May 17, 2009

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Tiny Bubbles

Written by James Kochalka
Illustrated by James Kochalka
Highwater Books

It's been awhile since I read any Kochalka, so I grabbed this from the library. It's one of his "Magic Boy" books, basically featuring himself and his wife Amy in an extended slice of life adventure (think of an event in the daily diary extended out to book-length) with some fantastical elements that allow Kochalka to drift into whimsy.

The "day" starts with Kochalka being obsessed with not getting his hands endangered by doing the dishes (a fairly logical problem for a cartoonist, I think), continues as he gets wind burn and thinks he can cure his body by mind powers and ends with an encounter with a artistic robot, whom Kochalka then uses as a foil to explain why people make art.

Each of those sections dovetail into each other in a way that I thought was quite smooth. Where another writer may have separated the stories alltogether, Kochalka merges them as his artistic avatar goes about his life, making sure he brushes his teeth (noting blood because he skipped a day, in a typical "this is what life is about" moment), angsting because one of his favorite artistic tools may not longer be available, and having little races with his wife across city blocks. It's those linking passages that make Kochalka who he is and separates him a bit from the other artists in his "genre"--since him him art is everything, everything can become art.

I mentioned the aspects of fantasy in this work, and they show up mostly towards the end. James and Amy share a cigarette at the party, and it must be some cigarette, as they end up soaring over the heavens. Everything and anything is possible until they argue--bringing real life back and send them crashing to the ground. It's a wonderful metaphore.

The other fantasy element is that of the painting robot, who even needs to use the bathroom, so "human" is he. Designed by a friend at the party, the robot paints without noticing anyone around him. He doesn't seem to understand life, despite being somewhat self-aware, and it's up to Kochalka to teach him, whether he wants to or not. Not everyone is ready for Magic Boy's take on life, however. I'm sure, re-reading the passages, that there is at least a bit of metaphore going on in this section as well--Kochalka's opinions on life and art are certainly not shared by everyone and I have a feeling that this may be a commentary on his feelings about how some approach the craft.

Or it was just cool to draw a painting robot. Sometimes, it doesn't pay to think too much.

Regardless, this is a fun, quick read wit typical Kochalka wit, whimsy, and window into his everyday life. If you like Kochalka's daily diaries, this is definitely worth seeking out.