In Which We Remain Nothing More Than A Composite Image

The Way In

by LAUREN CIERZAN

There’s a system to it, really. By calling it a system, you don’t have to call it fear. Scan the windows for movement as you sidle up the driveway. Look for shadows, lights once off now on. Ease open the door and listen. No footsteps, no strange shifting weight, no breathing. Move fast, pave a trail of brightness through every room, switch flipped before you step through a doorway. Reach the bedroom, lights on, door shut, check the closet, jerk at a sudden shiver in the floorboards and realize it’s only car tires on the main road running past or the neighbor’s stereo seeping through the walls or the dryer or the refrigerator or any other appliance alive with electricity, and then.

Then, you try to forget about the system. Bide your time and wait for the metal grunt of a roommate’s key. Forget until the stillness between midnight and dawn. Besides the cars ploughing wind on Main Street, there’s too much to hear in a quiet house. Try not to hear locks being forced, windows whining open. Try not to hear the wrongness of a stranger’s rustle. Ignore anything that is not the slow, warm breathing beside you and keep a hammer by the bed.

It started at thirteen. Before then, I remember only a bedtime nervousness, vague fear dissolved by night-lights and counting backwards from a hundred. Seventh-grade year, I read ‘In Cold Blood’ for the first time. Any safety I felt sleeping in a place with so many ways in, Truman Capote beat to a pulp and left for dead somewhere between describing the Clutter family in their quaint Kansas home and killer Perry Smith’s coldly quipped: “I thought he was a very nice gentleman…I thought so right up to the moment I cut his throat.” In the period of sweet innocence prior to reading that sentence, I slept without second thoughts. There was no trying. It was what happened when I laid down, an on-or-off operation. Awake. Asleep. There was no feverish middle ground. Our house was old and fussy, the floors groaning with arthritis. Any sound loud enough to shake me conscious had, before, been chalked up to a ghost, at best, at worst, some goon from the Twilight Zone re-runs I watched through gapped fingers. Now, I knew. The occasional thumps, the shapes and shadows, had nothing to do with undead anything or some guy crawling around in criminally bad prosthetics. They belonged to psychopaths that were absolutely going to murder me and my family in our beds, regardless of our shining personalities. And so, the system was born.

There was an incubation period, a kind of festering. In Cold Blood was followed by consecutive crime drama benders. C.S.I. and its various location incarnations. 48 Hours. Law and Order, namely Special Victims Unit. I added deranged rapist to my list of night terrors. Pacing the library’s Criminal Justice aisles meant too many details memorized. If forced to be home alone, I triple-checked the locks, ran up the electric bill, and locked myself in my room with the family phone. Waiting, for the familiar crash of parents’ voices or imminent doom, whichever came first. Why do we feed our fears? There are reasons, maybe. False relief, the same as tonguing sore teeth or peeling a scab – induced pain, that added pressure, wheedles the original ache down to a joke. An unconscious grab at adrenaline or simple instinct or all of the above.

Todd Hido 3

I nursed my anxiety like most people nurse grudges. Perhaps that’s all it ever really was – resenting a man for writing a book good enough to scare me neurotic. I slept with the lights on regardless. It was Chicago that straightened me out. Independence and self-awareness played their parts, but the city pulled the strings. College time came and I was lost. There was a feeling, a fist white-knuckling my heart, that dared me to go somewhere new and see if I made it out alive. Where I really wanted to be was nowhere, not home, not some unknown place. Nowhere sounded safe.

Sometime during a summer of willing that to be a possibility, Chicago came as a half-thought. I knew it vaguely, a city exclusive to school trips and family weekends. It was familiar and foreign and that was enough.

In fall, I went. Relatives hugged me goodbye and tucked halfjoking reminders of my inevitable assault, rape and/or murder into graduation cards. Cities were, after all, dens of sin and crime and so on. I went anyway. The first night, I stood in the dark of my dorm room and took in a fourteenth floor view, waiting for a chill to spasm in my chest. It coming meant clenched sheets, sweat, hours questioning the quality of the deadbolt. I studied the constellations of lit windows, the lake tugging patiently at the shoreline. Laid down and still looking, I thought about the lives behind each light long after sleep pulled me under.

