July 12, 2010

Harvey Pekar, dead at age 70.

Did you like Harvey Pekar? I didn't.

51 comments:

David said...

"I didn't."

Well, why not, Socrates. Please explain.

Ross said...

Oddly, I believe "did you like Harvey Pekar. I didn't" is what they are engraving on his tombstone.

Ann Althouse said...

Stop with the bullshit, David. I don't have time for that.

Paddy O said...

Do you not like Harvey Pekar because Paul Giamatti played him in American Splendor? Or do you not like Paul Giamatti because he played Harvey Pekar in American Splendor.

Or do you not like Harvey Pekar and Paul Giammatti each for their own reasons, thus making American Splendor a particularly distasteful film for you?

I don't recall you saying you don't like particular people very often, and these are two men you've said you don't like.

Sixty Grit said...

Bart Giammati was the last good commissioner of baseball. Don't know about his children or their roles.

And remember, this is an efficient blogging place - not a place to waste time bullshitting.

SMGalbraith said...

Not like Harvey? And he was such a likeable fellow.

The very talented talk show host Dennis Prager says we have a moral obligation to be happy or to at least act happy (The pursuit of happiness).

This would make Harvey sad.

Old Dad said...

I enjoyed the American Splendor flick.

Hazy Dave said...

I liked him. Glad I didn't have to live with him, or anything, but an interesting character and storyteller on TV and comics.

And I just read the Pekar Project stuff last week. I don't know if I relate to him exactly, but I feel like I can understand him...

Big Mike said...

First LeBron and now Harvey Pekar. Someday Cleveland residents will look back and realize that the Drew Carey show was their city's absolute apex.

traditionalguy said...

Pekar was 180 degrees away from being an idealist. He needed a touch of hope and faith to make life worth living, but it seems that he was proud of not having any.

FloridaSteve said...

I'll never understand how people will struggle so mightily to find "genius" or "heroism" in someone who is such a god awful bore. I found him about as interesting as the old Mary Hartman TV show which was not at all.

Maybe I'm just too joyful a person at heart. :q

SMGalbraith said...

Someone who is miserable and goes around trying to make everyone else miserable is a very selfish person.

Remember as kid when you didn't get your way? You'd pout and moan and be miserable. Because the world, you thought, revolved around you.

Then you grew up.

The public Harvey never grew up. Perhaps with friends and family he was different.

Pogo said...

I enjoyed reading American Splendor as a teenager.

No, I was fascinated by it. It was not enjoyable.

Two decades later I tried reading a newer volume, but it just made me sad and mad and hopeless and horrible. Ugh. he seemed to be describing hell.

Sheepman said...

Can't say that I like Pekar as a person but I liked reading the first American Splendor volumes when they came out. Using Crumb and different drawers for the stories worked well.

t-man/wurly/henry buck said...

I have no idea who this Pekar was. I recall a few posts about another famous cartoonist, a Mr. Crumb, who Althouse never disparaged. I would suspect is has something to do with Crumb's ability to turn bad experiences, into art that is fun a playful.

wv: hemantag - a cartoon master of the universe

Brother Bastardfish said...

"Stop with the bullshit, David. I don't have time for that."

Hahahaha.... er, um, what? Now I am confused.

Gene said...

"Well, why not, Socrates. Please explain."

Stop with the bullshit, David. I don't have time for that.


Good for you, Ann. I never understood why some people were so fascinated with Pekar either.

William said...

He led a diminished life of quiet desperation. He achieved a modicum of fame and glamour as a result of his wan acceptance of a life devoid of such consolations. His success never subverted his negative charisma. Althouse flipping him the bird as he's laid under God's green earth shows just how right he was in his assessment of the world and its rewards.

Tidy Righty said...

I am glad Ann does not like this twerp. I think we disliked him for similar reasons. I watched him on Letterman and I just did not get his sense of humor.

David said...

Ann Althouse said...
"Stop with the bullshit, David. I don't have time for that."

I was joking. Something to do with the Socratic post. Don't think you were though.

Sorry to offend. Bad joke, eh?

I had never heard of Harvey Pekar.

Christy said...

I tried briefly to like him. I'm shallow. He diminished me.

t-man/wurly/henry buck said...

OT -

Prof. Althouse,

Are you resigned to commenters who refer to you as A--? Many years ago you stated a preference to not be called by your first name.

TMink said...

I agree with Pogo and Ann. I tried to read American Splendor, but I kept asking myself "so why are you reading this?"

I never came up with a good answer, so I dropped it. At 50, I am toying with never seeing another bad movie or reading another bad book. Too little time.

Trey

salvage said...

