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American Splendor: The Life and Times of Harvey Pekar
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American Splendor: The Life and Times of Harvey Pekar (American Splendor)

4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  5,913 Ratings  ·  139 Reviews
Harvey Pekar is a true American original, known by many as the blue-collar Mark Twain. For over 25 years he's been writing comic books about his life, chronicling the ordinary and everyday in stories both funny and moving.
Paperback, 318 pages
Published August 2003 by Ballantine Books (first published 1986)
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Paul Bryant
Sep 26, 2007 Paul Bryant rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone with a grudge
This needs a bit of explanation. It's a true story but it sounds strange. Once there was an earnest young jazz fan called Harvey Pekar living in Cleveland, a grim industrial place by the sound of it. He collected records and through that obsession he met Robert Crumb, who you all know to be the most famous "underground comics" artist ever. Crumb was just beginning his journey to the heart of the hippy nightmare. Harvey was and is a guy with strong opinions. He hated his own joyless life - by tha ...more
By the time I reached the story "I'll be Forty-three on Friday" I realized that this book has more deep things to say about life than most *real* novels, and as a biographical work is as comprehensive in scope as anything I've ever read. An amazing collection.

(earlier impressions while reading:)
I saw the fine film version of "American Splendor." Pekar, the angry everyman iconoclast, used to be one of my favorite talk show guests back in the rough-and-tumble days of David Letterman's old
Mar 11, 2010 Alan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone with a keen eye for the mundane
Recommended to Alan by: The unsettling, irascible, yet fascinating man
Harvey Pekar is that guy—you know the one. Irritated, opinionated; he has a dead-end job that he's really pretty good at (although he's educated far beyond what the work requires), but that's almost beside the point, because what's interesting about him isn't what he does, it's what he says. Harvey Pekar's audience includes graphic artists like Robert Crumb and Robert Armstrong, and his work inspired a very good, award-winning film (also called "American Splendor"), starring Paul Giamatti and fe ...more
Oct 01, 2009 Mark rated it it was amazing
The more I read of Harvey Pekar the more I appreciate his gentle wisdom and genius for revealing the magic of mundane life. Inspired by the success of his friend Robert Crumb, Pekar decided to start writing underground comics himself in the 70s, toiling in relative obscurity until the movie based on his comics opened to critical raves. Pekar's own work deserves even more praise, for taking the comics medium seriously. The antithesis of superhero dreck, American Splendor singles out the heroism o ...more
Dave Riley
Oct 02, 2012 Dave Riley rated it it was amazing
Look there's so much here that it is gonna take me a long time to read from go to woe. But I love it. Pekar's way washes over you and American Splendor isn't so much a read but a hobby.

Of all the works I'm at volume 9 or something..and I have them all. No abridging.

There is no adventure and maybe the anecdotal way of it isn't the least bit exciting -- but as an exercise in life story telling Splendor is autobiographical gold.

One of the truly great comics....

[Then go catch the film: it's exc
Apr 09, 2007 Marissa rated it really liked it
Shelves: comix, non-fiction
Harvey Pekar is one of the few ordinary, every day heroes out there that's actually managed to get media attention. His contemplative, relatable stories about every day life give the reader room to reflect on their own ordinary surroundings and friends in a way that gives them great meaning. In a culture that is more and more driven and dominated by celebrities and media hype, it is refreshing to read a book like American Splendor that insists on the beauty and intelligence of regular people.
Jul 12, 2010 Tyler rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2010, comics-and-such
R.I.P. Mr. Pekar.
Apr 09, 2017 Samuel rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
Pekar is the founder of literary graphic novels, so being a big fan of the genre I had to check out his work. It's odd, I assumed his stuff would be pretty cynical, but it's quite the opposite. It holds a pulse to the everyday Joe and offers little tidbits of advice on life.
Max Potthoff
Aug 12, 2014 Max Potthoff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"American Splendor" was really my first self-motivated exploration into the world of graphic novels. With a mixture of thoughtfulness, neurosis, anger, and kindness, Pekar's anthologies (read straight through) provide one of the most poignant entries into the complexity of "everyday" American life that I have read. Having been born in the early 90s, I will be the first to admit I know very little about the two decades that preceded my existence. As Pekar says somewhere in this anthology, "we thi ...more
Mar 14, 2009 Andrew rated it liked it
When this collection is good, it's really really good. The best stories here are some of my favorite things I've ever read. I especially love Pekar's stories of obsessively hustling old jazz records and the alienation he feels as a Midwesterner and self-proclaimed "working class intellectual." The story where Pekar meets a bunch of bohemian playwrights and filmmakers from NYC is especially good, right up to the beautiful final image of ugly, dying, industrial Cleveland. Other stories of note inc ...more
Kat Bowie
Jul 25, 2015 Kat Bowie rated it it was amazing
This anthology is neat because it shows every artist Pekar has worked with over the years; I really didn't care for Robert Crumb's caricature-like art, enjoyed Greg Budgett's clean style so much more. Favorite comic was the one about serving on Jury Duty, although he really doesn't cover politics a lot, but there's lots of introspection about self-loathing. Pekar was self-aware about his status as a "working-class intellectual" in that while he does earn his daily bread via a "flunky" but more i ...more
Greg Brozeit
Dec 18, 2013 Greg Brozeit rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic
A perfect introduction to Harvey Pekar for those unfamiliar with his work or just curious to learn what he was all about. Pekar wrote literature. He used comic artists to convey his work, but make no mistake, he belongs in the pantheon of accomplished American writers. Let's hope that the Library of America will produce a volume or two of his work. He deserves it.
Aug 19, 2011 Shannon rated it did not like it
Depressing as all hell with repetative content. Yeah, I know that this is a landmark work that invented a genre, but I had to force myself to finish it. The stories become more fleshed out near the end of the book, but good luck wading through the painfully boring segments.
Sep 07, 2011 Germancho rated it it was amazing
Shelves: comic-books
Amazing book! The art in each story is beautiful and poignant, just as the prose and dialogue are. But really, the thing I enjoyed the most about this book was Harvey Pekar's dry, no-nonsense sense of humor and timing. I chuckled almost constantly while reading it.
Apr 08, 2011 Cliff rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: graphic-novels
The first half of this collection containing his earlier works were fun and insightful looks at life. In the latter years, his stories and thoughts are just ramblings in my honest opinion.
Apr 03, 2012 Kiof rated it it was amazing
I read this when i was 10 or 12. I could already relate to that level of neuroticism. Old Soul.
Nuno  Cobre
Oct 14, 2016 Nuno Cobre rated it it was amazing
Yo, que hace tiempo que me aburrí de los sitios divertidos volví a rechazar una noche madrileña atestada de bisbales y garrafones.

Elegí el cine.

Puesto que en Madrid la calidad de vida es un secreto denominado ESPACIO y no hipotéticas playas o palmeras, había comprado mi entrada por Internet con la idea de evitar una cola maratoniana. Uno de este modo obliga a su estado de ánimo desde un lunes o un martes a que le apetezca por orejas ir al cine el sábado. Como cuando hay que bailar y reír en fin
I read this collection of American Splendor for a ladies-only graphic-novel discussion club I'm part of (very niche). It was very interesting to see how polarizing Harvey Pekar is as a figure, as is the concept behind his comics. About half of the ten people in the room really enjoyed these illustrated stories about nothing and thought Pekar a sympathetic character; the other half found him insufferably whiny and his stories pointless. (Okay, the split was a little more ragged than that - almost ...more
Mar 26, 2013 Kurt rated it it was amazing
I was blessed to discover Harvey Pekar on LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN back in the 1980’s. He shambled out on stage, plopped into the guest seat and would not sit still. Agitated and annoyed, his intense eyes would flare and his coarse tongue flame in response to Letterman’s show biz BS. I viewed Letterman differently after that. Pekar had a way during those interviews of cutting straight to life’s bone—refusing to play along with the game of shallow presentations that most of TV is. I loved ...more
Feb 20, 2011 Rob rated it it was amazing
(10/10) The thing about American Splendor is that, with a few exceptions, any individual story would seem ordinary and even a little dull on its own, but together they create a panoramic and unique view of human life. Pekar ressurected the corpse of literary realism and brought it to comics, but this isn't the end-oriented realism of the bildungsroman. What American Splendor captures is how much of life is made up of minutia and repetition, errands and pointless discussions. Taken as a whole, it ...more
Dec 07, 2014 Cbj rated it really liked it
Most of Harvey Pekar's stories are about the mundane and the banal in our daily lives. On the surface, many of the stories may seem like they do not amount to much. They could be about a visit by a friend, a conversation at work, a trip to the supermarket or simply lying in bed thinking about things. But through these simple stories, Pekar shows us how repugnant modern life can be. The smallest of things can fill us with fear and paranoia. It could be an imminent Monday morning or standing in th ...more
Feb 01, 2010 Brett rated it it was amazing
Wow, what am amazing piece of work American Splendor is. I came into this book with high expectations, and they were met. I grew up on superhero comics and as I got older read some more serious efforts, but didn't know about Harvey Pekar until the film version of American Splendor came out. I'm deepy grateful to have been alerted to this beautiful collection of stories of everyday struggles.

