Read The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman Online


Maira Kalman paints her highly personal worldview in an inimitable combination of image and text. The Principles of Uncertainty is an irresistible invitation to experience life through the psyche of Maira Kalman, one of this country's most beloved artists. The result is a book that is part personal narrative, part documentary, part travelogue, part chapbook, and all KalmanMaira Kalman paints her highly personal worldview in an inimitable combination of image and text. The Principles of Uncertainty is an irresistible invitation to experience life through the psyche of Maira Kalman, one of this country's most beloved artists. The result is a book that is part personal narrative, part documentary, part travelogue, part chapbook, and all Kalman. Her brilliant, whimsical paintings, ideas, and images-which initially appear random-ultimately form an intricately interconnected worldview, an idiosyncratic inner monologue. Kalman contends with some existential questions-What is identity? What is happiness? Why do we fight wars? And then, of course, death, love, and candy (not necessarily in that order). The tremendous success of Kalman's 2005 illustrated edition of Strunk and White's The Elements of Style established her as an original, inspirational voice, and the quirky, hilarious, heartbreaking style of The Principles of Uncertainty reveals Maira Kalman for what she truly is: a national treasure....

Title : The Principles of Uncertainty
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781594201349
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 336 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Principles of Uncertainty Reviews

  • Meen
    2019-03-09 18:57

    I'm not sure how to categorize this book, but it was such an awesome experience. Definitely not just a "read." I was "reading" it in the Barnes & Noble Starbucks, and this old man came up to me as he was leaving and said, "It was a joy to watch you reading that." I was smiling, and laughing, and almost crying. It was definitely an interaction beyond just consuming text.:)

  • Jimmy
    2019-03-09 17:41

    How can anything be any more lovable than this little book? How can I not have loved it all along? How can I not have seen it, or read it, or perhaps just heard about it? How can such charm and sweetness and wit be unread for so long? This book is like Agnes Varda's later films in book form. But less something. And more something else. She has that same creative-no-boundaries-super-smart-but-not-academic kind of thing. How can I have just heard about it today, checked it out of the library, and read the whole thing already? This book, this book by Maira Kalman. This book full of illustrations.Dodos and hairdos, this Maira Kalman. She who loves hairdos and oh does she love hats and mustaches too. And she loves sofas on the side of the street. And she loves collections of things. And she loves strange clothing, and old dead people. And she loves Sebald and Walser and Pina Bausch, for instance, just like I do. And she loves superfluous tassels, yes she does. She loves the backs of people, walking away, she loves taking photos of them like the kid in Yi Yi. She loves colors, oh boy. She loves colors and I love her colors too. I love her oranges and her yellows and her light greens and especially her yellows. I love her brush strokes and her squarish faces and her slender pinched faces and her squiggly hair. I love her fabrics which she embroidered with scenes from Goethe's 'Faust'. Oh I love the appendix! The appendix is one of the best parts, don't forget the appendicitis which it causes, and I love her humor and her breeziness and her meandering likeness.

  • Karima
    2019-03-04 16:45 ReviewAmazon Best of the Month, Octhober 2007: In 2005 Maira Kalman brought a fresh vision to Strunk and White's The Elements of Style, filling the pages of the reference classic with her whimsical illustrations. And much like its multi-talented creator--who has illustrated children's books and New Yorker covers and collaborated on fashion projects with Kate Spade and Isaac Mizrahi--her new book, The Principles of Uncertainty, defies easy classification. Is it philosophy? Art? Memoir? Travel? Sociology? The answer is All of the Above (and more). This charming collection of text, paintings, and photography presents a "profusely illustrated" year in a life, with illustrated musings that range from a young Nabokov "sitting innocently and elegantly in a red chair" to two stuffed rabbits in the window at Paris's Deyrolles taxidermy to Kitty Carlisle Hart at home in her "pearly pink palace." Delightful, inspiring, and often very moving, this little charmer is a a book you might find nestled on Wes Anderson's coffee table. --Brad Thomas Parsons From K. Bondi:Absolutely delightful! A picture book for grown-ups. This book puts me "somewhere else." Where? you may ask....somewhere very, very nice. Somewhere I want to be more often. Somewhere that feels French and childlike. I can hear Maurice Chevalier singing "Thank Heaven For Little Girls" like he does in "Gigi."I would love to have this woman over for dinner. I want to buy this book for everyone I love.

