Arthur Chappell

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BOOK REVIEW – HARVEY PEKAR – THE QUITTER 2005 Vertigo / DC

Autobiographical graphic book on the early life of American Splendour author, Harvey Pekar.  The title comes from his difficulties in finding and holding down a steady education or career and his tendency to quit and run from responsibilities and relationships on many occasions. The honesty and candid soul baring involved in the book makes for intensely powerful reading.

Harvey does not make himself a helpless victim of circumstances and he freely confesses to the pleasure he derived from street fighting, and taking down any bullies and thugs he encountered. His love of boxing and despair at how Jewish boxers of the 1930’s and 1940’s lost out to the new wave of black boxers fuelled his inner rage.

He quit several jobs, and few more spectacularly than he navy, where he felt out of place among men who seemed to know how to wash their own clothes or pick up a knack for it right away. Advised by a psychiatrist that he had no place in such an institution, Harvey was back home within weeks.

Home life itself was not pleasant at times, and Harvey found himself in a very unpleasant confrontation with his Father who even attacked him with a knife, forcing Harvey to defend himself with a chair, until his brother & Mother intervened to calm down a very dangerous situation.

Writing proved to be Pekar’s salvation, initially with articles for Jazz magazines, and then a meeting with Robert Crumb, the comic book genius creator of The Freak Brothers led Harvey to start writing stories in comic book format, and his life was turned around, though he admits to continuing insecurities and despair. He panics about the sales of any of his books and fears the collapse into failure of his work at any time. From the quality of his writing, his fears seem unjustified.

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