I saw on the news the other day that Amazon experienced the highest number of Kindle downloads this Christmas Day than all other days combined since its launch. E-readers are soon going to be a household device, and it makes alot of people nervous that this will eventually kill off the printed book, sending it the way of the dodo bird.
But if you have a chance to touch, feel and feast your eyes on this book, And the Pursuit of Happiness, you will know in your heart this is never going to happen. This is the best justification for a printed book I have ever seen in my life. This book is a work of art, meant to be cherished by all of your senses.
Synopsis: I am a bit confounded on how to describe this book. It is a graphic novel, sort of. It is a work of non-fiction, but that sounds dull. Travelogue? Personal musings? A dedication to American democracy? A love letter to the delights of food, and to simple pleasures? Sarah Vowell set to pictures? All of the above!
Maira Kalman, an illustrator and author, takes us along for a journey around the country, exploring little-known facts about our founding fathers, addressing each one and meanderingly related topics each month of the year. Sounds a little strange I know. Let me give you an example.
George and Martha Washington make an appearance. We get to see a picture of the flag he took into battle, learn how he loved Lafayette, had hippopotamus ivory teeth that were too big, and valued his library. Martha wore fancy shoes. Maira ruminates on how to achieve happiness, her answer being working, walking and going to museums.
Of course, we see alot of Lincoln because Maira is in love with him. Lincoln loved people, has 150 impersonators around the country, he had a dog named Fido, he loved apples and Mozart.
Maira ponders on whether there is such a thing as a military gene.
"Don't we need both the warriors and the artists on this planet? What if I were in the Army? Apart from an impeccably made bed, I can't imagine what else I could do. Fly a chinook? Peel potatoes? Or maybe be a hostess?"
We also are treated with a little John Adams, Andrew Jackson, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, James Buchanan and Benjamin Franklin, who is featured on the cover. Apparently the women were "nuts for him with his brains and his crazy fur hat".
My thoughts: I loaned this book from the library, but I think I may need to own it. It is just beautiful, with its thick, glossy colorful pages and its heft. (I had to weigh it on my postal scale..over a pound!) But more than that, you will love this book for the way it makes you feel. It makes you feel good about our country, about determination and confidence, and about finding happiness in the smaller things in life. Like stately, plump tassels on a curtain, the perfect red eyebrows on a museum guard, or a great piece of pie.
Even thought the book is 471 pages long, you can read it in one sitting, or leisurely browse through it in a day or two. In all honestly, you will want it to last as long as possible, so your eyes can drink in Maira's quirky, rich illustrations and your psyche can soak up her child-like optimism.
This read is in a class by itself. Dedicate a Sunday afternoon to the cause, and I promise you will thank me.
5 out of 5 stars