And the Pursuit of Happiness is beloved artist and author Maira Kalman’s yearlong investigation of democracy and how it works. Energized and inspired by the 2008 elections, on inauguration day Kalman traveled to Washington, D.C., launching a national tour that would take her from a town hall meeting in Newfane, Vermont, to the inner chambers of the Supreme Court.
As we follow Kalman’s wholly idiosyncratic journey, we fall in love with Lincoln alongside her as she imagines making a home for herself in the center of his magisterial memorial; ponder Alexis de Tocqueville’s America; witness the inner workings of a Bronx middle-school student council; take a high-speed lesson in great American women in the National Portrait Gallery; and consider the cost of war to the brave American service families of Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The observations she makes as she travels charm and inform, and-as we have come to expect with Kalman-the route is always one of fascinating indirection.
Kalman finds evidence of democracy at work all around us. And the cast of characters we meet along the way is rousing good company, featuring visits from Benjamin Franklin, Eleanor Roosevelt, and many others. And the Pursuit of Happiness is a remarkable tribute to our history and a powerful reminder of the potential our future holds, from a true national treasure.
“Perhaps Kalman’s greatest gift is that her work embodies both the ironic and the earnest at their best, at the place where they come together and create lyrical, personal truth. She is such a magnanimous artist. She invites us, welcomes us, into the most intimate, unprotected place of all: daydreams. Who can resist her?”