  • David
    2019-03-16 19:11

    i came across this last night at the enormous used bookstore. it was laying on its side and the spine immediately caught my eye. the dustjacket is a nice heavy paper. the weight of the book. i opened it to perfect drawings and photographs. i want to unstitch this book carefully, saving every thread in a ball jar and staple them to telephone poles in succession. or populate a bleak city wall with them so day workers, away from their babies and lovers and family and friends can slow their walk. bundled up against the winter cold. or feeling the warmth of a southern sun on their backs like the hand of their grandmother who patted them and made them dumplings when they were little. there in the sunlight. or against the winter gray clouds, crayola crayon drawings from their youth stuck with the letter a magnet on refrigerators that chug along. this was the weight of the book. and i bought it with money i should be using for lunch.

  • Mon
    2019-03-03 10:54

    "What can I tell you? The realization that we are all (you, me) going to die and the attending disbelief - isn't that the central premise of EVERYTHING? *illustration of a scared blue bunny rabbit in pink striped socks and brown shoes*It stops me DEAD in my tracks a DOZEN times a day. Do you think I remain FROZEN? NO. I spring into action. I find meaningful distraction. Lately I have become enamored with fruit platters. I paint them. *illustration of an Italian three tier fruit platter*"--------------------------------I love Kalman's attention to details. I love the random things pop up in her paintings - the confused looking dog accompanying a local celebrity, the even, cotton clouds circling a donuts shop, the warm dots of leaves in the background of some famous dude. I love how she shades with colour, and the background is always a palette of subtle hues. I love how not every page makes sense, and sometimes the writing is just whimsical like if you would peek into a little girl's diary. I love how it is rich with history, both global and personal. I love how we get to know her family. I love her hand writing. I love how her illustrations make me want to gobble the book up. *happy dance*

  • Lanie
    2019-03-05 10:50

    I just finished this book. To be fair, I put it down somewhere in the middle and didn't pick it up for a few weeks (bad habit), so maybe I lost the momentum of the flow of the book or something....but I was generally un-impressed. I thought I would love it, because it just seemed like my kind of thing...constant journal-er and picture snapper that I tend to be. But I was not blown away as I expected I would be. Most of the "profound thoughts" that the author seemed to document ended up seeming pretty mundane and sort of self-indulgent. ("takes one to know one!" my inner critic is yelling right now, as I think of the number of times I've written self-indulgent insights in my journal, thinking they were quite profound at the time..."but I wouldn't publish them!" I think....but maybe given the opportunity, I would.)I guess my main disappointment with the book is that I don't feel like I walked away with any new insight at all, and it seemed like the author was trying to write a book that would make people go "aha! it makes sense now!" and that's just not what happened for me....not once.

  • Aly
    2019-03-11 11:44

    This book cost me about 30 cents at Barnes and Noble and took me less than an hour to read... but what an enjoyable way to spend 30 cents and an hour! In this humorous, illustrated memoir of sorts, Maira Kalman intertwines the minutia of her life (pages dedicated to her empty box collection, candy collection, and unusual hats) with philosophical questions about LIFE and HUMANITY. The effect is quirky and thought-provoking, rather than pretentious. I particularly liked her freehand embroideries of quotes from Faust and Abraham Lincoln. Here's a link to Kalman's blog, part of the New York Times online. If you enjoy it, you should pick up the book. It's definitely worth more than 30 cents.

  • Nanditha Sankar
    2019-03-24 14:49

    A visual delight. This book is beautiful beyond words. It finishes in a breeze but each page needs reading and re-read to absorb the visual spectacle that it is. An account of the author's musings, her travels and curio objects and artefacts collected at various occasions, each page spans out like the uncertain prediction of a weatherman. Some sentences die an untimely death while the others make you take a deep breath. At the crux of it all is the ephemeral nature of life, the uncertainty that clouds it and finding peace in the small joys of life.

  • Kaion
    2019-03-20 16:49

    The whole world is her museum, and she its curator. She renders its grandness small so it may be held close, seen.Can we all live such beautiful, artistic, well-appointed, colorful, jet-setting, hushed, thoughtful, tasty, grateful, collected lives as Maira Kalman?Probably not, especially the well-appointed and jet-setting parts. For a little while though -- an hour or two all at once, or five minutes a morning with her, we believe we can. We do. Rating: 4 stars

  • Sanjana Suresh Kumar
    2019-03-20 13:47

    There is so much I want to say about this book- so many emotions felt, so many heartstrings pulled, so many images conjured up. But words will undoubtedly fall short. So I'll just stop by saying 'thank you' to Maira Kalman: for creating the balm to soothe my soul in trying times.

