... impressionistic, sweetly illustrated ... Not having seen the musical, I can only guess — but I can testify, with great pleasure, that the book stands on its own as a soothing and uplifting, if somewhat nebulous, experience of art, as well as an argument for the reincarnation of hope in the American project ... The resulting effect is much more like reading a book-length poem than reading a play, though few poems or poetry collections come filled with charming illustrations of trees, dancers, and party-hatted dogs ... Kalman's pre-existing tendency toward endearing nostalgia suffuses the book, rendering it both sadder and sweeter than the text alone could ... The drawings are lightly at odds with Byrne's words, transforming their plain optimism into a more nuanced appeal ... fundamentally, appealing in both senses of the word. Byrne and Kalman may not offer a narrative arc, but they have an argument of sorts to make ... will probably not persuade entrenched partisans to peek out from the hole of their views. But to readers already inclined toward connection, and for those aspiring to 'live for different ideals,' it can be a source of both aesthetic pleasure — those illustrations! — and some solace. In a world full of books purporting to explain how we arrived at this fractured, chaotic American moment, there is peace in opening one that attempts neither diagnosis nor prescription. More importantly, though, American Utopia provides a certain companionship in hope
You’re buying a lot of white space ... the book’s structure reduces the good news to isolated platitudes ... it stopped making sense ... the book is whimsical. If it’s on a friend’s coffee table, you’ll have an amusing two minutes with it. But they’re asking $24 for the hardcover. The money might be better spent on Byrne’s How Music Works, which offers plenty of insights ... my guess is that only Byrne completists need to buy the book.
This selection of Byrne’s lyrics accompanied by Kalman’s illustrations captures the spirit of the show. As readers page through the book and savor the words, the pictures fairly leap off the page ... Whether or not readers are fans of Byrne, they’ll enjoy this colorful and playful presentation.