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And the Pursuit of Happiness Hardcover – October 14, 2010

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Editorial Reviews 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.

A Look Inside And the Pursuit of Happiness
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*Starred Review* First published as an illustrated, 12-part blog in the New York Times, artist-author Kalman’s wonderfully idiosyncratic meditation on democracy is now available in a single volume. Despite its original episodic publication, the book coheres beautifully in terms of both artistic unity and the careful evolution of its overarching theme. Each chapter—beginning with the January inauguration of Barack Obama, an event that was the catalyst for the book—represents a month of Kalman’s yearlong quest, which included visits to both coasts. Thus, the month of February is devoted to her loving celebration of Abraham Lincoln; March to “the essence of democracy, the town meeting”; and so on to December, which concerns George Washington and, finally, a tender and loving evocation of happiness itself. Kalman’s art and its wonderful interaction with her hand-lettered text is every bit as idiosyncratic as her approach to her subject, and the result is an achievement that evokes her widely praised picture books for children. Sprinkled among her art—as always, evocative of Matisse—are photographs, whose realism offers a nice counterpoint to her more stylized drawings. Whether you think of this book as a graphic novel, a picture book, or an album, it is sure to leave you feeling happy—about democracy and humanity. --Michael Cart

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press (October 14, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594202672
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594202674
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #123,680 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Maira Kalman is an illustrator, author, and designer. She has created many covers for The New Yorker, including the famous map of Newyorkistan (created with Rick Meyerowitz). Ms. Kalman's twelve children's books include Max Makes a Million, Stay Up Late, Swami on Rye, and What Pete Ate. She also has designed fabric for Isaac Mizrahi, accessories for Kate Spade, sets for the Mark Morris Dance Company, and, with her late husband Tibor Kalman under the M&Co. label, clocks, umbrellas, and other accessories for the Museum of Modern Art. Ms. Kalman's work is shown at the Julie Saul Gallery in Manhattan.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 45 people found the following review helpful By John Woods on October 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I am just now ordering this, but I already know it's great because it's from the pieces Maira did for the New York Times. They are wonderful, almost stream-of-consciousness illustrations with words that always touched my intellect and my humanity. The themes are mostly from U.S. history, and they always sneak up on your mind and emotions in unexpected ways. I frequently posted a comment at the Times after reading one of these, thanking her in one way or another for what she did. You cannot go wrong ordering this book. In these cynical times, it's good to have intelligent observations that move us in a positive and non-manipulative way. Thank goodness for talented folks like Maira Kalman.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Freddy Q on October 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
At a time when everyone around me seems to hate how the United States has become the Not "it" country. I found the book that restores my love for it.
Being a student that wants to change this country for the better, this book shows me what it was before this mess came around. This book has humor,art history all mixed with a feeling of warmness. Great thanks to the Colbert Report for introducing me to this amazing artist and writer.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Eric Selby on December 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Tears formed when I finished reading page 105 because as a youth I sat in those boring town meetings up in Derby, Vermont, wishing I hadn't been told by my father that I must attend, that it was my civic duty to learn about how democracy really works. Now, today, when it seems that my vote really doesn't amount to anything, I appreciate so much that, indeed, buying a new backhoe for the town might require some discussion before the ayes have it whereas there is no need to discuss the decommissioning of a nuclear power plant. Indeed the ayes have it for that and for this amazing book.
Then on pages 106-107 is yet another remarkable Maira Kalman illustration, this one of that New England town meeting as people gather to eat: "We eat macaroni cheese. Corn bread. Coffee cake. Brownies. The works. Sitting together. Democrats and Republicans. Atheists and believers. Can this system work? I am filled with options..."
Oh, if only I could be as hopeful as this author-illustrator is. But for the moments I am in the book, I am indeed brought back to the possibilities that exist for this country if only...
And you, like me, will find moments when you laugh such as this family law: "Do good deeds for strangers, but beware of relatives."
We get to meet Ruth Bader Ginsburg (fortunately not Thomas, Scalia, Roberts, Alito). The sitting portrait of her says it all for me. We need more women--intelligent ones, please!--in all layers of government. She went to law school to fight off forces of injustice, i.e., McCarthyism.
Ah, and then my favorite first lady. Eleanor! There she is, Mrs. Roosevelt on page 143. And I ask why we have yet to elect an intelligent, humane woman president.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Sandra Iler Kirkland VINE VOICE on November 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
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.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Loribee on November 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am an avid Maira Kalman fan -- her words, her art, her children's books. While waiting for the release of this volume, I took an unexpected trip to San Francisco and stumbled upon an exhibit of Kalman's work at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. Nothing could compare to seeing the original works, and having this book as a keepsake upon my return home. Her wit and wisdom is a sheer joy; her art inspirational!
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