Sunday, June 11, 2006

BOOK: Pedro and Me by Judd Winick

Pedro and Me: Friendship, Loss and What I Learned
by Judd Winick
Henry Holt and Company, 2000

I never imagined that I would ever review a non-critical work with MTV anywhere on the cover, much less something six years old and both widely reviewed and officially recognized. But, after a vague and passing reference in some essay, I put the graphic novel of Pedro and Me by Judd Winick on my library reserve list. After it arrived, I was surprised twice: first, to find “of MTV’s The Real World” and a still from the show on the cover, then again when I finally read it.

Pedro and Me is the story of the friendship between Winick, a cartoonist, and Pedro Zamora, an HIV-positive AIDS educator, during filming of The Real World: San Francisco. I haven’t been any kind of regular MTV since my teen crush Martha Quinn left, and have passing impressions at best about the show. None of the impressions are particularly positive.

Yet this novel moved me, nearly to tears (and would have succeeded were I reading it alone in a room, I’m sure). People I cared absolutely nothing about when they were on television drew me entirely into their world when rendered in pen and ink, and in the end I felt enriched for the experience.

I’m a cynical bastard, so these are epic feats.

Pedro and Me succeeds because it tells a story of friendship and loss without any affectation; never does it seem to be trying to do or be anything more than it is. There isn’t an ounce of pretention. Winick’s simple drawing style is matched with a keen sense of visual narrative; sequences and images carry incredible weight without ever being caught trying. In every way (with the exception of one character that looked too much like Bill Cosby for comfort), the art enriches the story being told, never grandstanding the simple honesty of Winick’s story.

Neither does Winick ever upstage the real focus of the work, which is his love and respect for Zamora, whose friendship and eventual loss to complications from AIDS changed the course of Winick’s life. As the narrative voice, it would have been easy, yet Winick brings the same simplicity of style to his prose as he displays in his artwork.

The most surprising effect of this novel for me was the way it humanizes the people of reality television. I find it easy to dismiss participants in reality programming based solely on my extreme distaste for the genre, and yet here is Minick making me care about him, the wife he met on the show, and his friend Pedro.

I had never cared about anyone that participated in a reality show, much less one on MTV, and that Pedro and Me had the power to do so is enough for me to recommend the experience to anyone, maybe especially if you hate reality MTV as much I do.

Reviewed by Jim Jewell, 474 words



Blogger MuzikMakers said...

I felt the exact same way about this book. I picked it up, thinking it might be good, and was shocked at how moving the story really was. At the time, I was an MTV viewer, and this biography really did justive to the person Pedro was.

Nice blog, by the way. Glad I stopped by.

11:02 AM  

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