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Perfect Example Paperback – March, 1999
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From Publishers Weekly
Porcellino, the longtime and, one imagines, long-suffering publisher of the zine King-Cat Comics and Stories, has come out with an autobiography covering his final days of high school and the following summer in Hoffman Estates, a Chicago suburb. Porcellino has a deliberately simple style of drawing. His childish images are emotional almost without effort. It's 1986, and Porcellino is a severely depressed teen who doesn't know what to do with his life. He hangs out with friends, chases two girls, goes out to the lake and finally falls into suicidal thoughts: the world feels bland and dead. The story suffers when Porcellino abandons the sweet, meandering plot to discuss his state of mind. These interior episodes feel tacked on: "I was a little boy. Now I'm grown. People—places... things come and go. But they're no more real than shadows on a wall." With the work of Dan Clowes, Harvey Pekar and French artist David B., the graphic novel is proving to be an excellent venue for describing the 20th-century everyman. Porcellino's work is a minor, flawed but still worthy example of this rising genre. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
This quiet and ferocious novel qua memoir in comics format focuses on the period between graduating from high school and entering college. The spare, simple drawings illuminate and enlighten the text, which aptly depicts youthful depression and aimlessness. Writer/artist Porcellino articulates the difficulties of feeling good about belonging to a peer group while not feeling good about oneself. Of all the graphic novels in the last few years, Perfect Example may be the most individual. It is not a story for everyone and may be better placed where books about teenage issues circulate than in any general collections, but it will find an audience. For larger public libraries, undergraduate collections, and universities where adolescent studies flourish. Stephen Weiner, Maynard P.L., MA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
I'm going to open this with a comment that's going to strike a lot of people as odd: I'm getting kind of sick of the graphic-novel-as-memoir thing.
I don't expect people will find it odd that I am (I rather suspect a lot of people are), but that I use it to open this particular review, as Porcellino's book predates just about every graphic-novel-as-memoir I've reviewed in the past two years. I only stumbled across it in 2005 because (a) a much larger distro company picked it up, and (b) Porcellino has been getting a lot of press for his second book, Diary of a Mosquito Abatement Man. When I saw the title on this one, I asked myself if it could possibly be related to the Husker Du song of the same name, and immediately placed it on hold. When I get it, I open it up, and there's a Bob Mould lyric staring me in the face. I was as close to genetically predisposed to liking this book as I could possibly be; Porcellino is roughly the same age as I am (a few months younger, if memory serves), and we grew up listening to the same music, suffering the same growing pains at the same time, all that sort of thing. I mean, in the world of memoirs, this is something I should really have identified with. And I rush to add that I don't blame John Porcellino for my not really connecting with it (nor my own upbringing).
Drawn and Quarterly picked this up and reprinted it in October of 2005-- well after many of the big names in graphic-novel-memoir had published (Satrapi, David B., Clowes, Pekar, Thompson, etc. were all quite well established) and right on the heels of the best of the bunch to be published to date (Charles Burns' superlative Black Hole). Instead of being in the vanguard of the movement, it feels as if Porcellino is a very small fish in a very big pond. It's not his fault. His drawings are almost shocking at first, given their (for lack of a better term) naivete, but once you get used to it, his characters (who often echo Charles Schulz, and if you're going to copy a master, you might as well copy the master) come off the page quite nicely; in fact, they have as much of an emotional resonance, at times, as those in any of the other, bigger-name memoirs. Where Porcellino stumbles is that he fails to sustain the emotional pitch; the showing is too often broken up by stretches of telling.
It's a good book, just not a great one. I'm still looking forward to Diary of a Mosquito Abatement Man. ***
Plus, I can't speak highly enough of Highwater Books' presentation of the material, originally printed in black and white in John P.'s excellent King-Cat Comics and Stories zine. It's gorgeously put-together with fine paper and multi-colored inks (as with Highwater's also excellent presentation of Brian Ralph's Cave-In). Highwater makes gorgeous books and this is certainly one of their best.
One of my favorite comics, I can't speak highly enough of it.