American Splendor
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

American Splendor (American Splendor #1)

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  3,922 ratings  ·  114 reviews
The inspiration for the award-winning movie
from HBO Films and Fine Line Features

AMERICAN SPLENDOR
The Life and Times of Harvey Pekar

Two classic comic anthologies in one volume

Stories by Harvey Pekar

Introduction by R. Crumb

Art by Kevin Brown, Gregory Budgett, Sean Carroll, Sue Cavey, R. Crumb, Gary Dumm, Val Mayerik, and Gerry Shamray

The classic collection of the comics tha...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published July 29th 2003 by Ballantine Books (first published 1986)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Paul
Sep 04, 2013 Paul rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition 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
Evan
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...more
Andrew
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
Alan
Mar 11, 2010 Alan rated it 5 of 5 stars 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
Mark
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
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...more
Marissa
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.
Germancho
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.
Kiof
I read this when i was 10 or 12. I could already relate to that level of neuroticism. Old Soul.
Myles
Comics, or graphic novels if you insist, have come a long way since Harvey Pekar came into the picture, but that doesn't mean anything has come close to what he does.

R. Crumb is right on the money in his introduction, he says that Pekar's comics are, paraphrasing, so mundane they border on the fantastic. Because Pekar was just writing about his life scribbling stick figures and word bubbles onto paper and getting others to illustrate them.

Of course I've seen the movie, I'd never heard of America...more
Amanda Hamilton
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...more
Yair Bezalel
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
Miranda
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
Rob
(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
Russ
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...more
Kurt
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
Brett
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...more
Drew
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
Jillian
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
Gina
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...more
Ryan
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
JD
Having seen the movie, and having read The Quitter, I'm interested to dig into this one and see what it's like.

Just finished it--a good read. Really made me wonder how much of my life passes me by--I'm not a writer, but besides that, my life is no less interesting, I suppose, than Harvey's in a lot of ways. He's written so many stories about all of these little encounters he's had with people, and it just makes me wonder how many interactions I've had that might be notable in some way that I'm p...more
Mark Desrosiers
Wow, it turns out I dig Pekar in much the same way that I dig Bukowski -- he validates all my teen male urges, and just carries them on into his forties and fifties. This isn't to say he's a brilliant genius, or even someone we should have always paid attention to. And I do wonder whether he would've just died alone had he never encountered Robert Crumb during his youth... ANYWAY, this here collection offers up the basics of his persona -- an obsessive, amoral, cranky, sticky-fingered jazz recor...more
Liz
It's like a stale Starburst: a little tough to get going at first, but all the juiciness is still there, and then a fresh pack of Starburst seems like you're cheating yourself out of a worthwhile experience.

Ok, so maybe not everyone eats stale candy, but everyone should read Pekar. Especially with R. Crumb's illustrations, you get a man who presents himself to the world with absolutely zero pretensions, which doesn't always leave you with the same kind of aftertaste when you're done with each s...more
Tim
Aug 10, 2011 Tim added it
Shelves: comic
I hate the marketing of this, tying it into the film. Although I'm sure his audience grew exponentially by the marketing and awards, so I can understand why the publisher took this route, but I would have vastly preferred a new cover art by Crumb, Cavey or Shamray.
It's worth checking out his work, but his bibliography is fairly limited given that most of what he writes about are stories from his own life. I certainly recommend this far more than "Our Movie Year" or "The Quitter", I haven't read...more
Madeline
I actually had to read this book for my English class. I thought it was kind of weird to be reading comics in an English class, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It tells stories about Harvey Pekar's life; he grew up in Cleveland (where I'm going to school) and I recognized some of the places he mentioned. It's an interesting read; however, if it weren't a comic, it wouldn't make sense.
Artemisa
Love the book.
Little stories about an American middles aged guy.
The stories where nice, day-to-day life, some times with a moral, some times just stories.
I like the different artists, and along the book I started to recognize some styles.

The book does not get the full 5 stars, because some times is difficult for me to read the balloons; too many letters in a little space and a writing style that mimics the verbal makes it very difficult for a non American speaker (I' saying American, because I b...more
Peacegal
Anyone's life can be a comic, and done correctly, it can be touching, funny, and interesting, just like AMERICAN SPLENDOR.
Chris
So much better than 'Cleveland' there is hardly a comparison. This is the genius of the beauty of everyday life. So glad I persisted in reading Pekar, this made it worth my while.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Greatest of Marlys
  • Funny Misshapen Body
  • My New York Diary
  • A Child's Life and Other Stories
  • Sleepwalk and Other Stories
  • Peepshow: The Cartoon Diary
  • It's a Good Life, If You Don't Weaken
  • Twentieth Century Eightball
  • A Contract With God and Other Tenement Stories
  • The Acme Novelty Library #20
  • Box Office Poison - New Edition
  • I Never Liked You
  • The Complete Buddy Bradley Stories from Hate Comics, Vol. 1: Buddy Does Seattle, 1990-1994
  • Lucky
  • Kafka
5125
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...
The Best American Comics 2006 The Quitter Best Of American Splendor Our Cancer Year Cleveland

Share This Book

“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.)” 4 likes
“I don't understand how an adult can write those last two sentences and not want to kill themselves for being so despicable.” 2 likes
More quotes…