources for me.

16. Exhausted by Manhattan, I made the misguided move to North Williamsburg, which proved emphatically to be not far enough.

17. In Williamsburg, everyone looked at everyone. The act of looking and of being seen created a reciprocal composite that plastered itself over the experience of existing in an infinitely public realm. The neighborhood and its cameras craved spectacle, and even at its outskirts, one felt compelled to consider deeply the appearance of self. On a date, I blithely mentioned that my bangs were so integral to my appearance that people often told me that they didn’t think they’d recognize me without them. “What other problems you got?” he asked.

18. On Bedford Avenue, I ran into a man I’d dated years prior and felt satisfied that his new movie had come out to sort of shit reviews. He looked pale and strung-out and dirty, but he was doing exceptionally well in his new job at Vice. At a piano bar in Greenpoint, we connected in a forced, dull way. Remembering more of him than he had of me, I reveled in the opportunity to suppress all my habits he’d found irritating and adopt the affects of someone slightly more to his liking. It was an experiment in utilizing my neuroses so as to suffocate my neuroses, which I found intriguing. Later that night, in a brief moment of comfortable intimacy, I accidentally mislabeled James Blake James Blunt and sort of understood why he’d broken up with me.

19. I attended parties in Bushwick where people spoke casually but compulsively about Kubrick and Heidegger. On rooftops and fire escapes, drunk kids made slurred, personal revelations and went home with one another. Typed amateur screenplays on old wooden desks fluttered in stray wind. My preferred party game was guessing peoples’ Myers Briggs types. Though I was almost always correct, I managed to endear myself to precisely no one.

20. After a night of drinking at Night of Joy, I texted Luke, “I’m making bad decisions for everyone.” “Tell me about your bad decisions,” he responded.

21. I befriended beautiful and intelligent girls who, without exception, felt that they had something to prove. One balanced her time maintaining a 4.0 GPA and blowing pungent pot smoke out the window of our dorm room in a weird effort to lift herself from the oppression of cliché. Another occupied herself by finding increasingly elaborate methods of masking a long-term eating disorder. Still another shouted at me, during a discussion of a disappointing break-up, “but I’m so smart, Laura. You have no idea how smart I am.”

22. Between 2008 and 2013, my historic fear of aloneness evolved into such a profound reliance on my solitude that I could sustain myself for days on end on my thoughts alone.  The compulsive need I felt for silence made my choice to live here seem bizarre, rooted only in impossible abstraction. I tried to leave New York once, but it didn’t take.

leave for goodod

23. As time passed, we all kind of started to grow up and practice settling down. I watched one of my best friends fall for and engage in serious relations with a dude that I had once unceremoniously but fervently referred to as a shithead. For whatever reason, I took this as an omen of audulthood.

24. Where I had once craved laceration and sublimation in equal amounts, I began to hanker for consistency and control. I satisfied myself, in this respect, by habitually making my bed. If I was feeling reckless or indulgent, I practiced prolonged eye contact with strangers in the street. I started reading a lot of George Saunders and cultivated a healthy terror of things to come.

25. There is a sense of profound discomfort that arises from existing in spaces made familiar by occurrences that have long since ceased to feel familiar. A tangential rationale explains why I have lost contact with most of the people I knew in college. What exists between me and the people I used to know is not bad blood, per se, but blood still comes to mind. I cannot fathom how much of myself I unwittingly lost to others when I hadn’t the slightest sense of what I was made of.

26. I want relationships, lately, without the hassle of cultivating or participating in them.

27. I moved into a windowless bedroom in Greenpoint, which expanded upon my personal, thematic divide of internal versus external. I once walked unknowing into an erratic storm in March that sent snowflakes jittering stupidly toward the sun. The air went soft for a moment. There was a rush of wind, a soft moan in the cavern of my ear, and then came the hurricane.

Laura Hooberman is a contributor to This Recording.

Photographs by Sabine Wild.

hot in the morning sabine wild

“(I’ve Got The) Sanctioned Blues” – Ultimate Painting (mp3)

In Which We Plan Our Lies Accordingly

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 or by dropping us a note at our tumblr.


I’m planning on breaking up with my boyfriend of eighteen months, Harris. He is a little high-strung (not violent or anything like that) and I am worried about how he will take it. I’m going to be honest and tell him why I don’t want to be with him anymore, which is because I don’t see a future for us long term due to some of his behaviors. What’s the best way to manage this awkward moment?

Joanne M.

Dear Joanne,

The most common letter we receive here at the Hard to Say offices is how to let someone down easy. This does not apply to our LW, but if you really care about someone you do not let them down easy. This goes for if the reason is not something like, “The proportions of your body disgust me.” That kind of information you can keep inside you : it is subjective and unlikely to affect your boyfriend’s next relationship.

The most common reason couples break up is that the attraction is gone. For some reason, people are reticent to say this, due to various environmental factors that associate a lack of attractiveness with an inherent ugliness. People get bored of each other’s bodies, even very beautiful people who starred in the 2011 smash Limitless. When this happens, the underlying reason is usually not physical at all. An exciting woman is attractive even if she has a different shape or size. If this is the reason you are dumping Harris, you should tell him that. It is a verifiably innocent excuse for the breakup and he will probably get over it in three to four months and hop back on Tindr, get syphilis, and regret your departure for another three months.

If the reason you are breaking up the relationship is something more fixable, it is both dangerous but kind to tell him. For example, if his sister lives in his apartment and feels comfortable being a part of every aspect of your life including clucking comments about your wintercourse, he probably already knows what the issue is, and might offer to remedy the situation. Given your plan, you have already moved past the possibility of relationship working, so why bring it up? If you loved him, his sister would not have mattered.

As for how to accomplish this, a lot of people are into doing these things in public places. In my experience, men and women today don’t have much compunction about making a scene. Justin Long manages it on a biannual basis. This can backfire: your ex-SO will realize that the moment you walk away, this is seriously going to be over and he will never see your gorgeous face again. This incentivizes him to keep you there, which is nothing like the outcome you were hoping for.

Instead, you want to pick a moment where you know with absolute certainty that he is going to separate from you. At that time you can do the lion’s share of the breakup and finish it over later via text or phone. Always cry yourself — it is very important that he know or believe you are as affected by what is occurring as he is.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.