and the pursuit of happiness

I knew Maira Kalman's work from her having illustrated the classic writing handbook Elements of Style by Strunk and E.B. White of Charlotte's Web fame.  Her book And the Pursuit of Happiness is a graphic tribute to America, from coast to coast, from the halls of the federal government, through the lives and complexities of historical figures like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, and neighborhoods in New York including a Brooklyn sewage plant that looks like a sculpture.  Her strategy of zooming in on the smallest details amidst big stories makes the book feel both epic and, somehow, very intimate.

Across from an image of the original patent on the safety pin (1849) is my favorite quote of the book:

"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." (p. 242)

Thank you Eti for the gift of this book!  It was the best read of April, and it carried me straight through to May in small, deliciously lovely bites.

Also-reads of this past few weeks of post-tenure-vacation:

  • Three Times Lucky by Turnage (middle grade mystery, a bit twee at moments, but suspenseful enough to be readable)
  • Best Shot in the West by McKissack/DuBurke (graphic novel history of Nat Love, African American cowboy)
  • Liar & Spy by Stead (outstanding middle-grades tale of the slow developing of an apartment-building friendship between a new kid who has just moved in and a mysterious kid with a spy club)