For three years, the chill rarely paid a visit. The system rusted from lack of use. I had scares in Chicago, as does every other person living there. There’s only so much you can expect from a million people fighting for the same job, the same bus seat, the same air. We are all quietly afraid of each other. Cynicism, likely, but mostly just animal nature. Despite those moments, the dark times I staggered through there, I always slept easy, the quilt half-on and the blinds open. The lives and the lights they tethered to kept a knowing calm. The smallness of my apartment was a strongbox, several stories’ worth of height an assurance. A bird in a nest.

Not long ago, I left. To be home had come to mean being with a someone two hundreds miles away, so boxes were packed and I watched the Sears (never Willis) Tower shrink in a rearview mirror. I live in a house now. A place with so many ways in. I thought I had forgotten, but the first nights here proved otherwise. Sleep kept light by noise, broken by tires biting pavement or books shifting on a shelf or gravel footsteps. The homeless community claims our driveway as a shortcut and I listen to shoes kicking stones past my window well after 3 a.m.

It’s lost some of its old edge. I wake less often, sweat-pricked rather than soaked. It’s soothing to share a bed. The tension will always be too familiar. It will always stab, shoot steel through my veins. But there’s a system to it, really. By calling it a system, I don’t have to call it fear.

The steps have stayed the same. The hammer hides on a nearby shelf. The chill never changes, frosting my ribs under piled blankets. Often, he does. Him. I see his face through closed eyelids, street lights strobing its features in the dark. It’s a shifting composite image, rifling through memories of every stranger to unnerve me with a stare. His eyes are pupil-less, black as a shark’s. The hand reaching for my doorknob is always meaty, always callused and cracked to shit. I hate that hand, and I hate him, a man that doesn’t exist. Sleep comes only because I know one thing. I’ll be ready for that moment he opens the door.

Lauren Cierzan is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Michigan. She tumbls here.

Photographs by Todd Hido

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In Which Martha Hanson Strays From The Path

Clark?

by ALEX CARNEVALE

The Americans
creator Joe Weisberg

Who among us hasn’t wanted to give Martha a tight little punch in the chest? On The Americans, everyone gets a receipt for what they’ve done.

The notion of karma was invented in 1938 by a Ukranian tailor who emigrated to Sand Hill, NJ. His given name was Terence Hordiyenko, and he came to this country seeking a brighter future for his two daughters, Enid and Caroline. Enid was a soft girl who did not really fit into her new country. The younger Caroline fit in well, and joined others in mocking her younger sister. But her sister invented a process for stitching dresses more quickly, and Caroline never married. Still her father, who was called T-Bone by his friends, loved Caroline more than Enid. On his death bed he turned his unwanted daughter away, and God made his first appearance in New Jersey. God said, “Because you did not love both of your daughters, I have decided not to call you T-Bone in the hereafter.” T-Bone was saddened by this, but he understood.

If you sleep with another person’s betrothed, who knows what they will call you in the afterlife.

It bothers me sometimes that we have forgotten what Stan Beeman did. He cheated on his wife with a KGB agent. Why is that never brought up? Agent Gaad should have simply explained that he was playing “the long game” with Martha. “Playing the long game” is a fantastic excuse that I use whenever I don’t want to do laundry, make borscht for dinner, or watch whatever is left of Broad City.

Even the most disturbing partnerships are in fact partnerships. A weird sexual tension perverts every relationship of its kind: friendships are rarely so entwined. Without their parents it is only natural that Paige feels a closeness with Henry that goes beyond the strictures of traditional brother-sister behavior. Her metaphoric pouring into his cup made me think of Tijuana. It was there, also in 1938, that remorse was defined as a philosophical concept.

But now the year is 1983. Stan Beeman is maybe the worst FBI agent in the office besides his direct boss. They have Martha, I mean they really have her, and Stan is channeling visions of himself lying down with Martha and then torturing her in some flophouse on Martin Luther King Boulevard. You see, if Stan was in a similar situation, the only thing he could think to do was kill himself. And the irony is, of course, that he is in that exact situation.

Elizabeth shows up at Rock Creek Park. We never see the gun in her pocket, and why even bother? Maybe it’s a needle filled with poison, or a picture of herself in coitus with Clark Westerfeld. Either would be just as effective in stopping the beating of Martha’s heart. Clark knows his mark better than anyone, and even if she needed the story of him joining her in Moscow, she’d lose faith at another lie.

It seems clear Martha will not be making it to Moscow, which is a damn shame. The show was better off with her comic relief. I don’t really see how she is useful to Russia anymore, and if she was smarter she probably could have got something by lying to the FBI and explaining she was blackmailed into cooperating.

