By Deb A.
Happy 2018, dear Readers! It's time once again for a look at some of the best-loved books of the year, via a marginally scientific examination of the top picks from a range of book review columns, including those from the New York Times, the BBC, the Washington Post, The Guardian, the New Yorker, the CBC and more.
There was little consensus across the board, but two novels appeared on nearly every list: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders and Sing, Unburied, Sing (winner of the National Book Award) by Jesmin Ward.
Other popular selections were Mohsin Hamed's Exit West, Min Jin Lee's Pachinko, Patricia Lockwood's Priestdaddy, Celeste Ng's Little Fires Everywhere, and Hari Kunzru's White Tears.
What were your favourite books of 2017? Leave your recommendations in the comments section.
By Deb A.
Artist Qinmin Liu's Angelhaha airline took its inaugural flight on December 6th. It flies one-way to art events only and its message for the world is simple: "happiness". (Angelhaha)
"I think to myself what I could have done if I'd won it at 40": 63-year-old Lubaina Himid has won the Turner Prize. In her interview with The Guardian, she challenges, among other things, The Guardian. (The Guardian)
After over 8,000 people signed an online petition to remove a sexualized painting of a child, the Museum of Modern Art has declined to take down Thérèse Dreaming by Balthus, but welcomes the "opportunity for conversation" that the controversy has sparked. (Artnet)
Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi, which recently became the most expensive painting ever sold at over $450 million, will be exhibited at the Louvre Abu Dhabi. (Reuters)
The air you breathe could soon be the air you use for your next masterpiece: Air-Ink is turning pollution into ink. (CBC)
By Deb A.
Ursula Johnson, also known as Little Bear, is this year's winner of Canada's Sobey Art Award.
The prestigious prize recognises the country's most promising contemporary artists under the age of 40. This year's shortlist included a record number of women (four of five of the artists are female) and two Indigenous artists from the five regions.
Ursula Johnson, representing the Atlantic region, is a performance and installation artist of Mi'kmaw First Nation ancestry. She descends from a long line of artists, including Caroline Gould, her great-grandmother and master basket weaver. Often incorporating basketry traditions into her art, Ms. Johnson explores identity, community, colonialism, and her Indigenous heritage: she wove baskets around herself for her Basket Weaving (Cultural Cocoon) series (2003-2015), was symbolically scalped in Elmiet (He/She Goes Home) (2010) to draw attention to Nova Scotia's history of scalping, and collaborated with Soto Pow Wow dancer Bert Milberg for Hot Looking (2014), a commentary on the appropriation of indigenous culture.
"I will now have the tremendous opportunity to work on a larger scale and expand the reach of my work to a broader community while exploring more diversity in materials and content as well as beginning to create a network of collaborators internationally!" Ms. Johnson said of her win.
Her desire to work with and learn from others was just part of the reason Ursula Johnson received the $50,000 CDN award; the selection committee noted that she "was singled out for her strong voice, her generosity and collaborative spirit. Through her work, she redefines traditional materials and re-imagines colonized histories."
Ursula Johnson is a talented, insightful artist with a strong sense of community, history and social justice--in other words, a fitting representative for the nation's contemporary art scene in a year in which Canada's colonial history has come under the microscope and gender and identity politics dominate public discourse.
The shortlisted artists, Raymond Boisjoly (West Coast & Yukon), Divya Mehra (Prairies & North), Bridget Moser (Ontario), and Jacynthe Carrier (Quebec), will each receive $10,000 CDN. All five artists' works are on display at the Art Museum at the University of Toronto until December 9th.
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.
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