ARTBLOG reviews Perfect Example by John Porcellino

“Perfect Example” / ARTBLOG / Franklin Einspruch / July 27, 2006

I'm about five weeks older than John Porcellino. Thus I can vouch for the veracity of his memoir of life after high school, stories that appeared in King-Cat collected into a volume entitled Perfect Example and published by Drawn & Quarterly. He captures details of the time that might qualify as emblematic: listening to Camper Van Beethoven and R.E.M. (the title is a Hüsker Dü lyric), flannel shirts tied around waists, skateboarding, girlfriends with spiky hair and Cure shirts. He also carefully renders the psychological miasma of adolescence, the kind that prompts one to lie face down into a pillow and wonder what it all means. I can vouch for the veracity of that too, because I experienced it well into my mid 20s. Teenage angst is so pathetic in its shallowness and banality that I can see real danger in trying to turn it into viable storytelling, but Porcellino makes it work beautifully. His lightness of style saves it from becoming melodramatic, and he works it into a larger framework that includes bewilderment about girls, friends suddenly acting differently, listening to music, arguing about which band is better, sitting around at night talking and drinking booze bought with a fake ID, pulling away from parents, and wondering about college.

Porcellino illustrates the everyday with such tenderness that it becomes important in spite of itself. Henry Miller once said, "The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself." Nothing about Porcellino's subject or style is extraordinary, but close attention and pure strength of heart make both ring with palpable truth.

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