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The True Story Behind the Letter That Inspired Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’

The famous “Joan Anderson” letter from Neal Cassady to Jack Kerouac has been found in Southern California. Cassady apparently wrote the letter to Kerouac in a drug-fueled, sex-crazed haze on December 17, 1950. The rest is literary history.

Kerouac famously called the letter “the greatest piece of writing I ever saw, better’n anybody in America, or at least enough to make Melville, Twain, Dreiser, Wolfe, I dunno who, spin in their graves.” It was the muse that lent the jazzy energy and so-called “stream of consciousness” style to On the Road and the rest of his Duluoz Legend, in which Cassady appears as a clandestine presence (either as Dean Moriarty or Cody Pomeray). But the letter itself disappeared. … Read More

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Bad Feminist: A Conversation With Ariel Pink

Ariel Pink has just woken up. I can hear it in his voice and incomprehensible greeting. It’s Monday morning, 10.30 a.m. on the West Coast. A few hours earlier, Pitchfork published an op-ed from Joanna Gruesome singer Alanna McArdle titled “Ariel Pink’s ‘Joke’ Isn’t Funny Anymore.” I’m sure Pink hasn’t seen the piece yet yet, but it doesn’t stop him from referencing McArdle’s claim that he’s just trolling us. Oh, yes — he has many thoughts on this topic, which he volunteers without me even having to bring it up. In fact, that’s the theme of our conversation: Ariel repeats the nasty things others say about him before I even say a word. It’s a classic bullied-kid trick. … Read More

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Ferguson: When Social Media Changes the Conversation But Not the Power Structure

Just before he disappointed civil rights advocates — and set off a long night of marches, die-ins, and anger around the country — by announcing a “no indictment” verdict for the officer who shot unarmed teen Mike Brown to death in Ferguson Missouri, prosecutor Robert McCulloch had a message for the media. … Read More

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9 Great Movies to Stream This Holiday Weekend

As the long holiday weekend looms, the to-do checklist stretches out in front of us: buy food, buy booze, attempt insanely complicated recipe that sounded so delicious in the Times, drink, toss recipe away half-finished and just make a goddamn ham, drink more, order a pizza because the ham couldn’t possibly take that long, drink more, fill up with pizza and go buy a Christmas tree, drink more, leave the Christmas tree half-decorated to deal with the ham we totally forgot about, spend the rest of the night in a drunken stupor trying to decide what the hell to watch on Netflix. Well, we can help with the very last item on that list; watch or queue our suggestions now by clicking the title link. … Read More

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2015’s Craziest Calendar Transforms Nude Artists Into Adorable Pandas

“The government shutdown has claimed one of its most beloved casualties: the National Zoo’s panda cam,” wrote CNN last October. “But animal lovers can rest assured that the zoo’s endangered Giant Pandas — Tian Tian, Mei Xiang, and an unnamed newborn cub — will still be fed and cared for, the zoo said.” It sounded ominous — and totally ridiculous. You might remember that these were the types of stories being published in 2013, when all inessential (or what they’re now calling “non-excepted”) government services were suspended amid Washington’s unresolved fiscal mess. And the National Zoo’s most popular residents generated some of the goofiest headlines. As one media brain on Twitter put it: “the panda cam is the bread and circuses of our age. never mind all the important stuff, OMG BABY PANDA!!! #shutdown” … Read More

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We Will All Howl: Antony Hegarty on the State of Transfeminism

“They announced two weeks ago that in the last 40 years, the number of wild animals has dropped by one-half, and we’re expecting a 50 to 70 percent extinction event of all species by the end of the century,” Antony Hegarty says. “I always think about those stories about the last bird, or the last of a species, when they’re calling out and they don’t have the other animal, the partner that can call back to them. The idea of the disappearing voice is very resonant for me. What hears a solitary voice. What responds to a solitary voice.” … Read More

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‘The Imitation Game’ and the Intellectual Charisma of Benedict Cumberbatch

There’s a pivotal scene in the new film The Imitation Game that tells us much about star Benedict Cumberbatch’s appeal. The setup: in the thick of WWII, a brilliant mathematician named Alan Turing (Cumberbatch) heads up a team of codebreakers tasked with cracking the Nazi Enigma code. To do so, Turing has been granted £100,000 to build an elaborate machine for the job — in essence, the first computer. And like most computers, it doesn’t really work. With the Allies losing ground and a bitter commander breathing down their necks, Turing and his team finally have a breakthrough. The scene is masterfully energetic, but there’s more to it than that; it’s borderline erotic. … Read More

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The Short Stories Behind 10 Famous Films

We’ve been anticipating the audiobook release of John McManusStop Breakin Down — the short story collection that won him a prestigious Whiting Writers’ Award, for which he was the youngest recipient. “Here is rage on the page,” the Los Angeles Times wrote of McManus’ stories about “people driven to the brink of endurance and survival.” Writer Dane Elcar narrates the audio version, imbuing the tales with a cinematic quality. The release got us thinking about the ways literature is translated from page to screen and the many short stories that have made the leap to cinema. Here are ten of our favorites for your comparison and perusal. … Read More

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10 Fascinating Films Set in a Single Location

Sisters are reunited at a secluded estate in the woods in Mona Fastvold’s brooding, restrained study of family dysfunction in The Sleepwalker. “The unplanned sibling visit turns into a socially awkward weekend getaway. There’s table banter and after-dinner dancing (to instrumental Yo La Tengo) in the vast, lamp-lit parlor,” writes Jordan Hoffman for The Guardian. “These scenes glide along, evolving into near surrealism once our characters turn in for the night and succumb to the titular somnambulism.” Relying on emotional performances, the remote house serves as the movie’s primary location — a striking manifestation of the sisters’ “self-contained universe” — where the dark family history unravels. We look at other films that find their inspiration from single locations, reflecting the interior world of their characters. … Read More

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