cover image Swami on Rye: 2max in India

Swami on Rye: 2max in India

Maira Kalman. Viking Children's Books, $16 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-670-85646-6

``Holy Madras!'' Max the dog, offbeat poet and hirsute hero of such adventures as Max in Hollywood, Baby is back, the locus of perhaps Kalman's most ambitious themes to date. This time Max is a slightly flustered, first-time father-to-be, destined to meet metaphysics head-on in the irreverent form of Vivek Shabaza-zaza-za, self-described suave swami. Before Max can ``spell Mississippi,'' he is swept off to India on a surreal trip worthy of Siddhartha, in search of an answer to that eternally pesky question, ``What (after all) is the meaning (anyway) of life?'' Vivid paintings affectionately (and quirkily) capture exotic delights: golden temples, a two-headed demi-god (in a tetchy mood about his breakfast), rickety rickshaws; in a subtle shift in tone, a double-page spread of women dancing outdoors shimmers with an almost sublime beauty. It's a dreamlike odyssey, but mind-bending is evidently Kalman's metier. The unexplainable--a rock that turns into a panther that turns into, among other things, a pair of plaid pants--never feels pointless; this is a magic carpet ride, by definition unpredictable. The witty, free-association writing style is enhanced to maximum effect by the varied, cleverly employed typography. A perfect union of place and palette, of dharma, (dog)ma and unsurpassed cosmological kookiness. All ages. (Oct.)