By Deb A.
Beware: This week's recap of news from the worlds of art, literature, and photography is definitely the first in the Agave blog's history to contain over 200 wooden penises.
Voting has opened for the Golden Man Booker prize. A title from each of the Man Booker's five decades of existence has been shortlisted--In A Free State by V.S. Naipaul, Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively, The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, and Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. It's up to you to choose the winner. (The Man Booker Prizes)
"If I'm not an American, I'm nothing." Philip Roth died at the age of 85 on May 22nd. For an overview of his career and his place in cultural history, The Major Phases of Philip Roth by David Gooblar provides excellent insight. (The New York Times, Bloomsbury)
Indian Church or Church at Yuquot Village? The Art Gallery of Ontario has sparked debate by renaming an Emily Carr painting. (CBC News)
Conservation cuteness: Entries to the 2018 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards are being accepted until June 30th. (My Modern Met)
A protest penis fountain will be included in the official programme of the European Capital of Culture this year. (The Guardian)
By Deb A.
My Dear Sir,
It has been so long since letters gave way to e-mails that now e-mails themselves have been replaced by messages that are easier to type with one's thumbs. And yet, there's something undeniable about the power of the handwritten word—in particular when it comes in an envelope.
For anyone rolling their eyes at this anachronistic, romanticised view of letter-writing: Try imagining an audience listening rapt as a renowned performer reads a piece of correspondence aloud. Is that performer reading a WhatsApp chat or a letter?
Chances are you're thinking of epistles, not emojis. So were the founders of Letters Live, who began an event series in London in 2013 that has, after over a dozen events in the United Kingdom, recently made its way over the the United States as well.
Letters Live bills itself as "a celebration of the enduring power of literary correspondence." The events are a surprise; the audience is aware of what to expect in the most general sense—in essence, a cast of famous people reading memorable letters from other, mostly famous, people—but the personalities and subject matter involved are a mystery until someone takes the stage, and every show is different. Perhaps Ian McKellen will read Kurt Vonnegut's letter to five teenage fans. Maybe Benedict Cumberbatch will recite Albert Camus's missive to the teacher who inspired him. The process is so secretive that the performers themselves are told only moments before they step into the spotlight what they'll be reading.
Shows are generally sold out, and part of the proceeds are used to support literacy-focused charities such as First Story, The Reading Agency, and 826LA. The next event is the series' New York debut this week.
The judges of the Branford Boase Award (BBA) for outstanding first novel for young people have noted an emerging trend in writing for readers aged seven and up: Instead of setting off for adventures in Narnia or where the wild things are, protagonists are staying home.
A significant amount of children's literature now takes place in an emotionally complex domestic setting. Julia Eccleshare, the award's co-founder and chairperson of the judging panel, points out in The Bookseller that increasingly, main characters are facing challenges such as death, depression, and divorce, which are "impossible for a child to resolve as the issues are insurmountable." Protagonists are trying to untangle internal family drama, not embarking on quests to catch thieves or right wrongs.
Although they might not fit the traditional understanding of adventure, these tales still offer excitement, as tension stems from internal monsters like mental health problems rather than the more literal wild-eyed furry giants with sharp teeth and claws. In more and more children's novels, Ms. Eccleshare explains, the action is in interaction, which invites readers to develop their sense of compassion and empathy.
She pinpoints the rise of more claustrophobic settings as coinciding with mobile phones and restrictions on children's freedom to roam without parental supervision. It is clear that at least the BBA judges still fancy some fresh air: Children will find a fair amount of outdoor adventure in the shortlisted titles below.
The winner of the Branford Boase Award, worth £1,000, will be announced On July 4th.
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