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Best of American Splendor Paperback – January 25, 2005

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Editorial Reviews


“Pekar lets all of life flood into his panels: the humdrum and the heroic, the gritty and the grand.”
–The New York Times Book Review

“[Pekar] has a vision that makes daily city life–a ride on the bus, a run-in with a boss, or simply buying bread–dramatic.”
—Chicago Sun-Times

About the Author

Harvey Pekar, retired hospital file clerk and music critic, is best known for his autobiographical slice-of-life comic book series American Splendor, a first-person account of Pekar's downtrodden life. Robert Crumb has known Harvey for years, and contributes a cover to this collection. Other artists in the book include Joe Sacco, Frank Stack and Gary Dumm. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; First Edition edition (January 25, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345479386
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345479389
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 0.9 x 10.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #94,954 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Andre M. on December 2, 2006
Format: Paperback
Harvey Pekar is one of my heroes! 20 years ago when I was a student at the University of South Carolina, I came across the first American Splendor Anthology in the browsing section of the school's library. This was the book that inspired me to be a writer myself.

With that said, on to this book. If you liked the other American Splendor collections, I don't see why you wouldn't like this. Toby the Geek, Mr. Boats, his archenemy David Letterman (yes, THAT David Letterman) and the usual cast of characters (minus Freddy the Brooklyn Freeloader) are along for the ride. This goes pretty in-depth with Harvey's family life with his wife Joyce and his adopted daughter Danielle, but as with most of his stuff, its easy for the reader to relate. I particularly like where he discusses his inability to hold a decent conversation with Danielle (what adult hasn't been through that)?

Some other stuff really stands out. A Black jogger confronts Harvey about his depiction of Black characters in his works. Personally, as an African-American fan myself I've always respected the fact that Pekar's Black characters range from the ignorant to the intelligent, showing a wide variety of black life and just portraying us as people who he happens to encounter in his daily life without an agenda. Although admittedly I enjoyed his discomfort about the question of Robert Crumb, whose portrayal of blacks I despise.

Perhaps the most moving segment involves a British fan with autism who writes Harvey about his sad life and experiences. One really feels for this fellow, as others mock and misunderstand his illness and loneliness(at one point, he is molested by a crude oaf in a Chinese Restaurant, but no one sees fit to stop this cad or even call the police).
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ravanagh Allan on March 25, 2007
Format: Paperback
It's not just the fact that Harvey was the first to put the everyday into comic-book format, it's the fact he has a literary knack for observation (and I mean that in a good way!). Plus also, the everyday, for Harvey, is rarely what the rest of us mean by the term -- these vignettes into his life are highly interesting happenings. Also, the fact he also uses illustrators other than Crumb -- some equally good but very different -- allows you to get more of a sense of the man doing the writing, 'cos all these illustrators see him a little bit differently. That said, I would start with the anthologies ('American Splendor (The Life and Times of Harvey Pekar)' and 'The New A. S. Anthology') first -- they're a little bit better (and this collection contains no Crumb at all -- not that it matters all that much).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By @rocknrao on June 23, 2005
Format: Paperback
There are certainly moments when I'm astounded by how well I can relate to some of these stories. For instance, Harvey has a pretty keen ability to sense "the beginning of the end" of a relationship. In other instances, he struggles to rationalize the stereotyping that occurs in his stories, sometimes relying on a sort of tacit understanding that, even though the line is clearly visible from where he stands, he hasn't quite crossed it just yet.

On the other hand, you have to be careful not to try and read one of these volumes all the way through in one sitting. Somehow it just doesn't work so well that way. There's a certain flow to his stories that seems to be interrupted at certain points throughout the compilation. At moments like that you need to set the book down and come back to it later.

I preferred the other two trade paperback compilations to this one, but it has its moments too. I got into Pekar via the HBO movie of a few years ago, and one of the amusing aspects of these books is observing the subtle ways in which the comics differ from the film. If I'm not mistaken, the movie makes no mention of the fact that Harvey is in the midst of moving into a new house when he discovers he has cancer.

If you are already familiar with the peculiar charms of an American Splendor comic, then you'll probably find what you're looking for here.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on April 7, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are times when we want to leave the world in which we live and escape for awhile in literature or films that transport us to situations quite different from our own. But there are also times when we long to make contact with literature or film which reassures us that our everyday lives, with all their joys and triumphs, headaches and failures, are the same as everyone else's. We want to revel in our normalcy, or we want to be at least accompanied in our normalcy.

Harvey Pekar is the country's very best chronicler of the quotidian. His American Splendor comix are pulled from the stuff of everyday life: the fact that our work is sometimes dull and a pain-in-the-keester, but can also be a place where we build community; that marriage is joyful and also sheer hard labor; that small things--bender-fenders, late mail, waiting for a bus in the rain--can be occasions for huge anxieties, even as small things--the eccentricities of co-workers, the enthusiasm a bus driver has for botany, the smile of a foster child--can also be occasions for huge joys. Harvey Pekar, for all his own idiosyncracies, lives a life that's very much like our own. His American Splendor not only reassures us that we're not alone; it also serves as a prism for us to put our lives in perspective.

The Best of American Splendor collects Pekar's work from the mid 1990s to the early 2000s. The pieces include not only the straightforwardly autobiographical comix for which Pekar is famous--including those that honestly portray his less pleasing qualities, such as his penny-pinching, his self-pity, and his occasional bouts of megalomania--but also a couple of comix essays on Russian modernist literature (pp. 39-40) and Django Reinhardt (pp. 123-124) that underscore just what a natural intellectual Pekar is.
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