July 12th, 2010 | Other Projects
I just found out that Harvey Pekar died. There’s this very short “just in” piece in the Huffington Post. (It’s been fleshed out a lot, I just noticed, since I started writing this an hour ago.)
I’m kind of stunned. He was such a sweet person, and I just saw him recently. In April we traveled together to do some presentations in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. He didn’t seem to be in the greatest shape, and I felt bad for dragging him out on a walk into the crazy casino area at the hotel where we were staying. Now I feel even worse. Here, I made a little movie of him in the garish indoor mall because he just seemed so incongruous there.
Anyhow, I loved Harvey. and I loved his work. I first discovered him when I was in college. American Splendor #2.
It’s the only comic book I bother keeping in one of those archival sleeve things. There was an epic story in it about Harvey and two friends just hanging out one night. It goes on for pages and pages, and the only thing that really happens is that they move a rug from one guy’s house to another guy’s house. The guys are all at loose ends–one’s a Vietnam vet who just got fired from his job, one has been unemployed for years. And then there’s Harvey with his “flunky government job” as a file clerk. They haul the rug—which is waterlogged and smelly from being left in the rain—all the way across town and up to the guy’s apartment. But then he decides it was a mistake, and they have to haul it out again, to his back porch. It’s a perfect story about nothing, and everything, and it started to give me ideas about autobiography. You don’t need to engineer some grand sprawling thematically dense narrative. If you write honestly about everyday life, all that stuff will automatically be there.
That issue of American Splendor also has the brilliant “Harvey Pekar Name Story” in it, illustrated by R. Crumb. It’s about Harvey finding all these other Harvey Pekars in the phone book. It was dramatized quite hauntingly in the movie American Splendor. Here’s an excerpt: