Jesus Is “The Best Boyfriend Ever” on Lifetime’s Surprisingly Insightful ‘The Sisterhood: Becoming Nuns’

The Sisterhood: Becoming Nuns is the anti-reality show reality show. It’s not anti-reality but anti-what we’ve come to know (and enjoy) about the reality genre. There is absolutely no sex or drugs or alcohol. No one is hooking up — any relationships are ended during the first few minutes of the pilot episode, as the girls must remain celibate — and there is not a single man in sight. The cast lives in a peaceful environment where catfights are against the rules. The girls are not competing against each other to find a husband but working together as they all prepare to give themselves to Jesus. The Sisterhood is only technically a reality show, which makes it inherently interesting, but it does slip into reality clichés every once in a while, which allows it to remain compelling to those with no interest in the religious aspects of the show. It sort of works. … Read More

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10 Obscure Nonfiction Books by Your Favorite Fiction Writers

Sure, your favorite fiction writers probably have a book or two of nonfiction in them, be it a collection of essays (personal or critical) or a memoir about what it was like growing up to be them. But what about the outliers, the strange nonfiction journeys of our best writers? Did you know that E. Annie Proulx has an expert’s knowledge of cider, or that Willa Cather may have written a biography of a young woman who discovered her own religion? These nonfiction anomalies in a fiction writer’s life can tell us about the author’s passions — or, at the very least, what they wrote about for money. Here are our ten favorite nonfiction oddities and adventures by some formidable fiction writers. Some of these books are rare and out-of-print; some are still readily available (and worth your time). … Read More

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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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“How Do We Move Forward?” A Ferguson Reading List

More than three months after police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed teenager Mike Brown, a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri has announced that Wilson will not be indicted. The news unleashed a fresh wave of frustration, anger, and sadness, some expressed in action, some expressed in words. Here is a survey of essential writing on Ferguson, from August until now — the protests, the police response, the sickening totality of American racism, the broken justice system, and what comes next.  … Read More

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Alan Turing and the Myth of Gender Essentialism

There’s a new biopic of Alan Turing out this week. It’s called The Imitation Game and stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing, the genius computer scientist, cryptologist, and mathematician who is often credited with pioneering the modern idea of a computer, and also played a significant part in winning World War II through his work on decrypting German communications. For his trouble, he was prosecuted in 1952 for “gross indecency” — he was carrying on an affair with a man, which was illegal at the time. He pled guilty, was chemically castrated… and died, apparently by his own hand, barely two years later. The biopic is part of a resurgence of interest in Turing’s story; he was given a long-overdue posthumous pardon by the Queen of England last year, and his life and work have also been explored in George Dyson’s excellent book Turing’s Cathedral and in the recent documentary film Codebreaker. … Read More

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‘Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever’ Is Every Bit as Awful as You Feared

About halfway through Lifetime’s Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever, there is a poor special effect featuring two Grumpy Cats flying red and green airplanes across the screen. The planes carry banners that read, “If you’re still watching this, I worry for you.” Well. At least this movie is self-aware, I suppose. There are multiple self-deprecating meta moments throughout the movie that break the fourth wall and laugh at the audience for watching this strange, too-early, and pathetic Christmas “special.” The joke’s on us for watching, sure, but the joke is also on Lifetime, and on Grumpy Cat (and his owners), and on Aubrey Plaza (who voices the cat), and on everyone else who had anything to do with this movie. … 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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‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’ Is a Protest Film… If You Want It to Be

Two days ago, Ghoncheh Ghavami was released on bail from prison in Tehran after five months of incarceration, when health complications arose due to a hunger strike. Her crime: having attended a male volleyball game. In October, four Iranian women had acid thrown in their faces for not being properly veiled. Also in October, Reyhaneh Jabbari, who had allegedly stabbed a man in self-defense while he sexually assaulted her, was executed by hanging. In Iran, death by stoning, albeit very rare, is still a permissible punishment for adultery. Yet in Iran, over 60 percent of university students are women. More than 70 percent of engineering and science majors are women. Oh, but also, in 2012, 36 universities in Iran banned women from 77 courses. In April, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said, “We will not accept the culture of sexual discrimination.” A few days later, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that gender equality was “one of the biggest mistakes of the Western thought.” … Read More

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