“When watching [Abbas] Kiarostami films, one also has a great sense of another kind of freedom not found in Hollywood movies, nor in most European art films: freedom from the creeping realization that a film we are watching was made by a cynical shit or a self-deluded megalomaniac.” Here’s something you don’t see every day — an essay that begins with an Independence Day showing of The Purge: Election Year, and somehow ends up at a poetic examination of Kiarostami’s artistic legacy.
Tonight marks the beginning of Eid al-Adha, a three-day Muslim holiday commemorating Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his son, Ishmael. The annual event draws over two and a half million Muslims on Hajj to Saudi Arabia. It makes for an incredibly moving sight, and this year, thanks to Google’s partnership with the Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information, you can check out a live stream of the pilgrimage from the comfort of your own home.
To give context to a new William Vollmann essay about reading his own FBI profile (available to subscribers only, sadly), Harper’s Magazine published a few pages from Vollmann’s file online. Among other things, they reveal that the FBI considered Vollman “exceedingly intelligent and possessed with an enormous ego.” (For a taste of the Harper’s essay, you can read this WaPo article on Vollmann’s connection to the Unabomber.)
It exists! The long-lost letter from Neal Cassady that inspired Jack Kerouac to write On the Road will be auctioned next month at Christies, ending an 18-month-long battle over its ownership and another 60-year-long battle over its existence. As Kerouac said, “It was 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.”
Wallace Shawn has written a new play, and it’s unsettling to watch. In it, a group of wealthy, middle-aged party hosts reveal their roles in a dystopian future, where political murders, random beatings and censorship are all commonplace. In an essay for The New York Review of Books, Francine Prose reviews the play in the context of Shawn’s other works.