American Utopia

David Byrne and Maira Kalman. Bloomsbury, $24 (160p) ISBN 978-1-63557-668-9
In this frothy amuse-bouche of a book, snippets of Talking Heads frontman Byrne’s lyrics jump and skip across pages, illustrated with watercolor sunniness by Kalman (My Favorite Things). Readers could get all the way through without realizing it’s meant as a companion to Byrne’s Broadway residency American Utopia, and though the theatrical performance is purported to carry a narrative throughline of sorts—or at least some side chatter by Byrne between musical numbers—there is not much of an apparent organizing principle to this collaborative volume. A strain of low-key optimism runs throughout (“I’m not alone / and we’re all the same”, “everything changes / everything stops / every day is a miracle”) alongside the names of small towns (“Bullfrog, UT”), which is accentuated by Kalman’s cheery, loopy, randomized drawings. Her figures dance with the oddly giddy abandon Byrne made famous in “Stop Making Sense” (she also illustrated his children’s book, Stay Up Late). This bound-up collection of pretty marginalia is pleasant to leaf through, but more souvenir than standalone. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 08/07/2020
Release date: 10/13/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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