She could have told them about Clark, and Frank Langella, and maybe the rat in the fridge would have bought her a house in the Hamptons. She could tell them phone numbers, places, dates, the particulars of the Kama Sutra. How Clark fucked her, loved her, and left her. Even if they didn’t believe her, she would have still been an American.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

Previously on the Americans

Young and Foolish – Episode Six

It’s Enough Paige – Episode Five

Birdwatching in Winter – Episode Four

Makeup – Episode Three

Church Garb – Episode Two

Son of a Preacher Man – Episode One

“Magnificent Time” – Travis (mp3)

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In Which We Approach You Cautiously From Range

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.

Hi,

One month ago, my girlfriend asked me to marry her. I said yes. We expect to have our wedding in the fall.

When I tell people that my girlfriend proposed, they have been very accepting of that, but some of them wonder why I didn’t do it myself if I was really wanting to be with her for the rest of my life. Or they feel sorry for us because it seems like something was taken away from each of us in the process. I don’t share these feelings, but I can’t help but feel they were an unexpected, unpleasant consequence of the way this went down. What should I say when people tell me this stuff?

Carl D.

Carl,

Prejudice against men is an emerging trend happening worldwide. You will want to officially register as a victim and spend most of your days cowering in a corner somewhere. But really, if the people around you want to continue living in the pre-civil rights era, that is more their problem than yours.

Make sure they know how offended you are by their insinuations about the love you share with a woman, who I will call Cecilia. Explain that the love you have for her is immaculate and immortal, and whatever love they may have with their own partners frankly pales in comparison. Introduce them to your close friend and confidante, Nicholas Sparks, who will explain that nowadays it is de rigeur (French) for a woman to express her feelings openly. “Anyone can ask anyone for love,” you will explain in a throaty whisper, as you subtly stroke Nicholas Sparks’ full mane of hair and wonder where Cecilia has got to.

 

Hi,

I have become really close with a coworker of mine named Dave. It’s great to have someone at work to talk to who is going through the same issues. Dave also has a group of college friends who live in this city, and we all hang out from time to time.

Recently I became more serious with a guy I was seeing. I’ll spare you the details but it was a long distance deal until he decided to move here and things have been great ever since. 

The issue is that recently Dave sat me down for a heart to heart and told me that he has really strong feelings for me and he wanted me to know. I explained that I cared for him, but obviously since I was involved with someone else nothing would happen. To his credit Dave has taken this rather well, but since Hard to Say is the king of useful lies, is there any way to smooth this whole thing over?

Daisy H.

Dear Daisy,

Of course there is. Human emotions are nothing more thetans, easily controlled by messianic celebrities and their docile servants. Given that, don’t you think you can trick one simple man into not feeling like shit that he can’t be with the woman he loves?

Since the ideal situation is that Dave keeps caring for you as a friend but you don’t feel any of the negative energy resulting from your rejection of him, it’s time to get your boyfriend involved in this scheme.

He must tell Dave in sobbing fashion that he views him as a “real threat” and he obviously has a “large cock.” This will make Dave feel like a man, a sensation he has probably not experienced for some time, and certainly not since he gave you that whiny speech about his emotions. Love’s either simple or impossible. If you have to ask for it, that just means it’s impossible.

After your boyfriend’s faux confession, things should pretty much return to normal. Dave has been validated as a man, and you seem more appealing to your boyfriend as a woman desired by so many complex individuals. The only loser here is any semblance of the truth.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

“Good Reason” – Balue (mp3)

“Eternal Honeymoon” – Balue (mp3)

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In Which The Coen Brothers Enter The Studio System

Backstroke

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Hail, Caesar!
dir. Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
106 minutes

History becomes ancient history. When American people thought of the recent past in 1953, the cultural life of the previous fifty years had not quite absconded from them, principally because there was not too much of it. For Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) to manage his job as a movie executive, he only has to know five or six things, and once he knows them, he has plenty of time to genuflect as to whether he really does know them.

Hail, Caesar! is a kind of anti-nostalgia, pared down to its bare essentials. Scarlett Johansson has only two scenes in the movie as a kind of anti-Esther Williams, a Brazilian actress giggles through one scene like a jack-in-the-box, Tilda Swinton plays twin sister gossip columnists for a combined five minutes and that is it for women in Hail, Caesar! Hollywood during this period (and when you think of it, most others) was largely composed of the interlacing stories of male homosexuals and Jews fleeing Europe.

