The Principles of Uncertainty
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2008
This is such an unusual book: a pictorial monologue about a year in author/illustrator Maira Kalman's life, in which she tackles issues like life, death, family, history, travel, food and all the big philosophical questions of existence.
It has more than 300 pages, almost all of them with quirky Magritte-style illustrations that are often as humorous and charming as the text.
Maira Kalman's Jewish family fled Russia after the revolution and went to Palestine before settling in America. As I imagine many of those do whose families have endured lives fractured by the events of history, and so closely touched by atrocities like the Holocaust, Kalman seems never to take life for granted -- she often expresses her concern about the point of it all, and the mess so many people make of it.
But for all that, this book is imbued with Kalman's overriding and utter joy in being alive. Joy shines out of every page.
For example, while she's in Israel she writes of her despair about the embattled state of the Middle East, but once back home in New York she finds immediate reassurance and an antidote to her distress simply by observing the life on the streets -- the colours, the people, the eccentricities, the humanity of it all.
On other pages she'll share her delight in wonderful hats, bravely-dressed women, old people, the collections of weird objects she keeps at home, and many of the amazing sights she observes and records on her travels at home and abroad.
I'd love to meet her: from my reading I imagine a strong New York humour and an infectious fascination for the cities she loves.
Recommended.
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52 of 61 people found the following review helpful
on October 30, 2007
Kalman's illustrations accentuate her pithy prose. Her pictures seem derived from some other time, perhaps the Impressionist era in France? They have a 19th century vibe. Think Van Gogh. Imagine Monet.

Her thoughts spring from the page as she passes through her days. Each thought evokes a picture. In her observation of a life that is mostly "normal" (if there is such a thing) Kalman connects readers with the deep reservoirs of personal feeling that we frequently fail to recognize.

This is a lovely, one-of-a-kind volume that will delight as it subtly conjures up the emotions that lie just below the surface in every one of us. Bravo!
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2007
I can't believe that there have only been two reviews of this book! It is a Maira Kalman book for grownups - for anyone who loves her childrens books - the wit, the art, the words - finally there is a picture book for us!
And, for a short period of time, the original paintings are on view at Julie Saul Gallery on 22nd St. in NYC. What a bonus!

In Principles of Uncertainty, Kalman touches on nearly every human emotion - yielding a book that is tender, tough, ironic, big-picture, "God is in the details", mellow, poignant, funny - you name it. In her deceptively naive paintings, she captures the essence of things - relationships, beauty, life cycles.

I went to see the exhibition at Julie Saul two times - and I would have gone 200 times. This will be one of those books that we will return to over and over again.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on November 24, 2007
This book just arrived, I read it and am now ordering copies for many friends. This is a case of "less is more"--drawings and words are minimal, but the impact of whimsy and profoundness is great. It goes straight to the heart.
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41 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2007
I loved this when it ran in the NY Times. I couldn't wait to have the wonderful drawings and subtle text in my possession. And then the book arrived. I was dumbfounded. Whoever designed it can't possibly have done a book of art before. Images spilling into gutters, no white space. Why? To save money? This should be reprinted by a publisher who can see what damage has been done to this wonderful work. It kills me to say it because the artist, Maira Kalman, deserves every bit of attention she can get and every nickel they pay her. But this book design is a travesty.
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22 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 2007
Having read each of the pieces in The Principles of Uncertainty as they were published in Times Select, I initially ordered three copies of this book--one for me, two for gifts. Now I've ordered a fourth--I want to give one to everyone I love. And I want to spend a day with Maira Kalman--of course with this book I can spend part of every day with her. I love this book!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2007
This is such a sweet book. I have given it to everyone... friends, family - all ages.
I am getting through one of those years, many deaths in my family, and this book really helped me remember how grand life can be. Exquisite!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2009
I bought this book for myself and one or two other people last Christmas. I loved the humorous approach to what is essentially a book about Kalman's husband dying at age 49. All of the changes that occur so suddenly in the world that she describes are wrapped around the center disaster. The wit and the charm of the pictures and the author's thoughts take you into a world where she is mourning and finding out who she is which makes for a melancholy celebration. I thought the title alone made it the perfect book for this Christmas when we're all waiting to see if the new President Obama is more than a hope. And I gave it to ten people who were very appreciative. I tend to imagine everyone knows of Maira Kalman but I was wrong. I wish I could give the book to enough people to make her well known. Her work deserves our time.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2007
I love this book as it reflects the author's sensibility of embracing every bit of life that catches her eye and warms her heart. Reading it makes my eyes more keen and my heart more open. I also want to embroider, collect sponges, watch people walk, wear hats and paint pictures. Can't go wrong with that.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 2008
Everything Maira touches turns into the most funniest, quirkiest and happiest thing. This is one of my favorite books, its sort of like a new version of Chicken Soup for the Soul. The illustrations are amazing, color combinations are vibrant, writing is witty that it just becomes such a pleasurable visual read. She is even more funnier when she speaks. She's like the intelligent, amazing and awesomest aunt that you wished you had.
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