A vigorous, timely, necessary defense of creativity.

ARE THE ARTS ESSENTIAL?

Eloquent essays on the vital meaning of art.

Arthurs is a senior fellow at the John Brademas Center at NYU, and DiNiscia is Deputy Director for Research and Strategic Initiatives at the Center. In this important collection, the editors gather a racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse group of more than two dozen eminent scholars, artists, professionals working in the field of arts and culture, and funders who support the arts. Jazz pianist Fred Hersch (interviewed by Arthurs), composer Tania León, choreographer and dancer Alice Sheppard, and Deborah Willis, historian of African American photography, join the other contributors in responding to the title question with a resounding “yes.” They argue forcefully for the importance of the arts in strengthening social ties, benefiting individuals, fostering community, engaging with the sciences, and recording and sharing human experiences. As music history scholar Karol Berger notes, “when you think that art is inessential and useless,” remember those artists who have been persecuted, marginalized, silenced, incarcerated, and killed because of the power of their creations. Like Berger, several contributors underscore the political significance of the arts. Philosophy professor and ethicist K. Anthony Appiah asserts that art “readies us for our real lives, enlarges our political possibilities, connects us within and across identities.” For Zeyba Rahman and Hussein Rashid, the arts, speaking through the language of imagination, “can bring alive communities and urgent problems that are unfamiliar to us by creating a universal resonance and relatability.” The arts nurture individuals, just as with other forms of sustenance. “All people…yearn for beauty,” writes Ford Foundation president Darren Walker, “also long for grace, also have hearts as well as stomachs that need to be fed and filled. And people inevitably create beauty and grace when they lift their voices in song, move their bodies to music, shape color and form on canvas or in sculpture, or use language to tell stories in ways that delight and surprise.”

A vigorous, timely, necessary defense of creativity.

Pub Date: Feb. 22, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-4798-1262-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: New York Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

THE COMFORT BOOK

Bestselling author Haig offers a book’s worth of apothegms to serve as guides to issues ranging from disquietude to self-acceptance.

Like many collections of this sort—terse snippets of advice, from the everyday to the cosmic—some parts will hit home with surprising insight, some will feel like old hat, and others will come across as disposable or incomprehensible. Years ago, Haig experienced an extended period of suicidal depression, so he comes at many of these topics—pain, hope, self-worth, contentment—from a hard-won perspective. This makes some of the material worthy of a second look, even when it feels runic or contrary to experience. The author’s words are instigations, hopeful first steps toward illumination. Most chapters are only a few sentences long, the longest running for three pages. Much is left unsaid and left up to readers to dissect. On being lost, Haig recounts an episode with his father when they got turned around in a forest in France. His father said to him, “If we keep going in a straight line we’ll get out of here.” He was correct, a bit of wisdom Haig turned to during his depression when he focused on moving forward: “It is important to remember the bottom of the valley never has the clearest view. And that sometimes all you need to do in order to rise up again is to keep moving forward.” Many aphorisms sound right, if hardly groundbreaking—e.g., a quick route to happiness is making someone else happy; “No is a good word. It keeps you sane. In an age of overload, no is really yes. It is yes to having space you need to live”; “External events are neutral. They only gain positive or negative value the moment they enter our mind.” Haig’s fans may enjoy this one, but others should take a pass.

A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-14-313666-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Life

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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