Saturday, May 05, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #125: The Hospital Suite by John Porcellino

Any health crisis is transformative. I know that myself, from what turned out to be a mild case of heart failure [1] back in 2002. Multiple overlapping health crises have to be much worse: they could batter your sense of self entirely.

John Porcellino lived through multiple mysterious illnesses while still in his late twenties and early thirties. Not only did he live to tell about it, he came through it and made art about it. This art: The Hospital Suite, a collection of his health-related comics published in 2014.

There are three long stories here: the title piece, about an escalating series of health concerns in 1997 that led to emergency surgery to remove a tumor; "1998," in which Porcellino recovers from that particular crisis, and somewhat from his underlying autoimmune issues, but his anxiety flares up and causes problems in his personal life; and then "True Anxiety," where he finally finds a good solution for both the anxiety/OCD and his body's chemical imbalance. From the dates on the art, it looks like he started (and maybe published some of) "The Hospital Suite" as early as 1997, when it happened, but didn't finish it and the other two stories until 2014.

And what was his transformation?

Porcellino was already a minimalist and a student of Zen Buddhism -- I think he had to have something like that, with all of his health problems, mental and physical. If you don't have a way to bend under pressure, you'll just break -- and that was a lot of pressure. But his health crisis was transformation: finding a way to break free from his crippling OCD, to realize "I wasn't crazy anymore." (As he puts it, near the end of "True Anxiety.") It took the right medication after a long time of searching to get there, but he did get there.

And he made these stories -- small, focused, precise, like all of Porcellino's work -- to show how he did it. It has more of a focus than Porcellino's work that I've seen in the past, and it might find a larger audience because of that -- there are always sick people, and just-recovered people, and their friends and family, who want to know that it can get better, that there's a way through and out the other end of whatever they're stuck in at that moment. I hope so: Porcellino makes the kind of comics that should be seen more widely.

(I've previously looked at Procellino's comics with Map of My Heart, back in 2010.)

[1] That seems like a really weird phrase, I know. But of all the things that could have been wrong with me, it was a fairly simple one, and I got better.

No comments:

Post a Comment