Esther Williams’ movies are not half bad if you watch them today. A lot of times she portrayed the same role she played in life: a talented swimmer in a stage show at odds with the management. Williams’ brilliance at marketing herself and her evident abilities as a performer are never touched on in Hail, Caesar!

Instead she is a foul-mouthed slut sleeping with a foreign, married director, not her first. Abandoned by the father of her baby, she has no other options, and so marries Jonah Hill after admiring his physique. Hill is in the movie for two minutes, and Scarlett only five more than that, so how they had made it on the poster moves beyond deceptive advertising into the realm of true evil.

But then, the male stars are just as vapid and sloppy in their art, except for Burt Gurney (Channing Tatum). The best part of Hail, Caesar! by far is an extensive song and dance routine about how there will be no women on a submarine the sailors are boarding in the morning. Tatum, who was recently so awful in The Hateful Eight, appears to be some kind of oscillating god here, and his singing and dancing is ten out of ten. Maybe in the future he could just not talk.

The rest of the movie sets that Josh Brolin strolls onto are shooting awful, satirical versions of failed projects from the period. Clooney is better at pretending to be a period actor than performing a modern role. His not-so-hidden homosexuality is a riff on Tony Curtis, but the vapidity of the character is not. Turning Tony Curtis, a Bronx Jew who was savagely beaten by his schizophrenic mother, served in the U.S. Navy and achieved success from the most meager circumstances imaginable into a spoiled, whimpering ditz is pretty low.

Clooney’s character, Baird Whitlock, is abducted by a group of communists. The humor comes from the idea that they explain they have been actively plotting to include communist ideas in their Hollywood scripts in order to do their part for the movement. Isn’t this ridiculous? the Coens crow. Except there were films which presented Russia as an idyllic utopia — after all, communists were always substantially better at explaining themselves than actually governing.

But the important thing is that Hail, Caesar! is funny, right? If something is funny, it doesn’t matter who it makes fun of, or why, or whether it’s true because that would mean, you know, like, actual research. The Coens aren’t too good with that part of the process. Over time any director acquires a sinister envy and disgust for actors. Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes) even slaps around his young star for not being able to say, “Were that it twere so simple” in a convincing manner.

You feel the contempt for the performers in most scenes of Hail, Caesar! We rush so quickly from moment to moment as Brolin assuages the feelings and insecurities of all these people that you start to think of them not as individuals, but only as problems. Hail, Caesar! is a bunch of brilliant skits that explain all of the jokes for people who don’t grasp the overly familiar subject of Hollywood satire. I think most of us understand it by now. William Goldman’s book about one year on Broadway, The Season, once estimated that 80 percent of the subject matter in any given Broadway year concerned the theater itself. Today an endless parade of comic book movies saves us from the harsh reality of old.

When I do watch films from this period on TCM, I am not struck by any difference in quality, or even production values. The most obvious change between Hollywood’s output today and then is the seriousness of its story choices. During this period, scripts explored non-trivial issues even in frivolous films, and they took their characters just as sincerely, even in goofy contexts. There was a chance of doing that here, but it vanishes as swiftly.

Josh Brolin comes home to dinner with his wife. He doesn’t touch her, kiss her, or even look at her. He considers a job offer from Lockheed Martin that would have him working substantially less hours at a higher rate. “What should I do?” he asks his wife (Alison Pill) as he eats the food she has prepared for him, prompting her to comment on a decision that could completely alter the next decade in her own life and the lives of her children. “You know best,” she tells him. Maybe I didn’t get the joke.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

“The Caterpillar Workforce” – Guided By Voices (mp3)

In Which We Look Forward To Our New Throne

Something So Good, So Pure

by DICK CHENEY

Everything is better on Game of Thrones now. We have put the miserable, awful fifth season of the show behind us for good. HBO put so much money in Vinyl and the other raging shit on their network (besides that white supremacist sitcom Silicon Valley) but now Game of Thrones is all they have, so they might as well end this thing with the gross excess the show deserved from the beginning. The checkbook is open, and pretty soon Arcade Fire will be playing Mereen and Bobby Cannavale will fulfill the rest of his contract with HBO by getting a huge engagement ring for Sansa Stark. Synergy, son.

