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Our Cancer Year

(American Splendor)

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  1,153 ratings  ·  86 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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Paul Bryant

Even when he didn’t have non-Hodgkins lymphoma Harvey Pekar wasn’t Mr Positive and he had practically no use for raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens. A grumpy, cantankerous stick-in-the-mud hypochondriac who then gets cancer – well, why not. So this graphic novel is not going to be Jonathan Livingston Pekar. It’s going to be really awful.

Cancer plays a cruel game on Harvey – he ignores a lump in his groin for three years, finally gets it checked out, it’s malignant lymphoma, they remove i
...more
Mark Desrosiers
Jul 24, 2010 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
...more
Michael Jandrok
May 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
DISCLAIMER: The only way that I can write about this book is through the lens of my own fight with cancer. In point of fact, that’s what drew me to the graphic novel in the first place. I have never been one to shy away from difficult subjects. Reading about cancer and how other people have handled the physical and emotional stresses of the disease are cathartic to me. My hope here is to compare and contrast my experiences with those that were documented in “Our Cancer Year.” Some people might n ...more
Kurt Brindley
Nov 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
BOTH OUR CANCER YEARS

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
...more
Andrew
May 20, 2014 rated it did not like it
Recommended to Andrew by: andrew.edwards91@gmail.com
Shelves: c-comics, read-own-d
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
...more
Brent
Jul 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of these fine creators, memoirs, and great comics
Recommended to Brent by: these fine creators
The 11 or so chapters of Our Cancer Year are best read with space in between, as lived. Frank Stack is such a great collaborating artist for Harvey and Joyce.
It must be said, the creators survived this cancer year. I love this book.
Highest recommendation.
BellaGBear
Our Cancer Year starts with a marital squabble between Harvey and Joyce whether to buy a house or not. Joyce wants to own a house, but Harvey thinks it’s too expensive and he does not like change. Eventually, he agrees, because as a man he feels he has to take care of his wife. He decides to do a big part of the move himself. While carrying boxes of books and records he falls ill and is rushed to the hospital. In the hospital, they discover he has cancer. They operate him to remove the cancer, w ...more
Paul Schulzetenberg
Jan 20, 2012 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
...more
Sarah
Oct 28, 2008 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.
Dennis
Sep 05, 2010 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.
Tj
Feb 15, 2008 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 02, 2015 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.
Kay
Oct 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Assumes a considerable amount of context for Pekar and Brabner's lives, and for the complex narratives of Desert Storm. (I wasn't born yet, help me!) Frustrating compartmentalizations of narrative: first Desert Storm and Brabner's SJW, then cancer, then Desert Storm, then SJW... Memoirs are not always art or poetry, I know, yet a few motifs would've helped me string together these storylines better. The baking soda reference seen when describing both Iraqi bombings and cancer treatment clarified ...more
Nicola Pierce
Sep 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is my first time to read Harvey Pekar. The book was recommended to me by someone who had come through a breast cancer diagnosis which is what I am going through right now. I started this book the week after I completed five months of chemo and was grateful for the progress made in cancer research, that ensured my chemo-experience was no way near as brutal as Harvey's. I'll admit that I got a little confused about Joyce's story, her travels and newfound friends but, then again, this is real ...more
Juliana Ravelli
Oct 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I love Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner so much. For many years, I had wanted to read this book. I'm so glad I found it last week in a nice bookstore. I admire so much how honest, open, imperfect, and, above all these things, human Pekar and Brabner are in this book. I think it is beautiful how Pekar paradoxically feared almost everything at the same time he didn't fear showing how vunerable he was (and how even more vulnerable he became with the cancer treatment). I cried and laughed with this bo ...more
Maximilian Gerboc
Jul 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this, and I don't profess to know anything about comics or graphic novels. But Harvey Pekar's voice, along with that of his wife, Joyce Brabner, is so human, for good reasons and bad, and so sincere, that you can't help but love them.
Mike Mcconnell
Nov 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic, non-fiction
Told honestly and without hiding the fragility or despair that comes with cancer and the battle to rid yourself of it.
Michael
May 13, 2008 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
Oct 30, 2012 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
...more
Mark Plaid
Mar 01, 2009 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
Apr 20, 2014 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
...more
Jean Ramsay
Jun 17, 2012 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
Debi G.
Oct 09, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Jeff
Nov 27, 2014 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
Norrin2
Feb 13, 2014 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
Jacob
Nov 04, 2013 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
...more
Yair Ben-Zvi
Jan 21, 2011 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
Chastity
Mar 25, 2013 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
Alyson
Jan 09, 2013 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
Apr 21, 2009 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
...more
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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.


Other books in the series

American Splendor (1 - 10 of 31 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