Pekar is a file clerk for the VA: a job he often chronicles in AS, but a job he does not love. He's not we
Harvey Pekar was one-of-a-kind. He was who he was, and didn't ever try to be anything else. How could he?

His comics give an unsettling look into the life of a guy who, if he wasn't in a comic book, would be practically unknown. Harvey puts it all out there - his insecurities, paranoias, loneliness, frustrations. These are true "slice of life" comics. Sometimes Harvey tries to put a moral to his story, and other times there is no moral, just a story.

The comics aren't all about Harvey. He includ
Amanda Hamilton
Jul 07, 2013 Amanda Hamilton rated it liked it
I know most of the so-called "underground" comic artists by reputation. Before I read this, I didn't know anything about Harvey Pekar except he was associated with R. Crumb (I knew about his...well, 'fetish' is I guess the right word for it but dude can DRAW!) but other than that, I didn't really know what to expect.

The stories in them are more like essays in comic form. Even though the stories are illustrated by different artists (R. Crumb and Gary Dumm are two of the names, I think) his voice
Yair Ben-Zvi
Jul 29, 2011 Yair Ben-Zvi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I feel ill equipped to review this. Basically, it's fantastic. Pekar takes the medium of the comic book and invests it with supreme novelistic energy. But just calling it a novel in the form of a comic would be taking away from Pekar's achievement. It's neither and it's both, just as the novel borrowed from the Romances and Epics of old, Pekar's American Splendor is its own entity, standing completely on its own. For stories with such a narrow setting and cast of characters (essentially clevelan ...more
Aug 19, 2010 Drew rated it really liked it
Pekar's stories of his everyday life are not especially meaningful or insightful. He doesn't make any attempt at a point or purpose. But he wrote two books (compiled in this volume) that I found very compelling. Pekar's perspective as an everyday guy with strong artistic convictions made even his most mundane strips very interesting. And that is one aspect of the book I liked most, it takes some of the most monotonous stories in a man's life and turns them into the focus of the reader's attentio ...more
Oct 10, 2015 Crys rated it really liked it
This is two comic anthologies in one volume. It is undoubtedly set apart from other comic books because it is autobiographical, which is rare, and it was also the first of its kind to be published. Harvey really gives you an up-close-and-personal experience. He has no problem giving you a front row seat to his life. He talks about his obsession with and passion for jazz, his funny encounters with the seniors at the local grocery store, race, his frequent car troubles, politics, his often neuroti ...more
Jan 19, 2012 Jillian rated it liked it
I think I'd like to give this 3.5 stars, really. This was my first Pekar, and I quite enjoyed it. I think it was probably really exciting and eye-opening to read American Splendor when it was first coming out. The comics hold up well, and I admire Pekar's honesty about himself and his flaws. I also found a real poignancy in the way he looks at everyday life (except when he loses his temper—which he usually realizes was stupid, after the fact), and it was fascinating to spend so much time in this ...more
Jan 18, 2010 Ryan rated it it was amazing
American Splendor has no over the top attempts to be more then what it is and that is what makes it great. The messages and meaning naturally emerge because in one way or another I think we can all relate to Harvey. The amazing part is how he can tell his story with such honesty no matter how it might look to everyone. I get sick of writer's that try to look or sound a certain way or try to explain their assumed enlightened philosophy on life as if they get it and have something to teach. Americ ...more
Jul 12, 2012 Gina rated it liked it
This was really interesting, in that it is hard to know how to rate it. The material is mundane, but filled with humanity so a lot of people can relate to it, and yet a bit more sour than I feel or relate to well, and I would never feel the need to share a lot of these stories or put art to them. With all of that being said, and all of the negative energy that is there, there is also a lot of joy and triumph.

I was looking at the page for the movie, and someone asked about the title, and didn't
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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 30 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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“There was a survey done a few years ago that affected me greatly. it was discovered that intelligent people either estimate their intelligence accurately or slightly underestimate themselves, but stupid people overestimate their intelligence and by huge margins. (And these were things like straight up math tests, not controversial IQ tests.)” 9 likes
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