Many of his obituarists have expressed a feeling of personal loss. Little wonder; Pekar’s autobiographical tales of life as a Cleveland file-clerk vividly portrayed the petty frustrations and small triumphs which punctuate our lives.
What’s extraordinary is that Pekar self-financed the annual publication of this uncommercial proposition on his government wage, supplemented by money he made through music journalism. And all this at a time when most adult Americans would have sniffed at the thought of reading a comic book.
Robert Crumb, Pekar’s long-time friend and collaborator, once wrote, “Yeah, Harvey is an ego-maniac; a classic case… A driven, compulsive, mad Jew… Watching him eat – he eats faster than anyone I’ve ever seen, shovelling it in as if somebody had a gun at his head and was threatening to kill him if he didn’t get it all down in ten seconds. It’s something to see. But how else could he have gotten all those comics published, with almost no money… only an ego-maniac would persist in the face of such odds.”
Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to be blogging a good bit about Pekar and the range and effect of his work. So keep your peepers peeled for posts on Pekar’s first-person voice, on his other life as a prolific jazz critic, on his adversarial appearances on Late Night with David Letterman, as well as a review of the movie of American Splendor.
Harvey Pekar 1939-2010