By Deb A.
By now you've heard that Agave Press will be launching its children's magazine, Prickly Pear Kids, in winter. That isn't the only exciting development in children's literature recently...
If you want your child to learn a lesson, those bunnies and bears just won't do. Researchers at the University of Toronto have discovered that only stories that feature human beings can increase children's altruism.
Speaking of bears, A.A. Milne was desperate to escape his own creation, Winnie-the-Pooh.
This year's Klaus Flugge Prize for the most exciting and promising newcomer to children's picture book illustration has been awarded to Francesca Sanna for her book, The Journey, which tells the story of a mother and her two children fleeing war at home to find a new life in a foreign country.
You've read Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and you've probably seen at least one of the films, but what you never realised was that Charlie Bucket was originally black.
There are boy heroes, there are (significantly fewer) girl heroines. But chances are they aren't playing together. Amelia Hill takes a fascinating look at gender equality in children's books, and even offers a few titles for starting your non-sexist kids' library.
By Deb A.
If you're in need of some inspiration to begin your week, look no further:
Art is good for us: On Wednesday the British Parliament will announce the results of its two-year inquiry into arts, health and wellbeing. In anticipation of the report, Nicci Gerrard offers an eloquent account of the role of arts in helping people with dementia. (The Guardian)
Beware the selfie: A single snapshot was to blame for the domino effect that knocked over a row of plinths holding $200,000 worth of art. Too perfectly awkward to be true? (The New York Times)
Sketching the unknown: How artists and researchers teamed up to find and introduce new species to the rest of the world. (The Atlantic)
Illustrator, cartoonist, trailblazer: Canadian artist Jillian Tamaki's new book of graphic short stories marks her emergence as a "consummate storyteller". (The Walrus)
Visual activist: Photographer Zanele Muholi highlights racism, homophobia, and hate with Somnyama Ngopnyama, Hail the Dark Lioness, a series of self-portraits she took every day for a year. The Guardian dedicates two spaces to her work, and rightly so: a striking photo gallery and a compelling article.
When is a Modigliani not a Modigliani? Twenty-one artworks have been confiscated from a major exhibition in Genoa after several were confirmed as fakes. (The Telegraph)
The Commuter Pig Keeper? You still have time to vote for the Oddest Book Title of the Year. (The Bookseller)
Agave alumna: Agave Magazine contributor Karla K. Morton's twelfth book, Wooden Lions, is now available.
By Deb A.
Happy Ramadan to all our Muslim readers! And thanks to TED-Ed for this hypnotic look into the intricacies of Islamic design:
Arundhati Roy is back with new fiction, 20 years after her breathtaking first novel, The God of Small Things. The Guardian's recent interview with the author gives us a glimpse into her mind--and the minds of her latest characters. You can read an extract of Ms. Roy's latest novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, at The Guardian too.
The world is $933,000 away from Neil Gaiman doing a live reading of Dr. Seuss's Fox in Socks (or a mere $433,000 away from hearing him read the Cheesecake Factory menu). In case this is what's missing in your life, you can donate here. All proceeds will go to the UNHCR.
The BBC takes a look back at 70 years of classic portrait photography with a tribute to the Camera Press Agency.
His memoir was on many 'best books of 2016'' lists last year; this year Hisham Matar's The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between has also won the Folio Prize.
Kerry Clare takes a look at smallness in children's literature in The Walrus.
He "solved a problem that [others] did not. He found a way to represent for a global Anglophone audience the diction of his Igbo homeland": Kwame Anthony Appiah explains Chinua Achebe's particular genius in The New York Review of Books.
By Deb A.
Praised as "a powerful and disturbing installation that poses urgent questions about our time" by the president of this year's Venice Biennale jury, Anne Imhof's Faust is an aggressive, seductive exhibition that takes up the entire German pavilion.
Visitors are greeted by barking Doberman pinschers and a long queue. Upon entering, they walk on a glass floor elevated just high enough for young, gaunt performers dressed in black to crawl and writhe under their feet. The performers move cooly below, amongst and even above the crowds in three sterile white rooms; whether chanting, intimating violence, or engaging visitors in uncomfortable eye contact, they remain emotionless. The entire performance, a statement on the commodification of human bodies, lasts for five hours.
