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Tuesday January 6, 2009 9:49 am

American Elf Volume 3

American Elf

I loves me some James Kochalka. His daily strips over at the American Elf site are alternately odd, funny, poignant, life-altering, and/or just plain fun. And while it’s rewarding to check in on a daily or weekly basis, it’s not until I get the books in my hand that the full picture is revealed; there’s much more continuity and grace in reading multiple strips in order that weaves itself like an actual story.

Kochalka uses a four-panel box to document his daily activities (and sometimes lack thereof). After over ten years of strips, he’s perfected both his style and the seemingly straightforward but not-so-simple format to distill moments in his life into completely relatable and universal truths.  Volume 3 of his collected strips was released just prior to the holidays, and maybe it’s the all-color nature or the fact that it delves into Kochalka’s life as a father and his wife’s next pregnancy in a way that makes me think about my 1-year-old son, but I think it’s probably my favorite of the books so far.

Kochalka’s been documenting his life in this way since October of 1988, and what may seem random when read separately day by day, once collected into book form, an intimate portrayal of his life emerges, with storylines that build and flow like a good novel. While I’m sure it’s not his “life” in that way that any type of documentary is not fully revealing, after following his printed adventures through the years, I feel like I’ve got a pretty good idea of what the James Kochalka would be like if I were to meet him on the street one day. At the very least, I’d know to ask him how he’s doing with his band or what made him mad that day…

Read More | American Elf



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