  • Rebecca
    2019-03-19 17:00

    Reasons I like this book:1) It has a good weight. It is hefty, with pages of thick smooth paper. 2) It defies categorization. I'm putting it on my "graphic novels" shelf even though I wouldn't call it a novel. More of a long, illustrated poem or inner monologue. 3) The book jacket says, "This is a year in my life profusely illustrated. Abounding with anguish, confusion, bits of wisdom, musings, meanderings, buckets of joie de vivre, and restful sojourns."4) The paintings; the colors; the portraits; the photographs; the stitching; the ephemera.5) The Index, the Appendix, and the Thank You page. 6) "I don't want to trudge up insane mountains or through war-torn lands. Just a nice stroll through hill and dale. But now I walk everywhere in the city. Any city. You see everything you need to see for a lifetime. Every emotion. Every condition. Every fashion. Every glory." -p. 267) "What can I tell you? The reason that we are all (you, me) going to die and the attending disbelief -- isn't that the central premise of EVERYTHING? It stops me dead in my tracks a dozen times a day. Do you think I remain frozen? No. I spring into action. I find meaningful distraction." -p. 408) "I prefer the notion of Heaven on Earth. Of sweet, funny, loving moments. For me, heaven on earth is my aunt's kitchen in Tel Aviv. My aunt is 88. Until recently she swam in the ocean at dawn every day of the year. The kitchen is small, spare and shiny. We drink tea and eat honey cake in the hot stillness of the afternoon." -p.539) "I return to New York. Tired. Sad. The world is coming to an end. What to do? What to do? I know what to do. Spend the day on the subway. Oh wonderful life-affirming two-dollar subway ride. I go with Rick. He wears a straw hat and he will take pictures. It is August. Hot, but not too hot." -p. 8210) Although I have been trying to pare down my ownership of "things" lately, this book helped me appreciate collections: "If we did sit in silence, you might notice that there are many objects displayed around the apartment. Collections. Tangible evidence of history, memory. Longing, delight...It is her collective database, her lifelong installation piece." -p. 116

  • Shellie (Layers of Thought)
    2019-03-21 14:54

    Original review posted on Layers of Thought.A stylized yet simple graphic novel which questions life and its inevitable uncertainties, where the author asks about the meaning of life and death within a one-year segment of her life.Thoughts: Author Maira Kalman is the illustrator for The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, as well as the author and artist for a number of children’s books. As a collector of many curious things, she has compiled her thoughts, drawings, and photographs in this book which reflect her feeling on some of the oddities within life. All compiled here in an adult’s picture book of sorts. It’s a philosophical, sad, yet mildly funny trip where the examples of human experience she shares also have a very universal feel. As the reader follows her path and the author questions life and the inevitable ups and downs of it all, we are left with more questions than are answered.She has included her lovely drawings and photos she has taken, with her simple yet dryly lyrical thoughts around a year in her life. A lovely books which is easily read in one sitting but is one I would like to pick up again and again – it’s a meditation on life, art, human nature, all of its disappointments and within them, hidden joys. Asking the quintessential human questions in a slightly different and adult way: what is life about? Why do I feel sad? What happens after we die?Highly recommended reading for adults who like stylized art and contemplating the nature of life. It’s a 4 star in my opinion and would make a lovely gift.

  • Suzanne
    2019-03-10 18:41

    I love Maira Kalman. It’s quite possible that she is the most charming person in the whole world. I would like to think that we have some things in common. I, too, have an adoration of jaunty hat wearers. And I believe that I really do need a pleated green skirt for “the occasional seaside hotel afternoon dance.” Or maybe just a walk about town. My heaven on earth is also my aunt’s kitchen (or my mother’s. Or my friend Mel’s. Or my own.). Tea and stories. And hats. There are beautiful things. And tragic things. And I want to remember them all and throw many parties. The “thank you” page made me cry. Utterly charmed.

  • David Schaafsma
    2019-03-21 15:52

    Whimsical, random, sometimes insightful, sometimes funny and thoughtful... very recognizable artist, a year of her life in painting and a few photos and odd reflections....what's the point?! Exactly, she would say. I liked it quite a lot. Pretty entertaining in its randomness...its uncertainty.

  • Darcy
    2019-03-17 12:44

    What a joyful book! Stunning paintings and musings and historical references make for such an enjoyable journey through Maira Kalman's mind and life. I truly love her artistic expression and was continually delighted and surprised throughout this book.

