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Good things come from incomprehension

Maira Kalman argues that good things come from incomprehension. She’s an illustrator and children’s book author, and appears to have stumbled gracefully through a remarkable life. Her start as an illustrator somehow involves a former lover who wanted to blow up NYU, but ended up moving to Cuba. She ended up forming a studio called M &Co., and has a job that involves daydreaming for a living.

Sometimes these daydreams find their way into children’s books, other times into the cover of the New Yorker. Making a joke with a friend about travelling to “Bronxistan”, shortly after 9/11. This turned into a running joke, and into a very famous New Yorker cover, helping people deal with the sudden juxtaposition of daily life in New York and understanding events in far off places like Central Asia.

More recent projects have included illustrating “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White. She encountered the book for the first time, she claims, while on vacation in Cape Cod, and says she realized, “more people should know about this wonderful book.” (That gets a good laugh.) The project involved approaching the EB White estate. It now contains wonderful paintings like a corpse at a dinner party illustrating the phrase, “He noticed a large stain in the center of the rug.”

We see some of her recent work, crazy, whimsical, dream-filled, including a topic called “the impossibility of February.” It’s hard to pull a narrative from this, but it’s very much worth looking through her site and seeing the work of a woman who claims she’s working on “two very simple things: how to live and how to die.”

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