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Our Cancer Year Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Running Press (October 13, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568580118
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568580111
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 8 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #382,327 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"This is a story about a year when someone was sick, about a time when it seemed that the rest of the world was sick, too." So begins Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner's painful comic book autobiography centering on the year that they found out that Pekar had cancer; the year that also saw Operation Desert Shield turn into Operation Desert Storm. Drawing upon the many personal trials they faced, Pekar and Brabner create a portrait of a man beset with fears both real and imagined.

From Publishers Weekly

Joined by his wife and collaborator Brabner and illustrator Stack, Pekar's (The New American Splendor Anthology) first book-length comics narrative is by turns amusing, frightening, moving and quietly entertaining. As always, Pekar's work records his apparently ordinary life as a hospital clerk in Cleveland while simultaneously capturing the epiphanic combination of mundanity and awkward, sporadic nobility of everyday life. In 1990, Pekar was diagnosed with lymphoma and needed chemotherapy. By the time the disease was discovered, the couple was in the midst of buying a house (a tremendous worry to Pekar, who fretted about both the money and corruptions of bourgeois creature comforts). Brabner, a self-described "comic book journalist," had to oversee both the new house and a sick and very difficult husband. Pekar's cancer treatment and suffering will take your breath away, but there's a happy ending; and the book (and their marriage) is distinguished by Brabner's great tenderness and determination in the middle of Pekar's medical nightmare. Stack's brisk and elegantly gestural black-and-white drawings wonderfully delineate this captivating story of love, community, recuperation and international friendship.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Quinn Skylark on October 22, 2001
Format: Paperback
A fine work of autobiography. Understand, however, that Harvey is critical of everything, himself included, and his unflinching eye depicts his personal agony alongside the state-of-the-world at the time. As in many of his extended works, Harvey uses his story to get up on a soap-box, but if you think of his comics as an extension of his life, you might be begining to appreciate what he really is. Harvey IS his stories.
I was struck by the relationship between Harvey and his wife Joyce: if there is a better depiction of the difficulty in love in the midst of illness, I don't know it. Their relationship is loving and it touched me deeply.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Milo Miles on September 1, 2003
Format: Paperback
It's very important to emphasize here that Frank Stack's artwork is not "sloppy" or "crude" in any sense. He and Bill Griffith probably have the strongest straight-art chops of anybody doing comics now. But Stack isn't just technically accomplished. Once you learn to follow his deceptively simple lines, he's profoundly expressive in his impressionist manner. Especially dealing with the tough stuff in this story, he finds the exact unsentimental tone. If he was a more prolific storyteller (or had just a bit more vivid sense of humor) his work would be mentioned right with Griffith, Crumb, Sheldon, Williams, Woodring -- the likes of those. Barbner and Pekar's single finest stroke may have been choose Stack to do the art for "Our Cancer Year."
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 7, 1999
Format: Paperback
I found this book interesting since I'm a fan of Pekar's American Splendor series and his appearances on David Letterman's shows (apparently at an end, unfortunately for Pekar, even more unfortunately for Letterman). This book's an in depth look at Pekar's struggle with lymphoma. Given the subject matter, it's probably no surprise that this isn't as amusing as the American Splendor anthologies. But for fans, or for people struggling with illness, it's probably a worthwhile read.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 11, 2008
Format: Paperback
The first time I read this, it was because I wanted to read more about Harvey and his bout with cancer. I found it to be a very moving story that was -- as I would expect -- very honest and open on many of the details from that time. Even then, I was moved by how the chemotherapy nearly wiped him out, and how his own natural depression was exacerbated by the illness.

The second time I read this, it was because someone I know has cancer. Seeing her go through this, even at a distance, makes this even more poignant. Parts of this, to be honest, were hard to read. It's a very strong, unflinching book and I'm not sure it's for everyone (especially if you're about to start chemo). But, that being said, it is definitely worth reading.

A few quick comments:

1) The artist is, indeed, quite skilled (I've been a fan of his work for years), but he chose to do a very rough rendition here. This may not appeal to everyone.
2) I don't think you need to have any prior knowledge of Harvey Pekar or Joyce Brabner (although watching the movie, American Splendor, certainly would help).
3) In spite of the many good things I have to say about this book, I feel I must comment on its sloppy production values. Throughout the book, the text is marred by countless paste-up lines. Thin shadows visible near the places where they pasted the text onto the art board. Please, don't respond and say this is some sort of artistic decision. I was a professional typesetter for many years, and I can tell that this is just pure sloppy work. There are also places where the lettering style changes in the middle of a sentence and, obviously, this is where an editor spliced in a small correction.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on April 14, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've always admired Joyce Brabner (I've even, truth to tell, had a bit of a crush on her). I like her writing talent, her passion for justice, her activism, her wit, her nonconformity, her looks, her scrapiness, and her determination to protect and nurture her obsessive-compulsive genius of a husband Harvey Pekar. And I love this memoir of the year in which things fell apart on several different fronts, and how Joyce picked them up. Our Cancer Year was co-written by Harvey and Joyce, but let's face it: the protagonist in the story is--and ought to be--Joyce.

Our Cancer Year has three plots going on in it. Joyce struggles to write a book about young kids around the world who work for peace; Joyce and Harvey decide to leave their rented apartment and buy a house; and Harvey is diagnosed and treated for lymphoma. In three intersecting circles, then, we see things fall apart: the trauma for the kids and Joyce's tireless (and occasionally despairing) efforts to befriend and nurture them; the hassles and unexpected emergencies that come with buying and fixing up a house; and the disruption of the quotidian when serious illness comes. The ordinary--which is, after all, Pekar's chosen metier--becomes confused, conflicted, messed up. Things fall apart.

It's Joyce's job to try to put them back together--or at least to be strong enough to help the kids and Harvey get through the storm until calmer weather returns. Her struggle to hold the center is the real story here, and it's a gripping and poignant one that actually caused tears to come to my eyes at one point (when Dana, one of the peace kids, leaves a phone message that an exhausted Joyce is too tired to pick up). Harvey's suffering, the numbness of Uri and the anger of Zamir, the insensitivity of Dr.
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