By Deb A.
Sales of actual physical books have gone up by 8% in the United Kingdom, and sales of consumer e-books have gone down by 17%. In France, e-books make up just 3% of the market. The book is back in all its printed glory.
Sure, one can carry an entire library in a single e-reader, but a well designed book is a compact piece of art that does the soul good from cover to cover. Here are some recent examples of great books wrapped in great art.
By Deb A.
Before it was devastated by invasions and war and sectarian violence, Baghdad had a very different reputation as the heart of literature in the Middle East.
Twenty-five-year-old Ali al-Moussawi is doing his best to revive his city's literary soul. With a BA in English translation and a passion for reading, he began selling books from a stall to finance book clubs and writing seminars. He now employs a staff of four and drives a converted van full of books around Baghdad's barbed wire and bomb-proof barriers.
Mr. al-Moussawi is often stopped by security teams that suspect him of carrying explosives in his van, and he is well-versed in long discussions over where he can set up shop. Still, he hopes that the books will serve as a starting point to bring communities together.
For now, the disparities facing Baghdad's readers are mirrored in the titles on display, which he changes according to the neighbourhood's clientele. Shiites and Sunnis can both easily find their respective religious texts, and the biographies of Saddam Hussein that continue to be popular in Sunni communities are available there. But when Mr. al-Moussawi sets up amongst students, it's biographies of celebrities, not political leaders, that are the order of the day, along with poetry, textbooks, and fiction.
By Deb A.
When it emerged from the night in 1989, Arturo Di Modica's Charging Bull symbolised optimism. The 3200-kg bronze sculpture, featuring testicles that, thanks to constant grabbing, are as shiny as Il Porcellino's snout (no word on whether the tourists who goose the bull are destined to return to New York City), was erected as a monument to strength in the face of adversity and the American spirit.
And then one morning in 2017, everything changed. The bull was no longer a snarling testament to power and perseverance: it was the embodiment of Wall Street misogyny and greed.
Since International Women's Day 2017, the bronze figure of a child has stood facing Charging Bull--calmly, defiantly, hands on her hips, chin tilted upward, ponytail waving in the same static breeze that holds many a superhero's cape permanently aloft. The bull is enormous and aggressive and the newcomer is a mere slip of a thing at 250 kg, but she is unmistakably unafraid. She is Fearless Girl, and for many, she reclaimed the space for feminism in a district overwhelmed by men in suits.
Critics were quick to point out that Fearless Girl was no innocent child--she was a corporate shill, commissioned by an investment firm that offers an index fund of companies with higher percentages of women in leadership positions. The plaque at Fearless Girl's feet references the product. While the vision for corporate leadership is admirable, the sponsorship was read by some as a disingenuous attention grab. But most of the people who pass by to snap selfies laud Fearless Girl as a statement about female empowerment.
This is exactly the problem for Mr. Di Modica, who recently held a press conference to claim that the artistic intent of his work has been violated: it is nearly impossible to imagine Charging Bull as a symbol of hope now that it is mere metres away from trampling a child.
As Wall Street's reputation has suffered over the last quarter-century, the bull has admittedly become more vulnerable to reinterpretation, but placing another artwork in direct interaction with it changes the context enough to fully alter the original meaning. While Mr. Di Modica wouldn't stand much of a chance in a legal battle, the question remains: To what extent is it morally acceptable to alter the context, and therefore the implied message, of a work of art?
Although both creatures are officially temporary, it looks like they'll be staring each other down for a while: Mayor Bill de Blasio extended Fearless Girl's one-week permit to one year, to the chagrin of Mr. Di Modica and the glee of parents of little girls linking arms with their bronze counterpart.
By Deb A.
Does your tattered copy of Daniel Deronda smell like chocolate or wood? Researchers know that your sense of smell is important to how you experience a book (sorry, e-reader aficionados).
She was wondering how power affected a politician's physique, so Herlinde Koelbl asked to photograph up-and-coming German politicians once a year from 1991 to 1998. In 2006 she started the series up again. One subject who's been with her from the very beginning: Angela Merkel.
Goodbye, dandelion, hello, some sort of blue? Crayola is retiring the dandelion crayon. Perhaps before he quits?
This superhero skulks the streets of Bristol looking for bad grammar. As he tells the BBC, defacing signs with his Apostrophiser can hardly be considered criminal: "It's more of a crime to have the apostrophes wrong in the first place."
Poetry lovers, rejoice! The Observer highlights how poetry festivals and book sales are booming.
Thanks to the New York Times we can all enter one of Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirror Rooms:
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