Monday, July 12, 2010

Rest in peace: Harvey Pekar, autodidact; curmudgeon; jazz collector and critic; VA hospital flunky; author of the [initially] self-published comic book American Splendor.

There's a short story in one of the American Splendor collections called, "I'll Be Forty-Three on Friday (How I'm Living Now)," in which Pekar simply wanders through a Cleveland park in summer, reflecting on his life, while moving from patches of sun to full shadow and back again. Reading this story, probably twenty years ago now, permanently altered my life. I never would have found Raymond Carver without it, or Chekhov, Tolstoy, Flaubert, and, through them, the kind of art we call "realist" (Courbet; Degas; Manet; Cezanne; Rackstraw Downes; Fairfield Porter; Stephen Shore; Lee Friedlander; Jeff Wall).

"Vastly underappreciated is the display of values in Pekar’s work, stories that would spotlight someone else’s display of virtue and his hearty endorsement of it -- acts of friendship or generosity, a session of intense conversation, small kindnesses." (Courtesy my friend and former editor at The Comics Journal, Tom Spurgeon)

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