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Our Cancer Year (American Splendor)

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  972 Ratings  ·  75 Reviews
It was they year of Desert Storm that Harvey Pekar and his wife, Joyce Brabner, discovered Harvey had cancer. Pekar, a man who has made a profession of chronicling the Kafkaesque absurdities of an ordinary life - if any life is ordinary - suddenly found himself incapacitated. But he had a better-than-average chance to beat cancer and he took it - kicking, screaming and com ...more
Paperback, 252 pages
Published October 13th 1994 by Thunder's Mouth Press (first published October 12th 1994)
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Mark Desrosiers
Jul 25, 2010 Mark Desrosiers rated it liked it
Shelves: comics, memoirs
I want to say that this is a wonderful, inspired memoir, a helpful work of art for anyone who is living with a cancer-diagnosed spouse. But no, Harvey Pekar ain't your typical spouse, Frank Stack is a strangely half-assed illustrator, and this book is just a descent into madness. Oh sure the last THREE PAGES are filled with hope and a waterfall, but on the whole this will fill you with fear and dread.

Right off the bat, I should point out that this is Joyce Brabner's work, not Harvey Pekar's. I
Kurt Brindley
Jan 20, 2013 Kurt Brindley rated it it was amazing

I have been neck-high into the medical establishment since my leukemia diagnosis in November 2009. Consequently, while I do not consider myself an expert of the establishment by any stretch of the imagination, I do believe that I am far too acutely aware of it. But, I guess that is to be expected from someone as critically dependent upon it as I am.
In addition to my practical experiences with hospitals and doctors and examinations and extremely long needles, I have also spen
Oct 24, 2014 Andrew rated it did not like it
Recommended to Andrew by:
Argh. I, like everyone else, loved the American Splendor movie. I've also enjoyed some of the comic series too. But this was pretty painful to sit through. There were too many diversions from the main story that seemed pointless.

The book states that it chronicles the "Kafkaesque absurdities of an ordinary life". This book takes itself too seriously. It thinks its more important than it is; and it derives its importance from being a boring, literal diary of his daily life. It doesn't attempt to
Paul Schulzetenberg
Jan 20, 2012 Paul Schulzetenberg rated it liked it
Our Cancer Year is written by the American everyman comic artist, Harvey Pekar, and Joyce Brabner, his wife. He’s the author of American Splendor, an ascerbic, tell-it-like-it-is series of comics that chronicle the life of the lower middle class.

Our Cancer Year picks up right from the American Splendor series, and in fact, feels like it could be an entry in the series, except that Brabner plays a major authorial and narrative role in the comic. The same Pekar bluntness is there, but with a healt
Oct 29, 2008 Sarah rated it it was amazing
I am not a member of the "It's a graphic novel not a comic book" club. That being said, this is a graphic novel worth reading. Harvey and Joyce chronicle their ordeals in and out of cancer catastrophes and real life events in such a way that render the text and the images as two distinct tales. There isn't anything that makes cancer easier in the grand scope of things. The authors don't mask the ugly or the beautiful. They show life as it is, and their honesty it what is so remarkable.
Dec 12, 2010 Dennis rated it really liked it
Very realistic, story in graphic form of Harvey Pekar's battle with cancer and other events in the life of he and his wife, Joyce Brabner. Brings you back to the era of the early 1990's, with a back drop of the 1st Iraq war. The art work is well done, giving the reader a sense of emotions and trauma. It also brings back memories of life in Cleveland since it includes many interesting landmarks such as Tommy's restaurant and Chagrin Falls.
May 30, 2008 Tj rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, comics
I thought that this was a great story about everyday people facing difficult obstacles. Using comics as a medium really allowed them to demonstrate the fear and physical pain that Pekar experienced (I guess you would have to see the scenes to know what I am talking about).

I really liked the simplicity of the story, and the way it portrayed the reality of their lives.
Corby Plumb
Oct 15, 2015 Corby Plumb rated it it was amazing
Probably Pekars masterpiece. Totally moving - anyone whose seen a family member or friend suffer or survive cancer or any other terminal illness will relate. Frank Stacks art is so messy and expressionistic and makes its personal stamp to the American Splendor world.
May 15, 2008 Michael rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics
I got this book two years ago at the Brooklyn Book Fair, in downtown Brooklyn. I'm not sure why it took me so long to pick it up off the shelf and read it. I think I've been a little hesitant because I've never thought Harvey Pekar's autobiographical style lends itself well to longer pieces. However, after reading The Quitter and Ego and Hubris (though that last title isn't autobiographical but biographical) I've come to see that his storytelling skills are well adapted to novel-length stories. ...more
Dave Riley
Nov 05, 2012 Dave Riley rated it it was amazing
I had a few initial issues taking to Frank Stack's art work but then it grew on me big time. By the finish I thought his graphic style was so apt because the story has to flow like an unreal drama. It can't so easily be anchored in any one of the many events that make up Harvey Pekar's experience of cancer. While there is a self evident chronology the point is that this is montage of pain and suffering which is ultimately fulfilling.