  • Manik Sukoco
    2019-03-04 11:50

    This book is Maira Kalman's first work for adults (her children's books, created with her late husband, are legion and legendary), deserves to be put in the hands of everyone who could use cheering up. It is a life affirming work that makes short shrift of our troubles without gainsaying them. This is a book of found joy by a woman who knows where to look for it and how to"Kalman" it.Its twelve chapters are taken from the internet column she wrote under the same title for TimesSelect five years ago. The columns appeared on the first Wednesday of the month starting in May of 2006 (back when the Times on the internet was free) and, with a bit of hunting, are still available on the Web. The illustrations are so artfully artless that you'll want to commission the artist to paint the family dog."The Man Dancing on Salt," the illustration on the cover, depicts the dancer, leaning forward for balance, arms behind him, making his way, step by graceful step, through the mishegas of another wintry day on the treadmill. It is the work of a deeply humane and witty observer of the passing scene.The book's index (that's right, it is fully and usefully indexed) will help you find the two-page drawing of the Watermelon Man on the seat of his horse-drawn farm wagon, a welcome anomaly in this age, and to all of the other beguiling visual treats that await you. Check "hats . .. completely sensational" for a splendid self portrait of the artist in her new hat.After the index comes an appendix full of surprises: a typed list of all the names (from Mr. Pavlishtchev to Zalyozhev) in Part 1 of The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky; photographs of sofas discovered by the artist on her wanderings; a collection of "Waterfall postcards" and reproductions of "Things that fall out of books." Her grace notes for the help she received in creating "The Principles of Uncertainty" provide yet another treat. In the page long love letter that ends the book, she thanks the people without whom "all would be lost, lost I tell you and I could not have done a thing and there would have been no ardor to muster, no life at all."End note. In what has to be considered a publishing house master stroke, The Penguin Press commissioned Kalman to provide the illustrations for "A Slightly Obsessive History of Strunk & White's `The Elementsof Style". She gets it! Take a look at "None of us is perfect," her illustration accompanying Strunk & White's dictum that "With none, use the singular verb when the word means `no one' or `not one." Last year she published "And the Pursuit of Happiness," her appreciation of the (mostly) men who got this country off on the right foot, and, next January, will publish "Look at Lincoln." About to start collecting books? Kalman would be a great choice. Nearly all of her books are in print or available and are bound to give pleasure for as long as you are able to read.

  • Traci
    2019-02-28 14:04

    Read this in an evening. It's a journal of thoughts over the course of one year, with paintings and photographs to accompany. Really lovely. The people, the thoughts, what she chooses to focus on. There's a friend she visits and in 3 spreads she describes the friend, what they did, and then the sink in the woman's bathroom (with a painting for each). It's hella quirky, but also thoughtful. It doesn't feel quirky for quriky's sake, you know?Incidentally, it was really... kind of guilt inducing I guess... to read this directly after Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity given their similar somewhat mundane / day in the life style. In fact, now that I think about it, they even take place over almost the same years. What a difference socio-economic status makes.

  • Mahinn
    2019-03-20 14:42

    I don't know what I would do in a world without Maira Kalman. Perspective, deeper perspective, and gratitude, perhaps are the sum total of sanity and some modicum of happiness we can afford ourselves in this lifetime. You know how it is when every once in a rare while you come across somebody who teaches you the true value of things, or not things, people nature, birds, textures, fabric, patterns, colours; simple objects that you would otherwise never look twice at. You know those people? Maira Kalman is one of those people. I wish she were my friend. I think if she let me hold her hand and walk with her for just one day I might become a different person at the end of it: a better version of me. A softer, more thoughtful, perhaps even more profound in the way I choose to view the world. And by that virtue, kinder.

  • Allison
    2019-03-18 17:53

    This is a wonderful book. Maira Kalman paints her musings, which are always funny and insightful. To give you a taste, I'm adding my favorite quote from the book, but I have to reassure you that not all of the book is so pseudo-intellectually annoying. "We could speak about the meaning of life vis-a-vis non-consequential/deontological theories, apodictic transformation schemata, the incoherence of exemplification, metaphysical realism, Cartesian interactive dualism, revised non reductive dualism, postmodernist grammatology and dicey dichotomies. But we would still be left with Nietzsche's preposterous mustache which instills great anguish and skepticism in the brain, which leads (as it did in his case) to utter madness. I suggest we go to Paris instead. " Fantastic, no?

  • Kevin Fanning
    2019-03-07 18:01


  • Izzy
    2019-03-18 17:49

    Really charming. A heavy book full of illustrations and little thoughts that seem simple, then complex, then simple again. I would have given it a 3 if I didn't stop myself from overthinking.

  • Alisha
    2019-03-11 10:57

    I was initially a little turned off by the concept of this book- it's essentially a woman's journal/sketchbook that she has published. Why would you want to publish all your personal experiences and inner thoughts for everyone to read and rate? But, I found myself really enjoying how random and sporadic the whole thing was. And her painted sketches are delightful and whimsical and colorful. If nothing else it was a quick "read" (I put read in quotes because it really is more about studying the artwork than the written word) and inspired me to go work in my own sketchbook (which I will NOT be publishing!)