>Stop with the bullshit, David. I don't have time for that.

Yes, she is very busy, that wine box ain't gonna drain itself.

nathan said...

That's all for Entertainment News. We now go to Ann again for the Sports:

"Spain won the World Cup. Do you like soccer? I don't."

Michael Haz said...

I enjoyed American Splendor, the book and the movie. Both were, for me, a look inside the life of an artist. Disturbing, yes, but so was Crumb, and as I recall, that was a movie Althouse and others enjoyed.

Pekar's jazz columns were without equal. He was a highly knowledgeable jazz critic and writer.

Tony Bourdain was asked in an interview which episode of No Reservations he thought was the best. His quick answer was the Cleveland episode, the one with lunch in a cafeteria with Harvey Pekar, and a meal at Michael Ruhlman's restaurant before Ruhlman became an Iron Chef.

I hope R. Crumb delivers Pekar's eulogy.

Scapa14 said...

What little I knew of Harvey Pekar, I didn't like. On the other hand, what I know of Paul Giamatti, I like even if he knew and liked Harvey Pekar.

Ann Althouse said...

"as I recall, that was a movie Althouse and others enjoyed"

No. I put it on my worst of the decade list (which was limited to movies that got good reviews and got me to go see them).

I read the book "American Splendor" because someone gave it to me and urged me to read it and because I love Crumb's drawings. I loved Crumb's drawings, but not the text.

BTW, I hope you realize that my comment above -- "Stop with the bullshit, David. I don't have time for that." -- is an affectation of a Pekar response. Watch the Letterman clip at the link in the post if you don't get it. As for my statement that I didn't like him, that's essentially a tribute. He didn't want to be liked. He specialized in acting unlikeable.

David said...

No I did not realize (since I knew nothing about the guy)--thought I had offended and was quite mortified. Thanks for the explanation.

Man, this post was way out of my league.

TRO said...

I remember your post about them, Ann. You preferred Crumb over Pekar and I the opposite. I can't recall why, but I was right and you were wrong. :)

The Crack Emcee said...

I liked him. Average guy makes good. Changed the face of comics forever.

And this idea he didn't want to be liked - it's bullshit. He didn't care to be liked by everybody, which is a sign of intelligence, considering the general state of the offspring from this despicable culture. (It should be acknowledged that he saw through David Letterman - and stood up to him on his own show - long before Letterman was forced to expose himself as a user of others in that same venue.)

Harvey Pekar - using only a pencil - made a bigger, and more positive contribution to this culture, from the bowels of a file clerk's office, than everyone on this blog (myself included) which, for a true curmudgeon, is quite the accomplishment.

Fuck you, if you can't take a joke:

Harvey Pekar mattered.

Drinker X said...

Fair enough. Harvey didn't much like drunks.

Ann Althouse said...

@David. Sorry to disturb you. Thanks for not leaving for good! We love you.

Ann Althouse said...

@Crack It was Crumb who made the material seem interesting. Strip away the Crumb and what would it have been?

Wilson said...

If it were not for Harvey Pekar writing about the mundane life of an average American, R. Crumb's works of equal genius would not have mattered, in the slightest. Both were required to produce something original, perhaps ugly or profane, nevertheless a work of art that will last lifetimes. We should all be so lucky to have the talent, the audacity and perseverance that Harvey Pekar displayed in his life.

Daniel Fielding said...

Pekar tried to make a fetish of his misery and his miserable life. Much of his misery was self-inflicted, and I found it to be repulsive. He tried to convince people tha t somehow his miserable live was noble.
While i liked him as a jazz writer and critic, i think his American Splendor stuff was just plain over-rated.

I am not surprised that Crack loved Pekar.

Michael Haz said...

Strip away the Crumb and what would it have been?

Strip away the Wallace Shawn and what would My Dinner With Andre have been?

Both have to be taken as a whole, the way they were created.

Ann Althouse said...

"Both have to be taken as a whole, the way they were created."

But Pekar wrote his stories first and then Crumb illustrated them, so that's the way they were created. I judge them that way. Crumb illustrated the Book of Genesis too.

The Crack Emcee said...

"Strip away the Crumb and what would it have been?"

Wait - first, strip away the Crumb? You're already going to rewrite the man's story? To ask "what would it have been?" is to miss the point: Crumb rightly saw his friend's life, a classic man against society tale, as authentic and valuable (along with a whole lot of other good illustrators) and a potent comic book genre was created, by the two of them, based on that idea: Pekar's insistence that real life - even his life - is as interesting, or even more interesting, than the stylishly manufactured brain-dead B.S. that passes for "entertainment".