The poignant writing, the dense personable chit chats, the angs
Mark Plaid
Mar 12, 2009 Mark Plaid rated it it was amazing
Honestly, I feel kind of bad, I had some problems with Frank Stack's art in this one. The art is extremely sketchy and loose and may be argued as spontaneous but I would say more so rushed. There are some panels that capture the moment quite well and sing with the emotion of the scene. However, these scenes are the exception to mistakes like the same characters looking different from panel to panel in the same scene. There are some scenes also where the expressions on people's faces don't quite ...more
Andrew Huey
Jun 27, 2015 Andrew Huey rated it it was amazing
I bought this, years ago, for my brother, when he found out he had cancer. In my mind, I thought it would be a good book for him to read, to give him some perspective on what he had ahead of him. And maybe some practical advice. But I think he and his wife were a bit horrified, or at least very confused, and really didn't think it was an appropriate gift. (They were probably right.)

Anyway, it's been sitting at the bottom of a pile of random books in my apartment for a long time. I finally decide
Jean Ramsay
Sep 12, 2012 Jean Ramsay rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012
By far the best Harvey Pekar work I have read so far. Pekar and his wife Joyce, through the use of personal antedotes, perfectly deplict what it's like dealing with someone in the family being sick and how it affects everything you do. These personal details show that maddening thing that happens when you're going through something difficult in life and you have to deal with the everyday bullshit, that it rises to a level of almost unbearable cruelty. When you're going through a rough time in li ...more
I am one of those grumps who does not often enjoy the mixture of art and narrative. This volume does nothing to increase my appreciation for the medium. The style of the artwork for this book was difficult to look at. Cross-hatched lines cover faces, for instance, and the dark space felt sloppy though I'm sure it is intended to be symbolic. In any case, graphic novels simply interfere with my ability to access the story. Words are easier for my brain to manage and I don't like the clutter of dra ...more
Aug 09, 2016 Jeff rated it liked it
Just because R Crumb frequently illustrated American Splendor (i think), i've always lumped them together as being very similar artists. Now that i've finally read exactly 1 example of each guy's work, i can see how wrong that was and i strongly prefer Pekar's work for its chatty narrative voice and for the sense that i'm listening to what went on inside his and his wife's minds. So ... maybe Joyce Brabner's contributions are what make me like "Pekar"? Will i ever attempt to find out by reading ...more
Feb 13, 2014 Norrin2 rated it liked it
I've read a lot of Harvey Pekar's "American Splendor" but I was reluctant to pick up this volume - probably because it's illustrated by my least favorite Splendor artist Frank Stack. Yes, I know he's a great artist, an underground comics legend, but his dark scratchy style is an acquired taste I never acquired. This is the first one I've read that was co-written by Pekar's wife Joyce Brabner and I appreciated her input. I also appreciated not having to spend the whole book in Harvey's head. Harv ...more
Nov 06, 2013 Jacob rated it it was amazing
This book's illustration style is rough, almost sloppy--but that's appropriate for the story's content and tone. Harvey's frequent insistence that he is paralyzed, having a stroke or the victim of torture at the hands of his wife provides an odd sort of comic relief. Our Cancer Year is difficult (you're an idiot if you think a book about cancer will be a light, uplifting experience), but ultimately life-affirming.

Despite Harvey's frequent wishes for death in the midst of terrible agony, his reci
Yair Ben-Zvi
May 27, 2011 Yair Ben-Zvi rated it it was amazing
Joyce Brabner and Harvey Pekar (with artist Tom Stack's surrealistically wonderful art) have made one of the most touching and affecting works I've read in years, maybe ever. And this is something as Pekar's work is naturally that anyway, but here it goes beyond that. Going through this story I felt I was a member of their household and witness to their moment in history. Told in sparse unadorned dialogue the story cuts through all the unnecessaries of alternative comics and creates something wi ...more
Mar 25, 2013 Chastity rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. It is a brutally honest portrayal of what life was like while battling cancer. I originally chose this book because my husband is battling the same cancer. I'm not a big fan of reading about cancer stories. I've come to realize that the majority of people complain about having cancer more than they discuss the real effects it has on everyone involved. There are others who sugarcoat cancer into this awe-inspiring experience and never go into the reality of what they ac ...more
Jan 09, 2013 Alyson rated it it was amazing
Our cancer Year has many layers. It's a memoir of how Pekar's sickness affected both him and his wife Joyce Brabner. It's also a great log of his move from his tiny apartment to a new house, and Joyce's travels all around the world with her activism. I got this for my father, who was going through similar treatment for a similar cancer; to show him that even 20 years ago, even though Harvey's cancer was more advanced, he made it through treatments much harder than my father had to endure and he ...more
Nicholas Gourlay
May 08, 2009 Nicholas Gourlay rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Cancer Survivors and Emo(s).
After reading numerous reviews and recommendations on this one I was somewhat disappointed. The artwork was mostly scratches and sometimes even hard to tell one character from the other but then when I would get mad, Stack would draw a very emotional scene. That is how this whole GN read to me .... nothing, nothing, then emotional scene. I did get a feel on the desperation of Harvey and Joyce but not enough to make me weep, which is what I was expecting.

