Perfect Example

Created by: John Porcellino

ISBN: 1896597750 (Amazon)

Pages: 144

Perfect Example

John Porcellino—or at least Porcellino in the guise of Perfect Example's John P—is not the kind of person I really understand. He suffers under a cloud of depression that curdles even relationships he values. He hopes just like I do but as life rejects those dreams (since this is what life does), he is turned toward home countries where I find no citizenship. Small things set off a miasma of the psyche and drag his mood into the dimlands, into a world cloaked in malaise. John P is not the kind of person I really understand, but for that Perfect Example offers me purview into an experience of this world that is foreign to my own.

Perfect Example by John Porcellino

Many of the details of John P’s life intersect with my own. The years are a touch off (I was a sixth/seventh grader in ‘86 while John was in the throes of high school), but in a lot of ways that’s rather incidental to the social dynamic presented. John P is a bit of skater and I would skate from place to place in the days before I was a licensed driver. John P listens to music outside the mainstream of the high school mise-en-scène and I did the same. John P’s hair doesn’t match his mother’s ideal for a teenage boy; and lest we forget, same here. I was stimulant free just like John P was. And girls were a tough nut to crack for both of us (though John P seems more successful than I was).

And yet in one striking way, John P and I are very different and that is why I found this roughly autobiographical book as powerful as I did.

Perfect Example by John PorcellinoPro-tip for the inexperienced guys: if you ever go over to a girl’s house and she asks if you want something to eat, this means within minutes you’ll be on the couch eating sloppy make-outs. This happens 100% of the time.

Pefect Example explores the day-in and -out of a young man with no apparent malfunction save for the inability to feel happiness. It seems like such a small thing, happiness. But its absence haunts him, chasing down and tarnishing even his more pleasant moments. In one moment he’ll be having sloppy makeouts with a girl that he really does like (even if there’s another girl he probably likes more) and seconds later some minor, abrupt alteration to the scene will shift his mood toward darkness and all pleasure in the experience evaporates. He wonders, fetally, at his inability to be happy.

Despite the humour with which Porcellino infuses John P’s story (and there is quite a bit of it), there are plenty of moments that are hard to take, times when your heart breaks for this hurting child, this young man with so much promise and so little confidence in the world’s ability to not destroy him. When he jumps the gun to ask out a girl who is not ready for him, I shuddered. When he wanders off from his friends to find a savage sort of solace, I worried. When he breaks down in suicidal rage and ineffectual terror, I wished for Porcellino to give him some respite. A friend who could correct his listing, point his rudder in some helpful direction, and give wind to his sails.

Perfect Example by John PorcellinoThis scene ends about as well as you expect it to.

I was invested. Porcellino had me involved enough in John P’s journey and struggle that I devoured the small bio of Porcellino in the book’s backmatter and went straight onto Wikipedia to find what information I could regarding the intervening years since Perfect Example was drawn in March 1996. And that says something there. I might not have been wowed by the book’s art, but it does work to enhance the story a bit. It’s simple and unaffected and tells the story Porcellino intends to tell—and probably does so in better fashion than many more detail-oriented styles would allow. Perfect Example is not the best book I’ve read, but it is worthwhile and I’m glad I took the time to read it and I’m glad for what it’s given me: a portrait of a man I could never be and of a guy I’d love to know.


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I am Seth T. Hahne and these are my reviews.

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