And the Pursuit of Happiness

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Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Inspired by the 2008 elections, artist Maira Kalman set out across these great states with pen and paper in hand to explore facets of American democracy that many Americans only contemplate on the Fourth of July. From eavesdropping on town hall meetings to visiting veterans' families, Maira probed the inner workings of how we come together. Along the way, she searched the past, pondering the lives of Lincoln and the Founding Fathers. If this project sounds pious; it isn't; Kalman's synopsis of George Washington's guides to conduct jumps from Rule 1 ("Every action done in company ought to be done with some sign of respect to those that are present") to Rule 100 ("Cleanse not your teeth with the tablecloth"). Whimsical, sincere, and wise, And The Pursuit of Happiness is a national treasure.

Leah Hager Cohen
…an impromptu interpretive dance about our country, executed in fat, frolicky color, unprissy brushstroke, a smattering of pleasantly pedestrian photo­graphs and perfectly rambunctious penmanship…Kalman's work, for all its embrace of a childlike sensibility (and its preponderance of tributes to a childlike sweet tooth), is hardly naïve. Her seemingly loopy juxtapositions are in fact fertile and canny, but like a good teacher she resists overinterpreting them, generously leaving the meaning-making to us. Also like a good teacher, she models a tendency to think well of the world, to see in it that which is most decent and hopeful. Best of all, she leaves us curious, formulating our own questions, discovering what things we are burning to ask.
—The New York Times
NEW YORKER.com

“[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.”

THE WASHINGTON POST

“[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.”

NPR.org
“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.”
NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS blog

“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 TIMES BOOK REVIEW

“[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 yorker.com
“[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.”
The Washington Post
“[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.”
New York Review Of Books Blog
“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 Times Book Review
“[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.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594202674
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/14/2010
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 785,012
  • Product dimensions: 7.66 (w) x 11.78 (h) x 1.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Maira Kalman

In her own words: "born. bucolic childhood. culture-stuffed adolescence. played piano. stopped. danced. stopped. wrote. discarded writing. drew. reinstated writing. married Tibor Kalman and collaborated at iconoclastic yet successful design studio. wrote and painted children's books. worried. took up Ping-Pong. relaxed. wrote and painted for many magazines.  cofounded the Rubber Band Society. amused. children: two. dog: one."

Biography

Maira Kalman is an award-winning artist, illustrator, and product designer. She has illustrated numerous covers for The New Yorker magazine and has written and illustrated more than a dozen children's books. Her articles and illustrations have appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, Interview, and many other publications. Kalman has designed products for the Museum of Modern Art under the M&Co. label, fabric for Isaac Mizrahi, accessories for Kate Spade, and sets for Mark Morris Dance Group. A teacher of graduate design at the School of Visual Arts, she lives in New York with her two children and a dog.

Author biography courtesy of the New York Public Library.

Good To Know

Kalman told us that she is the co-founder of the Rubber Band Society, is looking for a job in a café, adores ping-pong, and is very, very neat.

"My short attention span has allowed me a life of diversity in work and place, Kalman explains. "I work for The New Yorker, The New York Times, and other publications. I design products for The Museum of Modern Art. I design fabrics, and accessories for Kate Spade, fabric for Isaac Mizrahi."

"I travel as much as I can without being miserable from jet lag," she reveals. "I always remember that I don't really know what I am doing, and armed with that knowledge am very sure of myself."

Kalman reflects, "I consider my work to be about humor and love of life, and can do that when I am not terrified, which is often, but there you go."

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 15, 1949
    2. Place of Birth:
      Tel Aviv, Israel
    1. Education:
      New York University, 1967-70
    2. Website:

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Unique, Vivid Depiction Of The Founding Fathers

    And The Pursuit Of Happiness is artist Maira Kalman's celebration of democracy and the founding fathers. Part art book, part graphic novel, the reader will be drawn through her exploration of what democracy means in the United States, and learn about the lives of many of the prominent men who created our amazing system of government.

    Many readers will recognize Kalman's unique artistic renderings. She is a frequent provider of New Yorker magazine covers. She illustrates children's books, and her work has been featured in museums and by designers in their lines. She uses vibrant colors and Grandma Moses-like depictions of scenes for striking illustrations that are memorable. Inspired by the inauguration of Barack Obama, this book is her tribute to the democracy and the people that made his election possible.

    There are chapters devoted to various Founding Fathers. The book is organized by months. January is devoted to the Obama inauguration. February is devoted to Abraham Lincoln while March celebrates the philosophical underpinnings of democracy and its forms such as town halls. April is about the laws of the land. May discusses our military and the price we owe these brave defenders of freedom. June discusses Thomas Jefferson and his many interests, while July is devoted to Benjamin Franklin and other scientists and inventors. August is about the explorers who discovered America and the issues surrounding immigration today. September talks about cities; specifically New York City. October covers Congress, while November is devoted to our national foods. December is reserved for George Washington.

    This book is recommended for all readers. Everyone will learn new facts and the knowledge is imparted in a breezy fashion that make the learning fun. The illustrations are vivid, brilliant, amazing. Maira Kalman has created a visual feast and we are the richer for it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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