“Tiny birds, the size of a thumb / Fragrant flowers and evening sky — / where’s my Dad?” were the words I was reading as I began to cry on the J train. John Porcellino’s FROM LONE MOUNTAIN is a beautiful anthology of what it’s like to lose someone, to move someplace new, to find and then lose yourself, and to discover what home is over and over again. This collection of loose comics and KING CAT volumes comes together to form a picture of John Porcellino’s journey. Whether it’s moving to a new state, losing his dad, or recalling anecdotes of his cat, Maisie, Porcellino uses FROM LONE MOUNTAIN to construct an honest space for readers to breathe inside. His simple line work and poetic writing come together to form a delicate collection of sharp angles that begin to outline what a home can look like.
FROM LONE MOUNTAIN TOP 40
From the opening comic, “Hippie Girl,” it is clear that Porcellino’s writing style is unlike many other forms one might find in a graphic novel or comic book. As a student of writing, I was immediately drawn to the unique and almost jolting nature of FROM LONE MOUNTAIN. The mixing of form, essays about moving and memories of his father, lists, and of course comic panels, gives this collection a sense of vulnerability. As Porcellino’s scene is changing, so is the reader’s. The diary style of writing offers readers a sort of intimacy with the author that is not always found in comics, even biographical ones. Lines like, “I just wasn’t cut out for the regular world. Even as the words fell from my lips, I realized it was one of the truest things I’d ever said . . .” (205), serve as an example of his candid writing that reminds readers that this is a man’s exploration of himself. “Earthtrovert” is a term that I came up with to describe a friend who seemed to gain their energy from being out in nature. It is also a term I would use to describe John Porcellino.
Parts of FROM LONE MOUNTAIN read almost as a nature journal, including drawings of plants and animals and observations in nature that Porcellino sees around him. This connection to nature and Porcellino’s astute ability to observe the world around him in detail lends a vulnerability to this work that acts as a main part of the comic’s appeal. LINES, LINES, LINES, LINES Line work is the heart and soul of FROM LONE MOUNTAIN’s art. From detailed Catalpa trees to the sketchy lines of an unexpected beard, Porcellino focuses his attention on lines. While his comics are not the most detailed, Porcellino manages to use simple outlines to capture the essence of being alive through minimalism. The art style pairs well with the writing. Through simple line work, Porcellino highlights his thoughtful and arrestingly poetic phrases and scenes.
Most of his panels are black ink on white background; however, for a few, like his panels entitled “Great Western Sky,” darker tones take over the page. This seeming anomaly brings attention to the quietness of these scenes and makes them stand out. A PLAINTIVE AND JOYFUL JOURNEY In the last year, I lost a close friend. He was, as I said of John Porcellino earlier, an “earthtrovert.” FROM LONE MOUNTAIN, reminded me, once again, what it was like to be in the presence of someone who could truly find something beautiful in the world just by observing the earth in front of them. From beginning to end, FROM LONE MOUNTAIN had me enraptured. As an aspiring poet, I admire Porcellino’s ability to produce so many quality illustrated poems that manage to avoid abstraction and add concreteness to ideas unavailable to prose. I laughed, cried, and wanted to sleep with this book under my pillow in hopes of grass-scented dreams. It is truly a down-to-earth joy to read.