Huntington, West Virginia "On the Fly"


With an appreciation by Anthony Bourdain

Harvey Pekar changed the face of comics when his American Splendor series replaced traditional slam-bang superhero action with slice-of-life tales of his own very ordinary existence in Cleveland, Ohio, as a file clerk, jazz-record collector, and philosophical curmudgeon. Much as Seinfeld ...

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Huntington, West Virginia ''On the Fly''

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With an appreciation by Anthony Bourdain

Harvey Pekar changed the face of comics when his American Splendor series replaced traditional slam-bang superhero action with slice-of-life tales of his own very ordinary existence in Cleveland, Ohio, as a file clerk, jazz-record collector, and philosophical curmudgeon. Much as Seinfeld famously transcended sitcom conventions by being “a show about nothing,” Pekar’s deadpan chronicles of regular life—peppered with wry and caustic reflections—have transformed comics from escapist fantasy into social commentary with voice balloons.

Huntington, West Virginia “On the Fly” is prime Pekar, recounting the irascible everyman’s on-the-road encounters with a cross section of characters—a career criminal turned limo-driving entrepreneur, a toy merchant obsessed with restoring a vintage diner, comic-book archivists, indie filmmakers, and children of the sixties—all of whom have stories to tell. By turns funny, poignant, and insightful, these portraits à la Pekar showcase a one-of-a-kind master at work, channeling the stuff of average life into genuine American art.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
One of the final books written by the late Pekar, this volume collects five short pieces, mostly relating to a trip he made to West Virginia for a speaking engagement at a book festival: a series of anecdotes from an eccentric, dreadlocked limo driver; a tale about an unsuccessful attempt by one of Pekar's acquaintances to make a vintage diner successful in Cleveland; and so on. At his best, Pekar could find the stuff of engaging comics in the small routines and oddities of the everyday, and there's some potentially interesting oral history here—although not a lot of it cries out for visual interpretation, since most of these stories consist of expository dialogue that describes exactly what we see in McClinton's drawings. But the book falls flat when Pekar turns his focus away from his interviewees and onto himself, including endless, tedious, very familiar scenes in which he's talking on the phone, describing his career, and carping about money. This is far from Pekar's strongest work, and McClinton's artwork doesn't help much: her stylized textures and stripped-down renderings mesh uncomfortably with the photo-reference approach to drawing that often formed the basis of Pekar's comics. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
“A visit with Harvey Pekar . . . will cause you to reexamine your own life . . . just as the greatest literature will.”—Austin Chronicle
Kirkus Reviews

This posthumously published collection of narratives provides footnotes on the life immortalized throughAmerican Splendor.

The pride of Cleveland and patriarch of the autobiographical comic-book narrative worked with New York artist Summer McClinton on pieces that generally reflect his life through the stories of others whom he found interesting. The opener, "Hollywood Bob," tells the story of Cleveland's limo driver to the stars (and to Pekar), an ex-con who ended up befriending many of the famous people he drove (including Meg Ryan, who doesn't look familiar in McClinton's rendering, and Leslie Nielsen, who gave the driver a "fart machine"). Then there's a series of narratives on "Tunc & Eileen" and their many changes of jobs and partners before finding each other and telling their stories to Pekar. "Neighborhood Spark Plug" is the most compelling of the narratives, detailing the life of one of Pekar's buddies and his ill-fated adventures in trying to restore and relocate a diner before returning to an expanded version of his toy store with delights for adult collectors. The longest and last piece is the title story, recounting Pekar's trip to a book festival in West Virginia, after the interest from the film version ofAmerican Splendor had died down (and his speaking fee had dropped from the thousands into the hundreds). Like much of the collection, it's a minor slice of life that doesn't really build to any particular point, except as the book reflects the narrator's obsession "to get the details of the story right."

Pekar fans will enjoy this minor work from a major figure.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345499417
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/26/2011
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 904,748
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Harvey Pekar, a native of Cleveland, is best known for his autobiographical slice-of-life comic book series American Splendor, a first person account of his downtrodden life. He is also a jazz critic whose reviews have been published in The Boston Herald, The Austin Chronicle, and Jazz Times. He has done freelance work for the critically acclaimed radio station WKSU and has appeared many times on Late Night with David Letterman.

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