As soon as a picked up Maira Kalman’s The Principles of Uncertainty, flash backs into my childhood rushed my memory. The memories were of me being bored at my grandma’s house. Grandma Heart was my mom’s mother; she was an interesting lady that never seized to amaze me with her odd wardrobe and crazy stories. She wore brightly colored sweat pants and a winter hat in the middle of July. My grandma was one of a kind, and she embraced my weird creativity as I grew up. When I was little I was big into journal writing and clipping out random pictures to add to my diary. One day as I was sitting at my grandma’s house, I told her that I needed some pictures for my journal, so she grabbed some old magazines and we sat down to flip through for something good.
After five minutes or so we both were bored with the pictures we had, so my grandma pulled out a stack of the pictures that would go in a new picture frame. As we sat there we decided to come up with a game. The game goes like this, first you hold up one of the pictures, then each person would write down a description behind the art work (or in this case tacky pictures of mothers, fake weddings, a little girl blowing out her candles, a couple on a date, etc.). Then once everyone was done you read them out loud. It may seem utterly boring, but this game is hilarious, people come up with the most random ideas and concepts. It allowed me to see how unique my family was, how weird, and how boring.
Ever since that game night, when ever I see a random picture on a wall at a restaurant, art piece, or if someone still has yet to fill a new picture frame, I think back to how happy my family was and how entertained we were with such a simple concept. The beauty within this event has allowed me to form a memory that I would never want to remove from my past, a memory that is far beyond mundane, a memory that allows me to see what is important in life. Sometimes we have to work with the dull, boring, and ordinary to find the amazing and unexpected, aspects that life has to offer.
Kalman’s The Principles of Uncertainty demonstrates a journey just like Gilbert’s; they both try to answer the question of the meaning of life and in doing so, they tell a beautiful tale filled with humor and life. I know that connection may be out there, but I believe both Gilbert and Kalman are searching for that special something, in doing so Kalman shines a light on the mundane. She simply tells it how it is, just like Amy Sedaris, Kalman has this natural ability to place humor where we normally wouldn’t realize it was there.
Overall, I feel that this memoir came at a perfect time within our class. This book ties together all the loose ends of the correlations that can be made within the diverse forms of humor. Kalman’s simplistic approach of describing everyday thoughts and “normal” events that we look past on a daily basis, allows her readers to see that humor is everywhere. That humor helps us cope, love, and understand the answers (if there are any) to those outrageously big questions that come up as life continues.
I think Kalman’s book is one of my favorites in the semester, it allows me to see beauty in the simplistic, and I would have never thought that humor would be a tool in doing so. Kalman’s art and words provide a perfect balance of her whole concept. The pictures allow for that extra characteristic which, words cannot specifically direct you to, but the words are written so honestly and simplistic. I don’t know if it is the handwriting that makes these words seem so genuine or the idea that it seems like she took the audience into her journal and allowed us to see the raw, rough draft with no editing or computerized formatting. Again, this theme reminds me of Amy Sedaris, especially the clip we watched of her and Martha Stewart. Sedaris and Kalman both want the real raw details of reality and life to shine through; they use the routine and the ordinary to help relate to the audience.
Just like Kalman, Bryson utilizes the dull, everyday life situations. Although most people don’t realize it, sometimes life may be too routine, too structured, but the humor that lies beneath this realization is amazing. Bryson’s work demonstrates that people enjoy the humor behind situations they can relate to. For Bryson, he not only used the usual family scenarios, but he also makes fun at the American culture as a whole. By doing this Bryson allowed himself a buffer, a ‘get out of jail for free’ card allowing for a more universal target.