Frank Zappa said, when the game's man vs. society, bet on society. Well, Harvey Pekar proved him wrong.

He was the nobody who beat superhero comics. He was the nobody who beat David Letterman. He was the nobody who beat Hollywood. He was the nobody who even beat cancer.

Harvey Pekar was nobody, and as a reminder of how we can take an ordinary man for granted, pretty remarkable for that.

The Crack Emcee said...

Daniel Fielding,

"I am not surprised that Crack loved Pekar."

Yea, and I got a thing for some of Bukowski's poetry, too:

Did you know some people will pay you to vomit into a piano?

Methadras said...

The Crack Emcee said...

Did you know some people will pay you to vomit into a piano?


They are Japs. Am i rite?

Methadras said...

As a fan of comic books, I know of and have read American Splendor. Didn't get it. Didn't like it. Didn't care after 3 issues. Spider-man held more fascination for me only because I related better to Peter Parker than I did Harvey Pekar.

Ann Althouse said...

How about the stories that were illustrated by someone other than Crumb?

Daniel Fielding said...

Crack- jus' cuz some folks pay people to vomit on pianos,and GG Allin used to defecate on stage doesnt make me appreciate Pekar's work any better.
He was a whiny guy, and all he did was bitch how life done treated him wrong.
But realise this Crack - that since this is "art" that we are talking about, one man's gourmet food is another man's poison.

blake said...

Enjoyed the movie a lot.

No interest in the comic books. Crumb's style is both compelling and repulsive to me. Looking at Crumb is a little like watching "Glen or Glenda?": The creator's neuroses permeate every stroke of the pen.

Also, while the movie won me over, and gave me a kind of respect for his take-no-prisoners stop-being-such-an-idiot style, it didn't really make want to take a dive in Lake Pekar.

Crack mentions Bukowski, of whom I also immediately think of. Bukowski was similarly effed up, probably worse so, and yet at his best he seemed to transecnd that.

Robert Cook said...

"And remember, this is an efficient blogging place - not a place to waste time bullshitting."

Do you read the comments here? Too late!

As for Pekar, I liked his work, with reservations at times. We need more chroniclers of the quotidian, rather than heralds of the masters of the universe. Most of us and our lives never rise above the quotidian.

Michael Haz said...

But Pekar wrote his stories first and then Crumb illustrated them, so that's the way they were created. I judge them that way. Crumb illustrated the Book of Genesis too.

You mean like Steven Spielberg illustrating Melissa Mathison's script for E.T? Both works, American Splendor (book and movie) and E.T. had script and illustration.

Take away Mathison's script for E.T. and what's left? Nothing, no matter how clever the illustrator. Same with Pekar and American Splendor.

Ann Althouse said...

"Same with Pekar and American Splendor."

Crumb writes his own books too, and they're better, in my view. And Pekar didn't write to supply Crumb with material to draw. Crumb had that, and Pekar couldn't draw. Crumb made Pekar interesting. Without Crumb, we wouldn't have cared about Pekar. It's not as though some other illustrator could have done it. The non-Crumb things in American Splendor hold no interest.

TRO said...

Hmm, I may be wrong, but didn't a few other cartoonists draw Pekar's comics along with Crumb? I vaguely recall reading that somewhere.

Michael Haz said...

Crumb writes his own books too, and they're better, in my view. And Pekar didn't write to supply Crumb with material to draw. Crumb had that, and Pekar couldn't draw. Crumb made Pekar interesting. Without Crumb, we wouldn't have cared about Pekar. It's not as though some other illustrator could have done it. The non-Crumb things in American Splendor hold no interest.

Exchange "Crumb" with Speilburg and "Pekar" with Mathison. Still works.

Ann Althouse said...

@MH I really don't see the analogy you're making. The question is how worthy is Pekar. Pekar is only a writer. That's all he offers. His writing. Now, the question is: Is that writing good or do we only imagine it's good because we like the pictures, which are not his. The issue is which individuals do we think are good. It's clear that Spielberg and Crumb are good. They do things that are good. Is Melissa Mathison good? She is if you like the writing in "E.T." I don't particularly like it, but okay. On to Pekar. Is his writing good? Quote me some stuff that impresses you. Isolate his contribution, unaffected by the goodness of Crumb. Is it good? My position is no. I don't see how constantly dragging in a screenwriter and a director, both of whom are (or may be) good, helps us answer the question whether Pekar is good. You might say if the comic written by Pekar and drawn by Crumb is itself good, then Pekar must be good because the combination is good. But I don't even think the combination is good. I only think the drawings are good. The Pekar comics drawn by other artists aren't worth flipping through.