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American Splendor: The Life and Times of Harvey Pekar

(American Splendor)

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  6,903 ratings  ·  161 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.

This 320 page collection was issued on the heels of the film "American Splendor," and it includes material previously published in the first two collecte
Paperback, 318 pages
Published August 2003 by Ballantine Books (first published 1987)
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Average rating 4.02  · 
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 ·  6,903 ratings  ·  161 reviews

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Paul Bryant
Sep 26, 2007 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
Greg Brozeit
Dec 18, 2013 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 was the unofficial poet laureate of Cleveland, Ohio. A fabulous movie was made about his life. It features his narration and snippets of him, you can't help but become endeared. I first learned about him during the 1980s when he would appear on The David Letterman Show, which are also featured in the movie. He was such an odd character that I had to ...more
Oct 01, 2009 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
Mar 11, 2010 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
Dave Riley
Oct 02, 2012 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 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, comix
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. ...more
Max Potthoff
Aug 12, 2014 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
Apr 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Ian Coutts
Jul 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Great stories by a real outsider writer, the bard of Cleveland. Pekar's subject is the small, day to day stuff of his life (generally), seemingly humdrum but somehow compelling. Pekar wrote the stories but did not illustrate them and to me, one of the most interesting things about this book was what the several artists involved brought to the stories. You've got classic R. Crumb stuff, to me often quite murky, and then you have work by Gerry Shamray that I swear blows right open the idea of a gr ...more
Samuel Edme
Synopsis: American Splendor: The Life and Times of Harvey Pekar collects the two anthology collections of Pekar's autobiographical series published from the mid-70s to mid-80s.

My Thoughts: Like most American Splendour books I've read, this one composes of various anecdotes relating to Pekar's life along with those surrounding his life while touching upon profound themes of loneliness, insecurity, existential crisis, etc, making all the putatively ordinary individuals in his stories fascinating
Apr 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
The other day I was reading a review about James Joyce's Ulysses and a dude said that reading and understanding that book isnt as much about being intelligent as much as it is about being Irish. He lived in Dublin so he could relate to things in that book like only Dubliners could.

Well I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. I've lived in a few other states for a couple years but I always wind up back here.

I've lived in crappy neighborhoods and worked tons of crappy jobs. I've dealt with Cleve
Mar 14, 2009 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 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
Aug 19, 2011 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 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. ...more
Apr 08, 2011 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.
Jess ❈Harbinger of Blood-Soaked Rainbows❈
I adore Harvey Pekar's work, and count him as one of my earlier influences. I've read his comics before, but not the entire anthology. Need to keep an eye out for this one. ...more
Apr 03, 2012 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.
Nov 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-fiction
When young, I was a bit mystified when I was force-fed the myths of the ancient civilizations, which in my case meant the Greeks and Romans. I thought to myself: Do these preposterous fairy tales really have anything to teach us? This was not the fault of the teachers or the education system: I was literal-minded then, and I remain so now. However, I am (slightly) better educated now than when I was 12, so I realize that the study of myth can have value, especially in the absence of abundant evi ...more
Kevin Wright
Sep 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
While there are a lot of talented indie comics creators working in an autobiographical vein, Pekar is in a class of his own. First of all, he practically invented the form later practiced by the likes of Chester Brown, Alison Bechdel, Jim Woodring, Eddie Campbell and others. I admire his tenacity in self-publishing his comics for decades while seeing little to no financial return. But, what I find most interesting about him is that he doesn't draw. While it's common to have that assembly-line-st ...more
Jul 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
What is life but a series of misdemeanours? Small events that we make exceptional in our minds? Harvey Pekar is just a random schmuck like the rest of us, yet within these simple comics about surviving day to day, the little encounters with people you know, and trying to figure out what you want from your life, he taps into something we can all understand. He gets the humour of life, and he understands that things don’t always work out how we want them to.

Just like everyone else, he is not the
Colin Feely
May 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely incredible.

Humorous, heartfelt, and super super real and honest. Maybe I like this so much because I identify with Pekar’s personality. But he really takes a unique look at how comics can be used.

Some might call these pages mundane or say that there isn’t much going on but it represents real life. Often life isn’t so dramatic and the things that affect us emotionally might seem minor to others. Like an introspective walk in the park, meeting an old friend, hanging around with some b
Drunken  Thane
Mar 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone with an axe to grind
Welcome to Cleveland, the mistake on the lake! Harvey Pekar is your guide to the gritty urban poor of the 1970's-1980's. This comic is a dark comedy, very true to heart and completely autobiographical. Harvey is neurotic, paranoid and jumpy but is also fun to be around, relatable and cathartic. Amidst constant failed relationships, menial jobs, obsession with jazz records and spending time writing, Harvey wears his heart on his sleeve. Underground artist R. Crumb is featured prominently, but I p ...more
Gerardo Vega
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I saw the movie before even knowing who Harvey Pekar or American Splendor was, I instantly loved the movie and got interested in Harvey and American Splendor. It's great! no, wait! It's amazing! And I know why Robert Crumb got interested in writing his stories, everyday life of Harvey Pekar sucks you in. Why? maybe because it's so real and it happens to us. I highly recommend it, I mean even if you didn't like the movie, "American Splendor" is so fascinating! I have about a dozen of his graphic ...more
Jan 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: illistrated
I came into this having seen the movie, so I had an idea of the character and the general "plot".
Pekar does an excellent job of taking the norm and turning it into something...beautiful. Unlike Seinfeld, these scenarios are not really meant to be funny (though sometimes the are). What I think Pekar excels at is taking a mundane moment and showing it to you...making you look at it closely...and given the time, outside of our own lives and moments, these stories are simply life...and I think Pekar
Roadeer Squirrelberg
Sep 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
American Splendor is a very interesting book. it started during the comic underground scene, and it brings the autobiographic comic to a special place. the writer Harvey Pekar, writes about his life in a way which reminds the beatnic writers. in a very sincere way. I feel is rhythm in the writing is very good, and reminded me jazz music, with smart bits. the art sometimes good than another, but always fit the story. I really liked it.
While I was vaguely familiar with Harvey Pekar, I picked this up after reading about his art in Hilary Chute's "Why Comics". Pekar lived in Cleveland and worked as a clerk in a hospital for the major part of his life. Nothing extraordinary. But by transferring that ordinariness and mundane incidents into his comics, he created a legion of fans. This beautiful anthology was also the basis for the movie made on his iife which is also available on Youtube. Should check that out soon... ...more
Jun 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Tremendously compelling book. Harvey Pekar wrote comics about his own life, his dead end job, his troubles with relationships, his compulsive record collecting and more. Set in Cleveland. It's as far away from a superhero comic as you can get, but still it is infused with the drama of the everyday. Illustrated by various artists including R. Crumb who was a friend and inspiration to Pekar. I recommend this highly, even if you're not into the underground comic world. ...more
Brock Pattison
Aug 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Harvey Pekar has a gift in the way he is able to bring the everyday slog of the 9 to 5 working man to literary life. These were comics like nothing I had ever read before. The writing was autobiographical, honest (sometimes too honest), and sprinkled with some slight humor. Pekar's observations of the world and people around him are relatable, and that is what made this an interesting read. ...more
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See similar books…
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

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