Meditations on the Loveliness of Maira Kalman, And the Pursuit of Happiness

Title: And the Pursuit of Happiness
Author: Maira Kalman
Publisher: Penguin
Date: 2010
Genre: Graphic Novel? Kind of. Illustrated Memoir? Maybe.

471 pages.
Where I got it:  I waited for my turn to check it out from the public library.
Challenges: The Graphic Novels Challenge

Here are some words I would use to describe Kalman's book: lovely, strange, delightful, funny, thoughtful, proud, patriotic, fascinating, hopeful.

Here is a video about the book:

At first, I didn't know what to think about the book, because I wasn't sure what it was.  I, like many a human, really like to categorize, and this book seemed to defy categorization for me.  I've seen Kalman's illustrations in my copy of Strunk & White's The Elements of Style, which is also a beautiful book.  The illustrations are whimsical and colorful, but the spirit of the book is what really captured me as a reader.

I don't often say things like this, but I was really delighted by this book.  Every page I wanted to savor, but I still devoured this book in a single morning.  Kalman's meditations on American history and politics and material culture are perceptive, and funny, and hopeful.

Here are some quotes from passages that I marked:

"I looked deep into his eyes and found that I was falling in love.  In love with A. Lincoln."

"And in front of the Supreme Court facade that states, 'Equal Justice Under Law,' stands a woman in a shocking pink coat. Inside it is all polished wood and marble an red velvet drapes and decorum and history and everything you would want in a Supreme Court. In the court the lawyers are arguing cases that I kind of  understand.  But not really. Not really is putting it mildly but that is not the point.  It is all ab out language, the language of dissent and the search for meaning.  There are faults, biases, political leanings, differences of philosophy. Unavoidable.  They are human beings."

"Don't we need both the warriors and the artists on this planet?"

"If you want to understand this country and its people and what it means to be optimistic and complex and tragic and wrong and courageous, you need to go to  [Jefferson's] home in Virginia. Monticello."

"Everything is invented.  Language. Childhood. Careers. Relationships. Religion. Philosophy. The future.  They are not there for the plucking.  They don't exist in some natural state.  They must be invented by people.  And that, of course, is a great thing.  Don't mope in your room.  Go invent something.  That is the American message.  Electricity. Flight. The telephone.  Television. Computers. Walking on the moon. It never stops."

"We hope. We despair. We hope. We despair. That is what governs us. We have a bipolar system. 

Anyway,  the bottom line is that I liked the book a lot.  It is a celebration.


  1. Sounds super interesting. Thanks for including the video--That really helped to understand what the book is all about. I'm putting this on my wishlist.

  2. This sounds like a really good book. Nice review - I am going to keep my eye out for this one.

  3. That's quite an endorsement, L. I'm off to my library's website to put myself in a queue for it too! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book!

  4. This sounds like a really unique book....thanks for sharing.

  5. I love Maira Kalman. I loved her Max books. She's gotten more eccentric and quirky as time goes on (and she was pretty eccentric and quirky to begin with)
    Have you seen any of the magazine pieces she's done about unusual, undiscovered places in New York? It's interesting stuff!

  6. @Mrs. DeRaps: Hope you enjoy it. I had no idea what it was going to be about before picking it up.

    @Brenna: Thanks! Have fun with it.

    @Laurie: Yeah, I really did like it a lot. It was a fast read and I wanted it to be slower, which isn't something I say often.

    @Creations: No problem. You should check it out.

    @Madigan: The only other things I've seen by Kalman are her illustrations in Elements of Style. I'll have to check out these other things as well.


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