Our Movie Year Harvey Pekar American Splendor TP Titan David Letterman R Crumb


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American Splendor Our Movie Year Paperback
by Harvey Pekar (Author)

From off the streets of Cleveland, the amazing and occasionally regrettable true-life adventures of Harvey Pekar, cineaste.

Harvey Pekar is from Cleveland. This much you know. But with the release of American Splendor, the indie hit film based on his comic of the same name, the world discovered Harvey in earnest. Once Harvey was content merely to flirt with fame. But when fame wanted a commitment, he found himself a household name. Sort of. And, to tell you the truth, it’s starting to bug the hell out of him.

An original, incisive graphic novel featuring the talents of R. Crumb, Gary Dumm, Mark Zingarelli, and other artists, Our Movie Year chronicles a whirlwind twelve months in the life of Harvey Pekar. It recounts his rise from the filing room at the Cleveland VA hospital to the red carpet at Cannes, Sundance, the Oscars, and beyond–where Harvey won awards, accolades, and the promise of a bigger paycheck. A lot of funny things can happen in a year, and many of them happened to Harvey. And now everyone gets to read about them in Our Movie Year.

Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books

Fans of Pekar’s slice-of-life series American Splendor might be worried when they pick up this latest installment. Pekar is known for his everyman persona and his man-of-the-people storytelling style. But can he keep those qualities in the face of an award-winning movie based on his autobiographical comic book series? Happily, the answer is “you bet.” Pekar’s narrative style, as always, is straightforward. Mostly, he talks to the “camera.” Occasionally, he lets readers into his head through halting, uncertain thought balloons (which nicely reproduce actual thoughts). Some of Pekar’s stories are simple reportage, such as an account of his various David Letterman appearances. Others–like his description of locking himself out of his car at the movies–are great character studies. Throughout the stories in this collection, Pekar retains his trademark character: humble, down-to-earth, yet prickly at times. The art, by a crew of well-known independent cartoonists, varies in style–photo-reference realism, 1960s-style underground, computer graphics–but not in quality. All of it gets Pekar right. And some–like Mark Zingarelli’s and R. Crumb’s–is near perfect. Pekar fans will enjoy this strong collection, and be happy to see Pekar’s adventures continuing in Hollywood and beyond.

Harvey Pekar is famous for chronicling the everyday, and for helping the rest of us take notice of the fact that the ordinary things of life are really quite wondrous. Even in Our Cancer Year, co-written with his wife Joyce Brabner, Pekar focuses on an event that was harrowing for him personally but (alas!) increasingly ordinary from a statistical perspective: the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. But in Our Movie Year, Pekar seems to break stride by focusing on an event that’s truly extraordinary: the release of an award-winning film about his life and work.

Here’s another extraordinary thing: Pekar writes about this event in the way that his fans have come to know and love. He’s obviously pleased that his work has achieved recognition and approval from a wider than usual audience. But what makes the story interesting is that Pekar’s pleasure is constantly shadowed by his usual cloud of neuroses: anxiety over whether the film will bring future writing gigs or a nosedive into obscurity once the box office hoopla ends; money worries; travel anxieties; and up-and-down moods in response to events. The story is a really intriguing psychological portrait of mixed emotions.

As one would expect, the book describes in some detail the high-energy events surrounding the film: scrounging up producers and backers; debuts in Cleveland and NYC (the latter threatened by a blackout); the excitement of the Sundance and Cannes festivals; and film-connected travel to England, Ireland, Australia, and Japan. But wonderfully sandwiched in between these story lines are more typical Pekar stories involving misplaced keys, flat tires in winter, and dealing with bureaucrats. The message seems to be that even when extraordinary events occur, everyday life, with its hassles and small victories, continues.

There’s a curious redundancy in the book. The lead story, the multi-part “The American Splendor Movie,” illustrated by Mark Zingarelli, is duplicated later on in “My Movie Year,” illustrated by Gary Dumm. The latter is less good than the former, and could easily have been omitted. Toward the end of the book, Pekar offers film and book reviews as well as a few Crumb-like biographies of musicians. And speaking of Crumb: there’s a wonderful Crumb-illustrated piece, “Reunion” (p. 55), in which Pekar, using his old pal Crumb as a straight man, pokes fun at his own compulsiveness. It’s really brilliant.

I don’t think that Our Movie Year would be a good introduction to Pekar to anyone unfamiliar with his work. But it surely is yet another example of the man’s genius. Highly recommended.

Near mint, 1st print.