Perhaps confirming the suspicions of the critics who were reminded of Nazi Germany, the 38-year-old artist explained upon receiving the Golden Lion for National Participation that Faust offers "a very transparent view on the past," while also looking to the future and addressing the need "to know what to stand up for, and when to raise our fists."
Fellow German artist Franz Erhard Walther was also honoured with a Golden Lion; he was named Best Artist.
The 57th Venice Biennale is open until November 26th.
By Deb A.
It's that time again: here's what may have slipped under your radar.
As classic dystopian fiction surges to the top of bestseller lists, Margaret Atwood wrote about The Handmaid's Tale and the significance of bearing witness in America's current political climate for the New York Times.
The Guardian looks at the numbers and concludes, happily, that hate doesn't sell.
Because you've already clicked 'agree': R. Sikoryak has turned iTunes's Terms and Conditions into a graphic novel.
Do you hear characters' voices even after you've put down your book? You're not alone.
The shortlist of the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize is on display in London.
Co-edited by Agave Magazine favourite Mahvesh Murad, The Djinn Falls in Love is out now in the UK and will be available in North America from March 14th. The Washington Post loves it and you will too.
By Deb A.
As the first recipient of a DARE Art Prize, composer Samuel Hertz will produce a chamber piece below the frequencies audible to the human ear.
The £15,000 prize was created to mark the tenth anniversary of a groundbreaking academic and creative partnership between Opera North and the University of Leeds. Its aim is to encourage artists and scientists to collaborate on investigating "new approaches to the creative process."
The aptly named Mr. Hertz will work with a scientist from the University of Leeds to compose a low-frequency piece that can be felt but not heard, and to examine the effects this infrasound may have on emotions and wellbeing. The results will be released in a year's time.
Mr. Hertz, a classically trained composer and performer who works in a range of acoustic and electronic media, was selected from a shortlist of five entries, which itself was culled from applications from around the world, representing all media. The shortlisted artists were Gary Zhexi Zhang, who sought to create an interactive film installation modelled on the behaviour of slime; Marina Rees, who proposed an installation featuring live underwater transmissions and a whale choir; Melanie King, who aimed to build an installation of illusions based on astronomy; and Robin Dowell and Joanna Lampard, who envisioned creating sculptures, images or books based on the idea of scientifically classifying emotions.
By Deb A.
With so many potential sources of division around the world, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio is pushing to unite his diverse city through literature.
One Book, One New York (#OneBookNY) aims to get each one of New York City's 8.5 million residents to read a book; more specifically, to read the same book, at the same time. Similar schemes have been successful in other American cities, such as Chicago, Philadelphia and Seattle... and unsuccessful in New York in 2002, when organisers couldn't settle on a title.
This time the book will be selected via popular vote, through online voting and digital voting booths set up throughout the NYC subway system. The shortlist, sifted out from the suggestions of an advisory panel of professional bookworms, consists of five award-winning novels:
The publishers of the five shortlisted novels will each donate 4000 books to over 200 libraries around the city to prepare for the big read, which will begin in March once the winner is announced.
The initiative is more than a symbolic show of unity: public discussions and other events in each of the city's five boroughs will encourage people to engage not only with ideas, but with each other. The Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment, which is running the programme, also hopes One Book, One New York will support independent booksellers throughout the city.
This year's One Book, One New York will be the first iteration of an annual event. Which books would you pick for New Yorkers to read this year? Let us know in the comments below.
By Deb A.
You may be counting down the days until the year that brought us political upheaval, devastation, and the deaths of too many of our favourite artists finally ends. But while 2016 has come (and will soon go) with its fair share of tragedy, it has also given us many new opportunities to curl up with a good book when the real world overwhelms us.
Every publication worth its salt has produced a best-of-the-year list featuring anywhere from ten to over a hundred titles; we've got just a few here for you, followed by a wholly unscientific overview of some of the books that are beloved by more than one end-of-year critic.