  • Sophie Mangano
    2019-03-14 14:56

    10/5. Would recommend. Please read.

  • Peter Switzer
    2019-03-08 11:45


  • Angela
    2019-03-14 15:03

    First, the feel and weight of this book was immensely pleasing. Heavy and substantial. But inside was all whimsy and heart. Enjoyable. Delightful art and musings!

  • Lars Guthrie
    2019-03-22 11:58

    I'd almost forgotten about this book, read in the nearly hallucinatory state caused by a flu bug on Christmas day at my parents house after everyone had left for the big meal at my cousin's. A silent, crisp Southern California day, flipping past Kalman's crisp colors and unsteady but sure lines that bridge naivete and sophistication. What brought it back to mind was Kalman's marvelous debut posting (about the inauguration) for her new blog in The New York Times, 'And the Pursuit of Happiness.' And I've been thinking about the mixed feelings I have (one of which is guilt, another delicious enjoyment) about reading about privileged life from the point of view of privileged lives, which is so much a part of being a reader of fiction, as I have been reading a young adult book, 'The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.' And I've been entranced over the past few years with the medium of picture and words and how comics work the way the mind does, connecting then digressing then connecting back with pictures to words to pictures to words and so on. All of which lead to an appreciation for what Maira Kalman does with her exacting attention to small details--'the shoes of the man portraying Jefferson at the Museum of American History'--and awareness of panoramic vistas--'the vast sea of nearly two million people holding madly fluttering flags in the bright noonday sun.'

  • Valerie
    2019-03-17 11:04

    The Principles of Uncertainty is a visual journal that Maira Kalman kept for a year. It's full of musings and questions, glimpses of her travels and simply things that moved her in some way. She talks and paints about her father-in-law, who collected insults by writing them down in a little book that he kept with him.... her suitcase (and other) collections... paints about a visit to the Deyrolles shop in Paris... the hangover of lingering bad dream malaise.She records both big and small, remarking on things that we all might see if we consistently kept a visual journal. This book amazed me with the breadth of topics on which it touched and its richness.Tips about other books that I'm going to look for that were mentioned:Berlin Childhood around 1900 by Walter BenjaminHelen Levitt's work (photographer)Robert Polidori (another photographer)Something I loved about Kalman that I didn't know? She does these amazing embroideries of things like quotes from Abraham Lincoln or excerpts from Faust. Who knew? (I'm not sure how long this link will work, but you can see some of her embroidery here.)And how can she make photographs of people simply walking away from her (many of which become the basis for paintings) so interesting?Inspiring.

  • Amanda
    2019-03-19 10:45

    This book really moved me. It inspired me to remember what I think is so important about life....which I think is finding the connections between things and then using them to create humor, conversation, feeling. This book draws on the train of thought kind of everything is connected kind of thing. It is a year in the life of a woman painting and writing and trying to figure out the whys of things. I photocopied some pages that touched me and with touch my penpals. Mine is: "And then all-clear sounded and the people returned, hope undiminished. They returned, so elegant and purposeful to the books. (Speaking about a library that burnt down in the blitz of WWII in London) What does this have to do with bobby pins and radiators and kokoshniks? One thing leads to another. (Hell yeah) Flowers lead to books, which lead to thinking and not thinking and then more flowers and music, music. Then many more flowers and many more books. Spring is in the air. Don't you think. I don't really care about flowers or music. But I do care about bridges and air and air and Ocean and bobby pins and radiators and love.

  • Susann
    2019-03-13 17:00

    I had already read most of this when it was a monthly NYT Times Select feature, but I'm so happy to finally have the entire book in hand. I've been a fan of Kalman's since her picture books from 15-20 years ago, and this one is a picture book for grown-ups. Delightful illustrations and text, and even a recipe for honey cake. Although there's a timeless quality to Kalman's work, I noticed a few references specific to 2006-07 (the Keep Calm And Carry On message, for instance). But these don't detract from the text and, instead, serve as a nice reminder of the original NYT format. Now if only Kalman would have me over for tea....

  • Rachael
    2019-03-22 16:42

    Sincere thoughts and observations nicely illustrated. I read through it two times, I think the narrative arrangement of the ideas is the best part.Before I finally read up on the author, she seemed to be a sweet and curious peripatetic who was usually weighed down with a few too many questions about the meaning of life. I didn't realize she has illustrated some of my favorite New Yorker covers, AND designed for Kate Spade. Better to know her as a NY Times columnist first, and then encounter her whimsy.