Interview with Maira Kalman
From Tocqueville to town hall meetings, illustrator and visual journalist, Maira Kalman took us on a year long tour celebrating the history of America through her illustrated NYTimes column, And The Pursuit of Happiness in 2009. This year, the delightful diary documenting life and all its little liberties will be published in the form of her new book released on Oct. 14 by Penguin Press. It was a pleasure to see the world through Kalman’s playful prism and to learn more about the story:
When you created And The Pursuit of Happiness, how important was it for you to tell a story that was both deeply personal and yet still universal?
That is all I can ever do. Every story, no matter how journalistic is also an expression of the personal. I like to show what happens along the way. The peripheral events and actions. The people I meet. The buildings I see. The pies I eat. It helps to not bore the reader.
Humor has always been essential to me. Or second nature to me. However it happened, communicating with people is much easier if you have a sense of humor. And it is really a universal thing that has no limits of age.
It must’ve been such a gift to have unlimited space with the column online. Of course I love the physical object better, but did you miss the surprise of the vertical format when you published it into a book?
At first, I was not enamored with the online format. But then I grew to love it. The computer screen lights the art and makes it shimmer. It becomes luminous. And the length gave me time to expand an idea. So now, even though I love the book, I am sorry it does not scroll.
As a words and images person, I appreciate how you combine writing and drawing. Elements of Style proves beauty and brevity can coexist and I think it’s wonderful how you brought your imaginative storytelling to The Library Initiative. At heart, would you say you’re a writer who expresses herself through visual adjectives?
Absolutely. Having said that, I try to write as little as possible. I hope that a few words will express what I want to say. But I would not want to give up the drawing. They help each other. I can go back and forth in an expressive way and tell the story in different forms.