The North Adams Transcript is "jarred" by MAP OF MY HEART

“Two memoirs of creative living” / North Adams Transcript / John E. Mitchell / April 6, 2010

Two new-release autobiographical graphic novels do a remarkable job not only at capturing the smaller details of each author’s life, but their artistic movements as well.

There is something jarring about the intimacy of John Porcellino’s "Map of My Heart," from Canadian publisher Drawn and Quarterly. It’s not any big revelations that give it that quality -- rather the earnestness about his life’s smallest moments, as well as those observed regarding others.
Porcellino offers slices that usually have no punchline -- nor denouement of any kind -- and in their open-endedness perfectly capture what each moment of life is like for any of us. At no point does any person know what comes next, and Porcellino’s narrative captures this reality, creating little isolated sections of our larger, conscious movements that put an artistic microscope on the specific emotions of that specific moment.

Porcellino’s tales are realized not only through his spare journaling, but also brief zen-like fables and moments of spare poetry. Setting the tone for his work, though, is his simplistic cartooning -- to describe him as unskilled is not an insult, merely a hint at the outsider quality to his work that makes it more vibrant. Any strip in "Map of My Heart" is the sort of thing you might find rendered on a stray piece of paper you find in the street, or in a box of someone else’s recycling that you decided to rifle through in the hope of find old New Yorker issues. It’s this quality to the artwork that gives the book a feeling that we are not meant to see this work, that these are entries between Porcellino and himself -- and that only strengthens the allure.

Porcellino began self-publishing his King-Cat Comics in 1989, the beginning of the ‘90s zine boom, and this collection captures well the spirit of that do-it-yourself era that predated blogs. In this manner, it’s not only the autobiography of some guy, but also a chronicle of a medium and movement that passed as quickly as it came.

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