Jon Snow was maybe the worst actor on television besides the guy who plays the son on Empire, but now he is mercifully gone. This change alone takes Game of Thrones from a seven to a ten. They teased bringing Jon back, but even if he does return someday as the Red God, we no longer have to hear his pathetic whining about the wildlings or those cold people he hates. Game of Thrones is all fealty and vague lesbian affection, the way it was meant to be from the fucking beginning!

I honestly couldn’t stand that they left a whimpering Cersei in her prison cell for like a million episodes. She is free and making the same face no matter what is actually occurring:

I love this face, it reminds me of Lynne’s expression when she first saw Bernie Sanders criticize Hillary for being a woman. Cersei’s killed about a billion people and she is only now monologuing about having to see her dead mother, whose name I believe was Adele Lannister? My reservoir of sympathy was exhausted by the fact that Sansa Stark would rather endure endless sexual abuse than stroll through a very chilly river.

Meanwhile, Jaime is trying to make us forget about all the terrible movies he made while he was not laying with his sister. I did not forget.

Given some of the dialogue in this episode, Game of Thrones would be better off just moving to a silent collage of scenes. So much here was unnecessary, with Ser Davis bleating, “I’d like some mutton,” and the inane patter of the Khal’s wives in the desert outside Mereen. Game of Thrones badly needed a new character or two to come into the light. For a time I thought that would be Podric, but I think he is being held back because they don’t want him to outshine the tall woman.

Fantasy used to be mainly about male power fantasies, but now it’s mostly about watching women murder men twice their size with kitchen knives. (The clear metaphor for feminism murdering multiculturalism was lost on no one.) The revolution in Dorne was long overdue, given that it probably should have occurred at the end of last season. Instead all we got was a soft deadly kiss and a ship returning with a corpse we never saw. In Thrones, it is always best to demand we view the body.

The only woman not reconstituted as a superhero is Arya Stark, who is a long way from becoming Daredevil. Maisie Williams’ overly broad performance as this character has not aged well at all, although I am willing to forgive it given she was only a child when she lost her dad (Sean Bean?). HBO might want to consider recasting the role and letting that little boy from Room play Arya Stark by inserting him in the rest of the series in retrospect.

But again, who cares. This hour looked like it cost more than all of last season combined, which had about the same budget as three episodes of Stargate: Atlantis. Now we get to see all the jaunty, electric places of Westeros. Summer in King’s Landing! Spring break at the Citadel! Christmas at Casterly Rock! It is all within our grasp, provided we stop a Trump presidency.

As for the last scene, I guess Melisandre knows a way to stave off death. In retrospect it appears her relationship with Stannis Baratheon was more age-appropriate than it seemed at the time. Otherwise, I’m not quite sure what the big deal is: that’s what I and about seventy-five percent of Americans look like in the mirror. Just because a body has a few wrinkles and sags here and there doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful. On Outlander the main character shaved all her pubic hair and nobody said word one.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

“Mayday” – Wild Rivers (mp3)

“Speak Too Soon” – Wild Rivers (mp3)

In Which You Should Always Be Careful What You Tell Clark Westerfeld

So Young and Foolish

by ALEX CARNEVALE

The Americans
creator Joe Weisberg

You should always be careful what you tell anybody, but this goes double for a woman. There is a Clark Westerfeld living in Atlanta. He takes a flight from Atlanta, or sometimes he drives overnight if he really has to see his girlfriend. When he gets there, the two are both so overwhelmed with desire that he says, I love you Martha, I want to be with you forever Martha. He plays that Tom Waits song on the cassette deck and then he tells her who he works for. The United Nations.

That would have been a much finer move. Tom Waits’ song “Martha” is about calling up someone you used to love and reminiscing about the past. It is an arrogant jam, because the misogynistic caller presumes that this woman remembers him in an identical fashion. He goes on to describe how completely old she is, and suggests subtly that she was probably wasting her time not being with him.

It is in the grand tradition of romanticizing a romance that seems better or more essential to self-preservation in retrospect. We want to believe that such people are key parts of our lives, simply because they were present for certain events or feelings. Clark’s relationship with Martha has come to its end, and she has found that out in the most facile possible way. She should feel lucky that she never has to see the same places — her apartment, her job — as she did when Clark Westerfeld was in her life. It would only make the parting more difficult.