In all these lists, praises for a few titles were sung over and over again. Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad was a clear favourite; this winner of the National Book Award for Fiction was also on President Obama's summer reading list. Hisham Matar's account of going back to Libya to uncover the truth of his father's disappearance, The Return: Fathers, Sons, and the Land in Between, came highly recommended as well. American sources in particular lauded Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond, and The Vegetarian by Han Kang (which won the Man Booker International Prize), The Girls by Emma Cline, Swing Time by Zadie Smith and All That Man Is by David Szalay all found their way onto several reviews of the year in books. So if you're looking for a gift or a way to escape the remaining vestiges of 2016, give one of these favourites a try. And let us know what you thought.
By Deb A.
This week has been full of tantalizing tidbits:
Pearls have been clutched: the Museum of Modern Art in New York has acquired the original 176 emojis. (Medium)
The Smithsonian's Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C. has opened America's first major exhibit on the Qur'an. (The Smithsonian)
Claiming the news left him "speechless," Bob Dylan has finally accepted his Nobel Prize for Literature. (The Telegraph)
Speaking of prizes: Paul Beatty, the first American to win the Man Booker Prize, talks with The Guardian's Charlotte Higgins about The Sellout and his take on cultural appropriation. (The Guardian)
The Venn diagram of The Simpsons fans and Yoko Ono fans intersects in Iceland--specifically, with Ragnar Kjartansson's A Single Plum, Floating in Perfume, Served in a Man's Hat. (artnet)
Congratulations to Agave Magazine contributor Anne Whitehouse, whose Meteor Shower is now available from Dos Madres Press.
By Deb A.
By now you have heard that Bob Dylan has won the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition". You may have greeted the news with skepticism, outrage, joy or confusion, or maybe all of those at once. It's an announcement that requires some unpacking.
Is songwriting poetry?
The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, nonchalantly lists Bob Dylan as a poet, but literary scholars have been debating for years about whether this should be the case. Clearly, lyrics do not need to be crafted as poems; they can succeed as part of a song. (Imagine submitting "Come on baby/Let's do the twist/Come on baby/Let's do the twist/Take me by my little hand/And go like this" to a magazine editor.) But that doesn't mean that lyrics can never stand apart from their music as examples of literary achievement.
America's former poet laureate Billy Collins told the New York Times that "Bob Dylan is in the two percent club of songwriters whose lyrics are interesting on the page even without the harmonica and the guitar and his very distinctive voice. I think he does qualify as poetry."
Would Dylan's lyrics have ever moved a generation without that harmonica and guitar? It's unlikely.
Is Bob the best?
If we accept that songwriting can be poetry (or some subsection of literature), the question then arises of whether Dylan is really the best lyricist out there. Leonard Cohen, who immediately comes to mind as a suitable candidate, likened the win to "pinning a medal on Mount Everest for being the highest mountain," and there can be no doubt about the impact Dylan has had on popular music and even other potential Nobel winners. Joyce Carol Oates dedicated her short story, "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" to Dylan and called the news "an inspired choice"... although she believed that the Beatles would have been an equally good, if not better, option.
Expanding the debate beyond whether Bob Dylan is the most deserving songwriter to whether he's the most deserving writer highlights a plethora of writers and poets (in the traditional, music-free sense) who have been snubbed in favour of a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who has already received multiple Grammys, a Oscar, and a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Oates and other favourites, such as Haruki Murakami and Ngugi wa Thiong’o, will have to wait another year.
Is this really innovative?
This year's announcement could be a cynical attempt to remain relevant or an innovative approach to the nature of literature, but it falls short of its goal on either count.
Every single one of the eleven Nobel Prize winners this year is a man. Nearly all of those men are white. In 115 years, only 14 women have received the Nobel Prize for Literature, and just four were women of colour. From the perspective of race and gender, this purported break from tradition is anything but. One has to wonder what Dylan, whose songs formed part of the soundtrack of America's civil rights movement and who has remained typically tight-lipped about his most recent honour, thinks about that.
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