Oh look, a trendsetter! Which might not be a good thing, because nobody since has done the “nothing to see here” story better than Harvey Pekar. He’s probably most famous for his run-ins with David Letterman, basically taking the show over from the guy on a few occasions. The stories in this large volume mostly aren’t stories at all, at least not in the conventional sense. Just daily, mundane happenings. That doesn’t mean that this book is bad, because it’s a great read. That’s mostly through the skill of Pekar (he has a whole crew of artists who illustrate different parts of the book), who makes you care about little things like him finding a long out of print jazz record, or the walk to work in the morning. Simple, honest stories, this is autobiography at its finest.
Sure, I’m only about three years late in getting this, but I’ve been wondering since the movie how the whole thing worked out for Harvey and his family, and this certainly fills you in on all that. Everybody here already saw the American Splendor movie I hope, as it’s one of the best comics adaptions ever made, if not the best. This book tells the story of before, during and after the hoopla for the movie, dealing with Harvey’s trademark pessimism and his trying to parlay the fleeting fame from the movie into some longer term deals for work, as Harvey has come to realize that his pension isn’t going to cut it for the rest of his life. Also in here are many stories about jazz and blues legends (some famous, some not so much), and piles of stories about the daily goings-on that make these comics such wonderful, wonderful things. The only small bone to pick I have with this, and I do it with the full knowledge that I have no business criticizing one of the true greats of the art form, is that a lot of these little shortie stories about parts of the movie process repeat themselves. Maybe I’m just too used to reading graphic novels that run smoothly from point A to B, but Harvey has to know at this point that graphic novels are where things have been heading for years now, and that at some point all these will show up in the same volume. As for the rest of the book, I was happy it wasn’t in any kind of order because it’s the slice of life stuff he does so well. I was hoping for a bit more of a linear story when it came to the history of that movie is all. Well worth a look (as always) and I’ll bet it makes a great holiday gift… $16.95