[Update: the fried pickles at Red Brick are very good, nice and crisp. I feel less pretentious. Life tip --> fried pickles make you feel less pretentious. Tuck it in your hat!]
Last night I went to the grand ole Michigan Theater to hear the glorious and quirky Maira Kalman, who if you are not already familiar has written (/blogged/painted) a ton for The New Yorker, published numerous children's books (including! a book about mobile/sculptor Alexander Calder's circus! I had no idea! Love him and love her even more now!); has designed umbrellas and fabric for Isaac Mizrahi; and more recently has collaborated with Daniel Handler (of Lemony Snicket fame -- have yet to read any of those, but assume I'll really love 'em).
The book I own from her is In Pursuit of Happiness ; it's a celebration of democracy, as shown through lavish, free paintings, accompanied by cool, hand-written details on every blessed page of the satisfyingly heavy book. She explores D.C., its public institutions; interviews Ruth Bader Ginsburg and basically writes [/paints] mash-notes to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, etc. Her adoration of Matisse comes through the fluid lines, bright color palette and breezy style. The other fantastic thing about this book -- and any of her work -- is her investigation of and engagement with any given subject through appreciation of evocative, random detail. I think this is the same way my brain operates, so naturally I love it. She paints Lincoln and his favorite cake; memorial grave sites and the red, painted-on eyebrows of a guard.
[there's a crush of people by the front door. I asked my waiter if he would like me to give up my table, but he was blase about it. Perhaps the crush is annoyed, but they don't know me. Two little blond girls with ringlets are having a meltdown around the corner. Intermittent wailing, in competition with Florence & the Machine (yay!)/Alanis Morisette (ugh)/Jackson Five (hey!) Wailing has transitioned to NO!! NO!! NOooooooOOOOOOooOOOo!!]
SO anyhow, she and Daniel Handler appeared together and OMG if you EVER get the chance to witness them even in the same room, MAKE IT HAPPEN. They were their own little comedy team. His wife would probably say otherwise, but judging from his appearance last night, it's impossible for him NOT to be funny. They started their slideshow with a painting of fish and warned us it would end with a painting of onion ring stains on a table cloth [/tea towel]. Earlier in their friendship, she would send him totally random vintage photos and he would write vignettes in reply. They read some of those, which were awesome [I was going to embed a photo in this spirit, but googling vintage photo/cross dressing was a.)too distracting b.)brought up way too much c.)this borrowed internet connection is sllllooooow). They eventually read from their new illustrated young adult book about failed romance Why We Broke Up. I can't wait to pour over this! In order to establish a starting point for their project, they started tooling around all of her collections and making a list of things that held appeal for both of them to write about and paint. Then (at least Handler) was thinking about the weight that things acquire in connection with romance -- > and these objects all became signifiers of an ended romance, dumped on the front door of the dumpee. Neat!
A few minutes in, Daniel Handler paused: "Now. There IS a concern, since this is a youth book-" [and I should say here that there were clearly some college students assigned to be there by teachers, though they were quite enthusiastic] "-that young people will read this book and DO EVERYTHING THAT IS FOUND IN THIS BOOK. Because that's what people do. That's what adults do. They read Macbeth, take up witchcraft and murder the King of Scotland. This ALWAYS happens. This has NEVER NOT HAPPENED. So." This led to a warnings against drinking beer and kissing.
[And now the blond girls have miraculously recovered and are seated with their parents right by me. I really thought their restaurant time was done, as the weeping had devolved into Exorcist-sounding screaming and muttering, but now we have become more civil and happy about straws and are using our mini-Care Bear to mop the table. The older one turned her attention to me, to admonish: "It's DINNER time, it's TIME to eat dinner." I now have chocolate cake and pinot noir. "I already had dinner."* She frowned at me. "WHY do you have a computer with you?" I shrugged cartoonishly. Girl-child, you aren't the boss of me.]
*Lies. Fried pickles aren't dinner.
So, his disclaimer was pretty much indicative of the evening. They were funny and smart and random the whole way through. I want to have cocktails with them. They gave a True/False quiz at the end to help us determine whether we are romantics. Statements included:
- "I would have so much fun if I lived in the 1920s that I wouldn't care there were no antibiotics."
- "You know what's a good birthday present? A doll with real hair."**
- "Dive bars are full of beautiful dreamers."
[The younger blond one is finding it quite difficult to eat while steadfastly holding her red balloon. But she is unwilling to put it aside. She lifts strands of spaghetti individually, between thumb and forefinger, to drop each into her mouth.]
I decide I will get my book signed and maybe foist a couple of my little woodblock moo business cards on her (what with her being quirky and a HUGE fan of cake). The line is even longer than it seems and snakes *through* the empty screening room, where we seem to stand still most of the time. The young, cool couple behind me seems strangely familiar, though I know I haven't spoken with them before. A woman comes through sticking post-it notes of our first names in our books; at this point my hands are shaky and I realize oooooh, silliness, dinner have should have happened before this reading. She asks the first names of the couple and I suddenly put two and two together: they are the joint creators of A Sick Day for Amos McGee! I have an interview of them posted on the wall of my study, which I tell them and which maybe strikes them as stalker-y. Especially because I then ask them lots of questions before settling down. But, honestly, I think we were all bored and a little cranky by that point. I think the line took an hour and a half. Though it was lovely to have Maira Kalman sign my book; she looked so tired at that point, poor (fabulously talented) woman. And she has a few moo cards, whatever she may choose to do with them. If they even make her happy for a moment, that's kind of cool, hey.
So that's that. Favorite customer quotes from the week:
- "I need your print like a hole in the head. But I couldn't stop laughing, so I had to buy it." (The Geese Suspect You Are Withholding)
- Enthusiastic Etsy feedback with began," Oh, my goodness! I think you must be the spokesmodel for marauding geese. Why can't we see your little fat face in the picture you sent with the print? The goose print is the cutest darn thing I have seen in a long while and I smile everytime I look at it. I especially like the goose that is craning his neck to the side to see what's going on." (geese, natch)