When Clark demanded that his hairless albino handler mind Martha while he was away having cute convos with traitorous chemists, he made an assumption based on the Martha he knew, not the one existing now. A woman needs to be gently reassured. (A man also needs to be gently reassured.) But I don’t believe the idea that Clark would suddenly stop lying once it was clear Martha needed his lies the most, needed new lies which suited her life as a single woman on the run.

Elizabeth showing up to cockblock Clark never seemed like the greatest move. She is not really that appealing in her get up as Clark’s sister, although she is a lot more attractive than whatever facial disfigurement is being accentuated on Agent Gad’s visage.

Elizabeth’s disappointment that Clark showed himself to Martha without his disguise was hilarious, considering his blonde highlights mask his true self about as well as her glasses. Weisberg and his writing team of sociopaths already disposed of one treasonous woman, and I don’t believe they intend to make it two. Martha’s fate isn’t in Moscow, either.

I believe she would have been an ideal double agent, a storyline The Americans has almost never explored. Plus we could have teased Clark possibly turning on his own country, in favor of the greatest nation since ancient Mesopotamia.

Clark misunderstood completely the woman he married. As a native Russian, he can never fully fathom what is in the heart of a warm-blooded American woman. When her gun is taken away from her, or anyone, they start to feel a lot less safe. When her pills are taken away or even slightly reshuffled in her purse, she begins to pull her hair out at intervals.

The lyrics to Martha, which Tom Waits wrote in order to stick to a woman who had dumped him for a man with a paying job, are incredibly passive-aggressive:

How’s your husband? and how’s the kids? you know that I got married too?
Lucky that you found someone to make you feel secure.

It is like, wow, Tom, this woman must feel really lucky that she has someone in her life that doesn’t make her feel as shitty as you are doing in this song at this time. Moreover, the idea that you are also married is bullshit. And even if you did get married, things did not work out. The misanthropy in these lyrics is enough to make you call out for Clark in the night, and have unprotected sex with him after his arrival.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

“The Glow” – Big Data ft. Kimbra (mp3)

“Snowed In” – Big Data ft. Rivers Cuomo (mp3)


In Which Edouard Manet Lives Like A Mollusk In The Sun

Gangrene

by ELLEN COPPERFIELD

Until the last years of his life, Manet never read novels.

Midway through the year 1876, Manet’s left foot troubled him. The pain was intense, as was the frequent numbness. The symptoms of severe syphilis had not emerged until now, but they were out in full force. He wrote off the constant aches and pains to bouts of rheumatism. By the end of the year his only desire was to find a doctor that could abate whatever was wrong with him. Various homeopathic remedies were attempted without success; he tried hydrotherapy in order to restore nerve function in the limb.

He was not really able to leave his new Paris studio, so his friends had to come to him. Surrounded by the canvases of his career, it was easier for Manet to avoid work by socializing into the long hours. His legs could not carry him anywhere else by then.

Manet became fascinated by the daughter of Paris’ finest jeweler, a girl named Isabelle Lemonnier. Her wrote her short messages with little sketches of things. In 1879 she was enraptured enough by his attention that she sat for six portraits. Manet’s wife and mother were sick, and he needed a distraction.

Near the end of the year he collapsed in a Paris street from pain. His hair loss was often commented on, and he used up four to five hours a day at a clinic said to treat circulatory disorders. For the first time critics were giving his work the semblance of a proper appreciation, but his ill health soured everything, giving him the revolting idea that he would only become famous after death. He was 50.

Optimism was farfetched. He wrote to a friend in 1880, “As you put it so well, time is a great healer. And so I am counting heavily on it. I live like a mollusk in the sun, when there is any, as much as possible outdoors, but without any doubt, the country has charms only for those aren’t forced to stay there.”

Novels provided a welcome relief from his constant pain. His friend Antonin Proust suggested that “he did not seek in his reading literary pleasure but distraction from the pain of ataxia.” He knew now that he was nearing the end. He was reduced to simple portraits of flowers; anything else was beyond his current capabilities. Against his better judgment, Manet began to feel sorry for himself.

His left leg turned entirely black. Doctors took a week to decide whether it was even worth operating on, but eventually they decided to amputate. The nails on his foot flaked off at the gentlest touch. All that was left were his deep blue eyes. He was barely aware of the operation occurring, but eventually seemed to grasp the absence of the limb, raising the sheet to observe that it was missing. He finally gave up on April 30th of 1883.

Ellen Copperfield is the senior contributor to This Recording.

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“Heading Home” – Julianna Barwick (mp3)

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