Maira Kalman (The Elements of Style Illustrated) has created a new form: the visual essay (hand-painted and hand-lettered, with photographs and embroideries). Her follow-up to The Principles of Uncertainty, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS (Penguin Press, $29.95), takes on American democracy itself—Kalman becomes a modern Tocqueville, an inquiring tourist and a philosopher traveling the country. The month-by-month chapters start in January 2009 with the Inauguration, and end in December with a meditation on George Washington at Mount Vernon. Painting artifacts and ephemera, interiors and people—a National Gallery museum guard, a Capitol tram operator—as she travels, Kalman observes, makes connections, and drifts into reveries. The book is especially a treat for Washingtonians: Kalman spent a lot of time in the Library of Congress, the Capitol, and the Supreme Court. There are detours to the Land of Lincoln, Monticello, Fort Campbell, even the edible schoolyard program in Berkeley. A wonderful book for students of American history—or for anyone; you will be delighted, and transformed.
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