Review: The Principles of Uncertainty

Maira Kalman's The Principles of Uncertainty is worth owning

Maira Kalman’s vision of the world is by turns, quirky, wonderful, intriguing and absurd. Her 2007 book, The Principles of Uncertainty is her diary of one year in her life. It covers the absurdity of life– p. 122 reads, “Which leads me to my candy collection. The JEWEL of the collection is the CRATCH bar, purchased in Cuba. It sounds like a disease more than a candy trat, and I like to imagine the naming session.”

There are several pages of her collections–egg slicers, suitcases, sponges. She draws them all. The book is really an art journal-each page a full color illustration of some aspect of the day. Some of the pages relate to each other, others do not. Kalman is interested in whether or not people know who they are, an always interesting question.

I wanted to respect her copyright, so I went to Google images to see if one or another of the pages of the book were there. They were almost all there. If you go to Google Images and type in her name, you will find dozens of Kalman’s illustrations. The book is both an inspiration and a journal prompt all it’s own. It’s an autobiography and a diary. Kalman may be the best emotional multi-tasker I know.

What I love most about the book is that she was not afraid to write and illustrate an odd, fascinating, philosophical, funny book that doesn’t fit into a common genre, and, I imagine, defended it to an editor or agent. Still, quirky and odd, the book is 5,293 on the list. Compared say, to Kitty Kelly’s book on Oprah, which is 8,409. Or Stephen King’s The Shining, which is ranked at 7,196.

Why, that gives hope to all of us art journalers.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and art journaler.