I was in Elliott Bay Books on Sunday and there it was: a bright yellow cover with a blue bird, and the title, 13 Words. Right on top: Lemony Snicket. Below the title: Maira Kalman. I knew I would buy it on sight, because one genius plus one genius plus a happy blue bird (well, actually a despondent bird) equals YES!
This little book is making me happy, and in Seattle in December that is a very big deal, because if I were in this book and it was any time between November and April I would be the blue bird. I doubt that even a hat could cheer me up.
Watch the book trailer and then I’ll tell you about genius & genius.
Genius #1: Lemony Snicket, AKA Daniel Handler. In addition to the mordant tone and succinct writing of A Series of Unfortunate Events, that somehow manages to be perfectly appropriate for young readers despite – or because of – its darkness, the good Mister Snicket is a speaker who can make the audience weep, and not the salty tears of Baudelaire-inspired sadness, but the snorting, surprised tears of laughter. If you ever have an opportunity to hear him lecture or be interviewed buy the ticket, wait in line. He is, no surprise, a born storyteller. Plus he lives in San Francisco, foggy, trembling city by the Bay. Extra points.
Genius #2: Maira Kalman. She of the winsome painting, the surprising tableau, the narrative that sneaks up on you with its inferred gravity and humble joy. RISD professor, writer of delightful books for children and an astonishing illustrated version of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. I knew of these things but they didn’t really register, they did not take hold. It wasn’t until I discovered her New York Times blog, where she periodically takes on a theme over many months, that I fell hard for Maira Kalman. Her most recent collection of these posts, a year-long study of democracy in America, is published as And the Pursuit of Happiness. Watch the interview and book trailer for this work, and when you see the lovely portrait of Maira, take a moment and admire her hat.