Synopses & Reviews
Energized and inspired by the 2008 elections, on inauguration day Kalman traveled to Washington, D.C. and launched a year long investigation of American democracy and its workings. The result is And the Pursuit of Happiness
In tracing our historical roots in visits to the Lincoln archive and Jeffersonandrsquo;s Monticello and in taking the pulse of the present at a town hall meeting in Newfane, Vermont and the inner chambers of the Supreme Court, Kalman finds evidence of democracy at work all around us. The observations she makes as she travels charm and inform, and — as we have come to expect with Kalman — the route is always one of fascinating indirection. As we follow Kalman along her wholly idiosyncratic journey, we fall in love with Lincoln along side her, as she imagines making a home for herself in the center of his magisterial memorial; we ponder Alexis de Tocqueville's America; we see the inner workings of a Bronx middle school student council; we take a high speed lesson in great American women in the National Portrait Gallery; and we consider the cost of war to the brave American service families of Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The cast of characters we meet along the way is rousing good company, featuring visits from Benjamin Franklin, Eleanor Roosevelt, and many others.
Of course, nobody can capture Maira's voice, so I want to share a piece from her speaking to the experience of this project:
I was never interested in politics or history. But this year has taken me to very new places of exploration.
Reading about the founders. GENIUSES!
Visiting their homes. Fantastic wall colors. Delicious beds.
Learning about the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Emancipation Proclamation.
Visiting the Supreme Court or Congress.
Dialogue. Debate. Process. Justice.
It has made me look at the world in a very new way.
Not as an all or nothing proposition.
But as an evolving organism which will change (sometimes) for the better. Maybe.
It has been a most splendid year.
Like The Principles of Uncertainty Maira's newest collection was published in serial on The New York Times website, and has been celebrated by her legions of fans, as the remarkable outpouring of support shown in the comments section stands testament. And The Pursuit of Happiness is a remarkable tribute to our history and a powerful reminder of the potential our future holds. This will be a gorgeous package, and a perfect gift book.
"[C]reating a work of art that is both political and devoid of cynicism is a tricky prospect. Maira Kalman doesn't back down, though: her new book, And the Pursuit of Happiness, is unabashedly optimistic, thoughtful, and at times earnest… These little journeys—from the inauguration to an army base in Kentucky to Thanksgiving in California and the year's end in Manhattan — are pitch-perfect, gentle and funny and beautifully drawn." New Yorker.com
"[A] lushly painted romp through the fringes of democracy....The deliberate warmth and obsessive everyday-ness of Kalman's work means that it's often labeled 'whimsical,' a precious term that belies its deeper value." The Washington Post
"It's hard not to be heartened by Kalman's tenacious pursuit of happiness, conveyed in irregularly capitalized handwritten text interspersed with photographs, sketches and cheerful, color-saturated gouache paintings that evoke Matisse, especially, in their predilection for vivid reds, pinks, greens and yellows. It all adds up to a refreshing, unorthodox, upbeat — and most welcome — tribute to America." NPR.org
"Perhaps Kalman's greatest gift is that her work embodies both the ironic and the earnest at their best, at the place where they come together and create lyrical, personal truth. She is such a magnanimous artist. She invites us, welcomes us, into the most intimate, unprotected place of all: daydreams. Who can resist her?" New York Review of Books blog
"[A]n impromptu interpretive dance about our country, executed in fat, frolicky color, unprissy brushstroke, a smattering of pleasantly pedestrian photographs and perfectly rambunctious penmanship... Oh, Maira. May we call you Maira? You are like the imaginary childhood friend we never had. Never mind, we have you now, and in these pages you give us your giant, wistful heart; your unfettered, inquisitive prose; and your loving renderings of hats, noses, despondency, public restrooms, a numbered Civil War grave, a Brooklyn sewage plant, Thomas Edison in a cream-colored suit, napping on the grass, and various fried eggs. Wait — this is democracy? In Kalman's eclectic, catholic, ecstatically skewed view, yes. All this and more... Best of all, she leaves us curious, formulating our own questions, discovering what things we are burning to ask." New York Times Book Review
With her trademark style, wit, sensitivity, and spontaneity, Maira Kalman guides a whirlwind tour of American democracy.
And the Pursuit of Happiness is beloved artist and author Maira Kalman's yearlong investigation of democracy and how it works. Energized and inspired by the 2008 elections, on inauguration day Kalman traveled to Washington, D.C., launching a national tour that would take her from a town hall meeting in Newfane, Vermont, to the inner chambers of the Supreme Court.
As we follow Kalman's wholly idiosyncratic journey, we fall in love with Lincoln alongside her as she imagines making a home for herself in the center of his magisterial memorial; ponder Alexis de Tocqueville's America; witness the inner workings of a Bronx middle-school student council; take a high-speed lesson in great American women in the National Portrait Gallery; and consider the cost of war to the brave American service families of Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The observations she makes as she travels charm and inform, and — as we have come to expect with Kalman — the route is always one of fascinating indirection.
Kalman finds evidence of democracy at work all around us. And the cast of characters we meet along the way is rousing good company, featuring visits from Benjamin Franklin, Eleanor Roosevelt, and many others. And the Pursuit of Happiness is a remarkable tribute to our history and a powerful reminder of the potential our future holds, from a true national treasure.
Energized and inspired by the 2008 elections, celebrated illustrator Maira Kalman traveled to Washington, D.C., launching a year-long investigation of American democracy and its workings. The result is an artist’s idiosyncratic vision of history and contemporary politics.
Whether returning to America’s historical roots at the Lincoln archive and Jefferson’s Monticello, or taking the pulse of the present day at a town hall meeting in Vermont, an Army base in Kentucky, and the inner chambers of the Supreme Court, Kalman finds evidence of democracy at work all around us. Her route is always one of fascinating indirection, but one that captures and shares in hundreds of beautiful, colorful reasons why we are proud to be Americans.
About the Author
Maira Kalman is an illustrator, author, and designer. She is the author of The Principles of Uncertainty, and illustrator of the bestselling edition of William Strunk and E.B.White's The Elements of Style. Most recently, she collaborated with Michael Pollan to illustrate his bestselling Food Rules. Kalman's work is shown at the Jule Saul Gallery in Manhattan.