Don't get me wrong, it's a good strong G
Jim Leckband
Mar 25, 2015 Jim Leckband rated it liked it
Very readable and scary slice of life and death. The graphic novel format really digs into what goes on when somebody procrastinates, discovers, and lives with the whole cancer thing - from the little lump to the life after the chemo and radiation. Harvey and Joyce's characters are very human as they really struggle, but you can see the love between them. The subplots of the Iraq-Kuwait war and the peace congress are there because they really happened and complicated their life, but sometimes th ...more
Sarah T.
Aug 16, 2012 Sarah T. rated it really liked it
This was my first exposure to the works of Harvey Pekar (other than the movie "American Splendor") and it was everything I had expected it to be. Brutally honest with love and pain equally.

Like other reviewers I found the art more than a bit rough, but artistically speaking, I can see why they chose to go this route. Cancer fucks up your whole universe, the treatments just as much as the disease itself. The distortion seemed pretty appropriate and after a while I didn't notice it so much.

I enj
Monica Lieser
Oct 13, 2014 Monica Lieser rated it it was ok
I can appreciate the vulnerability of telling one's own story, yet the intensity of the scratchy artwork and the hard tone of most of the dialogue was off-putting. My review is likely unfair for all those who appreciate the art form of graphic novels, so please take it with a grain of salt. Thank you to Harvey and Joyce for sharing your story - witnessing others is valuable even if uncomfortable.
Jeff Raymond
I loved it, but it made things clear regarding what I often dislike about graphic novels - not that they're books with pictures, but rather movies without motion or sound. If they're well-done, it doesn't make a difference, but it's always kind of jarring. Our Cancer Year was jarring in that respect - it hit me like a good book or movie, but it also kept drawing me away because of the style, which works for lots of people.
Bernadette Herrera
May 11, 2015 Bernadette Herrera rated it liked it
Shelves: illo
Dealing with cancer firsthand is not only a challenge but also a unique experience for everyone. Medicine is far more advanced since the release of the book, making treatments or reactions seem dated. But the authors' unique predispositions both as respected writers during Bush's Desert Storm places a more interesting twist, such as Joyce's relationship with Palestinian refugees. The book is an appropriate marriage between the two authors'—also husband & wife—writing style & genre.
Aug 10, 2011 Tim rated it really liked it
Shelves: comic
Probably the most substantial work I have read by Pekar, as ever deeply personal and honest. Deals not only with Pekar's illness, and how it effected his relationship with his wife, but also delves into the Gulf war and the recursions for Joyce and friends she had made through her work.
The art had an erratic simplicity and gave the work a feeling of uncertainty and of being ungrounded.

Jun 10, 2013 Xisix rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
Gritty portrayal of endurance through stress and pain. Looked up this morning to find out what Harvey Pekar was doing lately and was saddened to discover he died about 3 years ago from an accidental overdose. Interesting to go from reading Conan graphic novels full of dexterity and strength and cunning to the other side of the injured hypersensitive spectrum. Reading about Ian Curtis' days with Joy Division is a similar experience. Examine your wounds.
Alexandra Chauran
Jul 06, 2016 Alexandra Chauran rated it liked it
I was suggested a lot of cancer related graphic novels, as I'm really starting to process what happened to me over the last nine months. I wouldn't advise a loved one of a cancer patient reading this book unless they really want to see all of the ugliness of treatment inside and out. This book dragged a bit with the side storylines, but overall was a unique and raw way to get a glimpse into the life of one couple's experience.
Jul 21, 2012 Naz rated it it was ok
I love Harvey Pekar and have been a longtime fan of American Splendor, but for some reason Our Cancer Year didn't quite live up to what I had expected. Like many other reviewers, I am not a fan of Stack's illustrations - in general I prefer more defined panels and tighter drawings but I found some bits so sketchy (especially in the beginning with Joyce's peace conference friends) that it was difficult to tell which character was speaking.
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Harvey Lawrence Pekar was an American underground comic book writer best known for his autobiographical American Splendor series.

In 2003, the series inspired a critically acclaimed film adaptation of the same name.

More about Harvey Pekar...

Other Books in the Series

American Splendor (1 - 10 of 29 books)
  • American Splendor, #1
  • American Splendor, #2
  • American Splendor, #3
  • American Splendor, #4
  • American Splendor, #5
  • American Splendor, #6
  • American Splendor, #7
  • American Splendor, #8
  • American Splendor, #9
  • American Splendor, #10

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